How two cats, Jean and Jorts, are using their viral success as a weapon for good

By Louis Shankar

Published Jan 25, 2022 at 11:00 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

You may have heard of Jorts the cat and his friend Jean. In December 2021, the two felines and their anonymous owner went viral on Reddit—before gripping every other social media platform. On the popular subreddit AmItheAsshole (shortened ‘AITA’), user throwawayorangecat asked: “AITA for ‘perpetuating ethnic stereotypes’ about Jorts?”

For context, Jean and Jorts reside at an unspecified American workplace. “One of them (Jean) is a tortoiseshell cat we have had for years. The other one (Jorts) is a large orange cat and a recent addition. Jorts is just… kind of a simple guy,” explained their owner/supervisor. Jorts struggles with, among other things, opening doors, getting stuck in cupboards, and tipping over trash cans.

Now, Pam (an alias) started spending a lot of time “trying to teach Jorts things.” A gentle joke along the lines of “you can’t expect Jean’s tortoiseshell smarts from orange cat Jorts” made Pam “FURIOUS. She started crying and left the hallway, then sent an email to the group (including volunteers) and went home early.” She argued that the joke was “perpetuating ethnic stereotypes by saying orange cats are dumb” and demanded ”racial sensitivity training.”

A follow-up post gave further details, including that: “Pam admits that she has been putting margarine on Jorts in an attempt to teach him to groom himself better. This may explain the diarrhoea problem Jean developed (which required a vet visit).” They resolved, amicably, that “Pam is NOT to apply margarine to any of her coworkers.” “I can’t believe she fuckin buttered Jorts,” commented one user—which quickly became a meme in and of itself. It’s worth perusing the whole saga in full, so I won’t repeat all the details here.

Now, this story is both adorable and hilarious. It has all the ingredients for a perfect and innocent viral story: there are no losers and Pam was thrilled with their internet fame. In a final update on Reddit, the original user wrote: “Pam is glad ‘our little cats’ have so many new friends. Legal counsel told me to knock it off with all of this bullshit. Someone gave Jorts a pipe cleaner.”

But, in the weeks since their original viral fame, Jorts (and Jean) have done something remarkable. Their owner—who, extraordinarily, remains anonymous—started a Twitter account to capitalise on their popularity and share both fanart and further updates on Jorts. The account, Jorts (and Jean), now has over 126,000 followers with tweets going viral every other day. Like many social media pages dedicated to animals, there are loads of posts featuring cute pictures and funny jokes—posted as if Jorts himself is tweeting.

Instead of creating merchandise to make a quick buck at Christmas, as requested by many followers, Jorts encouraged supporting local animal shelters by adopting a cat and shared links to specific felines available around the US.

Both Jorts and Jean are notably pro-union, which comes at a time of several major and significant labour disputes across America, including at Starbucks. They have tweeted picket line etiquette and shared community strike funds. Donations to various funds count as “official Jorts merch”—adding that “my supervisor donated for me because I am a cat so I don’t have a wallet.”

They frequently add alt text to every image they post and upload—all the while explaining why the feature is important and how to add it to your own tweets. “I am not an expert, I am just a cat who made an account a month ago and I’m still learning too,” they tweeted, in a humble and encouraging manner. “The more of us who can join the same conversation, the better the conversation is. I love all of you very much.”

Another thread explained the importance of investing in education and healthcare in order to foster innovation in the simplest way possible—thereby dispelling the myth of the isolated genius inventor. “We were looking out the window and I said to Jean ‘Wow, imagine inventing a car.’ Jean said nobody invented the car from nothing… Nothing happens from one person. Someone invented the engine, and the steering wheel. Someone invented a brake. Someone else invented a windshield and a windshield wiper… Nobody does anything great alone.”

Jorts (and Jean) have also been dunking on NFT TechBros and called Neil Gorsuch an asshole for refusing to wear a mask in the Supreme Court to protect high-risk Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In the past week, they have additionally raised awareness about a community organising effort—initially tweeted about by Booker Prize-shortlisted author Brandon Taylor—and have shared trans-inclusive content, tweeting: “Our precious trans people are at the apex of vulnerable and under-protected and it’s silly to pretend otherwise.”

It’s worth scrolling not just through Jorts’ timeline but also through the replies—they interact with their followers consistently and compassionately, sharing buckets of love and building a community of anti-cop cat lovers.

If you were to breeze through Jorts and Jean’s story, it may seem like a silly tale about two cats and some margarine—which spiralled out of control in the most wholesome way possible. However, it’s the best use of someone capitalising on their 15 minutes of fame to bring about real and selfless change with strong community action.

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