Pets And Wildlife Deliver YouTube Stardom To Alaska Woman

Mar 30, 2012

One of the quirks of the internet age is how some home videos become unexpected global sensations. In 'net lingo, it's called "going viral." This week's examples of that genre include a humorous clip of house cats and neighborhood wildlife gathered on a porch in the remote Aleutian town of Unalaska.

When Pam Aus heard a bald eagle squawking outside of her house this week, she knew it was the right time to break out the video camera. 

YouTube video soundtrack: "Okay, I keep hearing these calls for me. I open my door and, oh, Mr. Eagle keeps calling me."

Mr. Eagle wasn’t the only one out on her porch. In short order, a fox and her two house cats, named Gizmo and Suitcase, had all gathered for their close up. Aus took about a minute of tape, went back inside, and then added the footage to her YouTube channel, as she’s been doing for the past four years. She mostly forgot about it until her daughter called her up to let her know that her video was getting hits from across the country. "I was excited because I had a million seven hundred thousand hits on all of my videos combined, and today I just looked on there and I had over 2 million."

CBS News, the Huffington Post, and Gawker Media all linked to the video within 24 hours of it being posted, and Aus says that the attention hasn’t stopped. "It’s amazing. Good Morning America, and ABC News. A journalist from Australia wants to do a story. Fox News wants to put the video on one of their nighttime shows. You know, one of those like, with Greg something – I don’t have TV at home. And Yahoo wants rights to it."

Footage of cats getting stuck in boxes or playing with string is popular enough on its own. But the phenomenon of “inter-species BFF” videos –as in, best friends forever -- is internet gold. That might be why Aus’ video has struck a chord, even though she thinks that seeing the national bird around Unalaska is as common as spotting a pigeon in New York City. She doesn’t expect that locals will be terribly impressed by her tape. "No, they’d go, ‘big deal, I could have taken that on my porch,’ you know, probably."

While the footage she shot this week might have shown peaceful interactions between her furry and feathered friends, other videos show slightly more hostile encounters. One features an eagle slapping away a tabby cat, and two others show her kitties duking it out with a fox over a can of tuna. If anything, the fact that all these animals gathered peacefully is a cause for concern for her. It’s been a rough winter in Unalaska, and she thinks that wild animals are interacting with humans a lot more because they’re struggling to find food. "With all the snow and the bitter cold that we’re usually not getting here, they’re begging a whole lot this winter."

For their part, people in Unalaska are mostly amused by the attention this video has been getting. They’ve also been tickled by YouTube comments that have suggested that the video is fake. But mostly, residents like Elizabeth Johnson are confused as to how Aus even manages to upload these videos given the town’s notoriously slow internet speeds. "It must have taken her all day to get that uploaded to YouTube with a few meltdowns, and a couple of curse words, and a couple of calls to her cable company or whatever. ‘What’s going on?’"

Aus’s solution? Stand up, walk away from the computer, and admire the wildlife.