For the type of person who requires an infusion of cute Internet cats to get through the workday (a.k.a. most people), Lil Bub needs no introduction. The mega-adorable "permakitten" from Bloomington, Indiana has blossomed from an Internet curiosity to a bonafide media property: in September alone, she's been the subject of a feature-length Vice documentary, Lil Bub & Friendz; released her first tome, Lil Bub's Lil Book; and commenced a talk show, "Lil Bub's Big Show."
We met Bub and her owner, Mike Bridavsky, at the Yerba Buena Gardens between stops on their busy San Francisco press tour. Bridavsky was, as he himself admits, absolutely exhausted, but Bub was in good spirits, romping across the grass for the photos above. After Bub had been re-installed in her cat carrier, we talked to Bridavsky about the unusual existence of having a celebrity pet.
Is this your first time in San Francisco? What do you think so far?
It's great. I love the weather. I know we got lucky, but the weather has been especially spectacular so far.
What kind of events have you guys been doing?
A lot. We did book signings...the first was at Spoke Art Gallery, and after that there was an art exhibit that was all Bub paintings, from 60 internationally renowned artists. It was one of the coolest things I think I've ever been a part of. Then yesterday, we did a meet-and-greet at the Rickshaw Stop with Burger Records, who are big fans of Bub. We did a book signing there, then they screened the documentary. And then after that, there was a rock show...in honor of my cat. [Laughs.]
That's a pretty good feeling, I imagine.
It's all a pretty good feeling, but I'm so exhausted right now. That's the only thing.
Your day job is owning a recording studio. How much time have you been able to dedicate to that, given the fame of your cat?
Not much. I've hired a guy to pick up the slack for me. But that's still what I do...well, every now and then, at least.
What's the craziest reaction people have had upon meeting Bub?
People cry a lot, but one woman actually fell to her knees sobbing. At every meet-and-greet, at least one person cries; yesterday, there was a young guy, like a hardcore kid, who started crying. It's actually pretty common.
Do they ever explain to you why they're in tears?
I don't think an explanation is needed. They feel comfortable crying around her. They're tears of happiness, of course. But we're actually going to cut down on them...the events for the public are cool, but it's a little intense for me and for everyone: Bub, the people working, the people waiting for three hours in line. It's been fun, but I think we're going to cool it for a while.
You've been doing them as animal-welfare fundraisers, right?
Yeah, there's always a charitable aspect. I do think it's a great thing, but at some point, you think, I need a break. And she probably does too.
How is traveling for Bub? Can she handle it pretty well?
It's actually really good for her. She's really spry and active when we travel. [As we've been talking, Bub has been attempting to climb out of her carrier.] This is new for her, this kind of mobility. We're doing a new treatment, and we've learned more about her disease, which is very rare. We travel a lot, and I've always notice that whenever we travel, she does better. We found out that the vibrations from driving and flying are very good for her bones; it helps these certain cells break down, which don't break down naturally, like they do in most cats. That's why she's able to stand upright, and she was running around at the last place we were at, which is the first time that's happened since she was three months old.
What is it about her bones that make it hard for her to walk?
It's called osteopetrosis-- not osteoporosis, osteopetrosis. Her bones become more dense, twisted, and deformed as she gets older; she almost has no marrow cavity, and they continually get bigger and more deformed. That was what was starting to limit her mobility, and made her so awkward. She's the only cat in recorded history to be born with this disease...it's exceptionally rare in any species. [Gestures to climbing Bub.] This was absolutely unheard of for her only three months ago. Climbing out of her carrier is insane.
Bub was born feral. How did she come to be yours?
My friend's mom found her in her tool shed when she was about one week old, and saw that she needed special care, or she wouldn't survive. She bottle-fed her until about eight weeks, and that's when my friend sent me a photo of her as a kitten. I was like, "I have to meet this cat." I took her home immediately. I mean, she's the most amazing animal in the world.
Does she have to eat special food?
She has to eat prescription food right now, for urinary tract health-- she had crystals in her bladder. But before that, she just ate regular food.
So, you guys just had a big day recently.
Yeah, September 3rd was Good Job Bub Day, and we released the book, the documentary, and our talk show all at the same time.
How do you put the talk show together? I assume you record the interviews separately.
Each one's different, the first one [with Whoopi Goldberg] was just a Skype interview, but some of them are more involved: we actually meet up with the guest, and they interact.
How did that get started?
Well, anything we do, people come to us. I never seek out anything-- that's kind of been my rule from the beginning. When they came to us, I wasn't sure, and I agreed to do it if I had full creative freedom, full control over everything, and got to choose who I worked with. And they said yes, which is awesome. It doesn't work that way normally, but when you have a Bub, you get what you want. My friend Mark Pallman and I created the concept, I write it, and he's the director and producer. He's awesome: he also helped with the book, we've been writing music, and we've played music and been on tour together in the past, so he's a very close friend.
Given that you already have a recording studio, will there be Bub music at some point?
We've talked about it...for fun, of course. [Bub tries to break free to run across the grass.] Bub, I know, it looks fun, but you have to stay here now. [To us.] Now that she's capable of running, oh man...
You recently were the subject of a Buzzfeed listicle that was a tribute to your attractiveness. Have you found love through the Bub project?
No. I don't really have time, it's like she's my girlfriend. [Laughs.] It's weird...I get hit on by girls, because I have a famous cat, but that doesn't really equate to love, I don't think.
You have other cats, right?
Four other cats.
And how does she get along with your cats?
They don't live together. She can't really be around other cats, they get freaked out. The other cats live in the recording studio, and she lives with me in my apartment...
Security guard: [Approaching.] Hello, there are no pets allowed in the park.
Mike: This is Lil Bub, man.
Security guard: Hmm?
Mike: This is Lil Bub.
SFist: She's a celebrity cat.
Mike: It's like kicking out Robin Williams from your park.
Security guard: Well, rules are rules. I'm just doing my job.
Mike: It's OK, we'll go, thank you. [Starts to pack up.]
Do you ever get tired of being Lil Bub's dad?
Like, personally? No, she's awesome. But publically...yeah, it's a little weird. I tried to stay out of it for a long time, but once they started filming the documentary, and people asked us if we'd appear on shows, I had to. I think it's weird getting noticed for being the owner of a cat.
Well, this is the Robin Williams of cats, as you said yourself.
Ugh, I don't know why I picked Robin Williams. I could have picked a much cooler celebrity.
For more Bub: Lil Bub and Friendz is viewable online in its entirety at Vice. "Lil Bub's Big Show," her Web talk show, is available on YouTube. Lil Bub's Lil Book is available at Amazon. And for those needing a daily infusion of Bub, she's an active user of Instagram and Tumblr.