The woman behind the viral sensation “Wanchai Cat” has debunked claims that the feline is mistreated and said that she is “loved, adored, and well cared for”.
Wanchai Cat is a popular Facebook page dedicated to the adventures of a cat living in a pharmacy in Hong Kong. The cat, whose real name is Hawaii, is 13-years-old and can often be seen wearing scrunchies of different colours.
Last Tuesday, a video of Hawaii titled “[VIRAL] cat in scrunchie stands on hind legs” was posted onto the page. The video shows Hawaii, with a pink scrunchie around her neck, standing still on her hind legs for about 30 seconds while looking hypnotised. It became an internet hit, garnering 1.2 million views and over 16,000 shares. However, many netizens began accusing the cat’s owners of abusing and mistreating her.
Speaking to HKFP via email, Justina Chong, the woman behind the Facebook page, debunks the accusations and explains how the fan page and viral hit came to be.
“My sister and I first met Hawaii about a year ago. There she was, perched on the counter in her neon green Elizabethan ruffle. We’d never giggled so hard. And yet she seemed strangely familiar. It turned out our friend had been posting pictures of her on Instagram for a couple of years with the hashtag #wanchaicat,” Chong said.
“My friends and I started the Wanchai Cat Facebook page so we could share pictures and videos of Hawaii. I’m sure Hawaii’s owner knew the Facebook page existed… [he] definitely knew about the #wanchaicat hashtag on Instagram, because our friend had written it down on a scrap of paper for him, which he’d taped proudly to the wall.”
The viral hit came as a surprise to Chong. “We never, ever imagined that anything on the page would go viral. I’d added “[VIRAL]” to the title of that video as a joke. So we couldn’t believe it when it started to take off.”
Hawaii’s rise to fame, however, came with unintended consequences; the spotlight soon fell on her owners, with many accusing them of mistreating the cat. “[A]ll these really awful comments began to roll in, accusing Hawaii’s “dad” of abuse, accusing us of exploiting the cat online to attract business to the shop. At some point I remember looking up from my phone and thinking, ‘What have I done?’” Chong said.
“I couldn’t sleep that night… my friend and I visited the shop the next day and apologised to Hawaii’s owner for posting the video,” Chong said. “He’d already heard that the video had been seen hundreds of thousands of times, and about the animal-cruelty accusations. I felt really bad about that. I asked if he wanted me to remove the video and the page from Facebook, but he said, ‘It doesn’t matter, never mind’. His wife said something to the effect of, ‘Haters gonna hate.’ They were so nice about it.”
Chong said that some of the comments were awful, but she did not delete anything, fearing further backlash. “I left everything up and posted a statement to let people know that Hawaii is not a victim of animal cruelty, that’s she’s loved, adored, and well cared for. Then I left the comments thread to take on a life of its own. And thank goodness for that, because all these really lovely strangers began posting their own photos and stories about Hawaii and her family. All of the support just underscores the awesomeness of Wanchai Cat.”
Chong also said that Hawaii’s owners are very nice people. “They always welcome us into the shop to fawn over Hawaii, even though the most we ever buy from them are packets of haw flakes or cough medicine crystals.”
Chong said it was great that Hawaii and her family bring so much happiness to others. “I’m not sure what makes Hawaii so compelling. But one look at her and you instantly feel happy… She’s sassy and classy and magical. Plus she’s got this awesome snarl that lets everyone know when to leave her alone.”