When you hear the words “fat cat”, what do you immediately think of? For some, they recall political cartoons from their history class depicting some of the wealthiest owners of trusts or companies depicted as rotund tabbies or other chubby felines. The term “fat cat” was once a derogatory term and was meant to indicate that someone had too much wealth and power. However, in several instances throughout history, cats have had both wealth and power that was absolutely unquestioned.
The Pharaohs of Egypt had house cats who inherited wealth and were mourned after their death by the entire family. People even shaved their eyebrows to mark the passing of a royal cat. Nowadays, cats may not have the power and wealth they once enjoyed in Egypt, but there have been stories of cats who have made money or inherited a fortune. Many of us have heard stories about eccentric elderly millionaires who do not have family and leave everything to their pet cat. This is a relatively rare occurrence, but it does happen from time to time. Not only do some cats realize wealth through inheritance, but some achieve it while their owners are still alive.
The Richest Cat in the World was a made-for-TV movie by Disney in 1986. The plot is a takeoff on some real life stories about eccentric, moneyed pet owners who leave their fortunes to their cats. In the Disney film, the cat talks and his name is Leo Kohlmeyer. Leo’s owner, Oscar Kohlmeyer leaves his feline companion $5 million while Oscar’s nephew receives $25,000 as long as he doesn’t contest the will. Predictably, the nephew immediately takes action and tries to abduct the cat. There is plenty of adventure, but all’s well that ends well and the cat receives the fortune that was left to him.
Fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld has a cat named Choupette who, according to recent estimates, is worth $3 million. The cat is able to use an iPad and she has two maids waiting on her every need. Choupette also has a book coming out which is not so unusual, since George HW Bush’s dog Millie also composed a book. Choupette earned the money herself through work with a car manufacturer and also made her contribution to the fashion industry.
Choupette is a charming Birman cat, which is a breed associated with Burma and has been popular in Europe for a century. Karl Lagerfeld is a legendary German designer who is based out of Paris, though he has worked with most of the major fashion houses in Europe. At age 81 he is creative director of the fashion house Chanel, in addition to having his own label. Lagerfeld is known for his starched colors and his snow white hair, and sunglasses. Lagerfeld is also known for being rather creative with the truth of his origins; he claims to have Swedish ancestry and makes his mother’s side of the family sound more aristocratic. No one really minds the creative attitude towards lineage; it seems like just another aspect of the creative life. Lagerfeld has been working in the fashion industry since the 1950s. He has had a very tumultuous career, especially when he shocked fashion reporters with his low cut evening dresses and backless gowns. During the 1960s, the heyday of the miniskirts, Lagerfeld’s were the shortest in Europe. Lagerfeld today is a fashion icon! How appropriate that he designs striking new fashions for the catwalk, given his affection for his cats.
It hasn’t always been Lagerfeld’s clothes that raised eyebrows and got paparazzi rumbling; he has said and done some things that got everyone’s attention. Lagerfeld owns many extravagant homes and lives the ultimate high life. With a lifestyle like his, he has little concern of what people think or say about him. Until his death in 1989 Lagerfeld lived with his long-time partner Jacques de Bascher. Since his partner’s passing, Lagerfeld has sought comfort with his cat Choupette. He has even said that he would marry the cat if he could. Choupette once belonged to a French male model named Baptiste Giabiconi, until 2011 when he was gifted to Lagerfeld on Christmas. Choupette kept a diary on twitter that was later published in several fashion magazines and led to the cat’s celebrity status. Lagerfeld has noted that some people he meets talk more about the cat than about him. We can only guess what Choupette is really like, since most artists adopt a persona that is different from reality, but she represents herself as a high maintenance woman who sets high standards for herself and the people around her. This is not surprising as this is a typical attitude in the fashion industry. Though she is a high-maintenance woman, she often expresses a desire to eat antique lace, as well as everyday shopping bags. Her maids, François and Marjorie, dote on her every whim and respect her authority.
At one time there was chatter that Chanel would be putting out a “Choupette” handbag, but the accessory never appeared on the catwalk. Her very blue eyes, which are typical of a Birman, inspired the cornflower blue spring collection of 2012. Karl did create a line of handbags inspired by Choupette. In our magazine, there was even an article entitled “Why Choupette Has a Better Life Than You.” Most people would agree that having famous chefs preparing one’s food, including Japanese-style cuisine, spending time with one of the world’s premier designers, and having your own branded Uber equals an opulent lifestyle.
Choupette Lagerfeld was adopted into wealth by a designer who had already achieved his fame and fortune.
Grumpy cat, or Tardar Sauce as she is lesser-known by, made her fortune on her own. Reports that Tardar Sauce was worth 100 million dollars were exaggerated, but her owners won’t say exactly how much Tardar Sauce has earned since becoming an Internet sensation. Tardar Sauce earned somewhere in the low six figure range in the Spring of 2013 after enjoying her first six months of fame. Those who have seen her image constantly on social media and on merchandise in the years since can only imagine how much more she has earned.
