“Cat lady” used to be a label that was not meant as a compliment. But now, cats are all the rage, partly thanks to the stars who won’t stop talking about their furry friends. Taylor Swift’s obsession with cats is well known at this point: She frequently posts photos of her cats, Olivia Benson and Meredith, on Instagram and recently starred in a Diet Coke commercial flooded with felines. There’s also Katy Perry’s Kitty Purry, a cat that became famous for that perfect name and her cameo in the “I Kissed a Girl” video.
But before Kitty Purry, and before Olivia Benson, there was Snacks.
Musician Bethany Cosentino got Snacks right around the time her band, Best Coast, formed in 2009. Since then, Snacks has become a major part of Cosentino’s image: Snacks’ “meow” appeared on her 2013 cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” she frequently raves about him on social media, and even sells Snacks-themed apparel on the Best Coast website. Basically, being a Best Coast fan also means being a Snacks fan.
With Swift’s cats getting all the attention these days, EW got on the phone with Cosentino, who’s done touring for the year, to hear more about Snacks—and a little about what Best Coast has in store.
EW: Let’s get started with Snacks’ origin story. Where did you get him?
BETHANY COSENTINO: I had just started Best Coast and was kind of floating around, figuring out what I was doing with the band, and I really wanted to get a cat. And I really wanted an orange, fluffy cat. And so I was looking on adoption websites, and I couldn’t find this kind of cat that I wanted. And then, super randomly, my mom came to the front door of my house, and she was like, your neighbor has a cat that she’s getting rid of. And it’s an orange cat, it’s a tabby, fluffy cat. And I was like, “What? No way!” And so he actually ended up being kind of passed around the neighborhood. He was sort of a neighborhood cat, and no one really took him in as their own. So he was kind of handed off to me. And then I gave him a real-life home.
How did you name him?
I think I had the name already thought up, because I’m really into Garfield. This is really cheesy, but I feel whenever I read Garfield comics, I relate to them. I’m like, “Oh, that’s super relatable to the kind of person I am.” And so I imagined whatever cat I had would be sort of similar to me-slash-Garfield. But Garfield is really into lasagna and food, and so I thought, the name Snacks was just a cute name.
And it’s the most fitting name ever for him, because he’s obsessed with cat snacks. If you pull out the bag of cat treats or if he even sees you go near the drawer that he knows that cat treats are in, he flips out. It works well for him.
Did you have cats growing up?
I did. My family always had cats. We had dogs, too, we always had one dog. But we had so many cats. I grew up in a little, kind of like mountain town, a little bit above L.A., and so, unfortunately, we lost a ton of cats to coyotes and stuff. You don’t ever want to trap a cat indoors, but you also have to think about their safety. So with me, I don’t let Snacks go outside because I don’t trust the outside world for him. If I do ever let him outside, I take him on supervised outdoor visits. I take him into my yard and hang out. So yeah, I grew up with cats and I’ve always really loved cats. And it became really cool to like be into cats, which was like, oh, cool, now I’m not such a freak anymore. Now people think I’m cool because I like cats. [Laughs]
It’s super trendy now to like cats.
I remember when it kind of started getting really, really popular, I was like, whoa, this is crazy. I very much appreciate that you think Snacks is one of the O.G. famous internet cats. That makes me and him very happy. [Laughs]
You’re who we first thought of. What is the weirdest thing that Snacks does?
So there’s this spot on his back, like against his spine where, if you scratch it, he has this like uncontrollable nerve where he just starts licking himself. But he has that big, kind of fluffy lion thing going on around his neck, so you scratch that part of his back, and he literally just cannot stop licking it. And you’ll pull your hand away. And he stops. And you go back and do it, and he keeps doing it. Sometimes I do it just because it’s cute and funny. But sometimes, I’m like, “Aww, he can’t help it!” [Laughs] It turns into a full-on lick-fest. So it’s very strange.
What is the sweetest thing he does? Do you guys cuddle?
