The popularity of celebrity cats, while a relatively new phenomenon, is not surprising, given America’s fascination with celebrities in general. And just like human celebrities, celebrity cats run the gamut from cats who appear in movies, videos, books and cartoons to cats who have spawned entire merchandise empires.
In this sea of feline celebrities, two cats stand out. Aragon and Lil BUB not only changed their guardians’ lives in ways they never could have imagined, they are making a difference in the lives of animals and humans around the world.
Aragon: Actor, Comedian, Social Activist
Aragon, an 8-year-old Bengal cat rescued from a Bengal rescue facility in Maryland at the age of one, is best known for his role as Lord Tubbington on the hit TV show Glee. But in addition to being a talented actor and the biggest cat in Hollywood, Aragon is also a social activist. CeCe Card, his guardian, coined the apt term “Animaltarian” for cats like Aragon, whose social work includes visits to hospitals and nursing homes. Aragon is certified as a therapy cat through Pet Partners (formerly Delta Society.) He has a powerful presence and energy, which makes him particularly well suited to this type of work. CeCe, an energy healer herself, considers everything Aragon does healing work, even his work on Glee. After all, she says, “he’s bringing so much joy to so many.”
Aragon’s wish is to promote a world where no animal is unloved or unwanted, and where no animal has to experience pain or fear. His work on Glee and his therapy work are all part of this mission. Aragon is the spokescat for the The Paw Project, a film with the mission to educate the public about the painful and crippling effects of feline declawing, promote animal welfare through the abolition of the practice of declaw surgery, and to rehabilitate cats that have been declawed. He will be featured in a public service announcement for the film.
Aragon takes his celebrity in stride. According to CeCe, “Aragon thinks of himself as the George Clooney of cat actors.” Like Clooney, Aragon enjoys making public appearances. He even visited Washington, DC last summer, where he met adoring constituents and lawmakers at the annual Pet Night on Capitol Hill. He recently appeared at the Colorado Springs Public library.
Lil BUB: The Most Amazing Cat on the Planet
With close to 900,000 Facebook fans, Lil BUB is more than just a special little cat. BUB was born with several genetic mutations, including a shorter lower jaw and no teeth. She also has dwarfism, which means she will stay kitten-sized for her entire life, and she is the only cat in recorded history born with a rare bone condition called osteopetrosis. At three years old, she is fully grown and weighs in at four pounds. She came into guardian Mike Bridavsky’s life when she was eight weeks old.
BUB has a special magic that even her guardian can’t explain. “It’s truly a phenomenon that transcends the internet, pop culture or even peoples’ basic love of cute animals,” says Bridavsky. “Complete strangers who don’t even know who she is will freeze in astonishment when they meet her.” BUB has a movie, TV shows, and a book, and makes frequent public appearances.
BUB is an advocate for homeless and special needs pets. She spreads a message of positivity and encourages adoption and helping those less fortunate. BUB’s guardian picks her projects very carefully. “Anything I do with BUB has to be completely about BUB and her mission and it has to meet her high standards,” says Bridavsky. “She is not a meme, she is not a joke, and she is not an ‘internet cat.’ She’s a real cat, a real hero, and a real inspiration.” Adds Mike, “there has to be a charitable aspect to anything we do that involves the exchange of currency.”
To date, BUB has raised over $150,000 for animals in need. Her most recent project is the Lil BUB’s Big FUND for the ASPCA. The name is a little misleading because the money isn’t actually for the ASPCA – it’s for grants that are offered by the ASPCA to any shelter in the country. The grants are specifically created to help with special needs pets. BUB donates a generous portion of all proceeds from licensed products and from her own online store to the fund.
Those of us who love cats know without a doubt that they can change lives. Cats like Aragon and Lil BUB didn’t just change their guardians’ lives for the better, they’re making the whole world a better place for animals and humans.