TinyKittens YouTube success fuels more cat rescue efforts

The Langley-based non-profit has inspired TNR groups thanks to its viral videos

The internet loves cats.

Langley animal welfare advocate and TinyKittens founder Shelly Roche knew that, since the Facebook page she started in 2013 went viral and racked up 1.6 million followers.

But over the last year and a half, the Fort Langley-based organization has turned much of its online activity over to YouTube, where it has proved just as popular.

Roche had been putting up videos of the rescued cats in her care for years, but a couple of years ago, the Livestream service that she used called up and said her videos were too popular. She would need to pay $64,000 a year for bandwidth in the future.

“Obviously, as a non-profit, we can’t do that,” Roche said.

She turned to YouTube, long the most popular video streaming site.

“They had recently launched their live platform,” Roche said, which allowed TinyKittens to livestream footage of the cats and kittens to viewers 24 hours a day.

“We had been pretty popular on the Livestream platform, but YouTube exposed us to a whole new audience,” said Roche.

That was in early 2018. In the 18 months since, the TinyKittens YouTube channel has racked up more than 135,000 subscribers. Some videos have millions of views, and several of the cats have become YouTube celebrities in their own right.

The cat dubbed Grandpa Mason has 9.9 million views for the video that introduced him to the world.

“He was supposed to be dead two years ago,” Roche said of the cat who now calmly wanders the living room amid a whirl of playing kittens.

Mason is an older feral cat who wasn’t expected to live long. With notches in his ears and a crooked tail, broken multiple times, he’s the picture of an old stray tom cat, and he didn’t take to being touched by humans right away after he was trapped and brought back to the TinyKittens HQ.

The TinyKittens crew decided to just make him comfortable after a diagnosis of kidney disease that was likely to kill within four months.

But his tenderness with kittens in the house went viral on video sites.

“All he wants is to be surrounded by kittens,” said Roche. “And his story has been seen more than 100 million times around the world.

Mason is a big part of the overall mission of TinyKittens.

“He’s our best advocate for senior cats, and terminally ill cats, and cats that are different,” said Roche.

TinyKittens doesn’t just take in surrendered cats or collect lost animals.

They have targeted the feral cat colonies where hundreds or thousands of cats live in Langley and surrounding areas.

Roche and the volunteers who work with her have conducted multiple trap-neuter-release campaigns, bringing in feral cats and giving them basic vet care before having them fixed and released again.

The idea is to slowly and humanely eliminate the feral cat colonies that exist in rural and industrial neighbourhoods. The lives of feral cats are short and they often suffer from disease, injury, and predation, as well as hunting wild bird populations.

That has led to them taking in many cats that would be considered too difficult for other shelters – including Mason, and his fellow celebrity cat Cassidy, who was rescued after he lost both his hind legs below the knee.

Spreading the message that all cats have value through YouTube is a big job on top of caring for the 30 cats and kittens presently in the HQ.

The live-chat function on the livestreamed YouTube videos requires constant moderation, a task undertaken by a team of 50 volunteers from around the world. They ensure that the comments on the streams are harmonious.

The YouTube channel does bring in some revenue through ads, which helps offset the hefty veterinarian bills that are TinyKittens biggest expense. It doensn’t eliminate the need for donations, but it does reduce it somewhat, said Roche.

Most important is spreading the message.

Many of the cats TinyKittens takes in would be euthanized elsewhere.

“We’re trying to show the world that they have value, even if they’re older, or terminally ill, or missing a limb,” Roche said.

The explosive popularity of TinyKittens online has fueled an explosion of other groups.

“People contact us from all over the world, starting their own TNR [trap-neuter-release] programs,” Roche said.

The encourage people to donate to local rescue organizations wherever they live.

“We ask them to create Facebook pages, to continue to tell the stories of these cats,” Roche said.

READ MORE: Langley shelter hosts annual ‘Kitten Roundup’

READ MORE: Kitten season brings felines in need of new homes to Langley shelter

READ MORE: One-eyed Shelly one of many special cats in need of adoption

 

Just Posted

UPDATE: Abbotsford woman reported missing from Chilliwack has been found

Alexis Neill, 26, located safe and sound, police say

Event supports women’s centre that is at risk of having to move

Abbotsford women’s recovery program holds annual Victory Walk

Son of slain former Hells Angel is one of two men sentenced for crime spree

Pair’s 2017 series of robberies included convenience store in Abbotsford

The Offspring and Sum 41 announce show in Abbotsford

Bands play Abbotsford Centre on Nov. 30 as part of Canadian leg of current tour

UFV men’s basketball hosting NCAA’s Roadrunners

Cascades challenging Cal State Bakersfield in exhibition game on Monday

Clean the house, prep for your next trip: Tips to nix the post-vacation blues

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Couple could go to jail for taking 88 lbs. of Italian sand

Pair said they didn’t know it was illegal to take the sand, which is protected as a public good

More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

Recommendations aimed at women who’ve been treated for BRCA-related cancers and are now cancer-free

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft: RCMP

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Family member says Kam McLeod, Bryer Schmegelsky recorded final wishes

VIDEO: RCMP unveil new, state-of-the-art forensics lab

The laboratory is expected to handle thousands of forensic services from across Canada annually

Scheer promises EI tax credit for new parents if Conservatives form government

The government currently taxes employment insurance benefits for new parents

Border agents carry out raid at Hastings Racecourse

Dozens were spoken to, witnesses say

Most Read