She’s a social media sensation in a tube sock. The tiny tabby named Pipes brings spontaneous smiles to even the sternest observers as her playful joy shines from photos and videos. If Pipes were a person, she’d be queen of the Kardashians. Her loyal fanbase includes followers around the world.
How did this petite feline survivor of Hurricane Matthew become an online rock star? Rescued after the deadly storm that roared through North Carolina in late September 2016, the orphan kitten symbolized a “a happy ending story in the middle of sadness,” according to Rodrigo Greco, whose family adopted Pipes.
Found in the rain, a lone kitten stuck in some bushes, she was three to four weeks old at the time—small enough to fit into a sock as a makeshift sweater for warmth. She was brought to a pet supply store near Raleigh, where other rescued cats and kittens awaited new homes.
Greco, his wife Andressa, and their children Ben and Sophia were shopping at that mall a day later. Although they all love animals (the family dotes on their miniature Schnauzer named Amelie), the Grecos had no plans to add a cat to their household. But an adoption volunteer asked Greco if he was looking for a cat, and his reply—“Hmm, not really but maybe…. Why?”—was followed by an introduction to the then-nameless tabby. “Immediately I wanted to take her home,” he says.
Once his wife saw the sock-clad kitty, she was smitten. “Andressa fell in love and said ‘Why did you do this? Now we have to take her,’” says Greco. “I like to call it strategy.” A tweet that included a photo of Pipes wearing her white sock went viral, an uplifting image after the hurricane’s destruction.
Bottle-fed at first, Pipes responded quickly to round-the-clock TLC, growing from a scrap of fluff into a sleek, energetic bundle of stripes who eagerly cuddles her canine roommate and human family. “The vet thinks she’s about three months old now, and she’s very active, mischievous, and curious,” says Greco, who believes her popularity is due not just to how adorable she looks in socks, but also to her tale of survival. “There are quite a few famous cats out there and they all have their own thing—grumpy, funny eyebrows, etc. Usually they’re cute or funny, but Pipes has a unique story,” he says. “This was a demonstration of team work, solidarity, and love, which gives people hope and a sense of gratitude.”
Pipes’ irresistible sweetness and early fame prompted the Grecos to create Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages for her, updating them frequently with new photos and videos that chronicle her busy days of playing, sleeping, and modeling cozy socks. “She still wears different socks without any problem. I think if your cats get used to clothes when they are kittens, they are fine once they’re adults,” Greco says. “But..we shall see!”
The Grecos would like Pipes’ high profile to do more than draw a constant chorus of “Awwwwwwws.” Like other conscientious celebrities, Pipes is embracing a cause close to her heart: animal adoption.
“We’ve been talking to a lot of shelters and rescue groups, trying to partner with a few key ones,” Greco says. “Pipes is trying to help other cats and dogs that are homeless—just like she was. She wants to make a difference by helping increase adoption rates and diminish euthanasia in healthy animals.”
Images courtesy of the Greco family.
Kathy Blumenstock is owned by cats, loved by dogs, writes about both, and still longs for a horse.