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Meet the Utah cat whose inexplicable ‘floofs’ made him a TikTok celebrity

The cat, Max, has been compared to koalas and Albert Einstein because of his unique looks.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Maxwell The Cat, famous on TikTok, in Sandy on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. The cat has been compared to Albert Einstein because of his unique "floofs,” the bright white tufts of fur that stick up behind his ears.

When Becki Chafee and her daughter adopted a cat from Best Friends Animal Society, they fell in love with the tuxedo kitten as soon as they met him.

But the cat they brought home turned out to be anything but ordinary. Nearly four years after Max found his forever home, the feline has garnered over 200,000 followers across Instagram and TikTok — all because of his “floofs,” the term his family has developed for the bright white tufts of fur that stick up behind his ears.

“That was literally the first moment that we saw him,” Chafee said, referring to a video of her daughter holding Max as a kitten while he plays with his own tail. “And he had no ‘floofs’ whatsoever — literally just looked like a regular kitten.”

Who is Max — and what are his ‘floofs’?

Sofia Sparacino, Chafee’s daughter, adopted Max in spring 2020. But it’s a shared custody, since he lives at the family home in Sandy along with his three adopted brothers — Wesley, Jameson and Oliver.

“We had three cats already,” Chafee said. “And I was like, ‘No.’ So I told her if she adopts him, there’s nothing I can do about it.”

They named the kitten Maxwell Charles, but he goes by “Max” for short.

(Becki Chafee) Wesley, Jameson, Max and Oliver at their Sandy home in a 2020 photo before Max developed his ear "floofs."

“I kind of described him as the Garfield cat,” Chafee said. “So he’s kind of like, lazy but sassy. He knows exactly what he wants, and he likes to play when he likes to play. He’ll come to you when he wants his pets.”

When they adopted Max from Best Friends, they were told he was a domestic medium-haired cat. Max’s ear tufts started to come in when he was about 6 months old, Chafee recalled, and they were fully-grown by the time he turned 1.

Chafee has a degree in veterinary technology and volunteers at the Humane Society three days a week — but “nobody’s ever seen anything like him,” she said.

Pat Theobald, with Best Friends, pulled Max’s adoption files for The Salt Lake Tribune, noting that the kitten had initially been named “Clam” by the shelter. Theobald also said there wasn’t anything in their records to indicate Max would grow his “remarkable” ear tufts.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Maxwell The Cat, famous on TikTok, in Sandy on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024.

“Every time, when he goes [to the vet], I just hear ‘Oh my god, look at his ears!’ coming from the back room,” Chafee said, “and I know there’s just like a little photoshoot going.”

Genetically, Chafee isn’t sure why Max developed his famous floofs. She thinks he could have some Maine Coon or Persian ancestry, but even veterinarians are stumped by Max’s good looks, she said.

“We’re wanting to get a DNA test for him one of these days,” Chafee added.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tucker Owen, Becki Chafee and Sofia Sparacino with Maxwell The Cat, famous on TikTok, in Sandy on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024.

Max’s rise to fame

Chafee started Max’s social media journey on TikTok in April 2020, just after they adopted Max. She planned to produce content that encouraged the “adopt don’t shop” mantra, since all of her cats came from shelters or the so-called “cat distribution system” — a term coined by TikTokers referring to cats that found their owners by happenstance.

“Look at what you can get when you adopt a cat,” Chafee said. “You never know the treasures that you can find. And you don’t need to go to a breeder — just go find a treasure at the shelter somewhere. They’re everywhere.”

The account started with typical videos of all Chafee’s cats — like the felines eating whipped cream off of a fork, or donning TikTok filters. Chafee also included videos of adoptable cats from Best Friends Animal Society, but videos of Max and his voluminous “floofs” went viral during summer 2022.

Commenters swarmed the videos, comparing Max’s hairdo to Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown’s from “Back to the Future” and asking Chafee where Max’s “koala hair” came from.

“It just makes me feel special,” Chafee said. “Like, look at what we have. We got so lucky. When he cuddles with me, it’s literally the best part of my day.”

Max’s videos have totaled millions of views over the years, and recently attracted the attention of Jackson Galaxy — a cat behavior expert and the host of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell.” But Max isn’t a huge fan of the spotlight, and is pretty shy when strangers come over to visit.

He prefers to watch over his kingdom in solitude atop a warming pad, “floofs” blowing in the wind, from the safety of his family’s Sandy balcony.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Maxwell The Cat, famous on TikTok, in Sandy on Friday, Feb. 16, 2024.

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