When Mike Bridavsky rescued a tiny kitten from a tool shed in rural Indiana seven years ago, he had no idea this runt of a feral litter would become one of the “most famous cats on the planet.” But Lil BUB’s wide-eyed face, with her trademark stuck-out tongue, is a feline phenomenon. She has been featured on Good Morning America, BuzzFeed and Animal Planet and has more than 3 million followers on Facebook and more than 1.8 million followers on Instagram.
BUB is a “perma-kitten,” which means she will always look like a kitten. She also has an extreme case of dwarfism; her legs are disproportionally smaller than the rest of her body. Her teeth never grew in, although she can still eat wet and dry food without problems. Because she’s missing her teeth, her tongue often sticks out of her mouth. She also is a “polydactyl cat” with one extra toe on all four paws.
Noting her unusual attributes, BUB’s original owner realized she needed special care. She was passed around to different friends, never quite finding her forever home … that is, until Bridavsky met her.
“I was enamored by her. She needed someone to take care of her, and I thought, ‘well, I can help her,’” Bridavsky said. “I assumed she wouldn’t live long based on her size and unique features, and my vet agreed.”
Bridavsky brought BUB to his Bloomington home when she was eight weeks old, and she’s now seven years old. The vet thought the kitten would only live to be a few months old.
“She’s doing very well,” Bridavsky said. “Everything with her is always kind of a mystery. But her demeanor, well-being and spirit seem just fine.”
After the photogenic and mild-mannered BUB became a celebrity pet around Bloomington, one of Bridavsky’s friends started imprinting her face on T-shirts. That led to Bridavsky creating a blog so people could see photos of her. Unexpectedly, that blog developed a cult following and led to national attention.
Bridavsky said he has never tried to perpetuate the fame, but always makes sure there’s a charitable aspect to what they do. For instance, a portion of every sale at the Lil BUB store (store.lilbub.com) goes to the cat’s fund for special needs pets.
“If my pet’s going to be famous, I want people to know her real story, what she stands for and for there to be a real purpose,” Bridavsky said. “I certainly didn’t want my beloved pet to turn into a joke on the internet. I don’t care for the fame, but I do like the ability to spread a positive message and create some fun, creative content.”
Ellie Schuler is senior communication specialist at Electric Consumer.
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