Even if you haven’t heard the name Hasbulla Magomedov, chances are you’ve seen images of the Russian’s cherubic face, which exists in the pantheon of internet memes with the likes of Cash Me Outside Girl, Kermit and Condescending Wonka.
Magomedov is not a child, despite his 3’4″ stature and toddler-like appearance. He’s an adult man who suffers from a form of dwarfism, although he’s never publicly spoken about his condition in detail.
Normally known simply by the mononym Hasbulla, beyond his status as a meme the diminutive Russian is mostly known for hawking garbage (cryptocurrency, self-branded merchandise, supplements) and for his nebulous association with mixed martial arts, existing as a sort of barnacle on the UFC where he appears at weigh-ins, uploads video of himself providing commentary and is carried around as a kind of good luck totem by Russian fighters.
Now Hasbulla is famous for something else — horrifically abusing his cat.
In a new video — which Habsulla was apparently proud of and voluntarily shared publicly — the 20-year-old speaks in his native Russian while pulling violently on his cat’s ear. The feline — which is terrified of Hasbulla and flinches when he approaches — escapes to the safety of a shoe box, but his tiny tormentor follows, smacking the poor cat on its body and head while barking in the gutteral nonsense that passes for a language in his gas station of a country:
Hasbulla boasts six million followers on Instagram, 1.5 million on Twitter, and his videos on TikTok have amassed an astounding 10.3 billion views.
The video is disturbing enough on its own, though I can’t help but wonder if Hasbulla is willing to share this kind of behavior, what’s going on when the cameras are off?
And if people are willing to physically abuse their cats to feed the content beast and keep their viewers “entertained,” how will they lower the bar in the future when their clicks slow down and they feel they need to do something even more shocking to reignite interest?
I would like to purchase Buddy the Lesser. Is he for sale? If so, how many rubles will it take to pry him away from you?
Vladimir Mewtin, presidential cat of Glorious Motherland
I may be willing to part with him, but we don’t take rubles, just good old ‘Merican greenbacks here! I’m warning you, the price will be steep, but if you’re serious, I think we can work out a deal.
My heart sang with the glory of Mother Russia when I read your correspondence. Would $50,000 be acceptable recompense for parting with Buddy the Lesser? Also, what does he eat? Is he an affectionate cuddler? Does he like to play games?
Vladimir Mewtin, presidential cat of Glorious Motherland
I thought you were serious, dude. Pretend this is eBay and the starting bid is $200,000.
Buddy the Lesser is a vegetarian and has been for more than six years now. He’s more or less affectionate, and he does play games, sometimes too much. I don’t like it when he’s on the computer and the only scritches to be had are absent-minded scritches.
Holler at me if you got the cash,
How is this possible? A cat who is a vegetarian? I am most happy to learn he is affectionate and he enjoys games, but surely no feline can subsist and remain healthy on vegetables and fruits alone. I cannot pay $200,000 for a cat in good conscience if he’s likely to be malnourished, no matter how dashing and handsome he is.
No, no, no! I’m the cat. Buddy the Greater, aka Little Buddy. That’s me. You asked about Buddy the Lesser, aka Big Buddy. That’s my human. I assure you, I eat nothing but the finest turkey and other meats, but I am not for sale!
Now you have to understand, any deal we strike will have to include a replacement human to see to my own needs, okay Vlady? Don’t try to pull a fast one on me either: I want an American human who understands meows in American, is easily manipulated by my yowling and takes his servantly duties seriously.
I don’t have time to teach the American language to a Russian servant, nor am I inclined to instruct a Russian in the subtleties of American meowing. Unless…unless we’re talking about female Russians, gorgeous women with names like Alina, Tatiana and Katya who will spoil me, feed me candied figs and allow me to use their bosoms as pillows. That might be kinda cool.
No Siberia either! Tatiana must come to New York, or Novvy Yorkova as you call it.
Let me know if those terms are amenable to you.
Where’d you go, dude? Dammit, why does everyone cut off contact when I try to sell my human?
The voicemail is chilling not only for the explicit threat the person on the other end makes, but for her chipper tone as she casually threatens the lives of the people working at a west Michigan animal shelter.
