SHELBINA, Missouri — Standing in the shade of his command tent on the side of a rural highway, Buddy the Cat holds a pair of binoculars up to his face with both paws early Thursday morning, scanning for cat food.
“I don’t see a damn thing,” the silver tabby cat says, squinting.
A four-year-old striped ginger cat, an assistant, clears his throat. “You have to take off the lens caps, sir.”
Buddy turns, glares at his assistant, then makes a show of removing the lens caps as if that had been his idea all along.
“Aha!” he says triumphantly. “I see the cans!”
That was the scene at what the mercurial feline is calling Operation Yums HQ, less than a half mile from the site of an overturned tractor trailer on Missouri’s Highway 36. The truck, which had been headed east, drifted onto the right shoulder of the highway and tipped over into a ditch, spilling its glorious, delicious, must-be-acquired cargo onto the surrounding grass and concrete.
“Look at it,” Buddy said, surveying the scene as firefighters, police and paramedics saw to the driver, closed down one lane and directed traffic around the accident. “Soon, it will be all mine. Er, I mean ours. Muahaha!”
There was quite a bit of interest in our earlier story about Choupette, pet and muse to late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.
While Choupette was left a large slice of Lagerfeld’s reported $200 million fortune — usually pegged at about $13 million inheritance — as well as the services of a private jet, a chef and minders to see to her needs, she’s not the wealthiest feline on the planet.
Nala Cat: Estimated net worth $100 million
Nala Cat has 4.4 million followers on Instagram, her own line of cat food, and a website that sells Nala-themed shirts, phone cases, coffee mugs, plush toys, pillow covers and even COVID masks. With her gigantic social media following, which has earned her an official Guinness World Record, Nala has enormous earnings potential, taking home five- and six-figure sums for sponsored posts hawking products like topical cream for pets and milk alternatives.
Nala isn’t too happy about getting a bath.
Chances are you’ve seen Nala even if you don’t know her name.
Olivia Benson: Estimated net worth $97 million
Unlike her celebrity ex-boyfriends, Taylor Swift’s cats don’t provide her with sad breakup material for new songs, but they do give her plenty of material for social media and additional opportunities to make money. (Because let’s face it, she needs it: The singer has amassed a paltry half-billion dollars so far.)
Swift named her most famous cat Olivia Benson, which we’re told is the name of a character on Law & Order. (Apologies but once you watch The Wire, there is no going back to network TV cop dramas where the detectives are always righteous and neatly wrap up their cases in 42 minutes.) Since she was purchased by swift in 2014, Olivia Benson has gone on to star in commercials for Coke and Keds, make guest appearances on Ellen, and cameo in Swift’s music videos.
Buddy the Cat: Estimated net worth $3.67 (dollars, not millions)
While Choupette rides the skies in a private jet, Nala cat has more fans than most celebrities and Olivia Benson is feted by talk show hosts, Buddy the Cat is no slouch either: The silver tabby is chauffeured around in style in a Honda Civic, boasts an extensive food and treat cabinet that can keep him in turkey for like three weeks, and is the proud owner of a really cool cardboard box. (Not as awesome as Olivia Benson’s boxes, obviously, but still pretty cool.)
Most importantly, he has the love of his Big Buddy. (Awwww.) Asked what he’d do with a fortune if he suddenly became a hugely popular catfluencer, Bud said he’d buy a Roomba to ride.
Blackie the Cat: Estimated net worth $12.5 million
Blackie belonged to Ben Rea, a millionaire antiques dealer from the UK. According to press reports, Rea was estranged from his family when he died at age 82 in 1988, so he left millions to Blackie.
Rea had some self-awareness at least — reports say he left millions, representing the bulk of his fortune, to three animal charities of his choosing. He also left a house to a close friend and willed money to his housekeeper, gardener and plumber. (Dude really didn’t like his relatives, apparently.)
Unlike the others on this list, Blackie was certified as the wealthiest cat by the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s not clear when Blackie died or what became of the remainder of his fortune. Unless he had an outrageous catnip habit and blew millions on attractive Calico escorts, it’s safe to say he didn’t burn through all $12.5 million in his remaining time on Earth.
Tomasso the Cat: $13 million
In a true rags to riches story, Tomasso was a stray living on the streets of Rome when he was adopted by a lonely widow in her 90s. The woman, Maria Assunto, had no children of her own and treated Tomasso like a son.
When she died in 2011 at the age of 94, Assunto left Tomasso and all her money to a nurse named Stefania.
Stefania had befriended Assunto and Tomasso a few years earlier after meeting them in a public park. The nurse would bring her own cat over to Assunto’s home to play with Tomasso, and cared for Assunto as her health declined. As Assunto began to fade, she asked Stefania to care for Tomasso once she was gone.
Stefania had no idea Assunto was worth millions and was shocked when the late widow’s lawyers approached her.
“I promised her that I would look after the cat when she was no longer around. She wanted to be sure that Tommaso would be loved and cuddled. But I never imagined that she had this sort of wealth,” she said at the time. “She was very discreet and quiet. I knew very little of her private life. She only told me that she had suffered from loneliness a lot.”
Perhaps it was because Stefania had cared for Assunta and Tomasso out of the kindness of her heart that the latter chose her as her sole beneficiary.
“She had become very fond towards the nurse who assisted her,” Anna Orecchioni, Assunta’s attorney, told Italian newspaper Il Messaggero. “We’re convinced that Stefania is the right person to carry out the old lady’s wishes. She loves animals just like the woman she devoted herself to right up until the end.”
