Like Maria, my husband is a sucker for cats. This wasn’t always the case. In fact, when Bruce and I first met he was pretty ambivalent about the feline kind. It only took a few short weeks of living with me and my revolving door of foster kitties to turn him into a total cat man. Just last week, after watching our cat Dim Sum take a giant leap from the counter to the top of the fridge he said, “This is what people should be clapping at. Not golf. Cats.” So in love with him.
Naturally I had to get him a “Real Men Love Cats” shirt and I also had to find out what the backstory was with this feline-friendly fashion trend.
The cat printed on the shirt is a sweet orange tabby named Abby, who found her way into the hearts of Toni and her husband Mark at a local park. The couple’s dog Roxy spotted the cat, slipped out of her collar and chased the poor thing up a tree. Toni and Mark collected Roxy and went home, knowing the cat would never come down with the pup still there. Five hours later, they returned to make sure the cat had come down, but instead she had climbed even higher up the tree. “I called my son Dane to bring a sheet to the park,” Toni recounts. “He and I held the sheet while Mark shook the tree (thinking the cat would fall and we could catch her in the sheet – yea I know…LOL, we looked like the three stooges).” Abby instead backed down the tree and into Toni’s arms.
“As I carried her to the car I told Mark I would find her a good home (wink, wink). That was six years ago. She and Roxy are now best buds and she has Mark wrapped around her little kitty pinky paw.”
Three years after finding Abby, Toni and Mark wanted to open up an Etsy shop where they could sell shirts and sweatshirts they designed. “Honestly the Abby design was an accident,” Toni tells Pawesome. “Mark started playing with some photos we had and came up with our original Abby design. Of course, we both loved it but had no idea that our little abandoned park kitty would touch so many hearts.” The original shirt featured a simple image of Abby and was worn by John Fulton of Animal Planet’s Must Love Cats (seen above).
A few years later, after seeing the saying Real Men Wear Pink, Toni thought “NO! REAL men LOVE cats!!” With that declaration Mark got to work designing a shirt in which a photo of Abby sitting on a pedestal was transformed into the kitty sitting on the words. While John Fulton wasn’t able to wear the new design on the second season of Must Love Cats, Jackson Galaxy recently strutted out with his heart on his
sleeve chest. How rad is that?
“It’s so funny to think that so many people, all over the world know Abby. In reality she’s such a shy little cat, and tiny…..you can’t tell from her photos but she’s just a hair over 7 lbs.,” Toni says. “I’d have to say she loves Mark most of all… but she sleeps with me (because I feed her).”
(Images: Toni at RC Tees)