The XX Factor

You Must Watch Kate McKinnon Gush Over Her 17-Pound Cat, Nino

Kate McKinnon (as Barbara DeDrew) and Charlize Theron (as Cat Moller) hawk cats for adoption on Saturday Night Live.

In the enduring global battle for the hypothetical affections of Kate McKinnon, every last one of us has lost to a handsome male named Nino. McKinnon describes Nino as “the funniest person you’ve never heard of.” According to the Saturday Night Live comedian and Ghostbusters star, Nino is also “17 pounds” and “my personal cat.”

This montage of McKinnon describing the admittedly adorable Nino, whom she alternately describes as “my son” and “my cat husband,” deserves a place of honor in Slate’s collection of clips that made us fall in love with her.

One clip shows McKinnon telling Nino’s exotic backstory on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, where she spews forth an enthusiastic stream of facts about the little guy. “He’s named after the pizzeria where he was discovered,” McKinnon says. “They wanted him gone from the pizzeria ’cause he kept eating all the crusts.” When she pronounces Nino in some approximation of an Italian accent, it’ll give you flashbacks to that one scene in Full House where Danny tries to pronounce perro with DJ’s Spanish teacher and they end up smooching. McKinnon can’t keep herself from squealing as she watches the Ellen montage of photos of the two of them, some of which appear to depict McKinnon imitating Nino with startling accuracy. Her acting skills know no bounds!

Any living being with whom McKinnon willfully cohabitates has won life’s jackpot, but Nino seems especially lucky. In the video, McKinnon comes across as a total doormat of a cat mom: She lets him hang out on her new dining room table since she cried (!) the one time she made him get off of it; she’s allowed him to make a bed on a brand-new decorative serving tray; and one photo shows Nino in what looks like a bananas cat-sized circus tent.

This all points to a merging of life and art in McKinnon’s recurring “Whiskers R We” sketch on SNL. There, McKinnon tenderly cuddles actual fuzzy kittens as a frumpy cat-obsessed employee at a cat adoption center alongside a rotating cast of handsy assistants played by Charlize Theron, Melissa McCarthy, Reese Witherspoon, and Amy Adams. McKinnon’s character, Barbara DeDrew, loves cat puns (she calls the adoptable kittens “cat-chelors”) and says she has an “unhealthy codependent relationship” with one of the cats up for adoption. Nino? Is that you?

McKinnon herself wore cat socks to a recent New York Times interview and has made multiple visits to different cat shelters over the years, according to an apology she issued after a cat shelter mad about the “Whiskers R We” sketch claimed McKinnon didn’t actually care about cats. In the video that sent me down this rabbit hole of cat facts, she says her best friends would describe her as “covered in cat hair.” That’s enough to make a girl sign up for three years’ worth of allergy shots.