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Just meow… life as a cat influencer

Holyrood cat influencer Lisa Roy and a star of the internet, Nelly.

By Olivia Bradbury / Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Though the internet has been around for several decades, there are some related terms with which some people may not be familiar. One is “influencer.”
That’s someone who makes money by creating internet content that generates a large enough following to interest companies who want to use that pool of viewers to sell their wares.

There are countless subgenres of influencers on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram, focusing on everything from fashion, to makeup, to video games, and books — the possibilities are endless. Lisa Roy of Holyrood is a cat influencer.

The 35-year-old says she has loved social media since YouTube’s creation in 2005.

“I don’t know how long ago it was, I decided I wanted to be online,” Roy says.

Her early content involved the arts.

“I like to sing, and I like to act,” she says, “and I always really wanted to be online. I used to post singing videos. And when Instagram started, I started taking pictures and posting.”

Everything changed when she adopted a cat named Beans.

That was back in 2009. Roy went to see a litter of kittens. One was sickly and not expected to survive. Roy took her, determined to care for her. She named the kitten, Beans.

“She slept on my chest every night, I bottle fed her every night, I wiped her eyes,” said Roy. Beans’ started to improve when she was around two months old. Roy said Beans was different from other cats, likely due to her early health struggles. But it did not detract from Beans’ sweetness, which Roy says was boundless.
Roy says she has loved cats since she was a little girl, and even kept photos of cats on her wall. She continued to enjoy looking at photos of cats into adulthood, and liked seeing cat content online. “I just remember thinking to myself, ‘Man, that’s so cool. How do you be a cat online?'” Roy says she did not plan on being a cat influencer. But she became one after post contenting of Beans.

That was the winter of 2019.

“It just took off one day,” says Roy. “I had over 50,000 views on a TikTok within 12 hours and I was like, ‘What is happening? Is this happening?'”

Before long, her cat videos were getting millions of views. People gushed about how cute Beans was, how beautiful her meow was, and her endearing grumpy face.
“She had this beautiful little voice, and it was just so sweet,” sys Roy. “She was such a doll, like a baby. She sat in my arms, and we were really popular for that, too, later on.”

In the summer of 2020, Roy and her family moved to a cabin with a beautiful property where she could take Beans for walks. She posted videos of their excursions online.

“People loved her so much I felt bad if I didn’t post a video of her,” Roy says, “because she wasn’t just mine anyone. She was like the whole world’s.”

Beans lived to be about twelve and a half years, passing away in 2022 due to kidney failure. While it was wonderful that she lived much longer than predicted, it made her death no less painful for Roy, and for Beans’ fans.

Roy says some media reached out to her for interviews after Beans passed, including big publications owned by the Daily Mail. “It hurt my feelings that they were interviewing me and they didn’t even treat it like she was dead,” she recalls.

Roy says some people do not view the grieving of a pet seriously. She eventually vanished from the internet, finding it too painful, for both herself and others, to post content of the late Beans.

That summer, Roy came across a photo of a kitten online and immediately fell in love. She contacted the owner of the litter, who brought the kitten right to Roy’s house. She named the kitten Penelope, after Penelope Pussycat from the Looney Tunes, but the cat is commonly referred to as Nelly, for short. It still took a while before Roy started posting again, but once she did, people saw that she had a new cat and her following resumed.

Nelly turned two years old on June 19th of this year. Roy says she is a very different cat than Beans. Nelly is a feline diva. “It’s the cattitude, I think,” Roy says, speculating on why people like Nelly. She often posts videos of herself and Nelly on their walks. Roy has another cat, 15-year-old black cat named Shadow. When Roy takes Nelly out for a walk on her leash, Shadow often follows behind.

Roy says followers are less of a factor in an influencer’s income than the number of views. In Roy’s experience, a large portion of income comes from sponsorships from companies and affiliate marketing, the latter of which entails promoting a product or service that offers a discount code to viewers. The number of times the code is used determines how much the company pays the influencer. Roy, for example, works with Basepaws, a company which offers DNA tests for cats and dogs so owners can learn about their pet’s species makeup and health-related factors. Another sponsor is Rabbitgoo, which sells cat carriers, cat houses, and cat harnesses — Nelly can often be seen sporting a Rabbitgoo harness in her videos. Sometimes companies will offer influencers products in exchange for their product being featured in a video, which Roy says can be a good deal. But she warns new influencers to be vigilant about accepting “free” things too often, as you don’t want to be tricked into doing things in exchange for products all the time and end up providing companies with advertising for which you don’t get paid.
Roy doesn’t like the word “influencer” because she feels many people do not understand it.

“A cat influencer is a person who posts their cat videos and cat pictures online and goes viral. That is technically the definition, I guess. Someone who makes it their career.”

She says the life of an influencer is busy. To succeed, it ‘s important to try to post content regularly.

“There’s days where it’s really hard to even post a video, to be honest with you, because you feel so overwhelmed by life” she said. Roy has also not been able to post as frequently as she would like due to health problems. She also takes care of her mother, who has suffered multiple strokes.

And posting content is not the only task of being an influencer. Roy says you have to maintain connections with others, be they other influencers or businesses. “It’s a lot of hard work. I spend hours sometimes just commenting on people’s Instagrams and posts just to keep up the flowback to my account,” she says. There is also a lot more competition in the cat influencer sphere than there used to be. Roy describes it as a “cat-eat-cat world.” However, she also often turns to fellow cat influencers for advice.

Despite the difficulties, Roy says being a cat influencer is rewarding. She loves cats and sharing content featuring her cats with others, and she loves to see messages from people saying Nelly brightened their day.

“I just want to make people smile with cats,” Roy says.

People from all over the world send messages to Roy asking about Nelly. When Beans died, people from all over the world signed an online memorial page — Roy lost count at 5,000 signatures. She still receives messages from people saying they miss Beans. “If there was any gift that God ever gave me in the world, it was that sweet little thing,” she says. “Oh my. And apparently, he gave it to the whole world, hey?”

Roy would eventually like to become a full-time cat influencer, to have it be her sole career. She knows others might be skeptical. Ten years ago, she says, the idea of having such a job would have been met with cynicism and ridicule. However, she insists anyone who feels passionate about it can pursue that dream and succeed.

“Anybody can really do it,” she says. “So, if anyone ever wanted to be a cat influencer, or an influencer, and people are like, ‘You can’t do that, no, you totally can! It’s a legit job, it’s a legit thing. And it makes you feel good when you make people happy.”

You can find Roy and her cats on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok under the account name NewfieMeow.

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