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Culture Re-View: Meet the cats who had their meowment online

Choose your feline fighter! Grumpy Cat, Bob and Lil Bub are among the most famous cats of the internet age
Choose your feline fighter! Grumpy Cat, Bob and Lil Bub are among the most famous cats of the internet age Copyright Canva/Invision/AP/Getty Images
Copyright Canva/Invision/AP/Getty Images
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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8 August marks International Cat Day, a celebration of all things feline - but which four-legged fame-seekers gained pawsitively stratospheric fame online?

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Celebrating its 21st year today, International Cat Day is a celebration raising awareness about our feline friends across the globe.

Set up by the International Fund for Animal Welfare in 2002, custodianship of the event was passed to not-for-profit British organisation International Cat Care in 2020.

Although dogs are officially the most popular pet worldwide, cats come in a close second - a surprise to no one.

Descended from the African Wildcat, the first historical human record about cats dates back as far as Ancient Egypt. 

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'The Obsequies of an Egyptian Cat' by John Reinhard Weguelin depicts a shrine to a cat with a priestess kneeling before it, making offerings to the feline deityFine Art/Corbis via Getty Images

The civilisation and felines have gone hand-in-hand ever since, with the first known cat deity being down to the Ancient Egyptians’ adoration and consideration of the creatures as gods.

Mafdet was regarded as the protector against snakes, scorpions, and evil during the First Dynasty and, even after the collapse of the civilisation, cats became popular everywhere.

From pest control, status symbols to icons of superstition in the middle ages, cats have done it all. 

Nowadays, they’re arguably the most famous entity on the internet, becoming memes and social media influencers, boasting millions of fans.

Without further ado, Euronews Culture is here to give you the rundown of five of the most influential cats of the internet age…

Grumpy Cat

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP
Grumpy Cat arrives at the MTV Movie Awards, 2014Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Possibly the most recognisable internet-famous cat, Grumpy Cat’s name was actually Tardar Sauce.

The nickname was due to her permanently ‘grumpy’ expression, images of which spawned countless memes, a waxwork and merchandise, netting her owner Tabatha Bundesen a healthy income.

Suffering from an underbite and feline dwarfism, she rose to fame after Tabatha’s brother posted a picture of Tardar Sauce on Reddit.

Beck Diefenbach/Madame Tussauds/AP
Grumpy Cat, left, poses next to Grumpy's animatronic figure at Madame Tussauds San Francisco, 2015Beck Diefenbach/Madame Tussauds/AP

She died at just seven years old of complications from a urinary tract infection in 2019.

Her legacy lives on though and Grumpy Cat still boasts over 8 million likes on Facebook and more than 4 million followers on Instagram and Twitter combined.

Plus, we can’t forget her time as a film star. Her likeness appeared in 2014’s Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever, where the feline star was voiced by Aubrey Plaza.

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Choupette

Late designer Karl Lagerfeld’s four-legged friend turns 12 next week and she’s been a star from the very beginning.

Choupette belonged to Chanel’s long-time creative until his death in 2019.

JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images
Karl Lagerfeld poses next to a photo of himself and his cat Choupette, 2015JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images

Boasting 258,000 Instagram followers, the white Birman cat presents an image of a fashion icon and is said to have her own iPad, eat dinner at the table and be looked after by two maids, Françoise and Marjorie. The women are tasked with taking care of Choupette’s beauty regime and packed diary.

The chicest cat on the internet obviously has a book written about her - 2014’s ‘Choupette: The Private Life of a High-Flying Fashion Cat’. She was also almost her late owner’s wife, with Lagerfeld telling CNN: “There is no marriage, yet, for human beings and animals… I never thought that I would fall in love like this with a cat".

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In May this year, there was much speculation as to whether she would attend the 2023 Met Gala in New York City which celebrated Karl Lagerfeld’s legacy.

In the end, she stayed at home but was paid tribute to by countless celebrities including Doja Cat, Lil Nas X and, most traumatically, Jared Leto, who donned a human-size replica of Choupette.

