Take one look at Teddy the cat’s ears, and it’s easy to see why the Oriental Shorthair from New Jersey has become an Internet sensation. With a long, narrow face, typical of his breed, and ears that jut out from the sides of his head like batwings or a hang glider, Teddy bears more than a passing resemblance to Dobby the house elf from the Harry Potter series. But unlike a house elf, Teddy’s unique appearance has made it impossible for him to remain anonymous.
“I took a picture of him, and somebody picked it up from Reddit and it got like a million hits,” says Christine Gonzalez, who adopted the cat last year. “As a kitten, Teddy looked like an alien with those ears – I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Amazingly, Gonzalez wasn’t familiar with J.K. Rowling’s beloved character before people on Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit accurately identified her now 9-month-old kitten’s doppelgänger. She just knew Teddy was amazing, and she wanted him to come live with her and her other two Oriental Shorthairs, Bindi and Stache.
“It took me 10 seconds to realize nobody else can have this cat; I have to have him,” she says. “The moment I got Teddy, my Instagram blew up. All of a sudden people started calling him Dobby, and I had no idea what that was. I had to Google it. That’s how he came into being called the Dobby Cat.”
Gonzalez has lived with Oriental Shorthairs for nearly 20 years, adopting her cats from a friend of hers, who is a breeder. Gonzalez herself, however, doesn’t breed or show her cats, which is how she ended up with Dobby, who obviously has a rather unique appearance. Her cat Stache has also experienced his share of Facebook fame but was also unwanted in the show-cat world – shockingly, because he had a mustache, which to Gonzalez seemed more like a selling point.
“To this day I can’t figure that one out, because Stache in person is such a stunning, unique looking thing,” she says. “I can’t believe nobody wanted him.”
As Teddy gets older, he’s slowly growing into his ears – but they’re still huge, Gonzalez says, and he still looks nothing like a typical Oriental Shorthair – “even though they’re weird looking, too,” Gonzalez adds. Since Teddy has become so popular on social media, Gonzalez regularly gets messages from people asking how they can get their very own Dobby Cat. Her answer is simple: You can’t.
“My friends weren’t aiming for that kind of look – he just came out that way,” she says. “It’s just like there’s only one Linda Evangelista or Cindy Crawford. Teddy is like a freak of nature.”
After sharing that first photo of Teddy, Gonzalez says she immediately knew her cat was something special. Still, she’s been consistently and pleasantly surprised by people’s responses to Teddy, especially because his fame – and his association with Dobby the house elf – happened largely by accident.
“I never intended to market my cat to make him famous,” she says. “It just happened on its own. And it’s a lot of work. I do it just because it’s so nice to hear from people. I get letters from people all around the world saying that my cats brighten their day.”
Despite his unusual appearance, Teddy’s personality is typical of his breed. He has a sweet disposition and is friendly and outgoing – the “quintessential teddy bear,” Gonzalez says. Twenty years ago, she didn’t know that the Oriental Shorthair breed existed, and she’s certain that’s the case for a lot of people who are first introduced to Teddy via various viral photos and memes. In addition to brightening people’s days, Gonzalez is glad Teddy can introduce people to cats she has come to love.
“So many people in the mainstream don’t know what an Oriental Shorthair is,” she says. “So many people ask me every day what kind of cat he is. It’s great to introduce the breed to people — that’s what is very rewarding about having them. I don’t do it for the money or the fame. I don’t think any of us get into it for that. We just do it because we love our cats.”
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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.