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The Cat Lady
Kate Funk has created a booming business with her, um, cat. His name is AC. He's a little grumpy but quite photogenic.

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris

Yes, AC is a cat – and a rather grumpy one at that. He’s also the rising star of 31-year-old Kate Funk’s cat creations. AC can be seen on everything from iPhone cases to magnets and greeting cards. But he’s probably most famous for being the “World’s Most Super Amazing 100% Awesome Cat” in a series of calendars entering its sixth year (2014’s theme: Magical Creatures). Turning to Kickstarter in February, Funk hoped to raise $3,500 to cover 2014 production costs and a portion of her travel expenses for the National Stationery Show. To her surprise, she netted almost 1,200 donations totaling some $25,000 – proof positive that the Internet’s love for all things feline knows no bounds. Even better? All of that led to a book deal with St. Martin’s Press and a spot in Urban Outfitters’ online store. But about that cat.

Where did you and AC meet?
I always wanted a cat, and my parents wouldn’t let me have one. Then I had roommates that were allergic. In 2006, I finally had a roommate who wasn’t allergic. It was Brennan Groh, who does the graphic design for the calendar. So I went to a shelter. They put you in a room full of kittens and you get to pick. AC was the one that sat in the corner and just kind of stared at me like he didn’t know what to think of me. So I picked him because he was the weirdest.

Does AC stand for something?
His full name is Annoying Customer. It’s from the movie Clerks. There’s a black cat that lives in the gas station. A customer asks him what his name is, and Randal calls him “annoying customer.” I had to stop using it because at a craft fair, I had a customer, and the exact same thing happened. She thought I was being rude and walked out of my booth all huffy. So I shortened it to AC.

How did the idea for the calendar come about?
It started as a weird joke. I had a friend who disliked AC because he always looks so crabby, so I wanted to make her a birthday card and put AC on it. It snowballed from there, and I thought I would try other places and see if it was something I could actually do. Now it’s my job five years later, which was not what I expected. 

Why turn to Kickstarter if things were going so well?
We decided to do the National Stationery Show, which was a big jump. On top of all the show fees, we had to get the calendar printed for the show, which was just too much to handle. So we decided to try Kickstarter, and if it worked out, awesome. If not, we’d figure out another way. 

Obviously, it worked. 
Yeah, it’s not what we expected at all. It’s kind of overwhelming.

Is the fame going to AC’s head?
I keep telling him he’s famous, but he doesn’t seem to care. He just wants to nap and be left alone. 

But he’s relatively cooperative?
He’ll wear clothes no problem. The only thing he doesn’t like are wigs. He gets the super grumpy face when we have a certain spot in the diorama where we want him to sit, which isn’t always the spot he wants to sit. But he’s a willing model, and I’m always concerned that people think he’s not. He does let us do it, and if he wants to stop, then we stop. If he’s not in the mood that day, we wait until the next day and see if he’s ready.

How do you know if he isn’t in the mood?
If we try to put the costume on and he doesn’t want it, he’ll shake it off. Or if he keeps walking off the set, we’ll just give up and wait. We don’t want to make him angry.

Does he throw tantrums?
No, not really. The most he ever did was nip at me, which then I felt really bad and just stopped. We tried to put a mustache on him and learned our lesson, which is nothing can touch his face. 

Do you have contacts at Buzzfeed [a website often populated with animal photos]? 
I don’t, but they did a story on me last year, which was the first time my name got out past my stores. It was also the first time I heard negative things about what I do. Somebody told me I needed to go to hell with my basement cat.

The Internet can be a mean place, but on the Internet, people are also all about cats. Why do you think AC and the calendar resonate? 
I’m assuming that’s why everything has kind of taken off this year. I’ve been doing it for so long, but this year has been out of control. People seem to love cats, especially grumpy ones.

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