How to Train a Famous Cat

A cat handler discusses the business of cat fame

Meet the Cat Who Is Dating James Franco

In some ways, Cindy Ruggiero works for her cats. “Cats are like potato chips—you can’t have just one,” says Ruggiero, a cat owner who lives in New Jersey. Her family has 30 of them. To care for that pack, she says, she has refinanced her home several times, bought a trailer and turned it into a cat residence complete with condos and a section for elderly cats, and bought them iPads filled with cat apps. 

“They say dogs have owners, cats have staff,” she explains.

In another sense, Ruggiero’s cats work for her. She runs a service called Cybercat Exotics, which makes the animals available for TV show and commercial jobs. Her most successful cat, named Syxx because she has six toes on each paw, has appeared in shows including 30 Rock, Inside Amy Schumer, Last Week Tonight, an ad alongside the famous baby mascot for E-Trade, and a “little tiny bit of porn” with James Franco, says Ruggiero.

“She loves James Franco, so we made a little deal that they have to date now, because he loves her. He’s a cat lover,” says Ruggiero. Of course he is.

Clients ask for Syxx by name, Ruggiero says, and she wouldn't cite Syxx's individual rate, or that of her other cats. A shoot with a group of them can cost thousands of dollars.

They get gigs every few months, she says. Anyone who wants to see them more regularly can head over to Walmart.com and choose from dozens of T-shirts featuring their faces. 

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