Black-and-White Warbler, Dennis W. Donohue/Shutterstock
News and Perspectives on Bird Conservation
Meet Sophie, A Happy Indoor Cat (Part 1)
By ABC StaffJuly 02, 2018
ABC's "Happy Cats, Healthy Birds Campaign" runs through August, bringing you stories of responsible cat ownership. We recently spoke with inspiring cat guardian, Christiana Viscusi, the brains behind the popular @SophieLovesTuna Instagram account, about her beautiful, fun, and funny four-legged companions, Sophie and Louie. Louie, an indoor cat, is serving as a Feline Ambassador for the campaign.
How did you develop your special love of nature and cats?
I grew up in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., amidst the Adirondacks and have always loved nature. As a child, I spent a lot of time camping with my family and playing outside. My mother's garden and father's handcrafted birdhouses attracted many birds including Common Grackles, Purple Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, and a number of other beautiful backyard birds. I particularly loved the antics of Northern Cardinals and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.
Cats have been a big part of my life as well. Growing up, we had an indoor cat named Pasta e fagioli, Pasta for short. I later went on to adopt a cat named Oliver at the end of college, then came Sophie and now Louie.
Christiana with our Feline Ambassador Louie. Photo by Christiana Viscusi
Why did you decide to join ABC's Happy Cats, Healthy Birds Campaign?
I was really excited when American Bird Conservancy approached me (and Louie) to take part in the campaign, because I want to share the message that responsible cat care in the 21st century means something different than it did in our parents' generation. Now we know how unsafe it is for cats to roam unsupervised. And we also know that they can harm native wildlife at the same time.
All of my cats have been indoor cats that go on outdoor adventures on a leash or in a backpack, and more recently, stroller rides. My cats have fun safely!
Louie is a happy indoor cat and also spends time outdoors on a leash. Photo by Christiana Viscusi
It's very important to me to keep my cats safe from cars and other dangers outside. Even things you wouldn't normally think of can be harmful to cats like lawn pesticides, certain flowers (especially lilies), and roaming predators. In turn, keeping cats indoors or on a leash helps keep wildlife such as birds, chipmunks, and squirrels safe too.
My previous cat, Oliver, lived to be 18-years-old, and after him we wanted to rescue another cat. We adopted Sophie from a shelter in Boston after she was rescued from a hoarding situation. She lived under my bed for the first couple of days, and by the second day, she had double eye infections and an upper respiratory infection.
Sophie's first day home.
Sophie outdoors on a leash.
Enrichment activities like toys help cats enjoy the indoors. All photos by Christiana Viscusi
She quickly learned to trust me with all the meds she needed, and it was amazing to see her come out of her shell. She went from a scared little six-pound, tiny girl to a nine-pound ball of confidence and energy. As an indoor cat, she was always by my side, and when I called to her, she always came running to me. We had a very special bond.
Why did you start Instagraming Sophie's exploits? How did her account reach 140k followers?
Shortly after I adopted Sophie, my friend suggested that I create an Instagram account. The very first pic I posted ended up getting re-posted on @CatsofInstagram, one of the largest accounts for cat-related posts. Over time, she was featured on various other large accounts, and her following grew. But it really took off when I posted a video of her evening routine.
For me, Instagram started out as just a fun place to post photos of my babies. It's always fun to read funny comments or see people's reactions to what you post. But it's really turned into so much more than that. Now, this community of amazing and caring people has become my extended family.
Was it difficult for Sophie to enjoy being an indoor cat or go outside on a leash?
No! Inside, she played in her crinkle tunnel and caught balls I threw in the air. She also climbed on her cat tower and watched birds from the window for hours. Outside, she loved exploring on a leash.
How about your current Instagram star, Louie? How did Louie come into your life?
We lost Sophie during an unexpected surgery and were devastated. Once a bit of time elapsed, we knew we had to adopt another rescue to try and bring some happiness back into the house and give that cat a chance at a happy, forever home.
I went on Petfinder.com and saw a photo of an adorable white cat at a local shelter. I emailed the shelter, and we met Louie the next day. It was love at first sight with that big marshmallow, and we brought him home that day.
Louie is my gentle giant. He can't wait to meet every new person who comes over. If you're not a cat person, you will be after he's done with you. And he loves exploring the outdoors safely as much as Sophie!
Louie enjoying the indoors.
Read part two of our Q&A with Christiana to learn more about her lively – and safe – outdoor adventures with Louie.
Join Christiana and our growing community of caring cat owners to keep both cats and wildlife safe. Sign our pledge today and commit to keeping your cats happy and healthy.