There’s a lot about one-of-a-kind "perma-kitten" Lil Bub that demands attention.
Her marble-sized green eyes are filled with childlike awe and wonder, and her little pink tongue is perpetually sticking out from beneath an upper lip that’s always smiling. It looks like she’s making one of those silly faces your mother warned you would stick that way, but on her it’s adorable.
She also weighs only four and a half pounds. Bub has dwarfism, leaving her with shortened limbs, a long, slender body, and permanently kittenlike features. She has no teeth and an underdeveloped lower jaw — hence the endearing tongue situation. And she’s polydactyl, meaning she has an extra toe on each back foot and opposable "thumbs" on the front.
Add all of this up and you’ve got one incredibly cute natural accident: Bub was not bred to look the way she does.
"I think what’s funny about her is that she has so many things that are different, and she’s still a healthy, functional kitty," says Bub’s self-proclaimed "dude," Mike Bridavsky. "When I first got her, she blew my mind. I could not believe how awesome she was."
Born as the runt of a feral litter outside Bridavsky’s hometown of Bloomington, Indiana, Bub was obviously different from the get-go. Due to the fact that she was so much smaller than her littermates, she could not remain feral, so one of Bridavsky’s friends took her in as a foster and tried to find her a home. The task proved daunting, until the day she texted Bridavsky Bub’s picture.
"I have four other cats, and I was like, ‘I’m done, I can’t get any more cats,’" he says. "But then I saw the picture, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have to go meet this cat.’"
The moment he saw her now-famous face, he couldn’t say no. He is a musician and the owner of Russian Recording, a professional studio in Bloomington that offers production, recording, mixing, and mastering. His other cats live in the studio, so he brought Bub to his apartment.
The unusual kitten immediately won him over. Bridavsky describes Bub’s appearance and personality almost like he’s discussing the friendly alien who landed on his doorstep one day. She’s nothing like his other cats, who love hanging out with bands in his studio — and are up to four times Bub’s size.
"Bub is different," he says. "Her personality is different from other cats. I can’t really explain it. It’s like she’s from a different planet. She looks like she’s from a different planet, and she kind of acts like it."
As a proud new cat guardian, Bridavsky shared Bub’s pictures with his friends via text message and Facebook. Someone eventually encouraged him to make a Lil Bub Tumblr, and it wasn’t long before notes reached the tens of thousands. One particular photo got into the hands of the merry pranksters over at Reddit, who photoshopped an ice cream cone between Bub’s paws.
The adorable results went viral. In the last month alone, Bub has been featured on Huffington Post, Jezebel, Buzzfeed, and Yahoo News — as well as on the Facebook pages of pretty much every cat lover ever.
"There are so many cats on the Internet, and she stands out in that she looks awesome, she’s clearly really happy, and there’s a story behind her," Bridavsky says. "But I never expected it would turn into this."
Bridavsky is even more surprised that what started off as a simple desire to share cute pictures of his "tiny weird cat" has inspired heartfelt messages from people saying Bub has brightened their day or helped them through tough times.
"Stuff like that is really touching," he says. "I shared her because I thought people would get a kick out her, but I didn’t realize it would be that big of a deal for some people. But it is, and that’s cool. It makes me really happy."
In Bridavsky’s hometown, various local scenes have also embraced their celebri-kitty, particularly the tattoo and DIY punk communities. Bridavsky calls her the "alternative kitty" — he sports a large, colorful Bub tattoo on his side, which depicts her holding a sword and a lantern. There is also a Bub Store selling T-shirts, tote bags, and buttons designed by Bridavsky and his creative friends. A portion of the proceeds go to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center, the Monroe County Humane Association, and Pets Alive Indiana, as well as to Bub’s rainy day medical fund.
Despite the mad Bub love, Bridavsky still faces criticism from people who aren’t familiar with Bub’s story. People assume she was bred to be a dwarf, for example, or that she’s in pain or mentally handicapped, or that Bridavsky "is some guy who found a weird cat and is exploiting her."
But he is adamant that nothing could be further from the truth. In addition to being a completely natural accident, Bub is spayed, and she’s incredibly "happy, healthy, and smart ÔÇô- just a cool cat." She has some trouble jumping and running due to her stunted limbs, but Bridavsky is always happy to help her out.
"She’s actually very bright, and she asks for stuff," he says. "I’ll go to bed, and she’ll give a weird meow and waddle to the bed, and I’ll lift her up and open the window for her because she likes to sit in front of the window. She also lets me know when she wants to get off the bed, and I take her down. I take her wherever she needs to go."
No matter how popular she gets, the simple truth is that Bub is just a "cool cat with a cool story" — and Bridavsky is just a dude who loves his cat.
"Forget all of the stuff that’s happening on the Internet. I’m just excited to come home and get to hang out with Bub all the time."