Hi, my name is Harris Baker and I created @Catfluence in September 10, 2017. Long story short, I was both exposed to and inspired by the work I had been doing at the time with professional athletes, famous influencers, and brands. But my connection to the cat side of things goes wayyyyy back, so let’s begin there….

When I was a baby, my parents had a black cat named Ativan. Does that name sound familiar? If so, it’s a well-known anti-anxiety drug launched by the pharmaceutical company Wyeth (Pfizer), where my dad worked for 30 years. After a successful launch, he named his cat Ativan.

I don’t remember much about Ativan. My parents and I actually debated recently whether or not I was alive for him (I said yes, they said no), so I reached out to my old nanny, who confirmed with photographic evidence that I was in fact around for Ativan. I have one vivid memory of him, and that is him hissing at me, and me throwing a roll of Scotch tape at him. That’s it.

Following Ativan, over the years I had fish, crabs, a hamster, lizards, and maybe some other smaller pets, but no cats or dogs. Now, I’ll fast forward about 20ish years to October of 2013, shortly after I had graduated from college from Indiana University and moved back home to Jersey.

A friend of my ex-girlfriends friend said they found a kitty, but were unable to keep him. We had been talking about getting a cat, so even thought I wouldn’t consider myself a “cat person” (yet), when they asked if we wanted him, we went for it. At the time I was a pretty big pothead, so we named him Doober.

Doober was a great fuckin cat. I didn’t think it would be possible, but he became my best friend. He had a lot of spunk, and just loved life. In November of that year, I was taking graduate classes at Seton Hall University and had an internship with the athletic department. They were playing in a four-team tournament at the new Barclay’s Center, so I attended with a few of my friends.

It was an incredible evening. I even got to meet NBA Hall of Famer, Chris Mullin, and legendary reporter, Craig Sager (RIP). Shortly after that high, I received a call from my ex saying that Doober was dead. I had to stay at this meaningless basketball game in Brooklyn with my friends and wait to be picked by someone’s parents. I was devastated.

When I asked what happened, I was told that he got out of her room and must have gotten into it with the bulldog and pit bull also living in her grandmother’s house. To give some context – we stayed both at her grandmother’s house and my parents, Doober happened to be there that night.

There was another cat living in the home – her grandmother’s – who would always push open the bedroom door and Doober, who was confined to the bedroom, would get out, so we put a small hook lock on the door to prevent it from happening. For whatever reason, that night the lock was not set, and the rest was history.

I was heartbroken, and I blamed myself. To be honest I still am, and I still do to this day. I shouldn’t have let him stay there at all in an environment with big dogs where he needed to be locked up.

I got back late that night and saw his lifeless body. I broke down. I cried myself to sleep that night. That was the only time in my life that I had experienced such a tragic loss involving death other than two of my grandparents to that point.

The next morning, shortly after waking up, there was a knock on the door. In comes my exes grandmother, father and sister with a crate which turned out to have two cats inside. I was mortified. I hadn’t even begun to grieve what happened the one cat that I loved so much, and a few hours later I have two new ones.

They came right up to me and tried to be friendly, but I wasn’t having it. Their original names were Stanley and Blanche, but the family decided on Elliot and Olivia, after Elliot Stabler and Olivia Benson from Law and Order SVU. They were brother and sister, and it took my some time to open up to them.

It wasn’t too long before tragedy struck again. In March of 2014, while driving to the exes from work at 10 pm at night, I hit into and 18-wheel truck from behind, smashed into a median, and totaled my car.

I broke my nose and thumb, and had a few hundred stitches in my head, face and left hand. I have no memory of the ordeal, I just remember leaving work and waking up in the hospital the next day pulling wires and tubes out of me.

They said I was lucky to be alive. Over the next three weeks while recovering and stuck at home alone (while heavily medicated), I finally began to bond with Elliot and Olivia. They really kept me going through the entire ordeal.

In May of 2014, I decided to create an Instagram for them after working in digital marketing for a few months, being exposed to influencers, and seeing all the notoriety cats like Grumpy Cat were getting. It was kind of just for shits and giggles at first, but over time I started to get the attention of brands and was sent free products to create content.

Fast forward to 2017, I continued to learn more about business and marketing and wanted to create something of my own. I don’t know if I had an “Ah-Ha!” moment, but Catfluence was born on IG. My first logo was just the cat emoji with red hearts as eyes, and I would just repost cat stuff that I thought was cool.

After about a year of that, I wanted to take it to the next level with a logo, so I reached out to one of my agency colleagues for help. I wanted a cat with a hat, headphones, sunglasses and bling. He designed a few options, and my current logo with the grey cat stood out.

Why? Well, to me, it immediately reminded me of Doober, and I didn’t even tell him that story beforehand. If Doober were still alive, I know he’d be that dope cat with the bling and the whole nine. It was perfect, and from there, I just ran with it.

Today, Catfluence has evolved into so much more, from all the social channels, to this site, podcasts, and merch, to the supportive cat community, and everyone who contributed to help me do it. It may just be another silly cat account to someone on the outside looking in, but as you can see by this writeup, to me, it means so much more. But I’m not done… this is only the beginning.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. For me, it was actually therapeutic to write it all out. Before writing this, only a handful of people knew the full story behind me, cats and Catfluence. If you’d like to connect, hit me up.

P.S. – Although I’m not smiling in any of these photos, I’m generally a very positive person 😸