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

VIDEO: Vancouver Giants blank Cougars 4-0

Goaltender David Tendeck turned aside all 38 Prince George shots for his WHL-leading third shutout

Aldergrove Library goes retro with technology event

Vintage technologies such as LPs, rotary phones will be spotlighted at Retro Tech Tryout.

VIDEO: A narrow defeat for Langley Rams at Canadian Bowl

Saskatoon Hilltops have now won six CJFL championships in a row

VIDEO: Multiple fire department units called to Brookswood house fire

Blaze appeared to have started in a parked trailer

Abortions rights advocates urge Liberals to turn politics into policy

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer was pressed to clarify his stance abortion over several weeks

BC VIEWS: Action needed on healthcare workplace violence

While we’ve been talking about it, the number of B.C. victims has only grown

Closing arguments begin in B.C. case launched in 2009 over private health care

Dr. Day said he illegally opened the Cambie Surgery Centre in 1996 in order to create more operating-room time

MacLean says “Coach’s Corner is no more” following Cherry’s dismissal from Hockey Night

Cherry had singled out new immigrants in for not honouring Canada’s veterans and fallen soldiers

MacKinnon powers Avs to 5-4 OT win over Canucks

Vancouver battled back late to pick up single point

Dallas Smith, Terri Clark to perform on CP Holiday Train’s B.C. stops

Annual festive food bank fundraiser rolling across province from Dec. 11 to 17

Poole’s Land finale: Tofino’s legendary ‘hippie commune’ being dismantled

Series of land-use fines inspire owner Michael Poole to sell the roughly 20-acre property.

Paul Bissonnette joins Vancouver Warriors after tweeting he could walk on to an NLL club

Bissonnette will join the Warriors for their final week of training camp at Rogers Arena

Port Alberni mom takes school district to court over Indigenous smudging, prayer in class

Candice Servatius, who is an evangelical Christian, is suing School District 70

Most Read