Lil BUB, the 8-year-old runt of a feral litter whose disproportionately small limbs, extra toes, and always-hanging tongue led to an improbable and meteoric rise to fame, died Monday at her home in Bloomington, Ind.
The cause was osteopetrosis, a rare bone disease, Mike Bridavsky, who refers to himself as “Lil BUB’s Dude,” posted on her Instagram account of 2.4 million followers.
To many, Lil BUB was an example to felines, canines, and even humans that our differences should be celebrated. In her short life, Lil BUB landed on the front page of Reddit; appeared on Good Morning America in Times Square; starred in a documentary, Lil BUB & Friends, that premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival; was listed as the author of Lil BUB’s Lil Book: The Extraordinary Life of the Most Amazing Cat on the Planet; and hosted a talk show where she interviewed Whoopi Goldberg (with subtitles, of course).
“I think we have a lot in common, Whoopi,” Lil BUB “said” on the show.
“I think so, too,” Goldberg replied. Then Lil BUB said why: “We are both strong, independent, award-winning women with TV shows.”
Later, Lil BUB asked: “Do you think Barbara Walters likes me?”
“I think she’s intimidated by you,” Goldberg responded.
Lil BUB did not meow. Spin wrote in a July 2014 story that she “squonks” and “squirggels,” calling her an “Indie Superkitty.” Her teeth never grew in. She had bulging green eyes and was a perma-kitty, meaning she would stay at four pounds in weight.
The tiny cat had a large personality, as Bridavsky described on her website, and was “overwhelmingly cute, exceptionally smart, and painfully witty.” In less than a decade, Bridavsky wrote, she helped raise more than $700,000 for animals in need. The Humane Society of the United States posted a tribute video on YouTube after hearing of her death.
“I call her the most amazing creature on the planet, and I really thought that I was like, there’s no other animal like this, and beyond her looks, just like this energy that she has,” Bridavsky says in the video. “I didn’t realize that other people would sense that, too, even just from photos.”
It’s been a tough year for celebrity cats. Tardar Sauce, better known as Grumpy Cat, the frowning feline who became famous while inspiring memes, died in May. Grumpy Cat’s Instagram account posted a photo of the two feline sensations together with the caption: “Friends forever.”
Other famous cats mourned the loss of Lil BUB on social media and commented on her Facebook page, which has three million likes.
Lil BUB was born in a tool shed in rural Indiana and adopted soon afterward on June 21, 2011. Bridavsky wasn’t always fond of cats, he told Spin, but became attached after interning at a Chicago recording studio, where a cat would sit on his shoulders in the control room.
When Lil BUB was a newborn, a man walked in with tattoos on his right arm of four rescue cats, Oskar, Josie, Vivian, and Special Agent Dale Cooper.
He said: “Hey, Bub!” And from then on, she was BUB.
“She taught me everything that I know about unconditional love, she brought my wife Stacy and I together, she’s the reason we have our beautiful children Rosco and Lula, and she has been a constant source of warmth and love in our lives for the past 8 years,” Bridavsky wrote with her death announcement. “To say that our family is devastated would be an understatement.”
Lil BUB’s first internet photo, posted on Tumblr in 2011, marked the start of her stardom. Her cuteness catapulted her to launching branded merchandise (https://store.lilbub.com/) like a $50 hoodie, $12 crew socks, $21 mug, and a $25 T-shirt, and her own ASPCA fund called “Lil BUB’s BIG Fund for the ASPCA” (https://www.aspca.org/news/lil-bub-makes-big-difference-special-needs-animals-nationwide). She also met Robert De Niro (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/famed-internet-cat-lil-bub-dies-age-8-n1094381).
“We’ve been places and people will cry,” Bridavsky’s wife told Spin, “It’s men and women. It’s not one specific [type of] person, it’s all of these people who, when they see BUB, they just feel this really strong connection.”