Erin Gallant of Charlottetown was living a fairly quiet, low-key life of a stay-at-home mom in her mid-30s — but that changed this summer, when her 13-year-old orange tabby cat went viral.
Reznor the cat has 87,000 followers on TikTok and is gaining thousands daily, and his posts have more than four million likes.
"Obviously I'm very excited, who wouldn't want to have a famous animal?" said Gallant. "I think he deserves all the hype."
Gallant got Reznor when he was less than six weeks old. He's always been unusual in that he is polydactyl — he has extra toes that resemble thumbs. He's also part munchkin, a feline breed with shorter legs.
Personality-wise, he is "very dramatic," she said, and loves attention. The two are inseparable.
He'd always been popular with her friends and family, and Gallant had made some Instagram posts featuring Reznor, but he didn't even crack 1,000 followers on the platform.
Then the pandemic hit and many people downloaded the TikTok app, which features mostly lighthearted short dance and lipsync videos. It's even launched some stars — like Reznor.
'Perfect cat storm'
"A lot of people had more free time, I guess you could say, during quarantine," Gallant said. "I always told myself I would never go on TikTok, I thought it was for the younger generation, but my friends kind of got into it then so did I, and I started noticing there was a big area there for cats."
Gallant began posting videos of herself and her three cats, but it was the videos of Reznor that took off.
"I guess I must have hooked on to that cat community, or cat TikTok as they call it," she said. It was a "perfect cat storm, he must just have what everybody likes. Friends start tagging each other and then people start making requests and I start fulfilling those requests, so it's more of an interactive thing and I think his fans and followers really like that."
Requests come from all over the world to give Reznor a "boop" or tap on the nose. People in Italy, France, Australia, Lebanon, Armenia, Ethiopia, Russia and dozens of other countries ask Gallant to boop or pat Reznor for them if they are having a bad day, taking exams, recovering from surgery or just because he is "so cute!"
They also want to see closeups of his extra toes, or watch Gallant dressing him in a variety of clothes such as sweaters and a Santa outfit.
He has an Amazon wish list
That her cat suddenly has followers all around the globe is a bit surreal, Gallant said, when she steps back and thinks about it.
"It feels extremely weird. And I don't even like calling them followers, because even that sounds weird to me — I like to call them his friends, really, because they're very sweet people. They give me advice, they're just kind in general for the most part, and they love sending him gifts."
Oh yes, the gifts. Sweaters and beds and treats and toys and outfits and dishes, all sent by complete strangers.
Sometimes it does get to be a bit much. — Erin Gallant
"He has an Amazon wish list," Gallant said. "His friends were asking ... can we send him things?" She set up an online wish list, because she didn't feel comfortable making her address public, she said.
"It's a pretty genius idea really," she said. When Reznor gets packages, Gallant said her three-year-old daughter can get a little jealous, so she involves the toddler by getting her to open the gifts and give them to Reznor.
The family has two other cats that enjoy sharing his wealth — Reznor's "wife" Stevie Nicks who is another ginger tabby, and Tucker, the black-and-white tuxedo cat.
Tucker is also becoming popular on TikTok, Gallant said, and people are asking for more videos of him. He is handsome but more reserved than Reznor. Gallant said she'll consider it in the future, but right now keeping up with Reznor's account keeps her quite busy.
"It has become a part-time job," she said. She posts 10 to 15 short videos some days, with usually two or three of those videos going viral.
"I'm considering making Sunday a no-post day. Sometimes it does get to be a bit much."
She has told her neighbours what she's doing, she said, "so I don't feel as ridiculous when I'm out in my yard, sometimes in my pyjamas, filming my cat!"
What's a star without merch?
Besides buying Reznor gifts, Gallant said as soon as he started to become famous, his fans began asking daily for Reznor-branded merchandise. So Gallant obliged.
"I don't know anything about that, so I asked for help," Gallant said. She found a website where she said creating merchandise with Reznor's image on it was easier than she thought.
A lot of people want the Reznor plushy, and I don't blame them, he's a pretty squishy guy. — Erin Gallant
She said people have been enjoying purchasing T-shirts, hoodies, mugs, stickers, face masks and more.
"We're doing pretty good, not going to retire on it but it's really interesting, we're having a lot of fun doing it," she said.
They have had many requests for Reznor calendars and Reznor plush toys, which are next on her list to research and design.
"A lot of people want the Reznor plushy, and I don't blame them, he's a pretty squishy guy," she said.
"People have been saying forever, 'Reznor needs to earn his keep.' I think he's doing a great job!"
Although he is almost 14 now, Gallant said Reznor's health is very good. She takes him out in her yard for supervised walks and he has regular vet visits.
"He's not slowing down any — he is a little bit chonkier, we are watching his weight," she said.
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