On Nov. 13, a photographer and “catfluencer” in Langenfeld, Germany, posted a craft project on TikTok. Using cardboard, Christmas tree ornaments, and glue, the user known as furryfritz made a festive wreath sized for a feline head. Then he staged a cat photo shoot, soundtracked it to “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” and earned himself a viral hit: 8.4 million plays and counting.
One of the millions of people who saw furryfritz’s TikTok was a D.C. resident named Gretchen Gramer, who decided to make her own version of the cat wreath. She used bows, not ornaments; she took some cute photos of her pet, Rosie, though hardly professional cat-photographer stuff. Not wanting to waste the materials, she later posted the wreath on her neighborhood “Buy Nothing” group on Facebook:
It’s rare that you encounter something so glorious on Buy Nothing, a global, volunteer-run network of Facebook groups where neighbors give away stuff they don’t want. (Why does such an anti-consumerist project reside on Facebook? It’s a long story.) Most of the time you see offers of cardboard boxes or old couches and requests for TVs or baby gates. If someone can pick up or provide the item in question, they leave a comment, and the users meet up in person. The object’s journey tends to end there.
Obviously, there were takers for the cat wreath. Four minutes after Gramer’s post went up, one person on the Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant/Park View Buy Nothing group commented, “Interested !!!”; an hour later, another wrote, “Omg I’m interested in trying this with my cats!” The wreath made its way to a new owner, and then another. Inexplicably, the third person to possess the wreath held on to it for about 10 days. (She didn’t respond to our Facebook message, for some reason!) But when she finally posted it this past weekend, demand had built up: The wreath has now been exchanged at least a dozen times. When users are done with it, they repost it to the group so that another festive pet-owner can claim it, conduct a photo-shoot, and post it once again. A viral TikTok has led to a hyperlocal yuletide critter meme.
What does a TikTok-inspired pet prop circulating around a couple of Washington, D.C., neighborhoods look like?
On Monday, after Elise Anderson got her hands on the wreath, she posted photos of her cats Arslan and Melike (she said the names mean “Lion” and “Princess” in Uyghur).
By Wednesday, the cat wreath had reached Amanda Gittleson, who posted her own shoot—she has guinea pigs named Chips and Salsa.
That same day the wreath was in the possession of Sarah K., who took photos with her pets Felix and Sergei even though the wreath “seems to induce rage in cats.” (“The wreath may, in fact, be cursed/magic,” she added.) Sarah relisted it because “there was already a line.”
By Thursday, Katy Marie Swiere—who had tried several times to claim the wreath on earlier posts, to no avail—finally got her hands on the wreath for a photo shoot with her leopard gecko, Chicken. Swiere has since handed it off to another Buy Nothing user, with little evidence of the chain losing momentum. At one point, someone posed their hedgehog inside the wreath. The latest post, as of this writing, stars a chinchilla.
By the middle of the week, a member of the Buy Nothing group named Chelsey Christensen sensed that something historic was happening, and compiled a post documenting all of the wreath photos, as well as a Twitter thread. “There were multiple, somewhat joking comments about creating a wreath calendar,” she told us. It turns out that a group built for people who can’t bear to throw things out is the perfect vector for some communitarian cheer.
Since the most wholesome thing to happen to us on the internet this week has now happened to you, it’s worth mentioning that this IRL meme-making has had some pandemic-specific resonance. “I’m spending Christmas completely alone for the first time ever and struggling a bit with feeling isolated and disappointed, so finding little moments of shared joy like this one has been centering for me,” Anderson told us. “And who doesn’t enjoy adorable photos of fluffy animals?”
“It’s the best,” said Gramer, the creator of the cat wreath. “A light during this dark time.”