You cannot mistake where Brother Cream lives.
Turning onto a side street in Hong Kong’s busy East Tsim Sha Tsui district, a large orange-and-white cardboard cat head beckons to you.
“That must Brother Cream’s home,” I said to my husband, and I felt my stomach do a bit of a flip in anticipation.
I was about to meet a celebrity, after all.
Brother Cream is the celebrity cat of Hong Kong. Aside from greeting his public six days a week in his 24-hour convenience-store home, Brother Cream’s chubby likeness adorns ads (Nikon as well as local companies, among others), books, and any number of Brother Cream souvenirs sold in his shop.
But Brother Cream has not let fame go to his head. Despite his busy schedule, he was able to take a few minutes to chat with me about life as a beloved Hong Kong icon. So on a cool weekday afternoon, just before he took his midday “break,” I hunkered down with Brother Cream and got to know the cat behind the shop counter.
Louise Hung for Catster: Hello Brother Cream — is it all right if I call you Brother Cream?
Brother Cream: Well my full name is Tsim Tung Brother Cream, but you can just call me Brother Cream.
Thank you. So, how long have you lived here in this convenience store?
I’ve lived her for about eight years, but I just celebrated my 10th birthday. And by the way, I don’t just live here, I am the shop manager.
Oh, excuse me! And how did you come to live here?
I was born at a breeder’s [house], but nobody wanted me, so I was given to Ko Chee-shing, my shop’s owner. Ko Chee-shing and I have it pretty good.
Mr. Ko seems nice — he helped my husband pick out a shirt with your face on it! He recommended that my husband get a white T-shirt instead of a black one. He said you looked better on the white shirt.
He isn’t wrong. But generally speaking, I am very photogenic.
What do you like about living and working with Mr. Ko?
He sees to it that I am well fed and safe. He makes sure that nobody tries to pick me up, and that nobody pets me when I want to be left alone. [No flash photography is allowed, and Brother Cream cannot be petted while he’s eating or sleeping. Picking up Brother Cream is not allowed.]
He keeps my shop a tidy and inviting place for my fans to visit. I also like that he respects cats. He donates money to charities that benefit cats, and he endorses adopting cats instead of buying them.
Your wife was also given to Mr. Ko, right?
Yes, Sister Cream, or Miu Miu. She’s taking a bath over there. She doesn’t have the star power that I have, but few do.
So, when did your fame really hit?
About three years ago, after I “disappeared” from the store.
Oh? Did you get lost?
It’s a bit of a blur, but I think I was cat-napped! Can you believe it?
Nearly a month later, after a citywide search, I was found in a nearby alley. I’d lost a little weight so people started sending in food for me. We got so much food that we didn’t know what to do with it all. So we donated a lot of the food to charity, and now we’ve established the Cream Brother Foundation to help feed animals in need.
After that everybody wanted to meet me. Now I get hundreds of visitors a week, locals and tourists. I’m sure you’ve seen my face in ads? In magazines? On buses? On TV?
Me? Uh, no I haven’t, but I’m working on it. I have this great idea for a time-traveling caper about Star Cats who —
— that’s nice.
Right. So, what’s an average day like for you?
Since I’m the store manager, I have the freedom of coming and going as I please. In the mornings and early afternoons I’ll check on my merchandise, supervise deliveries, greet my public, make sure my staff is keeping everything in order.
From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., I go on my break in Ko’s and my room in the back. From 6 p.m. onward, I may or may not socialize with admirers — sometimes I need some extra “me time.” It’s not easy being in the public eye, you know. It takes a lot of work to maintain all this. [He licks his paws and washes his face.]
It sounds like you keep a busy schedule. Do you take any days off?
Oh yes! Mondays I take entirely off for my personal pursuits.
And what are your favorite personal pursuits?
You have a lot of fantastic merchandise in your shop, aside from the usual convenience store items. What are your favorite Brother Cream souvenirs?
Well, the Brother Cream calendar is a quality item. You get to see my many moods. There’s some good pictures of Miu Miu in there, too. The T-shirt your husband bought is pretty great, too. It shows my “fun” side. But I’d say my favorites are the Brother Cream “lai see” [the little envelopes, traditionally red, for giving gifts of money during Chinese New Year and other special occasions]. They have little blessings on them — I like the one that says “always have a good appetite.” They’re good luck, you know.
I’ll be sure to pick some up. Well, it looks like it’s nearly 2 p.m. I should be letting you go.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell your public?
Please adopt, don’t shop. I may be a celebrity, but I had humble beginnings. Not every cat is a celebrity, but every cat deserves to be treated like one. My mission is to bring cheer and joy to people while raising awareness of the plight of cats in Hong Kong and mainland China. And while I do a pretty good job of it, all cats have the ability to do the same. As Ko Chee-shing has said, “Everyone is good for something.”
Thanks to Brother Cream and Mr. Ko for letting us visit their shop and take pictures!
You can keep up with Brother Cream on his Facebook page, as well as on his Instagram and Twitter. Sister Cream also has her own Facebook page, so show her some love, too. For more information on the Cream Brother Foundation, visit their Facebook page. And if you’re ever in Hong Kong, you can find brother cream in East Tsim Sha Tsui at Shop 1, G/F, South Seas Centre, 75 Mody Road.
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About the author: Louise Hung is a morbidly inclined cat lady living in Hong Kong, with her cat, her man, and probably a couple ghost cats. She also writes for xoJane. You can follow her on Twitter or drop her a line at IamLouiseMicaela@gmail.com.