Pet influencers: Internet stars
Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub, Boo the Pomeranian and Doug the Pug are just some of the internet’s star animals, who do everything from support worthy causes to promote major brands. The death this week of Lil Bub, a cat whose tongue was always hanging out due to genetic anomalies, inspired a wave of emotion that highlighted the internet’s power to elevate just about anything to cult status. “She was a ray of pure joy in my life and so many others,” said one Instagram user, who uses the handle @missmaddyg. Lil Bub rose to fame after her adoption in 2011, when her owner, music producer Mike Bridavsky, began posting photos and updates about her online. Her story garnered three million followers on Facebook, 2.4 million on Instagram and more than 800,000 on Twitter. Bub’s fame eventually caught the attention of scientists. In May 2015, researchers at the University of Missouri sequenced her genome as part of a project to determine what genetic variations had caused her adorable deformities. Bridavsky also started a national fund for special needs pets, the first of its kind, with Bub serving as its face. “Bub has made a huge difference in the world of animal welfare and in the lives of millions of people worldwide,” Bridavsky wrote on Instagram, noting the fund has raised $700,000 for “animals in need,” with $75,000 raised in 2018 alone. Over the course of her life, the Indiana-based cat lent her star power to multiple causes supported by Greenpeace and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Since 2013, Lil Bub has also been the face of campaigns with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) promoting sterilization and pet adoption, as opposed to buying designer breeds. Lil Bub “used her stardom to make the world a better place for animals,” PETA said in a tribute tweet. “Honor her legacy by remembering her message: always adopt, never shop.” But while PETA campaigns director Ashley Byrne welcomes pet influencers’ charitable ventures, she is also adamant that the work must not come at the expense of the pets’ welfare.