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Sämpy via Facebook
Sämpy via Facebook

10 International Cat Celebrities

Sämpy via Facebook
Sämpy via Facebook

There are few places around the world where people don’t love cats. And what’s not to like? They are cute, cuddly, funny, and they keep vermin away from your home. Some cats even rise above the fray and become famous in places far and wide. Meet some cats who are tops in their native lands and around the globe.

1. GLI // TURKEY

Mike Powell and Juergen Horn via Daily Cat Istanbul

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul was built as a Greek Orthodox church, then was converted into a mosque, and is now a museum visited by people from all over the world. Several cats live at the museum, but the most famous and friendly is a cross-eyed cat named Gli. Gli is glad to meet and have his picture taken with tourists and diplomats alike. See a gallery of pictures of Gli at the blog Hagia Sophia Cat.

2. FAMOUSNIKI // RUSSIA

It is now easier to write comments!

A photo posted by Famous Niki (@famousniki) on

 
A Russian cat named Niki became famous for his habit of sitting like a human, and after pictures of the cat became so popular online, owner Victoria Virta gave Niki his own Instagram gallery and Facebook page. Now known as FamousNiki, the Scottish fold is also noted for his ability to rise up on his back legs and his amusing facial expressions. He has been featured in ads for several products in Russia, and will soon be the subject of a book.

3. JESPER // NORWAY

 
Jesper is an adventurous cat who enjoys the great outdoors around Hedmark, Norway. He enjoys hiking, fishing, camping, flying, and posing for pictures. But Jesper became famous worldwide for going cross-country skiing with his owner Aina Stormo. Jesper doesn’t wear skis himself, but can keep up with a skier by running alongside them. He also knows that if he ever gets tired, he can always ride on Stormo’s shoulders.

Jesper has his own website and Facebook page, both in Norwegian, and a book coming out this fall.

4. SCARFACE // SINGAPORE

I Am Scarface via Facebook

Scarface was a feral cat living (and fighting) on the streets of Singapore until 2012, when he was trapped by cat behaviorist Rebecca Ho. The Cat Welfare Society tended to Scarface’s wounds and Ho set out to domesticate him. He now lives at the Society’s cattery, where he helps care for the younger kittens, and lends his image to help raise funds for the shelter. Scarface’s Facebook page has amusing captions for his photos and videos, like this:

Scar had one true love affair and that was with the Durian. Nobody will ever know if his nose was broken or his brain's sensory receptors fried, but no one got between Scar and his durian.

Scarface says his goals in life are to eat and to scare the dog.

5. SÄMPY // FINLAND

Sämpy via Facebook

Sämpy lives in Kalime, Finland, where he runs free in the forests and meadows and lives to get a bite of butter from his “secretary,” who follows him around with a camera. Sämpy’s Facebook page is full of pictures showing him having fun with his sisters Nelli and Elmer.

6. BROTHER CREAM // HONG KONG

 
Brother Cream’s full name is Tsim Tung Brother Cream. The British shorthair was a well-known employee at a convenience store in Hong Kong, but achieved stardom after he was catnapped in 2012. Local fans posted notices and searched for the cat, and Brother Cream was found 26 days later and three pounds lighter. Brother Cream rejoined his partner Miu Miu (Sister Cream) at the store and enjoyed his growing celebrity. The cats became so famous that their owner Ko Chee-shing had to enforce rest times for them because they had so many visitors. The cat has “authored” two books, appeared in advertisements, and graces many products sold through his website.

Brother Cream retired to Ko Chee-shing’s home in 2016, when the store closed. You can keep up with his activities through his Facebook page

7. SNOOPY // CHINA

這張萌到麻麻了..cuteness overload #snoopy #neko #kittiesofinstagram #catsofinstagram

A photo posted by SNOOPY·babe (@snoopybabe) on

 
Snoopy is an exotic shorthair cat who lives in Chengdu, Sichuan, China. As a show cat, Snoopy's owner shared numerous pictures of him on Weibo—China’s premiere social media site—in 2012. He was an instant viral sensation! An Instagram gallery and a Tumblr blog introduced the cute cat to the rest of the world. There are also numerous Snoopy sites run by fans.

8. SHIRONEKO // JAPAN

shironeko via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5

Shironeko is a Turkish van cat who became famous for his laid-back attitude. He’s so chill that you rarely see him with his eyes open, and he gamely sits still for pictures in costumes, with objects piled on his head, while taking abuse from the other cats he lives with. The name Shironeko means simply “white cat.” A blog featuring his photographs gained followers as soon as it was launched in 2006. Within a year, his photos began circulating outside Japan, and he was nicknamed “Basket Cat” since he was often seen sitting in a basket or with a basket perched on his head. His attitude also earned him the nickname “Zen Cat.” Shironeko and his buddies TyaTora, Tibi, Mimi, Kuro, and Nora can also be seen on YouTube, where it is evident that the other cats are learning patience and tolerance from him. However, none of them can sit still through chaos like Shironeko can.

9. 10 CATS // JAPAN

11 cats

A photo posted by 10cats (@10cats_) on

 
The family who posts under the name 10 Cats was once known as 9 Cats, but they tell us they now have 11 cats. However, the logo was already made, so the blog now says 10 Cats +1. They are Lulu, Musashi, μ, Kojiro, Maru, Taro, Michelle, May, Mi-ke,Osamu, and the new kitten Momo. These cats are most famous for their YouTube videos, where you can see how they interact with each other.

