If there’s one inescapable cat to out-purr viral pets in recent memory, Smudge often comes out on top.
Most internet users recognize 6-year-old Smudge from the “woman yelling at a cat” meme, but the fluffy white rescue who has also been called “confused cat at dinner” had his first big meme moment in the summer of 2018. Smudge sat at the dinner table with his family, like the real human he might just be on the inside, with a plate of salad in front of him. His eyes darted into the great beyond, looking less-than-pleased with the stack of lettuce in front of him. “He has an attitude for sure,” Smudge’s owner, Miranda Stillabower, tells TIME.
As it turns out, there’s a very understandable reason as for why Smudge was sitting at the table in the first place. “He demands to have a chair at the table,” says Stillabower, 24. “He hates to not sit with us at dinner.”
Though Stillabower first shared her cat’s viral picture on Tumblr in 2018, Smudge didn’t start to pop up everywhere until the spring of 2019, when someone combined it with a meme from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on Twitter. The Real Housewives meme, captured from a season 2 episode that first aired in December 2011, shows Taylor Armstrong crying, yelling and pointing while co-star Kyle Richards tries to soothe her.
The first known usage of the two memes together appeared on Twitter on May 1, 2019, from the user @MISSINGEGIRL, according to KnowYourMeme, an online meme database. “These photos together is making me lose it,” the tweet said.
The effect of the two pictures together is simple: it looks like Armstrong is yelling at the cat, who is sitting at the table like a grownup, calmly eating salad. Clearly, the internet loved it, and “woman yelling at a cat” became one of the year’s most ubiquitous memes.
There have even been original renditions of the woman yelling at a cat meme with other characters.
“When they paired [the two images], I was like, ‘Yes, this is a perfect pairing for this,’ and everyone seemed to like it right away,” Stillabower says.
Now, Smudge, who lives in Ottawa, Ontario, has a website, 1.4 million Instagram followers and multiple unofficial Facebook groups dedicated to making more memes with his face. And he’s still up to the same shenanigans. In one recent Instagram post, Stillabower caught Smudge snoozing on the kitchen table right by the alcohol. “When you partied too hard on New Year’s Eve,” the caption said.
Whether Smudge has a future in show business or his online fandom just keeps growing, he’ll hopefully soon help other cats find new homes. Smudge was a rescue cat himself, and Stillabower is planning to partner with a local cat rescue non-profit called Furry Tails to donate proceeds from a t-shirt on their website. “They save more cats from being euthanized and that’s why we chose them,” Stillabower says.
And don’t worry about Smudge getting tired of being a superstar: Stillabower says he receives “a ton of treats during the photo shoots.”
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