Viktor the cat and why he went viral

03 December, 2019

I was reading a Spanish newspaper a few days ago and I come across a headline that immediately caught my eye “Viktor, the traveller‘ fat cat that has turned famous in Russia”. Of course, it was impossible for me to overlook that tittle. It was promising to provide me with information about two of my most beloved things on earth: cats and Russia. 

In this post, I will explain to you why Viktor became famous and we will also discuss why cats are so popular in Russia. If you are a cat lover or you’re just interested in why a chubby cat has become so popular, keep on reading!

The story of how Viktor the cat went viral 

viktor and his owner

Viktor and his owner. Source: https://www.ntd.com

First of all, let me introduce you to today’s protagonist. He is the big cute cat that you can see in the picture above. After two years living in Riga, Viktor’s owner Mikhail Galin decided that it was time to go back to Vladivostok. As you might know, this city is located in Asia, close to Japan. Therefore,  it was a long flight that required a transfer in Moscow. 

Viktor was ready for the adventure but Aeroflot, the company they were flying with, was not ready for Viktor. On the first part of the trip, Viktor could travel without problems. But the tranquillity of the trip was disrupted in Moscow airport when lovely Viktor had to face the scale. Like Garfield, he would have claimed that he’s not fat but big-boned, but it wouldn’t have worked. The scale revealed that he was 10kg, 2 more kg than the maximum allowed by Aeroflot to travel in the cabin of the plane. He should fly on the cargo instead, but this solution didn’t convince his owner.

Worried for Viktor’s safety, Mikhail postponed his flight to the Far East and he devised (almost) a perfect plan. Mikhail started calling his contacts in the capital asking for a cat that looked similar to Viktor and who could face the scale instead of him. The slim cat of some friends named Phoebe saved the day. After checking in using the double, Mikhail changed the cats and Viktor could finally make it into the plane. 

They travelled first class and celebrated the victory with a glass of champagne. And they, of course, shared the whole adventure on social networks. This was probably the only weak point of this plan to make Viktor flight with dignity.

Aeroflot’s reaction 

As mentioned before, narrating Viktor’s adventure on social network brought some consequences. If it was not for the post on social media Aeroflot would have never learned about how the managed to fly together in the cabin of the plane. Unfortunately, it seems like they didn’t find the story funny and they decided to punish Mikhail taking away miles from him.  

This reaction made the whole story go viral and the internet was soon filled up with memes and messages of support. Although Viktor’s owners assume his responsibility, many Russian citizens complaint about the treatment given to Viktor because he was overweight.  There are many memes about the issue and some hashtags to support the cat were also created.

Pushing the situation was probably not the best marketing strategy in a country where cats for part of many families. 

Russians’ love for cats 

The support Viktor gained is not surprising if we take into account a fact about Russians: they are the biggest cat lovers in the world. Almost 60% of Russians have a cat according to the studies. I understand this love for cats. They are elegant, playful independent and even a bit crazy. The purr of the cat is not only cosy and fun, but it’s also healthy. Several studies point out that it can lower high blood pressure and that it is good for the heart.  

But why do Russians love cats more than anyone else? It is believed that it’s linked to some cultural and historical peculiarities.  According to what I have read, In the Russian tradition, cats are considered to embody wisdom. On the contrary, dogs are traditionally assigned more negative features. We can see the different perception of the two animals reflected on the Russian language. In Russian, you can call a person who did something bad – a dog (собака). On the contrary, people in love call each other a kitten (котёнок, котик).

Cats are still given a prominent role in society. You probably know already about the cat’s of the Hermitage and how important they are to preserve the museum in good conditions. They also have a role in everyday life. In villages they have always had an important role, to eat the mice and keep our houses  Irina, my lovely Russian teacher, told us that according to Russian traditions when you move to a new house the cat is the family member who should enter the place the first. It’s supposed to bring good luck. Quite interestingly, some years ago the largest bank in Russia was giving free cats to mortgage customers as a manner of wishing them good luck in their homes.

cats hermmitage

One of the cats from the Hermitage

I love dogs as well but, I believe that in cold regions having a cat as a pet seems more practical. Walking a dog can be fun and even a pleasure. But,  can you imagine yourself doing it three times a day on a cold winter day in Siberia? I would rather stay at home with my cat and drinking a cup of warm tea.

Whether you are one of Viktor’s supporters who thinks he should not be discriminated because of his weight or not, I hope you found this post interesting. Stay tuned if you what to discover more things about Russia and the Russian language. Don’t miss our next posts!

Miriam Núñez

Posted by Miriam Núñez

всем привет! I’m Miriam from Spain and I’m currently an intern at Liden&Denz in St. Petersburg.

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