in april 2018, andrei bondarev, a videographer from moscow, posted a photo of his “pet” enjoying his food on his instagram account – a giant shorthair cat with a large elongated nose, eyes bright green and enormously long fluffy ears.
“To become a big cat, you have to eat a lot!” It was the caption that launched the cat and his fellow cats, Matvei and Zhora, as bloggers. In 2020, the cat became popular on social media and websites, such as Reddit, under the name “big floppa” or “kot shlyopa.” he got his nicknames from hearing about him.
in fact, his name is ‘gosha’ and he’s a caracal, a wild cat that looks like a lynx. caracals are native to africa, asia and india, but gosha was born on december 21, 2017 at a feral cattery in ukraine.
several months later, in april 2018, he moved to moscow after being adopted into the bondarev family, andrei and his wife yelena.
“lena [short for yelena] saw this animal online and showed it to me, so we decided to get a feral cat. why not? At first, the idea was not entirely serious and seemed like a dream to come true one fine day. But for a whole year we were preparing ourselves and consulting experts and we got so used to the idea that we couldn’t stop”, this is how Andrei recalls his decision to become a caracal.
georgy [full form of gosha’s name] and his pet delivery couriers took more than 24 hours in a minibus to get to moscow. According to Yelena, during the first days she was afraid to walk through the apartment; she hissed and hid, but did not refuse the food. Gosha was “advised” by Matvei, another cat that the Bondarevs took in from an animal shelter, who is now over 12 years old.
“zhora [cat number three, age 4 1/2] was very upset with us for fostering someone else, and for the first few weeks, she ignored gosha and us. He is now Gosha’s best friend,” Yelena said.
from an early age, gosha chased toys and ran with the other cats. the only difficulty was training gosha to use the litter box; But according to Yelena, these are “routine feline problems.”
gosha only receives healthy foods in his diet: turkey, rabbit, organ meats, day-old chicks and vitamin supplements.
“gosha is domineering and considers me exclusively his human and no one else’s. he has quite a canine nature, is very devoted and does not like to be alone. he is very cautious with people he does not know, ”says Yelena, describing the character of the caracal.
andrei says that georgy’s behavior is usually rude: when he has nothing else to do, he shreds pieces of cardboard that andrei and yelena specially buy for him, but that doesn’t stop him from ruining the wallpaper and furniture as well.
“In some places, it has scratched the walls right down to the concrete. for the first year I used to repair the plaster and mend the wallpaper, but then I gave up. and the TV is scratched – gosha jumped on it when she saw some birds on animal planet, ”says andrei.
gosha became popular on the internet in early 2020 thanks to a photo of him lying on a windowsill with zhora.
This photo spawned a series of demotivating posters, memes, and doctored photos, initially circulating in meme communities on Instagram, then spreading across Twitter and Reddit.
“One of my husband’s internet friends, who also owns a caracal, told us about the popularity of gosha on the internet. We thought, “wow, that’s great!” and kept posting pictures of him. I just really don’t like it when gosha is used for memes about controversial “hot” political issues, or memes that exhibit Nazism, racism, homophobia, or other offensive content, it’s terrible,” she said.
in 2020, gosha’s fans asked the bondarev family for permission to use images of him in merchandising, and mugs, figurines and even large floppa buckets were made available for sale.
also in spring 2021, an app dedicated to big floppa appeared on the google play app store. the game consists of a photo of gosha [known as gregory in English], which changes position when you click on it. So far, the game has received only positive feedback.
“It’s a great game, the content is very interesting and there’s even some screaming. when i clicked on shlyopa (floppa) he growled a lot and scared the hell out of me. In short, there is everything here and you don’t even have to add anything extra”, writes a user in comments about the game.
“To show their gratitude, some supporters send us donations, a portion of which goes to help the other cats. but donations are not enough for gosha’s upkeep, which costs 20-25,000 rubles ($270-340) a month and only covers food and litter box padding,” says yelena.
In addition, Gosha is examined and vaccinated twice a year by a feral cat specialist. other than that, according to the bondarev family, it is no different from any common cat.
“the only difference is their size, so you have to be more careful and pay more attention. the accidental injuries you suffer when, for example, you play with it are much more serious than those of small cats. of course, the degree of ‘destruction’ of the house also grows in proportion to the size of the cat. As for the rest, a cat is also a cat in Africa”, says Yelena to conclude.
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