Feline groovy: Local cat Lil Bub becomes Internet phenomenon [Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.]
(Herald-Times (Bloomington, IN) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 25--Movies, books, webisodes, Internet fame. For Mike Bridavsky, it all started with a kitten.
A very special kitten, to be exact.
She was the smallest in a litter of feral cats, found in a shed in Unionville two years ago by the mother of one of Bridavsky's friends. Upon meeting the 8-week-old cat, Bridavsky lifted her in his arms and greeted her with a casual "hey, Bub."
It was the beginning of a life-changing journey for both Bridavsky and Bub.
Bub -- known as Lil Bub by Bridavsky and fans alike -- has garnered attention on Internet sites such as Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for her unique attributes. Bub was born with several genetic defects that make her a one-of-a-kind cat. She was born with dwarfism, which adds to her already small appearance. She has osteopetrosis, which causes her bones to grow harder and thicker with age, as well as an under-developed jaw and no teeth, which causes her tongue to hang out of her mouth. Bub also is a polydactyl cat, meaning that she possesses extra toes -- in Bub's case, one on each paw.
Her fans, however, embrace her differences and gravitate toward the four-pound feline. Her Facebook page has earned more than 169,000 likes, and her number of Twitter followers has topped 16,000. These fans not only frequent her social media pages, but they line up to meet her in person at meet-and-greet events across the nation.
"Whether they know who she is or they don't, people generally lose their minds (when they see her)," Bridavsky said.
He said that it is not uncommon for certain fans to cry upon meeting her. "A lot of people who have had a hard time in life ... that's kind of Bub's demographic. She's very inspirational to a lot of folks."
Bub made her way onto the Internet via Tumblr, where Bridavsky had started a blog after a friend suggested that he share some of the photos he had taken of Bub.
"I was proud of her and excited to share her with people, but I didn't really think at the time that it would turn into anything," Bridavsky said.
Soon, the blog was receiving followers, and Bub was receiving messages from fans. Bridavsky said that from the beginning, the response was surprising.
"I'm still surprised at every moment of it," he said.
Bridavsky maintains the idea that Bub is not simply an "Internet sensation," but simply a cat with unique qualities that has made an impact among her followers.
"Sure, the Internet is how people found out about her, but she is a sensation," he said. "Everything about her is unlike any other cat I've ever seen."
It was these qualities that prompted Bridavsky to create her space-cat back story. As Bub explains on her website, she crash-landed her spacecraft in Bloomington and came across Bridavsky during her travels.
A cat as unique as Bub naturally deserved a unique back story.
"If you look at her, it's kind of like there's only one explanation," he said. "It's not just her looks; it's everything about her. The only explanation is that she's from space."
Though Bub has many qualities that make her very different from other cats, Bridavsky said that her comfort is not jeopardized and that, though she suffered a major health setback in December that made it difficult for her to move, Bub is healthy.
"She's doing better than ever now, actually," he said. "She's jumped on my lap a few times, which she hasn't done since she was a kitten."
The acting Bub
Bub's fame is not restricted to the Internet alone. Last year, she was the subject of a VICE Media documentary titled "Lil Bub & Friendz," which won Best Online Feature Film at the Tribeca Film Festival. Bridavsky and Bub are also working on a YouTube web series, called "Lil Bub's Big Show," which went live on Aug. 20. Recently, they wrote a book, "Lil Bub's Lil Book," which will be released by Penguin on Sept. 3.
Though Bridavsky went into the writing process with some trepidation, all went well.
"The thought of writing a book was very intimidating," said Bridavsky. "It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun."
The book will feature more than 100 photos of Bub as she tells the story of her journey to Earth from her home planet and chronicles some of her adventures with Bridavsky.
Proceeds from Bub and Bridavsky's ventures are donated to animal organizations across the country. Bridavsky has worked with the ASPCA as well as PETA, and raised more than $70,000 for charity. He hopes that the total will grow.
"We expect, with the book and all of this new stuff, to double it by 2014."
After all of their experiences since Bub crash-landed in his life, Bridavsky said that the main focus has always been and will always be Bub and the positivity that she creates.
"I think Bub shows that it's not only OK to be different, but it's better to be different."
"Lil Bub's Lil Book" will be released on Sept. 3. To learn more and preorder the book, visit http://lilbubslilbook.com. You can also find Bub on Tumblr and Facebook, as well as Twitter and Instagram @iamlilbub.
(c)2013 the Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.)
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