As popular and beloved as cats are, even the biggest fan of felines will admit that they’re not always easy to work with. Cats come and go as they please and they often seem to treat humans as little more than sources of food and amusement. As such, cats are usually not as useful as dogs when it comes to working—they’re difficult to train and often refuse to work on human terms.
Despite all this, there are a few cats that, by a strange twist of fate, have carved out some very special careers, happily working for—or with—humans in a number of ways. Let’s take a look at these spectacular specimens of the feline race.
10 Tama, Station Master
In southeast Japan, there is a small train station called Kishi Station. This tiny, unassuming blip in the great Japanese railway system is unique because of its station master: a cat called Tama. In 2003, the station was caught in business turmoil between a struggling train company and its bigger competitor, who eventually gained control of the area’s business by absorbing the small company. This was bad news for the owner of a small cat shelter near Kishi Station, who was forced to vacate her premises due to the new company’s renovations. Out of options, she begged the president of the new railway to let the poor, homeless cats live in the station.
The president was moved by the request, and when he saw Tama, something clicked. He immediately decided the cat was his—and the station’s—good luck charm and, just like that, swore Tama in as Kishi’s new station master.
The adorable Tama, with his official hat and station master badge, soon became a nationwide celebrity. People would flock to see him despite having no other business in the area, turning the formerly dwindling station into a money-making machine. It is estimated that Tama has single-pawedly raised over $10 million for the station, guaranteeing that Kishi won’t be closed any time in the near future.
When Tama eventually becomes too old to handle his duties (which consist of manning a small booth, napping and glaring at people), the railway company has prepared: The station master recently gained a new apprentice, a young cat called Nitama.
9 Hank The Cat, Politician
On Election Night 2012, a surprise grassroots candidate in Virginia called Hank raked in a hefty 7,000 votes and $16,000 for pet rescue groups. He proved to be a real threat to the powers that be, to the point where he even attracted smear campaigns from a concerned party called, strangely, “Canines for Feline Free Tomorrow.”
This may have been because Hank was, in fact, a cat—a handsome, nine-year-old Maine coon. His owners, who referred to themselves as his campaign managers throughout the process, had just put a tie on him and made a couple of campaign videos to see what would happen.
Running under a slogan that said “It’s OK to Vote Humans Out!” and on a platform of animal rights, Hank the cat was an instant hit. Although he sadly didn’t win the Virginia seat in the Senate race, he did place third, which is shockingly close for a third-party candidate that wasn’t even human. It is uncertain whether this says more about the awesomeness of Hank the cat or the public’s distrust of ordinary politicians.
8 Dewey Readmore Books, Reading Ambassador
The fantastically named Dewey Readmore Books had his career path laid out for him right from the beginning. In 1988, he was found among the book returns by the staff of a public library in Spencer, Iowa. The librarians instantly decided to adopt the cute, abandoned kitten. The council blessed this, so they carefully nursed the orphan kitty to health and held a contest to decide his name.
Dewey became the library’s official ambassador of reading. He was featured in papers, educational videos, posters, and TV shows, generating insane amounts of publicity for the library. People would flock the library to see him and many would loan a book or two while they were there. Don’t think of Dewey as just some random mascot, though—he was an official library employee as Supervisor of Staff, an extremely fitting job title for a cat.
Dewey Readmore Books passed away in 2006, in the arms of the Head Librarian. However, he still remains on the library’s shelves—Dewey is listed as a contributing author in several works by Vicki Myron, the Library Director.
7 Orangey, Movie Star
Because they’re difficult to train and relatively unreliable, cats generally don’t appear in movies as often as dogs. However, there are certain cats who have managed to create very illustrious acting careers. The most famous of them is Orangey, the orange tabby cat who was a permanent fixture in Hollywood’s golden age movies, ranging from serious dramas to science fiction to horror. His most notable role is probably Audrey Hepburn’s “poor slob without a name” cat in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a role that earned him the prestigious “animal Academy Award” known as a PATTY. To this day, Orangey remains the only cat who has won this award twice.
Orangey’s bag of tricks was so large that it seems impossible that a single cat could be so trained. This is because Orangey never was just one cat. Frank Inn, Orangey’s handler, knew that a cat will only master one or two tricks, so he got dozens of identical cats and trained each of them differently. A single movie could see over 30 different “Orangeys,” but since they all looked the same and were consistently billed as one cat, many people still think Orangey was just one, super-talented feline.
6 Blackie The Talking Cat, Performer
These days, videos of “talking cats”—cats whose meowing sounds like certain human phrases—are a simple Google search away. The first of these impressive animals, however, predates Internet as we know it. In 1981, Blackie the Talking Cat became famous for his ability to “speak” two phrases upon request, “I love you” and “I want my mama.”
Blackie’s owners capitalized this talent by negotiating paid appearances on various TV and radio shows. When media interest waned after a while, they decided to continue showcasing Blackie on the streets of their native Augusta, Georgia. Blackie’s new career as a street performer soon hit a speed bump, as local authorities insisted he should have a business license. His owners begrudgingly paid the $50 for the permit, but they felt Blackie—who was just an animal, after all—shouldn’t need one. They sued the city, arguing that their act was not a business, and by labeling it as such, the officials had infringed upon Blackie’s right to free speech.
Unsurprisingly, they lost the case.
5 Mike, Museum Guard
Between 1909–29, the main gate of the British Museum had an efficient, if ill-tempered, guard who scared stray dogs away and kept all other unwelcome four-legged visitors at bay. This gate guard was known as Cat Mike. Mike was a particularly angry animal who hated almost everything. Apart from dogs, Mike intensely disliked other cats and regularly chased them away from the premises. Curiously, Mike’s disdain toward all other animals didn’t extend to pigeons. Any stray birds trespassing on his domain were gently caught and brought to the gatekeeper, who would then release them unharmed and give Mike a treat.
