How to make your Internet cat go viral: A case study with Stash the Moustache Cat

I have taken about 4,500 photos of my cat in the past year.

I am not a crazy cat lady. I mean, I love my cats but I never took 4,500 photos of my previous pets. Or my kid. (Well, I might have taken that many of my kid.)

I am the owner of Stash the Moustache Cat. He was an experiment in going viral that’s proven that to be almost famous on the Internet, you just need something really remarkable — and a lot of luck. And it helps if it’s a cat.

Stash was just your average family pet (with a distinctive moustache marking on his face) in January 2014 when we at Metro decided to see if we could make him go viral.

Cats with moustaches are actually a thing online. They’re called Kitlers. This is something I learned over a month of posting his photos on Instagram. When the month was done, Stash had about 1,000 followers. Not bad, but hardly viral.

So I decided to keep going on my own, posting roughly four photos a day of Stash getting belly rubs, freaking out at the patio door over the backyard bunnies and falling off of things.

It’s been a year, and Stash has passed the 10,000-follower mark on Instagram. His follower count grew by 2,000 in only one night when another popular Instagram account asked me if it could feature him. His popularity is weird and hilarious to me.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Cat people are obsessed. Some people love Stash as much as they love their own kitties. They get very upset or worried if I don’t post enough photos. I once posted a photo of Stash in a carrier and said we were off to the vet. It was time for his annual checkup, and we also shaved him down for the summer.

Not only were people genuinely worried something was wrong with him, I had a few people leave comments about how mad they were that I would shave my cat’s fur. Stash is a real part of some of his followers’ lives, and yet he’s never met them.

2. The online cat community is a bully-free zone. Jerks are not tolerated.

3. When I post, I pretend that Stash is speaking. I can’t believe the number of people who talk to him like he’s a human.

4. The quality of the photo matters. Good photos always get more likes than mediocre ones.

5. That said, sometimes the mediocre photos get more likes, simply because a well-connected person shares the photo.

6. Stash’s formula for success: good photo with mildly amusing caption, and the photo MUST contain the moustache in some way.

The experiment will continue. I will keep posting photos between meetings, in the elevator, on my lunch break, even during my daily conference call with the other Metro editors (sorry, guys).

Stash isn’t viral. There are a lot of Internet Kitlers. But we’ve built a community 10,000 strong. Not bad for a clumsy cat with a moustache.

Elisha Dacey is the managing editor of Metro Winnipeg. Find her @elishadacey and find her cat on Instagram at StashTheMoustacheCat.

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