Tardar Sauce’s owner, Tabatha Bundesen, thought she simply had an unusual cat with a perpetually grumpy face. The cause of Tardar Sauce’s constant grimace is an under bite combined with feline dwarfism. What might have been considered a defect in any other cat, was embraced with enthusiasm after Tabatha’s brother, Bryan Bundesen, photographed sister’s cat and shared it on Reddit. Like a Cinderella story adapted for cats, Tardar Sauce’s image went viral with cynical and amusing reflections on life, such as “I love math it makes people cry.” and “Like a good neighbor stay over there.” Soon after Tardar Sauce’s rise to fame Tabatha gave up waiting tables at Red Lobster to help manage Tardar Sauce’s career full-time. Some have wondered if they could replicate the breed and create more grumpy cats, but Tardar Sauce was born to a single Calico mother and an unknown father. In addition, Tardar Sauce’s other littermates apparently didn’t have the under bite or feline dwarfism; she is a one-in-a-million girl!
There was significant buzz over Grumpy Cat starting in 2012, with appearances on various television shows and her own book. Noted celebrity cat lover and star of The Vampire Diaries, Ian Somerhalder, did a photoshoot with Grumpy Cat and said that she was very “peaced out and sweet as pumpkin pie.” Grumpy Cat was even featured on Friskies’ YouTube Game Show and later became the “spokescat” for the brand. The owners of Grumpy Cat have not disclosed how much this iconic feline is worth, but it is definitely within the millions range.
Tommaso is an Italian black cat who lives every feline’s dream. He was living in garbage cans on the streets of Rome, like the Eternal City’s many other feral cats, when a wealthy widow, who’d made millions in the real estate industry, adopted him. When Maria Assunta passed away in 2011, Tommaso inherited her entire $13 million estate, making him the richest cat in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Most of the money is in property, however, with homes and villas in Milan and Calabria. So, what does a cat do with all this money? Does he go to art auctions in Sotheby? Does he invest in high end real estate? According to Italian law, and animal cannot inherit directly, but it can be named a beneficiary when there is a trustee involved. A beneficiary organization has found a trustee to help manage Tommaso’s portfolio of properties and take care of Tommaso himself.
Some cats, like Tommaso, are in the right place at the right time and are fortunate enough to look adorable enough to win their way into the hearts of the rich and famous.
Tara isn’t one of those cats; she earned her wealth through heroic deeds. Tara is short for the name “Zatara”, which was the name smugglers gave to Edmond Dantes in the Count of Monte Cristo. She achieved her fame when she rescued a small child from a neighborhood dog. She even inspired branded merchandise that brings in revenues of half a million dollars every year for her owners. Tara is a tabby cat who lives in California; she was enjoying just another day in her kitty life when she had her brave deed recorded. Tara rescued a small child from a vicious and potentially fatal dog attack. The entire incident was captured on home surveillance videos and made news around the world. The cat was adopted by the Triantafilo family when she followed their parents home. After being taken in so mercifully the least Tara could do was to be loyal to her new found family.
It all happened in 2014, when Jeremy, the four-year-old child, was riding his bicycle in the driveway. A dog who was a mixed breed of Chow and Labrador Retriever jumped behind him and attacked his leg. Jeremy fell off of his bike; the attack continued until Tara jumped on the formidable dog and chased it away. Tara returned to Jeremy to make sure he was all right. Jeremy’s leg had been cut open during the ordeal, but luckily his injuries were minor. The city of Bakersfield’s declared June 3rd “Tara the Hero Day” and a minor-league baseball team named “Bakersfield Blaze” invited Tara, with the assistance of her family, to throw the first ball of a game. The Cat Fanciers Association initiated the Hero Award in Tara’s honor. Many other awards followed, including Tara being named as the first grand marshal for the Bakersfield Christmas parade.
It almost goes without saying that the video of the rescue went viral, so much so that it became the first video in YouTube history to have 20 million views in just five days. As with any famous event, there is bound to be controversy. The 8 month old Labrador/Chow, named Scrappy, was quarantined for 10 days to determine whether he had rabies or not. After the attack, websites posted protests and petitions demanding that the pup not be put to sleep. However, during the period of confinement, animal welfare experts classified the dog as a “vicious and dangerous animal” and he was not considered appropriate for adoption.
Tara vindicates the reputation of felines in the minds of people who often criticize cats as not having the same loyalty that dogs do. Tara proves that cats can be loyal to their humans and will help them in any way they can. Since the attack, Tara is still enjoying her celebrity. While she looks like an ordinary tabby, people are amazed by her unusually calm and sociable attitude. She often travels to fundraisers, as far as New York City and doesn’t mind her carrier at all. Tara is very amenable to taking a leash, which is important because she goes on a good many outings. Her first adventure with a leash was out to a Bakersfield Blaze game where she was able to throw the first pitch (with some assistance). Erica and Roger Triantafilo often take Tara out for walks, especially after she has become recognized as a hero.
