A southern Californian with white socks and crystal-encrusted sunglasses crawls onto a wooden chest at a hotel in downtown Washington, DC, as a photographer snaps away.
The model doesn’t fuss when the camera lens encroaches on her personal space or protest when her handler adjusts her body for a more charitable angle. But after several stoic minutes, she can no longer stifle her own needs.
She rolls onto her side, stretches her back leg and licks the full length of her limb. She bends her head down and cleans her chest. She wets her paw and runs it over her head like a comb. In the process, she knocks off her glasses, revealing olive green eyes that never close.
The model’s name is Bagel. Bagel is a cat, but not just any cat. The 6-year-old rescue from a Los Angeles County shelter is known for her collection of fashionable sunglasses, a stylish accessory born of necessity, not vanity. When Bagel was a kitten, her owner, Karen McGill, discovered that she suffered from eyelid agenesis, a congenital condition that prevents the eyelids from developing. The absence of natural shades means that Bagel can’t blink or clear debris from her eyes.
To protect Bagel’s corneas from scratches, a friend of Karen’s rigged up some special kitty sunglasses: an elastic band slips around the head and tucks under the chin, like wrestling headgear. Of course, no LA cat would dare leave her lair without a little bling, so Karen bedazzles the frames. All 600 pairs. “We have different colors for holidays, with skulls and pumpkins and hearts,” she said. Until a few years ago, Bagel was a common house cat with a small circle of friends. Today, she is the public figure known as Sunglass Cat, who has 633 000 followers on Instagram.