Talk about seeing double: A 2-year-old, gray house cat with an extra pair of ears and named after Star Wars‘s Jedi master Yoda has taken the Internet by storm – thanks to online photos showing off his four ears.
Yoda’s owner, Valerie Rock, tells PEOPLE that it was her son, a part-time photographer, who helped launch her beloved pet into the celebrity galaxy.
“The way he tells it, the picture just kept getting more and more hits on this Web site,” says Rock, 65. “Over time, it kept getting higher and higher until finally a news agency in the U.K. called him and asked to use the photo and story. Then it just blew up.”
That’s when the cat got out of the bag. “Three major newspapers in the U.K. ran [the story],” says Rock. “We thought it had finally died down, but then the same frenzy began in the U.S. Everybody from Good Morning America to Tyra Banks has called.”
Rock, who resides in Downer’s Grove, Ill., and her husband, Ted, discovered Yoda while they were watching a Bears game at a Chicago bar in 2006. They noticed the cat in a cage atop the bar and learned a woman was selling a litter of kittens. Yoda was the last to go.
As the cage was being passed around – while others in the bar made catty remarks about him – the couple noticed the cat’s extra adornments.
“We heard people calling it ‘Devil Cat’ and ‘Beelzebub,’ ” Rock says. Yoda’s crowning glory, Rock would learn, are “extra flaps that didn’t grow together” caused by a genetic defect.
“People were making comments like, ‘If I were you, I wouldn’t take this cat. It’s evil,’ ” says Rock, who had lost a Siamese cat of 20 years months before Yoda happily entered her life.
She was not deterred. “[Yoda] is a very affectionate and social cat,” says Rock. “He sleeps with my husband and me in the bed.”
As for the obvious question: “His hearing is normal,” she says. “And he really only has two ears, two holes. He’s as normal as can be.”