“So anyway,” the caller says at the end of the unhinged message, “I’ll blow this number up and I’ll blow your location up as well. Hope you have a wonderful day!”
It’s one of three bomb threats the shelter has received since TikTok influencer Chloe Mitchell began the saga of what she calls “the $900 cat.”
Mitchell adopted a kitten from Michigan’s Noah Project, a small no-kill shelter, in early March. Staff say she didn’t balk at the adoption fee and they thought she was happy with the sweet kitty she took home, but the next day Noah Project’s phones began ringing incessantly with callers heaping abuse on the shelter’s volunteers and staff.
Apparently in the throes of adopter’s remorse, Mitchell uploaded a video to TikTok, the popular Chinese social media app, and raged about the adoption to her three million followers, screaming into the camera as she accused the shelter of identifying her as an easy mark and making a tidy profit off the kitten’s adoption fee.
Sickly kittens and sizable veterinary bills
Mitchell originally came to the shelter, camera in tow, asking specifically for a cat named Heart. The influencer filmed her visit and gushed to her viewers that she’d fallen in love with Heart, a mixed-breed kitten with Savannah heritage.
Shelter staff explained the kitten was from one of two litters that were brought in with serious ailments after a woman purchased a pair of queens from a breeder.
The former breeder cats went into heat and had babies, predictably, and the situation quickly grew out of control. When the woman realized she couldn’t care for the cats and their many ailing babies, she brought them to the Noah Project, which took on the Herculean task of caring for kittens that had problems ranging from anemia to developmental deformities like swimmer’s leg, also known as deformed leg syndrome.
Noah Project staff had to rush three of the kittens to an emergency veterinary hospital. Another required a leg amputation. Two kittens died, and the remaining babies had to be nursed back to health over three months, with special diets, medication and care on top of the normal costs associated with spaying/neutering, micro-chipping and vaccines.
Taking on that many sick kittens would stretch the resources of any animal shelter, let alone a small rescue, and the Noah Project set the adoption fees at $900 per kitten to help recoup the considerable costs.
Whipping an army of followers into a frenzy
Mitchell wasn’t phased by the fee, shelter staff said, but things quickly turned sour when she went home and posted the dramatic video, sparking the ire of her followers.
After that first video racked up almost six million views and almost 28,000 comments, Mitchell turned the experience into her own miniature “season” of online television, making half a dozen monetized videos in which she accuses the non-profit of lying to her about Heart’s breed and scamming her with the adoption fee.
Collectively, the videos have more than 30 million views, and Mitchell’s increasingly pitched rhetoric has whipped her three million followers into a frenzy.
In the video above, Mitchell acts out an alleged conversation with the shelter and confuses coat pattern for breed, saying “Feline experts have approached me online to say that she is in fact not an African Savannah and is more of a tabby-looking animal.”
“And they’ve stayed that I did get wrongfully charged that $900 in your shelter, which isn’t looking to re-home animals [but] make a profit off of them, and that’s not okay… I was taken advantage of, and that really sucks, I gave you my money for a reason that you were being truthful about her breed.”
Prompted by Mitchell’s insistence that the shelter was “scamming” adopters, her followers turned vigilante, review-bombing the Noah Project on Google and harassing its staff by phone. The shelter, which has been named the best rescue in west Michigan by its local newspaper several years in a row among other plaudits, saw its five-star Google review rating evaporate as negative reviews piled up, and the angry calls keep coming in. (“Unethical scammer! …shady, greedy business!” one of Mitchell’s followers wrote, while others dubbed Noah Project a “retail rescue” that “prioritizes profits over placing animals in a loving home.”)
The experience has been bewildering for shelter volunteers who aren’t accustomed to being the target of international ire.
“One woman [who answers phones at the shelter] doesn’t want to come back this week because it was so bad for her,” said Mashele Garrett-Arndt, Noah Project’s director. “It’s hard to explain to someone in their 60s or 70s. They don’t understand how [followers] can be so loyal to a person in a video. They don’t understand how people can be so cruel.”
Volunteers and staffers have taken the brunt of the abuse from Mitchell’s followers. Several don’t feel comfortable returning to the shelter because of the threats, Garrett-Arndt said.
The callers have said “they hope we die. They hope that we suffer and lose our jobs, they hope our families suffer. Horrible, horrible things,” she said.