Cat Mike had very little love for humans as well. The only people he seemed to get along with were the official gatekeeper (who owned Mike) and Sir Ernest Wallis Budge, the museum’s Egyptologist. They were the only ones he allowed to touch him and accepted food from. Nevertheless, Mike became quite popular with the staff and the visitors. Mike was cared for even when the museum was closed for long periods, such as during World War I.
Although Mike passed away in 1929, his memory still lingers on the museum grounds. If you’re planning to visit British Museum, you can visit his tiny tombstone near the Great Russell Street entrance.
4 Bublik, City Council Kitten
Hank the Cat’s Senate race may have been unsuccessful, but as it turns out, his quest for politics inspired younger feline generations—another politically ambitious cat has recently emerged in Russia’s Ural region. This future politician is doubly adorable—not only is he a cat, but he was just three months old at the time of his campaign announcement.
Bublik the kitten was announced to run for a council seat in Yekaterinburg in the April 2013 elections. His campaign platform was hazy apart from a steady anti-neutering stance and support for cheaper cat food, but this didn’t stop him from running. His catchy slogan was “For a Fun Future!” Bublik’s owner also stated the kitten is willing to extend a friendly paw to Hank, his esteemed colleague overseas.
Although sources don’t state whether Bublik actually got elected, it seems unlikely. His campaign was vague at best, and at the time of the election, he was already a fully-grown cat, so the cuteness factor was also compromised. Still, he might not have been the worst possible candidate—as his owner has stated, Bublik would be a completely honest elected official. After all, he is literally incapable of making empty promises.
3 Rusik, Police Officer
Police dogs and heroic rescue dogs are often on the news, but did you know there are also police cats? Well, at least one. Rusik was Russian police’s secret weapon in their fight against sturgeon smuggling on the Caspian Sea. This is a very serious problem, as criminals have poached Caspian sturgeons to the brink of extinction. Rusik the police cat provided a solution to the problem.
He had been adopted by the officers of a police checkpoint as a stray kitten and was fed almost exclusively with chunks of sturgeon that the officers confiscated from criminals. As such, he became very good at finding his favorite treats and eventually started sniffing out well-hidden sturgeon (along with salmon and caviar) stashes in vehicles that stopped at the checkpoint. His nose was so keen that he actually forced the checkpoint’s sniffing dog into early retirement.
Sadly, Rusik’s life as a crime fighter came to an abrupt end. He passed away in the line of duty in July 2013 when a vehicle he was searching suddenly jerked and struck him. Foul play is not ruled out. Even in death Rusik was victorious—he was so successful in his job that Russians are now thinking of training a whole regiment of smuggler-busting sniffer cats.
2 Chessie, Corporate Spokescat
Chessie the kitten was the longtime mascot and spokescat for Chesapeake & Ohio Railways. She started her “life” in a 1933 issue of Fortune magazine as an ad that featured a picture of a dozing kitten and the slogan “Sleep Like a Kitten.” Printed in black and white, the ad carried no reference to the name of the kitten. The etching was bought from a Viennese artist for $5.
The kitten’s popularity soon exploded and her image started appearing everywhere, from the sides of train cars to huge ad campaigns and popular “Chessie” calendars. The railway company got real kittens to play the part of Chessie, and introduced another cat mascot called Peake, forming a cutesy pun on “Chesapeake.”
In one form or another, Chessie was the face of C&O’s corporate brand for over 50 years. They finally stopped using her in 1986, when another railway company called CSX Transportation bought C&O. The new logo—a sleek, geometric stylizing of the letters CSX—may be more modern, but it definitely lacks the impact of Chessie’s adorable, sleeping face.
1 Chase No Face, Therapy Cat
Few animals have gotten a worse start in life than Chase No Face. When she was just a few weeks old, she was accidentally run over by a car. Although she survived the accident with the loss of one hind leg, it also left her tragically deformed—she literally lost her entire face. Even after reconstructive surgery, Chase’s facial features were now an unsettling mass of exposed tissue, bared fangs, and bulging eyes.
Despite her gruesome appearance, Chase was able to find a loving home. She was adopted by Melissa Smith, an assistant at the veterinary clinic that treated her. In Smith’s loving care, the cat grew up a perfectly happy animal that freely socializes with the family and its other pets, is in no pain whatsoever, and needs no special treatment apart from the occasional eye drop due to her missing lids.
Chase also gained a career out of her ordeal. She now works as a popular therapy cat for disfigured humans. Her owner takes her to hospitals and schools, where they share her amazing story—especially its happy ending—with people who are struggling with their own disfigurements. She also maintains an active Internet presence: Chase No Face has both a blog and a Facebook fan page.
+ Tardar Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat
Tardar Sauce is easily one of the most recognizable faces in the modeling world, although few people know her by her real name. Instead, the Internet worships her as Grumpy Cat. In reality, she’s the exact opposite of grumpy—she’s a happy, playful cat that is surprisingly young (she was born on April 4, 2012) despite her looks. Tardar’s signature underbite, angry features, and small size are most likely due to some form of feline dwarfism, which also causes her hind legs to be disproportionately long. Despite her strange looks, she is perfectly healthy.
Although Tardar Sauce spends the vast majority of her time as an ordinary family cat, she has also carved a very successful modeling career from her signature scowl’s online popularity. She has weekly photo sessions for various projects (books, T-shirts, and of course, more fodder for the Internet) and her net worth is estimated at $1 million. These days, she even has a movie deal in her pocket.