Despite a grim start to life, and a multitude of health issues, Lil BUB is one unique kitty and has millions of devoted fans.
Any online cat lover will be familiar with Lil BUB. Her adorable pop-eyed face with its little pink tongue can be seen all over social media. But her start in life wasn’t promising.
“She was found as the runt of a feral litter by my friend’s mom in her tool shed,” says guardian Mike Bridavsky. “She took in all the kittens and noticed that BUB was smaller, and quite different. Because of BUB’s unusually shaped mouth, she had to bottle feed her until she was able to eat on her own.”
Lil BUB was adopted out to two different homes, but neither worked out. “That’s when I received a photo text of her from my friends,” says Mike. “As the owner of four other unique rescue cats, they thought we were a perfect match. Once I met Lil BUB, and she was purring like a motorboat in my arms, I knew I was going to take her home. She was so small, frail and unusual, that I didn’t think she would live long, and I just wanted to give her a good home while I could.”
But Mike was wrong about Lil BUB’s chances of survival – she’s now more than three years old and going strong, despite her many developmental and health issues. “She has dwarfism, and her limbs are disproportionately small for the rest of her body,” explains Mike. “She is fully grown yet weighs four pounds.” Lil BUB is also a polydactyl cat, which means she has extra toes. “Her teeth never grew in, and her lower jaw is underdeveloped, which is why her tongue tends to hang out.” Mike adds that she doesn’t have any difficulty eating and she has a huge appetite!
“Her biggest health condition is a very rare disease called osteopetrosis, in which the bones grow thicker and denser, eventually becoming twisted and deformed and making it very difficult and painful to move around,” says Mike. “She is the only cat in recorded history to have been born with it, and only a handful of cats have contracted it later in life.” Because of the disease’s rarity, not much is known about treating it. In fact, by the time BUB was 1½ years old, it seemed the end was near. “It got to the point where she was almost completely immobile, and clearly in pain,” says Mike. A specialist warned him that Lil BUB didn’t have much longer, but Mike didn’t want to give up.
“A friend of mine recommended Reiki, a form of energy healing. I was skeptical, but willing to try anything.” To Mike’s surprise, BUB responded very well. “After a few days, she would actually approach the healer for her therapy. After about two weeks, she was back to moving around. More importantly, her spirits were lifted and it was clear she was in much less pain.”
Mike started blogging about Lil BUB on tumblr. “I only did it for friends, and was surprised when she developed a following,” he says. “Then a fan emailed me, recommending a small device called the Assisi Loop. It sends electromagnetic pulses through the body, increasing blood fl ow and helping the body create a specific naturally-occurring chemical that eases pain.”
The Assisi Loop turned out to be a godsend. “It did more than treat Lil BUB’s pain. It’s very effective for her osteopetrosis – within weeks of therapy, she was standing upright for the first time since she was a kitten. Now, after more than a year of treatment, she is able to run, play and even jump on the couch.” Mike also mixes a glucosamine supplement in with her food.
Along with her improved health, Lil BUB’s online popularity also began to soar, and Mike’s tumblr blog was just the start. “Everything happened organically – I just shared pictures and so did everyone else, until she became one of the most famous animals on the planet. I created Facebook, Twitter, G+ and Instagram accounts to keep up with the demand for BUB photos.” Her website (lilbub.com) not only keeps fans up to date with her activities – which include numerous public and media appearances – but also offers a range of Lil BUB merchandise such as T-shirts, tote bags, cell phone cases, mugs and more. She has even starred in a documentary called Lil BUB & Friendz, which premiered worldwide at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival and won Best Feature Film in the Tribeca Online Festival. Mike and Lil BUB are also involved in aiding other special needs cats – Lil BUB’s Big Fund for the ASPCA collects donations to be used as grants for cat organizations.
Thanks to Mike’s love and dedication, Lil BUB has come a long way from the tool shed she was born in. And as she’s still young, who knows what the future might hold for this famous face!
Ann Brightman is Managing Editor for Animal Wellness Magazine and Integrative Veterinary Care Journal. A lifelong animal lover, she has also been a writer and editor for over 25 years. Ann is a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada and is also a Tai Chi instructor.