Dimitrios Kambouris/2023 Getty Images
Jared Leto, dressed as Choupette, attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty"Dimitrios Kambouris/2023 Getty Images

Bob the Street Cat

This ginger Tom not only inspired a book series and a film - A Street Cat Named Bob - but is also credited with saving his owner’s life.

James Bowen met Bob in 2007 during a battle with drug addiction and homelessness. The pair met after Bob was abandoned and injured, and Bowen decided to look after him, spending money he’d saved for food on medication to get the cat back to full health.

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Named after Killer BOB from the series Twin Peaks, the cat gained fame after accompanying Bowen busking or selling The Big Issue magazine in London.

Alastair Grant/Invision
Writer James Bowen and Bob the cat pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'A Street Cat Named Bob' in London, 2016Alastair Grant/Invision

Videos of Bob went viral and his celebrity grew, with Bowen writing the book ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ about their relationship. The smash hit publication was made into a 2016 film in which Bob played himself alongside six lookalikes.

In 2020, while living as an indoor cat, Bob escaped through a window that had mistakenly been left ajar and was hit by a car, causing his death.

In a statement, Bowen said Bob had saved his life, writing, “It’s as simple as that. He gave me so much more than companionship. With him at my side, I found a direction and purpose that I’d been missing”.

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Lil Bub

Tumblr star Lil Bub was a true celebrity, as famous as many human household names.

It all started in November 2011, when pictures of the critter were published on Tumblr and then Reddit.

Born as the runt of her litter born to a feral mother, she had several genetic mutations and had difficulty being adopted.

Michael Stewart/Getty
Lil Bub attends the screening of "Lil Bub & Friendz" during the 2013 Tribeca Film FestivalMichael Stewart/Getty

Suffering from an extreme form of feline dwarfism which caused her limbs and lower jaw to be small in comparison to the rest of her body, she always seemed to be sticking her tongue out.

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She was eventually given a home by Mike Bridavsky, who said, “Hey, Bub!” when he collected her.

As she gained popularity, Bridavsky sold a variety of Lil Bub merchandise and took the feline on meet and greets, donating much of the profits to animal rescue groups.

In 2013, ‘Lil Bub’s Lil Book: The Extraordinary Life of the Most Amazing Cat on the Planet’ was released and the tiny creature also posed for a PETA campaign that encouraged people to spay and neuter their pets.

Appearing on magazine covers and as a cat-tress in a number of films, Lil Bub also starred in Lil Bub & Friendz , a documentary that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2013, winning the Tribeca Online Festival Best Feature Film.

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Lil Bub died in her sleep in 2019, following a period fighting an aggressive bone infection but her legacy still continues.

During her 8 years of life, scientists found that she had a rare gene mutation, only ever found in one mouse and fifteen humans, meaning she’s helping people even after her untimely death.

Nyan Cat

A list of internet famous cats wouldn’t be complete with one cartoon feline - and a ridiculous one at that.

In April 2011, a YouTube video was uploaded featuring a Japanese pop song and a very basic, animated cat with a Pop-Tart for a torso who flew through space, leaving a rainbow trail behind.

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Nyan Cat was actually based on a real cat, Marty. He belonged to the viral meme’s creator Christopher Torre who drew the quirky image and made it into a GIF.

Wikimedia Commons
Nyan Cat - one of the original internet memes and most famous fictional felinesWikimedia Commons

Shortly afterwards, YouTube user Saraj00n combined the cat animation with a version of the Japanese song ‘Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya!’ - an onomatopoeic imitation of the call of a cat in the Asian language.

The video won a Webby Award in 2012 for ‘Meme of the Year’ and has now been watched more than 205 million times, making the fictional cat one of the most famous on the entire internet.

In February 2021, the GIF’s original creator, Chris Torres, created an updated version of Nyan Cat and sold it as an NFT for the equivalent of €535,000 - fur real!

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