As a result of the abuse and the threats, the Noah Project went to the local police, who are now keeping watch over the shelter. They’ve also hired private security, installed cameras covering the property, and have taken to scheduling staff to man the building overnight to watch the premises.
In an effort to end the squabble, Garrett-Arndt reached out and offered to refund Mitchell’s adoption fee, but said the influencer will no longer return the shelter’s calls.
Despite that offer, there’s no end in sight to the drama: Mitchell repeated her accusations that the shelter was trying to “profit” from her in an interview last week with MLive, a website that serves readers of a dozen newspapers across the state, and did an interview with the local Fox affiliate, WXMI, for a news segment that aired Monday.
Mitchell claims the shelter never mentioned the medical issues as the reason why the adoption fee was higher than usual, and says shelter staff told her Heart was “a super rare African Savannah” as rationale for the fee. She suggested she’ll continue her campaign to shame Noah Project until the shelter “proves” Heart is a Savannah, a mix of a wild serval and domestic cat.
“All of this will go away if they send me the certified paperwork ensuring she [is] in fact an African Savannah and I was rightfully charged $900,” the TikToker told WXMI.
But in her initial video Mitchell admitted she didn’t know what a Savannah cat was, and in another video she says she doesn’t care if Heart is a particular breed.
“I trusted you and I gave you my money for a reason, believing that you were being truthful with me about her breed, which didn’t matter to me at all, because I just love this animal,” she says in the video.
The constant stream of new videos about the situation and the behavior of Mitchell’s enraged followers has had a dramatic impact on the rescue.
“It has just been consuming our lives for the past four weeks,” one staffer told WXMI.
No one gets into animal rescue to make money, despite Mitchell’s claims that Project Noah’s staff are using animals in some sort of get rich quick scheme, and Garrett-Arndt told MLive she’d gladly open the shelter’s books to Mitchell or anyone else with concerns to show exactly how much was spent on vet bills and the other expenses involved in saving the sickly kittens and their mothers.
Pleading poverty and punching down
In her first video taking issue with Heart’s adoption fee, Mitchell pleads poverty and suggests the shelter saw her as an easy mark.
“I could just not eat,” she says with a theatrical expression, complaining that the fee is “two thirds of a Yorkie” and a quarter the price of a Louis Vuitton bag.
“I spent $900 on a fuzzy scratch ball that’s going to puke all over my furniture,” she says.
But Mitchell is not the typical college student working a part-time job and eating Ramen noodles to stretch her budget. As a volleyball player at Michigan’s Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, she’s well known as the first collegiate athlete to profit from the NCAA’s new NIL (name and image likeness) deal, which pays college athletes when their names and likenesses are used in broadcasts, promotional materials, video games and other revenue-generating activities tied to their sports.
Mitchell went on to found a company that guides other athletes on NIL deals, and she makes a considerable amount of money on TikTok. Creators on the platform who have three million followers can expect to earn about $15,000 a month from viewership alone, and articles going back to 2021 state Mitchell receives lucrative sponsorships on her videos.
“Five-figure deals are her baseline” for sponsored posts, a story on MLive notes, saying Mitchell was earning up to $20,000 per sponsored post at the time, when she had fewer followers than she does now.
If Mitchell scores a conservative two sponsored posts per month, that could put her earnings at $55,000 a month from TikTok alone, not including money earned from her NIL deal. Very few college students earn that kind of cash, yet Mitchell claimed the $900 adoption fee was “life-changing money.” In addition, she refers to her new pet almost exclusively as “the $900 cat.”
She dismissed the idea that she was creating problems for the Noah Project, telling WXMI that she doesn’t think she’s responsible for what her followers do.
“I never asked for the internet to go call them or to leave Google reviews in my defense whatsoever,” she said. “I’m not asking to be defended, I’m just asking to be heard.”
With 30 million views on her videos about “the $900 cat” saga, she’s been heard. The shelter? Not so much.
“To call people scammers, that’s a huge thing,” Garrett-Arndt told PITB. “You don’t just say someone scammed you. For her to say that about Noah Project, that hit hard for everyone.”
