This polydactyl cat with the bob tail is a “spokescat” against declawing and uses his social media presence to help spread the message.
His name is City the Kitty. He’s an orange polydactyl cat with a bob tail, and he’s on a mission – to end the inhumane practice of declawing. Thanks to his strong social media presence and legions of fans, he’s doing a fantastic job at getting the word out.
City the Kitty first turned up dirty and hungry outside Lori Shepler’s home in 2009. At the time, Lori was reeling from being laid off from her job as staff photographer at the LA Times, a position she’d held for 25 years. But the cat’s plight concerned her. “He kept coming back, so I would feed him,” she says. “At first, I thought he was just lost so I made up some flyers to see if anyone was missing their cat, and took him to the vet to see if he had a microchip. Nothing.”
Lori already had a cat, and didn’t want another, but she was worried when no one claimed the scrawny orange stray with the extra toes and bob tail. “After about ten days, I let him in the house. He made himself at home and actually went straight to the litter box.”
Still not ready to accept that this orange boy might have his own agenda, Lori starting photographing him and posting the images on her Facebook page to see if anyone would adopt him. “I noticed he was very curious and posed for photos really well,” she says. “Long story short, after a couple of weeks with him, taking lots of photos, I decided I wanted to keep him.”
The next job was to find name for the newcomer. “He had a short clubbed tail so we thought of using the initials ‘CT’, but that wasn’t easy to say. ‘City’ sounded better, and ‘City the Kitty’ even better.” Lori adds that City the Kitty was somewhat wild and spent most of his first three years with her outdoors. “He is full of adventure and lots of curiosity. The neighbors would always tell me stories of things they saw him doing. One time, City was playing with a lizard in the middle of the street; cars were honking and he just looking up at them as if he owned the street. He would walk on the walls between our homes and tease dogs in their yards.”
Though he now lives indoors, City the Kitty is still as curious and mischievous as ever. “I love his sense of wonder, his drive to not leave any stone unturned,” Lori says. “He has so many sides to his personality. Sometimes he’s a brat and will get into bad moods, but he can be also a sweet and loving lap kitty. He gets upset sometimes if I don’t pay attention to him, and will lightly bite my calf when I’m working. He is very chatty and meows quite often.”
As a professional photographer, Lori also loves City the Kitty’s willingness to pose for the camera. “He sometimes surprises me at how receptive he is to photoshoots, and seems to welcome them. He seems very smart and intuitive and I think he was guided to me for a reason. He had every single home in the neighborhood to go to, and he chose me – a photographer who could bring his persona and his spirit to life in photos and videos.”
It’s almost as if City the Kitty knew he had a message to share with the world, and that Lori would be the one to help him get it out there. Whatever the case, thanks to Lori’s talents and City the Kitty’s photogenic qualities, he now has hundreds of thousands of fans on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, as well as his own website. “He also has a YouTube channel with hundreds of funny videos and over 2.2 million views.”
But it’s about much more than sharing City the Kitty’s antics with the world. Lori also uses his online popularity to support an important cause – raising public awareness of the cruelty of declawing.
“I was made aware of the Paw Project by one of City the Kitty’s followers,” explains Lori. “I really didn’t know much about declawing and had no idea it was so inhumane and bad for cats. I was appalled to learn that it’s a common procedure in North America, even though it’s banned in most of the rest of the world. Taking on the declawing cause was a no-brainer for City since he has such big paws and thumbs! I introduced myself to Paw Project’s founder, Dr. Jennifer Conrad, and started bringing awareness to this inhumane procedure through City the Kitty’s photos and by sharing information from and about the Paw Project. “Thankfully, more and more veterinarians are not performing declawing and are joining the list of humane veterinarians I am compiling on City’s website,” Lori continues. “Many people write us and say they never knew the horrific facts about declawing until they saw City’s page.”
Despite City the Kitty’s popularity online, he doesn’t do public appearances. He hates car rides, and Lori doesn’t want to subject him to the stress of long trips, either by road or air. “He has been asked to make public appearances in New York, Chicago, and Austin, Texas, but he just doesn’t travel well.”
Sticking close to home is especially important now, given that City the Kitty had a health scare this past Christmas. “I was working in the kitchen when he came into the room and was falling over. He eyes were going back and forth like he was having a seizure. We immediately took him to an emergency veterinary clinic; the tests came back normal except an x-ray of his head showed bilateral sclerosis of the petrous temporal bones, which could indicate otitis interna.” It took several weeks for City the Kitty to recover his balance and energy levels, but as of this writing, Lori reports that he’s about 90% back to normal. “It was quite a scary time since he has always been healthy, strong and athletic. But I always had hope that he would get better. He’s a fighter and a survivor.”
He’s also an inspiration, both to Lori and his fans and followers. “I’m so appreciative of all of City’s passionate and caring supporters. Not only do they bring us a lot of good energy with their comments and letters of support, but they’re also working hard to personally educate cat owners and spread awareness about the harms of declawing.
“It’s been a crazy, amazing adventure so far with City the Kitty,” Lori muses. “I had a great career as a photojournalist, but this is just as rewarding and fulfilling, if not more so.”