10. MARU // JAPAN

 
The world-famous Maru is a Scottish fold cat born in Japan in 2007. Maru means round or circle, and the name fits this calm, round cat well. Although his blog I Am Maru has been around since 2007, Maru’s owner and photographer have managed to remain anonymous. Maru is a staple of YouTube, where he is known for his fascination with boxes of any kind. Videos in which Maru insists on sitting in a box that’s too small for him are particularly popular, but he's also pretty amusing with a large box, too. In 2013, Maru was joined by a new sister named Hana. Maru has published two books so far.

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The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas
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iStock

When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

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Christine Colby
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13 Secrets From the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London
Christine Colby
Christine Colby

Christopher Skaife is a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London, an ancient fortress that has been used as a jail, royal residence, and more. There are 37 Yeoman Warders, popularly known as Beefeaters, but Skaife has what might be the coolest title of them all: He is the Ravenmaster. His job is to maintain the health and safety of the flock of ravens (also called an “unkindness” or a “conspiracy”) that live within the Tower walls. According to a foreboding legend with many variations, if there aren’t at least six ravens living within the Tower, both the Tower and the monarchy will fall. (No pressure, Chris!)

Skaife has worked at the Tower for 11 years, and has many stories to tell. Recently, Mental Floss visited him to learn more about his life in service of the ravens.

1. MILITARY SERVICE IS REQUIRED.

All Yeoman Warders must have at least 22 years of military service to qualify for the position and have earned a good-conduct medal. Skaife served for 24 years—he was a machine-gun specialist and is an expert in survival and interrogation resistance. He is also a qualified falconer.

Skaife started out as a regular Yeoman Warder who had no particular experience with birds. The Ravenmaster at the time "saw something in him," Skaife says, and introduced him to the ravens, who apparently liked him—and the rest is history. He did, however, have to complete a five-year apprenticeship with the previous Ravenmaster.

2. HE LIVES ON-SITE.

The Tower of London photographed at night
Christine Colby

As tradition going back 700 years, all Yeoman Warders and their families live within the Tower walls. Right now about 150 people, including a doctor and a chaplain, claim the Tower of London as their home address.

3. BUT HE’S HAD TO MOVE.

Skaife used to live next to the Bloody Tower, but had to move to a different apartment within the grounds because his first one was “too haunted.” He doesn’t really believe in ghosts, he says, but does put stock in “echoes of the past.” He once spoke to a little girl who was sitting near the raven cages, and when he turned around, she had disappeared. He also claims that things in his apartment inexplicably move around, particularly Christmas-related items.

4. THE RAVENS ENJOY SOME UNUSUAL SNACKS.

The Ravenmaster at the Tower of London bending down to feed one of his ravens
Christine Colby

The birds are fed nuts, berries, fruit, mice, rats, chicken, and blood-soaked biscuits. (“And what they nick off the tourists,” Skaife says.) He has also seen a raven attack and kill a pigeon in three minutes.

5. THEY GET A LULLABY.

Each evening, Skaife whistles a special tone to call the ravens to bed—they’re tucked into spacious, airy cages to protect them from predators such as foxes.

6. THERE’S A DIVA.

One of the ravens doesn’t join the others in their nighttime lodgings. Merlina, the star raven, is a bit friendlier to humans but doesn’t get on with the rest of the birds. She has her own private box inside the Queen’s House, which she reaches by climbing a tiny ladder.

7. ONE OF THEM HAS EARNED THE NICKNAME “THE BLACK WIDOW.”

Ravens normally pair off for life, but one of the birds at the Tower, Munin, has managed to get her first two mates killed. With both, she lured them high atop the White Tower, higher than they were capable of flying down from, since their wings are kept trimmed. Husband #1 fell to his death. The second one had better luck coasting down on his wings, but went too far and fell into the Thames, where he drowned. Munin is now partnered with a much younger male.

8. THERE IS A SECRET PUB INSIDE THE TOWER.

Only the Yeoman Warders, their families, and invited guests can go inside a secret pub on the Tower grounds. Naturally, the Yeoman Warder’s Club offers Beefeater Bitter beer and Beefeater gin. It’s lavishly decorated in police and military memorabilia, such as patches from U.S. police departments. There is also an area by the bar where a section of the wall has been dug into and encased in glass, showing items found in an archaeological excavation of the moat, such as soldiers’ discarded clay pipes, a cannonball, and some mouse skeletons.

9. … AND A SECRET HAND.

The Byward Tower, which was built in the 13th century by King Henry III, is now used as the main entrance to the Tower for visitors. It has a secret glass brick set into the wall that most people don’t notice. When you peer inside, you’ll see it contains a human hand (presumably fake). It was put in there at some point as a bit of a joke to scare children, but ended up being walled in from the other side, so is now in there permanently.

10. HE HAS A SIDE PROJECT.

Skaife considers himself primarily a storyteller, and loves sharing tales of what he calls “Victorian melodrama.” In addition to his work at the Tower, he also runs Grave Matters, a Facebook page and a blog, as a collaboration with medical historian and writer Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris. Together they post about the history of executions, torture, and punishment.

11. THE TOWER IS MUPPET-FAMOUS.

2013’s Muppets Most Wanted was the first major film to shoot inside the Tower walls. At the Yeoman Warder’s Club, you can still sit in the same booth the Muppets occupied while they were in the pub.

12. IF YOU VISIT, KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR MONEY.

Ravens are very clever and known for stealing things from tourists, especially coins. They will strut around with the coin in their beak and then bury it, while trying to hide the site from the other birds.

13. … AND ON YOUR EYES.

Skaife, who’s covered in scars from raven bites, says, “They don’t like humans at all unless they’re dying or dead. Although they do love eyes.” He once had a Twitter follower, who is an organ donor, offer his eyes to the ravens after his death. Skaife declined.

This story first ran in 2015.

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