Garrett-Arndt said Noah Project’s social media staffer is hard at work trying to rectify the one-star reviews Mitchell’s followers left on the shelter’s Google listing, and said it’s taken considerable time to combat the damage to the shelter’s reputation.
Time spent dealing with negative reviews, filing police reports and reassuring spooked volunteers means less time dealing with the rescue’s primary mission — saving animals.
Garrett-Arndt said she consulted an attorney about taking to TikTok to tell the shelter’s story, and the attorney warned her that doing so could provoke an even stronger reaction from Mitchell, who has an enormous megaphone.
She said she doesn’t want to anger Mitchell for fear of what the influencer could do in the future, but believes the whole saga was manufactured for the benefit of the influencer’s TikTok account and followers. When the story blew up, she ran with it and wouldn’t return calls from the shelter in an attempt to fix the situation.
“She needed content, so it’s like ‘Let’s go get a cat,’ and then it got out of hand,” Garrett-Arndt said. “She has three million followers, but we have to stand our ground. The truth will come out.”
In the meantime, Mitchell — perhaps with an eye toward creating more viral content — says she’s getting a DNA test for Heart and has threatened to contact the other adopters who took home cats from the same two litters.
“Five other people paid the $900 adoption fee and not one of those people had an issue with it,” Garrett-Arndt said of adopters who took home the other kittens from the sickly litters.
The offer of a refund still stands, and staff at the Noah Project hope there’s an end to the madness.
“Why wouldn’t she come back to us? We’ll refund her,” Garrett-Arndt told PITB. “If you’re that unhappy about the $900, bring the cat back. Adopt another cat so we don’t have to [deal with] this and we don’t get dragged through the mud.”
I don’t advocate criminality, but if some enterprising, preternaturally skilled hacker were to go Tyler Durden on TikTok and not just disable it for a few hours with a DDoS attack, but nuke it to oblivion by taking down its servers, backups and back-end code, that hacker would be a hero.
Songs would be written for this legend of a human being, performed to raucous applause by bards in taverns. A reincarnated Abraham Lincoln would lead a parade of patriots to the White House to wrap the benevolent hacker in the American flag and present the presidential Medal of Freedom. A bald eagle would alight on a Rose Garden cherry tree, raising a wing in salute to our hero, and fireworks would inaugurate a new federal holiday in honor of the glorious deed and its magnificent author.
But that’s not going to happen, so I have to type the words “TikTok influencer” and try not to gag as I relate the story of one Chloe Mitchell, a Michigan college student who sicced her army of three million followers on a non-profit, no-kill animal shelter.
Mitchell is one of those people who makes you wish life had mute buttons. She tells her side of the story with theatric facial expressions, frequently screaming — literally screaming — into the camera as she claims she fell in love with a cat at Michigan’s Noah Project and didn’t balk at the $900 adoption fee.
She says she’s happy with her cat, Puka, and loves her. But she still has adopter’s remorse.
“I spent $900 on a fuzzy scratch ball that’s going to puke all over my furniture,” she says at one point in a video she made after the adoption.
She bemoans the adoption fee, saying the cat costs “two thirds of a Yorkie” and a quarter the price of a new Louis Vuitton bag.
“Why isn’t there a price tag on her cage?” Mitchell screams. “Why can’t she be a $25 cat? … That’s life changing money, $900. I could just not eat.”
Mitchell’s followers, who called the shelter operators “scammers” and said they “played” Mitchell, among less charitable comments, have been targeting the shelter online and by phone, making “profanity-laced calls,” according to MLive.
Mitchell says the shelter told her the adoption fee was so high because Puka is an F5 Savannah, a fifth-generation hybrid of a domestic cat and an African serval. In her video she admits she doesn’t know what a Savannah is and confuses a tabby coat pattern for a breed.
But Mashele Garrett-Arndt, Noah Project’s director, told MLive the adoption fee reflected the substantial costs the shelter incurred by rescuing Puka, her litter mates and kittens from the other litters she came with, who had multiple medical issues. The shelter paid for veterinary surgery, including procedures for one cat who had two legs amputated, as well as shots, microchips, spaying/neutering, and special diets for the ailing kitties.
The Noah Project took in the young cats and their mothers from a woman who purchased the momma cats from a breeder. The mother cats went into heat again, predictably, and the problem multiplied litter by litter until the woman realized it was out of her ability to control and passed the problem along to the shelter.
