By Mary Ann Bourbeau |
Christine Gonzalez never expected her cats to become internet celebrities, but now that they have, promoting them has become her second job.
“These cats keep me insanely busy,” she said. “I work full time and commute into New York City. All of my extra time is spent taking pictures and videos and managing their social media platforms.”
Stache, 4; Teddy, 3; Bindi, 3; and Dexter, 1, are all Oriental Shorthair cats, distinguished by their almond-shaped eyes, triangular head, oversized ears and long, slender bodies. Together, they have several hundred thousand followers who enjoy seeing their daily antics. Gonzalez said the internet fame all happened by accident.
“I lost a cat to a stroke and I was devastated,” said the Monmouth County resident. “I didn’t think I would ever get another cat. But the breeder called me and said they had a cat that no one wanted. He was a little older and had a mustache. He was funny looking but had a great personality.”
She named him Stache, and in September 2014, a friend posted the cat’s picture on Reddit. Within 24 hours, the photo received a million hits, said Gonzalez.
“He made the front page of Reddit and people started making memes,” she said.
Her Instagram account blew up as well, with thousands of people clamoring to see what Stache was up to. Then Gonzalez brought Bindi home, an Oriental Shorthair with a dot in the center of her head. Teddy, who is known for his gigantic ears, came next, followed by Dexter, a solid black cat with protruding fangs that make him look like a vampire bat.
“People love to see their pictures and YouTube videos,” she said. “They visit the page and it brings a smile to their face. The magic powers these cats have are pretty much immeasurable.”
Gonzalez describes Stache as highly intelligent and extremely sensitive. Bindi is the watchman or muscle of the bunch. Teddy is a goofy space cadet and Dexter is the court jester.
“The others push him around but he always comes back for more,” she said. “My house is like a three-ring circus.”
Their looks have often been compared to celebrities. Stache, with his thick black mustache, has been likened to the late singer Freddie Mercury and actors Tom Selleck and Adrian Brody. Teddy, who has a distinctive honk instead of a meow, has been compared to actor Adam Driver and Dobby from Harry Potter.
“They’re really good cats,” said Gonzalez. “They put up with a lot. They always have a camera in their face.”
Teddy and Dexter, along with feline internet sensations Nala, Pudge and Lil’ Bub, appeared at the first Catsbury Park Cat Convention in Asbury Park in April. At $35 a person, the meet-and-greets with Teddy and Dexter quickly sold out.
“Some people who meet them literally break down and cry, like they met the Beatles,” she said. “I tell stories about these cats and people become very emotionally invested.”
Gonzalez receives messages every day from around the world from people who enjoy seeing what her cats are up to. While traveling on vacation, she has met followers who enjoy the latest photos and videos.
“I was in Russia a few years ago and met people who knew my cats,” she said. “It blew my mind. I’ve made so many friends and met such amazing people because of this.”
Thanks to the internet fame, Gonzalez now has an agent who filters offers for live appearances and endorsements, and is considered an animal influencer, meaning she gets paid by companies for a shout-out on social media. Stache, Teddy, Bindi and Dexter are even being considered for a new show that will premiere on Netflix next year.
“I don’t know how long this will last, but I’m definitely enjoying the ride,” said Gonzalez.
For more information, visit: @hobbikats on Instagram.
Arts and entertainment writer Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared in the July 12 – 19, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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