August 25, 2008

Bar’s Devil Cat Finds Soft Landing


By Stacy St. Clair

Chicago Tribune


A photo that started with a little Flickr has turned a four- eared cat from Downers Grove, Ill., into an instant Internet celebrity.

Yoda, a smoke-colored feline whose four ears give him the appearance of a horned devil, this week became the toast of several high-profile Web sites, including the popular gossip blog Dlisted, after his picture appeared in the British media. His star has risen so quickly that his owners say they're fielding phone calls from "Good Morning America,""Fox News" and "The Tyra Banks Show." He has an agency taking photo requests.

"It's amazing," said Ted Rock, who owns Yoda with his wife, Valerie. "For the past few days, our phone has just been ringing off the hook."

Yoda's path to Internet stardom began after his owners' son, Glenn Olsen, posted the cat's photo on Flickr, an image and video hosting site. The picture caught the attention of English photo agency Barcroft Media.

The agency bought the photos and sold them to British tabloids. Once the photos were published, the blogosphere pounced on the story of a 2-year-old cat who had been a barroom oddity before he was adopted by a suburban couple.

"We're just blown away by all of this," Olsen said. "We didn't expect it, but Yoda is an Internet sensation."

The Rocks found Yoda in 2006 while watching a Bears game at a bar in Blue Island, Ill., with fellow volunteers from the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Patrons were passing the 8-week-old kitten around, mocking his appearance and calling him names such as "Devil Cat" and "Beelzebub."

The Rocks took pity on the kitty and offered to adopt him. The establishment's owner, who kept the cat in a cage atop the bar to amuse patrons, agreed.

Once home, the Rocks named the cat "Yoda" as a tribute to the pointy-eared Jedi master in "Star Wars." They took him to their veterinarian, who gave the cat a clean bill of health and said he had normal hearing.

As the Rocks contemplate Yoda's next career move, the couple worry about the indoor cat being stolen because of its appearance and celebrity. The couple had a microchip placed in one of his four ears after adopting him to thwart would-be kittynappers.

"We have always had that concern because he is an unusual cat," Ted Rock said. "It could be more of a concern now, but I'm going to trust my fellow man."

Originally published by BY STACY ST. CLAIR.

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