He’s a super friendly cat. I’ve never seen him scratch anybody or bite anybody unless it was playful. My neighbor has a dog and whenever I take Snacks outside, and if the neighbor’s dog is outside, if she sees Snacks, she gets super excited and Snacks will be kind of like, oh, whatever. And one time he hit the dog on the head. But that’s literally the meanest thing I’ve ever seen him do. He’s a sweetheart. He’s literally the best companion. Especially for someone like me who lives alone, and I travel and tour a lot. It’s really nice to just come home and he’s just here waiting. And he just sits down and watches Food Network with me. He’s a very good friend.
Does he have a favorite Food Network show?
I would just say his favorite is probably my favorite, so I think my favorite right now is Chopped. I’m obsessed with it.
Do you watch Barefoot Contessa?
I do, yeah. Basically, Food Network is on consistently throughout the day if I’m home. I just have it on in the background when I’m doing stuff. I’ve actually written Best Coast songs with Food Network on mute in the room. So it’s very much a part of my daily life.
It’s very calming. Sometimes if I watch something scary, I’ll watch Food Network after.
Yeah, and also, late at night, they don’t play commercials for scary stuff, which I like. Because sometimes you’ll be watching TV, and then a commercial for some really scary movie comes on, and you’re like, “I don’t want to see that right now.” So I can always count on Food Network to never play the, like, Annabelle commercial and scare me. [Laughs]
How do you feel about the term “cat lady”?
I think at first, people thought of it as this negative thing or, like, “That lady’s a freak, she’s into cats.” But I think it’s stupid. I think people are really into pets; people are really into animals. If you like cats, and you have a cat that you love and that makes you happy, and you make them happy as well, I think there’s absolutely nothing wrong with talking about your cat in a positive way. People like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift are—people are like, “Oh, cats are so cool!” And now it’s like, I get made fun of less for it now because of them. [Laughs]
So it’s like they’re benefiting you.
Sort of, yeah. Thanks, guys! [Laughs]
Who’s your favorite pop culture cat, besides your own?
I really like Grumpy Cat. Bob, my bandmate, and I are really obsessed with Grumpy Cat. She’s like the coolest, and Bob says that she’s his spirit animal. He’s like, “That cat is totally me.” She has that face, but I doubt she’s actually grumpy all the time. She just looks that way. I think she’s super, super cute. I like the Lil Bub cat too. That’s a cute cat. Keyboard Cat, I was really into Keyboard Cat. R.I.P. I sadly know way too much about internet-famous cats. [Laughs]
I don’t think you can ever know enough.
I could teach a class on it. Colleges have very bizarre classes these days. If someone wants to invite me to teach a class on pop-culture cats, I would be more than happy to do it.
Some school is going to see this article now.
That’s my new profession, is just cat professor.
I’ll just sing a bunch of songs about cats in the class.
That would be amazing. What would you say somebody to someone who isn’t a cat person? Sell cats to me.
Every cat is different, which I think is something that’s really cool about cats. And they’re very independent, which I think is also something that is really cool about them. I would just say that sometimes you meet a cat that’s just a jerk. There’s some cats are just jerks, and I think people that aren’t cat people always have their first cat impression be with one of those jerky cats. I have a ton of friends that hate cats, but they all love Snacks, because they’re like, “He’s the chillest cat.” He’s currently actually right now sitting inside the sink and licking droplets that are coming down from the sink. And now he’s playing with a bunch of necklaces on the wall. So he’s a weird cat. [Laughs] I think if you meet the right cat—it’s kind of like dating, you meet the right person, you meet the right cat—then you can be like, “Oh, I’m into this now.” Don’t let one jerky cat spoil cats for you in general, because they can be very, very cool.
What are you working on now, music-wise or cat-wise?
We are done touring for the year, and we’re just kind of chilling, and I’m spending lots of time with Snacks and just trying to relax. We’re going to have a record come out next year, hopefully early next year. And then we’ll be doing a ton of touring. So I unfortunately won’t get to spend all of 2015 next to my lil’ guy. But I did get to spend most of this year with him, so at least I have those great memories to take. And maybe I’ll do some kind of some cat clothing line or something.
I was just trying to give you something cool to say that I’m working on right now; like I’m actually working on a cat clothing line. I’m not, but that would be totally awesome.