More than 10,000 people went to the very first CatCon held in LA this past weekend. If you went, you might have had a startling revelation like I did: there could be a TON of money in having a famous cat.
Cheezburger, for example, is a lucrative network of sites that shows off memes from cats to kids. "It's a multi-million dollar business, let's put it that way," says CEO Ben Huh.
Internet cat celebrity Lil BUB raised a lot this weekend, herself, according to her owner/manager Mike Bridavsky. He estimates the pre-sale tickets to her meet and greets raised $23,000.
I've already got her to trend on Reddit a couple times with these photos, but does that mean I could market her as a personality?
"The challenge here is getting a persona," says Huh. "Not only do you need a cat that's distinctive, but that cat needs a persona so that we can relate to the character."
That can be a tough order when I know what her personality is – I see her every day. I wasn't too sure how to make that translate on the Internet, though.
Angie Bailey is an expert at that, creating the humor column (and empire) "Text from Mittens," Mittens being the ultimate clingy cat that texts with his owner.
The needy diva of the cat Mittens in his full glory on "Texts from Mittens," created by Angie Bailey
"If you look at all the different pictures of her, you could probably pick out personality traits," she tells me. It took her a while to settle on the needy, annoying persona for Mittens (who is fictitious) but she advised that I draw on emotions that all cat owners believe their cats are capable of.
In the meantime, she says, start crafting and testing out an online presence. "You should start an Instagram account for her."
The co-geniuses behind Cats of Instagram, Kady Lone and Eli Omidi, have their own tips to make sure pics go viral.
"Yawning, any pictures where their mouths are open: lots of likes," says Lone.
Omidi adds, "Cats that are on their backs, just begging to be pawed: lots of likes."
They both agree that costumes and hats are big winners. But more importantly, they told me to just start taking tons of pictures to get her used to the camera and get a better idea of who she is as an image.
But just like every "Behind the Music" on VH1, there is a dark side to becoming famous.
"It wasn't like we get to fly first-class, we get to to do all this cool stuff," says Catster's Keith Bowers. "This is really difficult because it's a balance between the world wanting a whole lot from you and the celebrity culture wanting a lot from you, and that this is my friend."
Bridavsky, Lil BUB's owner, sounded exhausted himself even before CatCon. While he says the fans are great and giving, he says that BUB fans are passionate. Luckily, Bridavsky says the cat seems to be more calm and better at enduring the chaos than him.
I'm still figuring out what Penny's online persona could be – or even if she could pull off the look consistently in pics – but it's not a decision to make lightly.
Because it would suck to become the next great, terrible stage mother...