Tara is a good kitty in general, but she does have an irreverent sense of humor. She enjoys pouncing on her owners while they are sleeping. Unlike many cats, Tara is immune to the attractions of catnip and prefers chicken flavored treats. Contrary to the popular opinion that Tara dislikes dogs, she lives quite peacefully with the family dog and three children. She gets along with nearly everyone, human or animal, and enjoys traveling and socializing.
Maru is a Japanese cat sensation and has reached the seventh spot among top YouTube channels in Japan. His videos garner at least 800,000 views each, earning his family a 6 digit salary each year. This Scottish Fold cat has released videos that have hit a total of 300 million views. There is little doubt that Maru is one of the most famous cats on the Internet. In his videos, his owners are almost never seen; the focus is entirely on the cat. All narrative is done with title cards in English and Japanese, describing the current situation and Maru’s feelings and reactions. Maru lives with another cat named Hana and the two get along well.
Many of the videos feature Maru engaged in simple behaviors, such as grooming and having his ears cleaned. When you watch the videos, you are under the impression that you’re not looking at an ordinary cat, but one that has a special spark or talent. People around the world love to watch Maru sliding across the floor, jumping playfully on a carpet, beating a drum with his tail, scratching the sink, or having fun outdoors. Maru’s username is “mugumogu”; he has been a virtual gold mine for his owners with his explosive popularity on the web. Every box that Maru jumps into earns a plethora of likes and views. Maru has even made appearances on the Ellen Degeneres show as his owners discuss the history of this famous cat. Maru was adopted at the young age of only 4 months; despite his age, he weighed no more than 5 pounds. Since his adoption he has gained a tremendous 7 pounds, currently weighing in around 12 pounds. He was appropriately named “Maru”, which means “round” in Japanese. Although the name seems to fit the cat, MuguMogu, Maru’s owner, had decided on the name before Maru was even adopted.
Viewers love to watch Maru jump in boxes, but his owners have been enjoying this sight for much longer. This behavior began when Maru was just a kitten and used boxes to help him learn to pounce. Despite the fact that most cats do not like to get wet, Maru enjoys playing with the water in the bathroom and will use his paws to splash around. The cat has been keeping a blog since 2008, but his videos are what attracts millions of viewers; he has approximately 48,000 people viewing his YouTube channel. When interviewed, Maru says that his human fell in love with him at first sight. He eats both wet and dry food, his favorite dishes being chicken and tuna, of course. He lives a life of leisure many people envy, including eating, sleeping, and lounging in luxury. His favorite thing to play with is a feather wand and he enjoys chasing small dogs, as well as human beings.
Maru doesn’t really notice that he’s famous, although his human tries to explain it to him. Maru doesn’t really care as long as he’s happy. His main activity is playing with inanimate objects and having fun with humans; he never really played with other cats until he got a kitty roommate. His favorite things in the world are boxes, but he also likes to hangout in a cat tree or a bathroom window. For sleeping, Maru prefers small boxes, but when it comes to serious play, he needs a larger box. When the weather is warm, the cat enjoys playing in the backyard. The site of a harness makes him think of the great outdoors where he can enjoy sunbathing, hunting for bugs, and looking for fun things to do. However, Maru, who does not fear any box, however, big or any bug, however, small, feels nervous if there are birds flying over his head. His one message for his many fans all over the world is, “Thank you for loving me.”
Some cats have the great fortune of being adopted by wealthy owners and becoming the beneficiaries of immense wealth, while others earn their keep through their bravery, their grumpiness, or their unusual cuteness. If you have a pet, you may wonder if your cat could become the next Internet sensation or if your cue cat video is just another YouTube distraction. There is often no way of predicting why certain things go viral while other things are forgotten. You may have a video that attracts thousands of viewers, but it doesn’t necessarily making very much money.
You may not make millions on your cat, but cats can be a clever marketing tool if you are using social media to promote your business. The image of a sweet cat can be used to sell anything, from home insurance to rug cleaners. If you have an Instagram account, you can make a special account for your cat and post cute updates from your kitty’s point of view. If you notice that your cat has a following, you can make a special channel on YouTube to show off your pet’s tricks or a day in your cat’s life. You may even be able to convince fans to purchase a memoir or diary written by your cat.
Videos continue to be popular, as many other parts of social media are becoming increasingly confrontational and controversial. Beyond the controversy of cats versus dogs, posting updates on your cat has the advantage of being relatively harmless and the best case scenario, profitable. If you run a small business, your cat could be your spokesperson for your products, especially if you can find a way to connect your product with the cat. For instance, if you run a housecleaning service, you can usually use your cats in a short YouTube ad demonstrating how well your service cleans the hair off of furniture, or if you have a car dealership, demonstrating how smoothly your cars ride and make trips pleasant for pets. Your cat might not become super rich, but you can work together to upgrade your lifestyle.