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Stats & Cats: Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Felines

If cats have nine lives, is each feline famous for 135 minutes instead of 15? We apply science to the world of celebrity cats.

Lauren Oster  |  Apr 29th 2016


The first celebrity cats are thought to have prowled the Earth more than 5,000 years ago: A picture of the lion-headed goddess Mafdet appears on a crystal cup dating to 3100 BC, when ancient Egyptians worshiped cats as deities. Cats were sacred to the goddess Bast, who became associated with domestic kitties over time, and were mummified. As Herodotus wrote, households in which a cat died mourned as if they had lost a human family member (and all of the mourners shaved their eyebrows).

Eyebrow shaving is more strongly associated with avant-garde fashion and fraternity pranks these days (Bob Geldof in Pink Floyd: The Wall notwithstanding), but Maftet and Bast’s descendants are unquestionably A-listers. (It has been speculated that Grumpy Cat earns more than Lady Gaga does, speaking of weird brows.) How does that sort of extreme celebrity gain momentum?

In this, the fourth installation of Stats & Cats — expert analysis of feline behavior based on years of study and application of the scientific method — let’s consider some Notorious C.A.T.s (and cat enthusiasts) and how they got that way.

Chart.

MY overbite didn’t get that kind of love.

Weird teeth (Princess Monster Truck, Loki the Vampire Kitty) go a long way in the world of feline internet celebrity, a phenomenon I would have found inspirational as a middle-schooler lisping through braces and a retainer in the 1990s. Proximity to famous humans (Karl Lagerfeld’s Choupette, Dita Von Teese’s Aleister) is also useful. Happily, cats don’t seem to become stars because of leaked sex tapes. (I would rather not think about cat sex tapes.)

My cats have nondescript teeth, and I am as yet neither a burlesque performer nor a surly couturier, but I sometimes wonder whether my cats are destined for the big time. If disaster struck and they had to, say, save me and my husband from a house fire or a deadly gas leak, I bet they would be up for it; dead owners are lousy at refilling food bowls. I also wonder whether they would then manage to keep it real.

Cat chart.

Used to have a little, now they have a lot.

Speaking of famous humans, the internet gets awfully excited about those who seem to be cat people, especially when they’re men. Is Rod Stewart one? (Eh, seems like it was simply a creepy photo shoot.) What about Marlon Brando? (More plausible. They look pretty close.)

Cat chart.

I wonder whether Hemingway’s cats found him pretentious?

I haven’t invested much in whether most of those associations hold up, but I do hope Justin Bieber’s cat escaped Bieber’s clutches. I’m rooting for you, Tuts.

Next time in Stats & Cats: hallway speed trials, achievements in television blocking, and The Longest Stripe.