By Todd Ruiz and Chayanit Itthipongmaetee
BANGKOK — A cat who rose from humble origins to become one of Thailand’s first internet-famous animals died Thursday.
Maew Asoke, aka Asoke Cat, died last night of chronic kidney disease, according to the Facebook page which harnessed the fame he accrued in the streets of Bangkok into a small media empire. He was about 8; maybe 10.
Asoke was said to have been ill since his partner Mali died last year.
Today Thai social media is filled with celebrity animals and pets, from far-less popular dogs to smiling buffalos, but Asoke Cat’s celebrity was organic rather than a product manufactured for online engagement.
Before he was raised up to Instagram celebrityhood, Asoke Cat had been a fixture of the intersection he became named for, snoozing on a tourist information counter, slinking through the crowd and accepting pets from any extended friendly hand.
Soon after he hit the media as one of Thailand’s first social media celebrity animals, he was controversially taken from his corner in 2013 by Nutch Prasopsin.
An owner of other cats that she promoted online, Nutch began trotting Asoke Cat around to events and shows. Critics said she was exploiting the cat’s fame; Nutch said she had rescued him from danger – Asoke Cat was something of a fighter – and used his fame for the benefit of animals.
Her page, Kingdom of Tigers, has become possibly Thailand’s largest cat Facebook page with over 3 million likes and followers.
Though he was not known to have fathered any kittens during his second chapter as a house cat, he may very well leave behind any number of litters from his bachelor days.
His funeral was held last night. His ashes will be taken north and spread in Nan province.