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Adam Ellis Talks About His Photo Book “Tiny Hats on Cats”

Ellis started the project by making a paper top hat for his rescue cat, Maxwell; he continued it because every cat deserves a crown.

Angela Lutz  |  Oct 13th 2015


Adam Ellis began making tiny construction paper hats for his kitten, Maxwell, solely to amuse himself. It was a serendipitous beginning.

“It started as an accident,” Ellis says. “I had a whole bunch of leftover construction paper from some projects I was doing, and I had a new kitten. I thought it would be funny to make him a tiny top hat and put it on Instagram as a joke.”

When the adorable image drew a positive response, Ellis made a few more. After a couple of weeks, he noticed the hats were getting a bunch of media attention, gaining him more than 10,000 new followers on Instagram in only a few days.

Adam Ellis' cat, Maxwell, dons a tiny hat.

Adam Ellis’ cat, Maxwell, dons a tiny hat.

As Ellis continued to cut and fold everything from chef hats to Santa hats to a knight’s helmet, the project gained momentum, prompting Ellis to propose a book. Featuring 10 feline models (and step-by-step instructions to make your own tiny hats), Tiny Hats on Cats will be released in October.

Ellis’ hats have caught on as much for their precise, colorful designs as their handsome spokeskitty, Maxwell. Ellis adopted Maxwell from a shelter after the cat arrived with a paralyzed front leg that needed to be amputated, causing most potential adopters to bypass him completely. Instead of ignoring Maxwell, Ellis stopped to hold him – and the woman working at the shelter said Ellis was the first person to hold the cat all day.

A hat like this is guaranteed to create law-abiding citizens.

This hat gives kitty an air of authority.

“Every muscle in Maxwell’s body was tense as I held him, like a scared rabbit,” Ellis writes in his book. “He gazed around the room nervously, but he didn’t struggle to get away. I petted him awhile, and after a few minutes he relaxed.”

When Maxwell started purring in Ellis’ arms, it sealed the deal. Maxwell had found his forever home – and his new personal stylist. In a safe, loving environment with Ellis and his other cat, Peppercorn, Maxwell has slowly revealed his true personality.

Adam Ellis and Maxwell

Adam Ellis and Maxwell

“When I got Maxwell, he was very scared,” Ellis says. “He was very nervous for a couple of weeks, but he’s completely changed. He’s super friendly and super cuddly. I think the fame of being an Internet cat is going to his head a little bit. He’s very spoiled – kind of a brat – but I love him.”

With both of his cats, Ellis has learned that if a cat is shy and fearful in the shelter, he will likely not remain that way at home. In fact, Ellis is continually amazed by his cats’ respective evolutions as they’ve grown older.

Legalize the nip!

Legalize the nip!

“I’m finding that my cats are changing drastically all the time,” he says. “My cat Pepper used to be wild and feral, but now she’s getting more friendly, talkative, and cuddly. It’s really interesting to see how their personalities change over time.”

Speaking of personalities – it takes an especially patient kitty like Maxwell to pose in so many tiny hats. Ellis met and worked with more than 30 cats while prepping the book, and a lot of them were “too excited to sit still,” Ellis says – though he anticipates most kitties will be cool with donning a tiny cardboard crown long enough for you to snap a picture. In any case, Ellis hopes you’ll try, as inspiring people to get creative is one of his main goals with the book.

Every cat deserves a crown.

Every cat deserves a crown.

“It’s such a weird, silly project,” he says. “When I first started telling people about the book, a lot of them wondered if it was real, and I was like, ‘Yeah, it’s real, and it’s fun!’ I’m a big advocate of arts and crafts, and I think there’s no limit to how far you can take it.”

Ellis is also adamant that adopting a pet changes your life for the better. The only time he didn’t have cats was when he was in college, and he describes that as a “pretty dark time.” As soon as he landed a job that enabled him to provide for an animal “other than himself,” he went to the animal shelter to find some new family members.

The cover of Ellis' book, which comes out in October.

The cover of Ellis’ book, which comes out in October.

“Your quality of life just goes through the roof when you have an animal,” he says. “When you get a cat or a dog, it sort of takes over your life, and you just want to buy him things and give him things and make him things. I think part of the reason people like [the book] is because it inspires them to make things and do things for their own pets.”

Photos from Adam Ellis’ Instagram. If you don’t follow him, you’re missing out!

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About Angela: This not-crazy-at-all cat lady loves to lint-roll her favorite dress and go out dancing. She also frequents the gym, the vegan coffee joint, and the warm patch of sunlight on the living room floor. She enjoys a good cat rescue story about kindness and decency overcoming the odds, and she’s an enthusiastic recipient of headbutts and purrs from her two cats, Bubba Lee Kinsey and Phoenix.