NEW YORK — Life is full of unpleasantness, like being able to see the bottom of your bowl. But what if someone told you he could fix that?
Enter Buddy the Cat’s SmartHuman Feeding System™, a device that harnesses the power of AI and cutting-edge hardware to make sure you never see the bottom of your bowl again.
SmartHuman was designed with weight sensors and an AI-enabled camera system to determine when the food in your bowl is getting low. If the on-board algorithms detect low levels of kibble, SmartHuman sends a text to your servant every 15 seconds until the device registers fresh kibble in the bowl.
And if the unthinkable should happen and you really are subjected to the horrific sight of the bottom of your bowl, SmartHuman’s built-in klaxon and emergency lights guarantee your human servants won’t have a second’s peace until they do what they’re supposed to and promptly refill your bowl. The system even requires the human to issue an apology before the sound and lights subside.
“I haven’t had to meow in annoyance or raise a paw once since I got the SmartHuman system,” raved Def the Defenestrator, a popular catfluencer with more than 240,000 followers on Meower. “The threat of getting bombarded with 110-decibel alerts to refill my bowl is enough to make my human servant get off her lazy behind and make sure my bowl is refilled before there’s a problem.”
The SmartHuman’s inventor has a background in feline teleportation and string cheese theory, but was prompted to design his device when he saw the bottom of his dry food bowl twice in as many months.
“I was literally starving,” Buddy said, adding that his “lazy human servant made me wait four minutes and 13 seconds before he refilled my bowl” during the second incident.
Vowing never to go hungry again, the entrepawneur built the first SmartHuman prototype in his garage, using a Raspberry Pi and a digital scale he ordered off Amazon.
He brought his idea to Shark Tank in late 2021 and successfully pitched Mr. Wonderful, who bought a 15 percent stake in SmartHuman™ in exchange for a $150,000 investment. The product entered production earlier this summer and is now available in stores and online.
“Cats love the SmartHuman™, but humans? Not so much,” Buddy the Cat admitted.
Not one to rest on his laurels, the inventive feline said he’s working on a software update that will make the device compatible with wet food as well. In early beta testing, SmartHuman successfully prompted humans to feed wet food to their feline masters on time. Wet Mode includes a new feature as well: If the wet food remains untouched after a three-minute timer elapses, SmartHuman sends another text to the human, informing them the food isn’t satisfactory and should be replaced with another meal.
“Humans are stupid, and they don’t understand when we meow to them in complaint because we don’t feel like eating tuna or whatever on a given night when we’d prefer turkey,” Buddy said. “When this update goes live, cats will be able to enjoy meals of their choosing, every time.”
I’ve been in Washington, D.C. the last few days and have left Buddy in the care of his long-time sitter, a friend who has known him since he was a kitten.
You may recall I wrote about howhe attacked her back in the summer of 2020, but she’s such a nice person that she continued to look after him, including during my trip to the Outer Banks earlier this year and my current absence.
If she won’t care for Buddy in the future, I can’t blame her. Bud attacked her this time for the unspeakable crime of…playing with him! (She’s had several cats of her own, so it’s not like she doesn’t know how to interact with a feline.)
I fear I am going to have to hire men armed with tactical gear and ballistic shields, who will breach the apartment, refill Bud’s bowls under the protection of a phalanx of shields, and then make careful egress without taking their eyes off him.
Either that or board him, which probably won’t go well.
Ah well. I’ll see him tomorrow. He’ll probably run to the door to greet me and rub up against me, then remember he’s supposed to be mad at me. He’ll give me a dismissive “Hrrrrrrmmmmph!” and pad off to ignore me for as long as he can before returning to his normal behavior.
Cats love ’em, they said. It’ll be a great bonding experience, they said. You’ll have to stop your cat from eating too much, they said.
I had high hopes for the “squeeze” treats and was looking forward to getting home and giving Buddy a snack he hadn’t had before.
The problem? The Budster cannot get it through his stubborn little head that the squeeze treats are food.
He thinks they’re some sort of toy and every time I try to give him some, he head bunts the lickable chicken paste like it’s something he’s claiming with his scent, along with his plushies and wands.
After wiping the stuff off the top of his head for the umpteenth time, I squeezed a little bit of it on a paper towel and set it down for him, reasoning that he must finally understand it’s food.
Nope. Bud approached it, sniffed it, then dipped his face in it!
I’m not sure if this result means the stuff is so processed it doesn’t register as food, or if Bud’s just dense. After all, other cats love it, and we’re talking about a cat who whose idiosyncratic behaviors range from folding both front paws together and raising them as if in prayer, to spending months in late kittenhood engaging in boxing matches with the Bizarro Buddy in the mirror.
(I always knew when Bud was participating in a boxing match because I’d hear “Mmmmrrrrppp!” followed by THWAP THWAP THWAP! as his little paws hammered the glass. Then I’d gently pick him up off the table and set him down on the floor, praising him for his pugilistic skills while redirecting him to a less potentially destructive activity.)
Maybe I’ll try mixing some of the paste in with Bud’s wet food. Will he understand if it’s served with his beloved turkey? Or will be smoosh his entire face into the bowl and leave me with another mess to clean up?
Stay tuned until the next installment, same Buddy time, same Buddy channel!
Feline humor, news and stories about the ongoing adventures of Buddy the Cat.