Meet “Nathan the Cat Lady” — Model, Actor, Cat Dad Extraordinaire
For Nathan Kehn, building cat forts, scooping litter boxes, and traveling the country to rescue stray kitties is all in a day’s work.
Sign up for The Wildest newsletter for updates
Nathan Kehn is a model and actor, but is probably best known by his social media handle “Nathan the Cat Lady.” He has a loyal following (hundreds of thousands strong) on Instagram and TikTok for his goofy humor, quartet of cats, and the occasional thirst trap. We caught up with him to chat about acting, pretending to fly, and bribing his co-stars when they don’t want to play dress up.
I’m just going to start with a really important question, which is, which of your cats is the biggest jerk?
[Laughs] Oh, the biggest jerk would definitely be Pickles. He’s the only male and he is the boss. He’s the one who wakes me up every single morning. If I refuse to wake up, he smacks me in the face repeatedly. Gently, but repeatedly.
Definitely sounds insistent about making things known.
Oh yeah, definitely makes it known. He’ll sit and meow just out of range so that I can’t do anything about it. Or, if I still refuse to get up, his favorite trick is to go and pick on Princess — who’s the smallest — because he knows that she’ll squeal. And as soon as she squeals, he pokes his head back in the room to see if I’m coming to break up a fight. He’s too smart for his own good. Definitely the biggest jerk.
He knows how to get a reaction!
He knows he’s going to get in trouble, but he knows it’s the only way to get me up. So he’s kind of like, Well, I’ll take one for the team.
So, Pickles is the biggest jerk and Princess is the smallest. How would you describe the personalities of your other cats?
Ginger, a female tabby, is the mom of the house. Whenever something is wrong with one of the cats, she checks on them and makes sure they’re okay. She’s super snugly and a lap kitty — she’ll come and lay on my lap whenever I sit down. That’s actually how we got Annie. I brought her home to foster and Ginger went over and immediately started grooming and taking care of her. So I was like, I guess we’re keeping her — Ginger says she stays!
Princess is technically your roommate’s cat. Is your roommate cool with you roping their cat into being Insta-famous?
It kinda worked out! I knew Princess because my roommate and his ex got her when we were all friends back in the day. So I was there when Princess was adopted. When he moved in with me, she just became one of the pack. I take care of them, I feed them morning and night, I clean the litter box... So he gets to live with her but hasn’t had to do any work!
Any of the gnarly stuff that comes with cat ownership.
So you’re obviously incredibly popular on Instagram. How have the last 18 months changed the way that you approach creating content?
You know, it’s actually been kind of a blessing. It gave me more time to stay at home and work on content. It also [inspired] my Wine Wednesdays. It started just as, “Hey, we’re all on lockdown. How about we do a live stream — I’ll drink a bottle of wine and ride around on my hoverboard in a bathrobe like a crazy cat lady?” And people loved it. So we started doing a Zoom after party, where people all over the world buy tickets and meet up. So, it’s changed, but a lot of my stuff is in-house anyway.
I think the biggest challenge in the last couple of years has been that everyone’s hurting in their own way, so you really have to tiptoe around any content that you make not to upset anyone. Everyone’s kind of at the end of their rope. But other than that, it hasn’t been too bad. This past year is actually the most I’ve traveled. I started with one of my sponsors — we’ve been going around to different states doing TNR (trap, neuter, release), rescuing cats, and donating food to people who keep cat colonies. We’ve done six or seven states so far. It’s been really great.
Cats are notoriously fickle. Do you ever have trouble getting them to cooperate in something you’re creating?
Oh yeah! There’s plenty of times where they’re just like, Dude, we know what you’re trying to do, but it’s not going to happen. And I don’t want to force them — they have a right to do what they want to do. Sometimes I can just swap one out for a different cat. Princess is not feeling it today? Alright, Pickles, you’re tapping in. Food is a great motivator and luckily my cats are all very food driven — they go nuts for either the Churu meat tubes or Temptations treats. Pickles will never wear a costume, but if I feed him treats every few seconds, he doesn’t care what I put on him: he’ll wear sunglasses, he’ll wear a full outfit, he just does not care.
You’ve been in the game for a couple of years now. Have you ever been surprised by a post going viral?
I’m always surprised by the posts that go viral. It seems to be the ones that I put the least effort into! For instance, this week I did one that took a lot of editing, sound effects, splices, and blah, blah, blah. I was super proud of it. And it got like 10,000 views on TikTok. I was like, “All right.” Then I posted about building Annie a little fort on the couch — she walked in, I closed the fort, and put a blanket over it. It’s only been four days and it’s at 1.4 million views. I don’t understand it! I’m not going to complain. It’s just crazy. Some are going to take off, and some are going to sit there and be sad. You never really know.
You’ve mentioned that having a large social media following has been useful in scoring work as an actor. Will you ever flip the switch and make “Nathan the Cat Lady” your main gig?
Last year I booked the lead roles in three movies, due in large part to my following. I love being on set. I don’t have a budget or a team — everything I do, I do myself. I write my own stuff, set up my phone and tripod, edit content. So it’s nice being in a big production where they’ve got professionals to do all that stuff. But I already flipped the switch when it comes to commercial work. I get auditions for commercials that pay less than an ad I shoot in my living room. I still love to do theatrical stuff. I want to be a superhero in a movie someday — there’s only so much flying around my living room I can do, you know?
What are you working on now that you’d like to plug?
Tim Barribeau is a freelance writer, editor, cat dad, and “help your boyfriend buy a suit that actually fits for once” consultant. He was previously the Style and Pets editor at Wirecutter, and has bylines at a bunch of publications that don't exist anymore (and a couple that still do).