BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Remi, an Australian cattle dog mix, is the first to greet guests at Julia Davis’ home in the Birmingham suburbs.
A small spot –one Davis calls a “beauty mark”– can be seen on the side of her face from when she was shot in Northport back in 2020, not long before Davis adopted her. Smiling ear to ear, Remi extends her paw to be shook.
“This is the best day of her life,” Davis joked. “If she can sit and have one on one attention with anyone, she’s happy.”
Remi and Davis’ cats–Finn, Coop, Roof and CJ– are featured characters in the world of Davis’ TikTok account, which regularly show different sides to Davis’ life, from taking Remi for a walk to talking about recently fostering a few kittens. On this particular day, Davis’ cats are feeling a little shy and not coming out. Not so for Remi, who will eventually lie down to be rubbed on the belly.
“She was made for the attention lifestyle,” Davis said.
Over the last year, Davis’ TikTok account has jumped to over 750,000 followers from around the world. While the videos rarely venture outside of Davis’ home, the 24-year-old is now embarking on a new project: to make the account both her job and a way to give back to others.
The Coop Kitty
It all started with a chicken coop in Davis’ backyard, where she had found a malnourished white cat. Davis, who had already been posting on TikTok for a side business she was involved with at the University of Alabama, began filming the cat, which she named Cooper, or “Coop” for short. Before long, she found another cat in the coop, which she named Rufus, or “Roof.”
The two cats would eventually be dubbed the “Coop Kitties” on Davis’ page.
It wouldn’t be long before thousands of people began flocking to Davis’ TikTok account, following her journey taking care of her new cats. However, after taking Coop to the vet, Davis was informed that it would cost approximately $1,000 to fix her cat. Davis, who had just started a new job as a communications specialist at UAB, did not have the money for Coop’s vet bills, so she took to her community on TikTok, letting people know how they could donate to help Coop get better.
And the community came through, raising enough money for Coop’s medical bills and then some. As of Friday, the GoFundMe for Coop had raised over $33,000.
“From the beginning, it felt like it was something special because people were so kind,” Davis said.
Over the last year, Davis has used her followers’ generosity for other projects she had wanted to do, such as raising donations for the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter to sponsoring a local family for Christmas.
“The community we have on TikTok want to feel like they have a part in doing something good, so this speaks to them,” she said.
A new chapter
Even as her TikTok account began receiving hundreds of thousands of followers in a short time, Davis never considered pursuing it full-time, doing it on the side as she held down a steady job.
“Up until now, everything has just been about telling a story and getting these cats healthy,” she said. “My little kittens were feral and I wasn’t focused on making money for myself.”
That all changed last November when she was told that she would be out of a job the following month: her position at UAB had been cut. With a little money saved, Davis knew that she would have somewhat of a cushion while facing unemployment. But then, she made a decision: she was going to make her TikTok and “Coop Kitty” community her job.
“I thought to myself ‘We really have something incredible here and really special and wouldn’t it be great to continue doing this,'” she said. “I decided that these people have had my back the last eight months, so I’m going to see if we can keep doing something good.”
Over the last few months, Davis has made TikTok her life. She begins each day filming her pets and normally spends between three to six hours a day editing videos to be uploaded online.
“When I heard content creators say ‘I spend 10 hours a day doing this’ I thought ‘No way’ and then I started doing it and kind of stumbled into it and thought ‘Oh yeah, this takes a long time,’” she said. “That doesn’t even include answering emails, responding to comments, DMs. There’s a lot that goes into it and luckily, having my degree in public relations helps a lot.”
Davis has expanded beyond TikTok, establishing a website to promote merchandise, Cameo shout-outs and ways to promote other shelters, such as the CattyShack in Huntsville. Davis is also working on a children’s book about her internet-famous pets, which will be released later this year.
Paying it forward
For Davis, trying to make a living on TikTok is about more than trying to promote herself or her pets. One project she has undertaken through her online work is the Coop Kitty Community Kindness Fund, where people can donate to help pay for other people’s veterinarian bills. As of Friday, Davis has raised nearly $7,000 through the fund.
“It’s been really cool,” she said.
Davis said that eventually, she would like to use the success of her “Coop Kitty” brand to raise money for other causes she supports, something she would not have been able to focus on if she hadn’t lost her job.
“I would love to use whatever platform I have to help other people,” she said. “Just bringing positivity to a space that is not historically positive would be my goal.”
While this new chapter of her life still feels fresh to her, Davis said she is excited about what the future holds, not just for herself, but for the people she can help along the way.
“If you had told me a year ago that I would have my master’s degree but no job, I would’ve said you’re crazy, but here we are,” she said. “The sky is the limit. Whatever we can do to help other people, I’m going to try to do.”