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Erin McCarthy

13 Fun Facts About the Internet’s Cutest Cat, Lil Bub

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Erin McCarthy

Vice’s documentary about the cutest creature on the planet, Lil Bub—aptly titled Lil Bub & Friendzopens at the Tribeca Film Festival today. To celebrate, mental_floss went to Social Tees Animal Rescue for an interview with the feline star and her owner, Mike Bridavsky, before a meet and greet with her adoring fans. Here’s what she told us about herself.

1. The official story is that Bub was discovered in a rural Indiana tool shed in June 2011, the runt of a litter of feral cats. But Bub didn't look like any of her siblings, Bridavsky says, "which leads us to believe that she may actually be an alien creature that crashed to Earth, and found this litter of Earth kittens and just joined them to fit in."

2. Because of the shape of her mouth, Bub couldn't nurse, so she was bottle fed until she could eat on her own.

Bub outside Social Tees Animal Rescue. Photo by Erin McCarthy

3. When he first saw her, Bub's vet said she was the weirdest cat he had ever seen. At the time, Bub was 8 weeks old and weighed just 6 ounces, about the size of a hacky sack. "He was concerned that with so many birth defects she may not live very long, maybe only a few months," Bridavsky says. "But after doing some tests it turned out she was in good shape!" She and Bridavsky lived a pretty normal life until one of her photos went viral in 2012.

4. A day in the life of Bub is pretty regimented. She sleeps in bed with Bridavsky on her green blanket (which she also travels with). After they wake up, they take a trip outside so Bub can go to the bathroom. Then Bridavsky mixes Bub's food and medicine, which she eats while he's in the shower; after he gets out, he has to rearrange her food because she smushes it. "She’s a lot of work," Bridavsky says, "but I love doing it. It’s great. We have a good relationship." While Bridavsky prepares the daily Bub blog post, she naps in his lap. Later, they might shoot some photos for the blog or go outside and hang out.

Photo by Samantha Brody for Social Tees Animal Rescue

5. Bub has an extra toe on each foot, for a total of 22 toes. (Most cats have 18.)

6. Since becoming an Internet sensation last year, Bub has traveled nearly 10,000 miles to places like New York City, Minneapolis, and Portland. She comes on the plane with Bridavsky and hangs out in her carrier at his feet. "She usually sleeps through the flight," Bridavsky says. "Airports and everything, she’s totally fine."

Photo by Samantha Brody for Social Tees Animal Rescue

7. Bub has met many celebrities—including Twilight’s Jackson Rathbone—but the star she’d most like to shake paws with is Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman. (She’s also open to guest starring on the show, if anyone at NBC is reading this.)

8. When Bub wants to treat herself, she goes for one thing: Yogurt. And nothing but Brown Cow yogurt will do.

9. For a small cat—she weighs just 3.9 pounds—Bub snores pretty loudly. But it's still adorable.

10. Although she's a cat, Bub prefers dogs.

11. Bub's favorite internet cat/boyfriend is Smoosh, another celebrity feline from Bloomington, Indiana. His owner, David, designs Bub's merchandise. 

Photo by Erin McCarthy

12. Most of the proceeds from the sale of Bub's merchandise goes to animal shelters in her hometown, including the Bloomington Animal Shelter, the Monroe County Humane Association, and the Exotic Feline Rescue Center. When Bub does meet and greets, people who want to see her must make a donation of money, food, or other supplies to the shelter that's hosting the event. "I’m still looking for a national organization that specializes in special needs cats and cats with birth defects," Bridavsky says.

13. Bub has dwarfism, an underdeveloped jaw, and no teeth—that's why her tongue sticks out! It's also likely that she has osteopetrosis, a rare bone disease. "I think there’s only been a couple reported cases in cats," Bridavsky says. "They think that her bones will continue to grow and get more deformed as she gets older, so it’ll never stop. It seems to have slowed down—her body hasn’t changed much, but the hardest thing is for her to walk around." The most important thing to know about Bub, though, is that despite the challenges she faces, she's a happy, healthy cat.

Photo by Samantha Brody for Social Tees Animal Rescue

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
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Art
New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b

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