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He calls himself Big Cat Derek, and he makes some of the Internet's most addictive Vines.

Meet the man who made a cougar Internet-famous. Like, an actual cougar.

In 2014, a cougar named Cassie started an Internet trend when, despite being told not to, she just couldn't keep from squeaking.

Cassie gives zero flips and doesn't even try. All images and Vines via Big Cat Derek.

Big cat and not-so-big cat lovers everywhere followed suit, making Vines to show off their cats' cheeky lack of cooperation and using the hashtag #trynottosqueak.


Big Cat Derek is the man responsible for Cassie's fame. He lives at a cat sanctuary and keeps a three-legged llama in his backyard.

Nearly a million people follow his hilarious Vines of animals who live at the Center for Animal Research and Education. Derek Krahn — known among social media as Big Cat Derek — has loved tigers since he was little, so when the opportunity arose to volunteer at CARE, he was floored.

“I fortuitously stumbled upon an opportunity to become a volunteer at the facility, and they couldn't get rid of me after that point," he said.

An aviation meteorologist by day and a badass volunteer big cat advocate and caregiver by night, Derek has been with the foundation since 2006 and is now on their board of directors. He even met his wife — human, not cat — there.

Baby lions really love Derek. And not in the "love him for dinner" kind of way.

Upworthy asked Big Cat Derek to share some of his stories about the totally #dorbs cats he interacts with every day.

You've started a lot of trends on social media. Which of your videos went viral first?

Derek: It was our tiger, Levi, and he was just walking around in the snow, and the snow was muffling his steps, and how he was moving and how he approached the camera was a beautiful shot. I remember thinking to myself when I first shot that video that it was a special one.

This is one freaking majestic animal.

And then you had your biggest trend, "Try not to squeak."

Derek: Cassie was quickly becoming one of my biggest Vine stars — I call them the “celebrikitties." Almost every single squeak ... in a Vine is taken within the first 40 seconds of me approaching her enclosure because that's when she's excited. So I walked up to the enclosure and said, "Try not to squeak," and of course she did. And it was a hit!

It's adorable every. single. time. #cassie #trynottosqueak

I try to capture the different personalities of the cats because I've been working with the cats for almost a decade. Pawi (Kannapalli) has this kind of Lenny from "Of Mice and Men" air about him, and he's a little bit derpy and a little bit feisty.

Derp.

Each cat is very different. When I do Vines of them or I do posts of them, it's not just like, "Hey look at this beautiful tiger," but rather, “Hey, look at Chompers, and here are moments of Chomper's personality," and people relate.

Luca's always been a bit of a shithead! The jokes kind of capture him perfectly.

Ba-dum-tssss. #LucaJokes

It's a cool thing — you aren't just seeing this generic animal; you're seeing this creature with its own personality.

So ... big cats in the middle of Texas? This isn't a natural habitat for lions and tigers. How does this happen?

Derek: Many of the other cats have been rescued from … less than savory circumstances. A lot of them come from people who had them as pets that obviously shouldn't have them as pets. People have these romantic notions about a lion or a tiger living in their house, and they don't really think it all the way through; they don't know exactly what they're getting into. Our organization is set up to provide a stable, permanent, and loving home for these animals.

Happy big cats, livin' in Texas, roamin' around.

Can you tell me a story about how one particular cat wound up at CARE?

Derek: I can tell you about Tabula, she's one of our lionesses. She actually came in 2008.

There was a private collector up in Midland who had about a dozen or so lions and tigers living in these really ramshackle cages out in his backyard, and they were these really small, tight spaces. She was declawed when she first came over to CARE, and she was accustomed to living in a cage of about 10 by 10 feet, and she'd been living in that cage for close to a decade. ...

When she first got to CARE, the enclosure was spacious and big and there was grass and there were blue skies and it was overwhelming, and she lost her cookies. She hid underneath a wooden housing unit for about three weeks.

Eventually, she started to come out of her shell, lose weight, and approach the fence to actually show affection. She's a lot better off than she was, that's for sure.

Derek + Tabula = <3

People who get these animals as pets and then they declaw them, that's pretty brutal. That comes from the idea that it makes these cats safer, and in a lot of ways, it actually makes them more dangerous. Anyone who works with big cats should know the phrase “claws hurt, teeth kill," and if you take away the “hurt" set of weapons, the only thing that's left is the “kill" set of weapons.

And then the added detriment to the well-being of the animals themselves — you're talking wild animals that weigh 400, 500, 600 pounds that now have to hold themselves on portions of their paws that aren't normally being utilized for sustaining lots of weight like that. … I've seen a lot of cats that have experienced difficulties as they've gotten older; they've become a lot more arthritic too, even, with some of the cats literally having years shaved off of their lives because of the way that they're holding their bodies. We've never declawed any of our cats. The only cats that are declawed are the ones that come to the facility already declawed.

Any final thoughts?

Derek: I'm going to keep on doing this as long as my body will let me! You look at a lot of these Vines on social media. There are a lot of people on social media who have a tailored approach. Yes, my content revolves around big cats because, you know, I'm called Big Cat Derek, but sometimes it's going to be funny, sometimes it's going to be educational, sometimes it's going to be condemning things that I find to be bad, sometimes it's going to be me putting my heart and my feeling and my emotions out there.

NOTE: While these cuddly lion cubs and baby tigers are adorable, remember that a 500-pound wild beast with dangerous #peets and giant teeth does not make a good pet. Instead of taking in a stray leopard, why not try virtually adopting one of CARE's cats?

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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