Some of Instagram’s biggest stars aren’t travelers or photographers or models — they’re animals. Nala Cat (@nala_cat) is a former shelter cat with one of the biggest followings on Instagram. Posting a firsthand account of everything from fetch to treat breaks, Nala keeps her fans up-to-date on the cutest and silliest parts of her everyday life.
We caught up with Nala’s human, Varisiri Methachittiphan, to find out more about Nala’s story, her journey to fame, and her off-camera personality. See our interview with Methachittiphan below to learn more about what goes into one of Instagram’s biggest animal accounts and how fans can meet Nala, Coffee, and Luna at CatCon in Pasadena August 12 and 13.
How did you meet Nala?
I actually found her at the shelter. I went to my friend’s cousin’s house and we just wanted to go see some animals at the animal shelter and so I just went there without thinking that I was going to adopt a cat that day. Then, I saw her and I just couldn’t leave her, I had to take her home. She was around five months old at the time.
Where does her name come from?
I love Disney movies and it actually came from The Lion King.
Why did you start an Instagram account for her and when did you realize that it was going to be a huge hit and really popular with people?
I didn’t think that she would be so famous because she looks so normal. She came from the shelter and she’s just like any other cat, but my family, they actually live in Thailand, and I’d been sending my sister photos. At the time Instagram had just started, so my sister said that I should start an account for Nala so that I could share her photo with everyone because she looks so cute with her big blue eyes. I just started Instagram without actually thinking that she was going to be so famous.
I was hoping to have maybe 500 followers at the time and I was so happy when she reached 500. I wasn’t thinking she was going to have three million.
Why do you think Nala appeals to so many people?
I think she’s one of the first cat accounts that posted photos, and on the caption, it’s her voice, so it’s like she’s the one who’s actually posting the photo. She’s the very first animal that did that. It was five years ago. And then people said her face looks like a cartoon character, she doesn’t look like a real cat.
How would you describe Nala’s personality, and has it changed at all since she was a kitten?
When I adopted her, on the adoption papers it said that she was very sweet and friendly. She’s very sweet, but it has to be on her terms. It’s only when she wants. So if I want to cuddle with her, I cannot just hug her, she has to come to me. She’s a little bit like a loner because right now we have other animals, too, and everyone else gets along and grooms each other, shares treats with each other, but Nala doesn’t do that. She’s special.
How did you meet your other cats, Coffee and Luna, and how do they interact with Nala?
They have to give her space. They know her boundaries. They know how close they can be to her because Nala is a little bit sassy sometimes. So Coffee and Luna sleep together, they groom each other, they share their treats together, but Nala won’t do that. Whenever I give Luna or Coffee a treat, Luna and Coffee will lick it at the same time, but when I give it to Nala, Coffee knows that he shouldn’t come close to her. She’s a queen.
Knowing that they all have their own Instagram accounts, how do you balance and differentiate the content between all three of them?
It’s kind of hard for me to keep up with all three of them because it became a full-time job for me. I have to try to create good content for all of them. But I am home most of the time, so when they do things that look cute or funny, I grab my phone and I take a photo.
How do you decide which brands or charities to partner with?
Most of the time I try to support local shelters, the shelters around our place or some shelters that really need help. I don’t really give back to just one shelter, I try to spread it out so that everyone else that needs help can get help, too.
She loves everything, basically. She’s pretty simple when it comes to food. But she likes chicken and turkey more than fish. So anything chicken or turkey.
What’s the coolest trick that your cats can do?
Coffee and Luna can stand on two legs.
What’s your favorite activity to do with your cats?
I like to cuddle with them. I wish Nala was more cuddly so that she could come sleep with me in bed, but she’s not like that. But Coffee, he’s really attached to me.
Do you have any advice or tips you’ve learned about building a good Instagram account for your pets?
I’m trying to be authentic and trying to be myself and be considerate of other people.
Where do you see all three of your accounts in the future and how do you hope to grow your Instagram presence?
We just want to keep doing it because their photos make people happy. Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of Instagram Live and a lot of times, people will come in and say that they had a really bad day but the video made them feel better. And it makes me feel good that I can brighten up people’s days. I’m just trying to put positivity out there.
Anything else you’d like to add?
We’re going to be at CatCon on August 12th and August 13th in Pasadena, CA! Nala, Coffee and Luna are going to have a meet and greet there.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.