Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the July/August 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
Curious, patient, and photogenic, Pecan the Nut will do anything for a treat. The handsome brown tabby from California came into owner Michelle Vaccaro’s life the day after Thanksgiving 2005, when she adopted the then 3-month-old kitten from the Animal Friends Rescue Project in Carmel Valley.
“I named him after the delicious pecan pie I had eaten at the feast the day before,” Michelle said. “Nuts rule.”
Michelle quickly discovered that Pecan was very “treat driven,” which seemed appropriate for a kitty named after the best part of Thanksgiving dinner. She also learned that Pecan’s affinity for food could lead to some adorable cat pictures — like the kinds of wide-eyed snapshots that make you pause and coo at the computer screen while idly scrolling through your Facebook feed.
“I’ve been taking photos of Pecan since I first adopted him, so he is very used to the camera,” she said. “He also associates the camera with treats, so that helps with his focus. I think he has been photogenic from the very start.”
Another one of Pecan’s quirks: He doesn’t mind playing dress-up. Michelle has photographed Pecan wearing outfits that would make any dapper dude envious of the cat’s easy style. His closet contains Golden State Warriors and San Francisco Giants jerseys, polo shirts, checkered bow ties, and fuzzy hoodies, just to name a few. These regular photo shoots of Pecan in costume eventually gave Michelle enough material to fill a calendar. She created her first one four years ago.
“It started out by trying a punk rock Halloween costume on him and discovering he didn’t mind it at all,” Michelle said. “Soon I had enough photos of him in outfits to fill a calendar. And soon after that friends and family began asking if they could have a Pecan calendar, too.”
With Pecan’s popularity also growing on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, Michelle realized she could start selling his calendars and give 100 percent of the proceeds to animal shelters. In three years, she’s raised more than $2,500, donating equally to the Humane Society of Silicon Valley and Toni’s Kitty Rescue of San Francisco.
“People love the calendar and love that the proceeds are going to two awesome animal organizations,” Michelle said.
While growing Pecan’s following on social media, Michelle has learned how to navigate the online world.
“I think the most important part of social media success is to encourage fans to interact and respond to photos/posts,” she said. Michelle’s dedication to sharing her adorable feline friend with the world has led the kitty to make some friends in high places. For instance, when she shared a video last spring of Pecan rocking Golden State Warriors colors and ringing a bell for treats, the post went viral, garnering more than 900,000 views. That particular trick gained national media attention, appearing on the Ellen DeGeneres Show and the Today Show.
Viral posts and talk shows aside, Michelle most looks forward to hearing from Pecan’s thousands of fans from across the globe.
“Pecan has the best fans in the world,” she said. “I’m amazed at the supportive, kind-hearted folks who interact with him online. It really is a positive community of cat-loving folks. I’ve made friends from all over the world. People send positive private online messages, greeting cards around the holidays, and even clothes/outfits for him to pose in.”
Tips on getting great shots of your cat
Michelle has a few pointers:
- Get down on kitty eye level.
- Use bright, natural light instead of a flash.
- Use treats to motivate your kitty and keep him focused.
- Use toys to get your kitty’s attention.
- A solid, clutter-free background will help the cat stand out.
- Her most important tip? “Patience, patience, patience,” she said. “I take a lot of photos using my camera phone to get a good shot.”