The Noah Project took the mother cats and kittens, like any good rescue would, but an intake like that would stretch the resources of most shelters, let alone a small local operation. (See the appeals for assistance when larger organizations like the SPCA take in cats from hoarding situations, for example.) That this happened on the cusp of kitten season makes it even more difficult.
Since adopting Puka — and making a video in which she goes back and forth between saying she already adopted her and claiming she was thinking of adopting her — Mitchell has made at least half a dozen additional monetized videos about “the $900 cat,” including one in which she introduced her parents to their “$900 grandfurchild” and another in which she seemingly pretends to be on the phone with someone from the shelter, lecturing them about “taking advantage” of people and “profiting” off them. In the video, she does not pause long enough for the alleged person on the other end to speak.
“I’m so mad about this because she’s not only lying about this story but she’s making a profit off this,” Garret-Arndt said. “These cats came from an older woman in her 80s who bought these cats and overbred and couldn’t handle the situation. They all had medical issues and that’s the reason they were $900.”
Garret-Arndt told MLive her books are open for Mitchell and anyone else to inspect. In addition, the IRS 990 forms of non-profits are available via sites like Guidestar, allowing donors to check information like percentage of revenue spent on programs, meaning the amount that goes to the charitable cause after overhead.
Mitchell isn’t hurting for cash despite her claim that she might have to go without eating after adopting her “$900 cat.” As a college volleyball player, she’s known as the first NCAA athlete to profit financially from NIL (name and image likeness), co-founded a company for other athletes looking to capitalize on NIL, and says she paid for Puka with money she made from the TikTok Creator’s Fund. In addition, she’s bragged about her many sponsorships.
An earlier story about Mitchell’s earnings said that in addition to the money she earns directly from the NCAA NIL deal, “five-figure deals are her baseline” for sponsorships.
Mitchell earns up to $20,000 per sponsored post, the story notes — and that was in 2021, when her follower count wasn’t as high. That’s an extraordinary amount of money for anyone, let alone a college kid, and doesn’t match up with her video pleading poverty over an adoption fee.
With 3 million followers, Mitchell could earn as much as $15,000 a month directly from TikTok alone, not including the lucrative sponsorships. Her initial post about the saga of her “$900 cat” registered almost six million views, some 28,000 comments and more than 660,000 likes. In all, her series of videos on the cat saga have amassed almost 30 million views. Most creators can only dream of those engagement numbers and the revenue associated with them.
In other words, Mitchell is not the typical college student working a part-time job in between classes and eating Ramen noodles to stretch her budget, and it wouldn’t be inaccurate to say she’s punching down by picking a fight with a small local rescue.
“I feel like she (Mitchell) got that cat as a stunt for her followers,” Garret-Arndt said. “She specifically asked for that cat. We were told she was an African Savannah cat but we don’t know.”
To her credit, Mitchell does seem taken with Puka, and we hope she cherishes the beautiful kitten regardless of whether she’s got serval lineage or is just a “basic” cat. Every cat is worthy of love and deserves a good home, and it appears Mitchell is doting on Puka, buying her lots of toys and cat furniture and cuddling with her.
Take it from me, loyal servant to a “basic” no-breed kitty: what’s important is the bond you form and the memories you make together, not the rarity of the breed. I wouldn’t part with Bud for $900,000, let alone $900.
In the meantime, the Noah Project continues to take abuse from the “influencer’s” followers, “swearing at us and calling us a horrible organization,” Garret-Arndt said.
“We don’t scam people,” she told MLive. “If they want to see my books and what I paid for medical, they can.”
She said the Noah Project is a small organization that focuses on making sure cats go to good homes instead of ending up in kill shelters where they’re likely to be euthanized.
“All of our animals leave here fixed and with all of their shots and preventatives, as well as being microchipped,” she wrote in a Facebook post in response to the manufactured controversy. “This all-costs money. No one is making a profit here, everything goes back into the shelter for medical supplies, food, etc.”
