Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the March/April 2016 issue of Catster print magazine. Click here to subscribe to Catster magazine.
What’s black and white and whiskers all over? Kyle, aka, MyCatKyle, a Boston-based Internet kitty celeb who helps victims of domestic violence by campaigning to bring them closer to the family members who make them feel secure and comforted: their pets.
Kyle’s fame spans across Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, and Twitter, where his followers can see the cock-eared Persian mix with the wiry whiskers in a variety of poses, often heavy-lidded and hips akimbo. He was also the subject of a Review Of My Cat post (his overall mark was an A+) and was included in the published book. The camera loves Kyle.
Now, the tough stuff: Kyle was rescued in January 2010 with more than 30 other cats after his family fell apart. A fight between the cats’ caretakers ended fatally, and Kyle and the other cats in the house were removed. Kyle had witnessed a murder. Police secured him as evidence before releasing him to a rehoming organization that posted his profile to Petfinder. Despite the chaos, Kyle never stopped sharing love, as members of his new adopted home discovered.
“One of the most amazing things about Kyle is that, despite his traumatic background, he is the biggest lover,” said his person Jen, who manages his online profiles and outreach campaigns. “When we first met him at the shelter, he ran up to us.”
Kyle maintained the complex characteristics of most cats. “Six years after his adoption, he begs and begs to gain access to your lap, but if you try to expedite the process by picking him up, he gets nervous and runs away,” Jen said. “However, now he immediately circles back around and jumps on your lap.”
This cat has special quirks; some that create issues and some that simply make Kyle unique. The most evident characteristics are his hyper-curly whiskers and his askew ears, which increase his adorability. Others are more of a challenge.
Jen explained that the lack of both front and back claws has left Kyle with a massive dandruff problem and a perpetual instability on furniture; his hip dysplasia causes his foot to escape from his body while sitting or “loafing,” and he’s quite disruptive when he eats. He also is going blind in one eye, which has reduced his ability to navigate in low light and causes him to get lost in closets.
“But don’t be fooled — Kyle loves life, and these minor details don’t bring him down,” Jen said. “Really, these ailments are small blessings in disguise. He gladly accepts all pity, love, and the extra scratches (which soothe his itchy dandruff) that come with it.”
Handsome Kyle seems to snuggle to the camera, as Jen’s images prove, although getting the shot can take a while.
“Kyle can be a tricky meowdel because the camera likes to focus on his whiskers,” Jen said. “Because his whiskers stick so far out in front of his face and cover his eyes, the rest of his face usually ends up blurry! Luckily Kyle’s fans love his whiskers and don’t mind them being the focal point.”
Jen noticed that Kyle was getting popular on Instagram and decided to use that to help others. She cited facts that show domestic abuse victims with pets endure added abuse, such as how 70 percent of pet-owning women in domestic violence shelters say their batterer threatened, injured, or killed their pet — but only 25 U.S. states allow people to place their pets on orders of protection. Kyle’s efforts aim to change that.
“We noticed Kyle gaining popularity on Instagram last winter,” Jen said. “As his followers increased, more people started asking for Kyle-themed merchandise. It occurred to us that Kyle merchandise was a great opportunity to raise money for charitable causes Kyle cared about. We have since learned that simply sharing the message with Kyle’s growing followers can be even more powerful then the money we raise from sales.
“I do believe that our #CatsAgainstDV campaign has increased awareness around the importance and need for co-sheltering DV victims and their pets together,” she continued. “We maintain hope that as long as we keep the momentum strong, more organizations will find the support they need to establish pet-friendly facilities and infrastructure at their DV safe houses.”
The endearing feline features and the positive response to charitable outreach give Jen plenty to love. More than the external charm and success, however, Kyle’s spirit sparks inspiration for his people.
“My favorite thing about Kyle is his attitude,” she said. “Cats can be notorious for being prima donnas and entitled jerks (trust me, we have one of those types living in our home!), but Kyle breaks all those stereotypes despite his difficult past. Kyle has no chip on his shoulder and no ill will toward anyone. Rather, it’s readily apparent that Kyle loves life and is grateful for everything, no matter how small and mundane it may seem. It’s truly inspiring and reminds us that we, too, should cherish even the not-so-thrilling daily grind.”
About the author: Anastasia Thrift’s “job” is to find interesting cats online and share stories and photos of them for CatChannel.com. She’s written about pets and their people for 10 years, working her way up the food chain to cats. Neighborhood cat, Killer, ate on her front porch for a year before reluctantly letting her bring him indoors. Follow Anastasia on Twitter at @ThriftT.