Mitchell says she’s ordered a DNA test for Puka and plans to do a reveal on TikTok, providing more material for more monetized videos in her ongoing saga of “the $900 cat.” She says she’ll “defend” the shelter to her followers if the DNA test does reveal serval lineage, but the damage has already been done, and we can’t help but wonder if she’ll be willing to offer a meal culpa after quadrupling down on claims that the shelter ripped her off.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve experienced sticker shock in the last six or seven months, especially in grocery stores.
Staples like milk and bread cost two or three times what they did pre-inflation, some retailers are taking the opportunity to arbitrarily hike prices even higher, and a perfect storm of economic uncertainty and a rampaging bird flu caused the price of eggs and poultry to skyrocket.
By late 2022, almost 50 million chickens and turkeys had been killed by avian flu or culled because of it, and almost 10 million more were lost to the virus in the first 12 weeks of 2023, according to the CDC. That breaks the record for most birds lost to avian flu, which was set in 2015 when 51 million died or were culled.
Pet food prices are up too, mirroring grocery inflation, as are veterinary costs and medicine for cats and dogs.
Inflation has squeezed so many people that shelters in the US and UK are reporting unprecedented surrenders from people who believe they can’t afford their pets anymore. In some areas it’s so bad that local shelters have waiting lists — or surrender queues, as they’re called in the UK — for people parting with their pets.
“We get between 10 and 12 surrenders per week, so we’re looking at anywhere between 30 and 50 a month,” Ashley Burling of Montana-based Help For Homeless Pets said. “When you’re talking about inflation, you’re talking about vet bills, pet food, pet supplies and pet rent. I think inflation, I think people going back to work after the pandemic, there’s other reasons that they’re surrendered.”
More than 70 percent of adoptable pets at the Nevada SPCA previous had homes, executive director Lori Heeren told the local NBC affiliate. Her organization is on pace for 2,500 surrenders in 2023.
News outlets tell the same story in local markets across the country, and the Humane Society is seeing the same trend nationally, CEO Kitty Block told CNN. While pet-related costs increased sharply in 2022 — with food and supplies increasing by as much as 30 percent, according to NielsenIQ — statistics show they haven’t relented yet this year. In fact, prices are still edging up, albeit at a slower rate than the previous year.
To cope, more people are leaning on pet food pantries. In Iowa, for example, the Animal Rescue League gave away more than 40,000 pounds of pet food in 2020 and 2021, and a whopping 146,000 pounds in 2022.
Shelter operators say they want people to know there are options so they don’t feel they have to part with cats and dogs who have become family.
“This is bigger than dogs or cats in shelters,” Block said. “It’s about the people who love them.”
PITB readers are the kind of people who dote on their cats and most of us couldn’t imagine abandoning them even in hard times, but chances are we all know someone who’s thought about parting with their fluffy overlords.
They don’t have to give their beloved cats and dogs up. There are resources to help them meet their animal’s needs to prevent them from surrendering:
– Many local chapters of the Humane Society and SPCA, as well as private shelters, offer free spay/neuter clinics and free or low-cost veterinary exams. A guide from the Humane Society notes PetFinder allows users to search for pet-specific food pantries and low cost veterinary services
– There are programs that provide pet food to people who can no longer afford it
– Some shelters will place pets in temporary foster homes to help relieve the burden until their owners can take them back
– Buying food and medicine online is significantly cheaper than in grocery stores. Some offer deep discounts on meds to existing customers and prices from online retailers have remained relatively stable, especially when buying in quantity
– Social services programs may include provisions for pets
It’s in the best interests of shelters and animal welfare programs for cats and dogs to stay with their people, and not only because they don’t have the resources to house hundreds of abandoned pets on top of their usual intake.
Keeping people and pets together benefits both. Cats and dogs obviously don’t understand that their people are tearfully, reluctantly giving them up. All they know is they’ve been abandoned by the people who made them feel safe and loved. For the mental health and overall well-being of humans and their furry companions, they should stay together.
For some people, like Patricia Kelvin of Poland, Ohio, that means scrounging up whatever she can and cutting back on her own expenses before she will allow her cat to go without.
“There’s just no question in my mind. If my diet was going to be more beans than something else, I wouldn’t hesitate,” Kelvin told CNN. “If I had to sell my sterling silver, which I’ve had for 60 years, that would go before my little ‘Whiskers’ would be deprived.”
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.