When living creatures are the season's hottest new accessory, until they're not.
Illustration by Joan LeMay
Celebrities switch boyfriends, bags, and outfits at the drop of a hat, but ever since celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears started bringing trembling Chihuahuas on to red carpets, stars have been using living mammals like disposable accessories.
"People, whether they are celebrities or not, should only adopt an animal if they can provide a permanent, loving home where the animal will be part of the family for the rest of her or his life," says Renee Saldana, the Entertainment Relations Coordinator of the Humane Society of the United States.
The designer nature of celebrity pets can often create bad matches between stars and the pets they've purchased. When breeders sell to celebrities, they sometimes prioritize a sale over a great match. "We understand that pet-related problems can be frustrating, and some may feel that giving up their pet is the only solution," Saldana says. "But before pet owners take that step, we urge them to check out the resources available to help resolve problems that may seem overwhelming."
Here are a few of the celebrities who have returned the animals they once proudly toted about town.
The Kardashians are the most famous serial pet consumers. Radar counted no less than nine pets that have passed through the Kardashian home only to be given away, including Bengal kittens, a peacock, and multiple dogs named after designer handbags. The most famous abandoned Kardashian pet is Mercy the Kitten. Kanye West gifted the white cat to Kim during courtship. "With me being in Miami, Kanye knew I would need some company when he wasn't around so he surprised me with her," Kim wrote, despite the fact that her sister Khloe also lived with her.
Kim famously knew little about caring for a kitten. She lost Mercy after getting drunk and carried the cat over water. Eventually, Kim discovered she suffered from a cat allergy—a recurring theme with celebrity pets—and gave the kitten away to a friend. A month later, Mercy tragically died from a "cancer-like" virus. Kim blamed her death on the breeder. "My heart is completely broken," she wrote on her blog. When reached by Broadly for comment about Mercy's tragic demise, Kardashian's publicist answered via Blackberry: "She gave her comment in 2012."
The family record seems to be improving, with Kylie Jenner keeping up with her dogs, Norman (a.k.a. Normie), Bambi, and Odie, despite concern from trolls that the teen underfeeds her pets. "Right now I'm in the middle of trying out a bunch of different organic dry foods and a wet food, too," she said last December.
Justin Bieber made international headlines when German customs seized his baby capuchin monkey, OG Mally, Bieber had brought the animal into the country on his private plane, without official permission to take the monkey across the border. Authorities put the pet in quarantine but Bieber never returned to collect it, stiffing Germany for the $8,000 he owed for its care. The German zookeepers who adopted the monkey have clowned on Bieber ever since. "I believe that Justin Bieber probably only ever interacted with [the monkey] when he wanted to have his picture taken with a fan," said one zookeeper. "I would not like to meet Justin Bieber because I would not have pleasant things to say to him."
Despite the pet drama, Bieber still speaks wistfully of his forgotten monkey. He told GQ that he hopes to someday adopt another monkey. "Just gotta make sure I got a house and it stays in the fucking house," he said. "I'm not gonna bring him to Germany or travel with it anymore. People are always like, 'Why did you get a monkey?' If you could get a monkey, well, you would get a fucking monkey, too! Monkeys are awesome."
Although thoughts of Demi Lovato and "abandonment" may trigger meme flashbacks of Poot Lovato, Twitter's queen of unnecessary clapback recently gave away her new kitten after one day of ownership. Lovato, who is allergic to cats, adopted Hairy-ette, a hairless Sphynx kitten, under the false belief that the animal would not trigger her allergies. If Lovato had done a cursory Google search, she might have realized that hairless cats are not hypoallergenic. Lovato posted an escalating series of Snapchats bragging about the new kitten, before posting a picture of herself with puffy, swollen eyes captioned, "So allergic it's not even funny but I'm keeping her cuz zero fucks." The next day, Lovato confirmed that she gave the cat away .
Experts believe breeders should receive part of the blame. The Humane Society's Kenny Lamberti thinks the person who sold Lovato the cat should have told her about the allergy thing. "It is incumbent on animal professionals and advocates to share as much information as possible with potential adopters in order to ensure the highest likelihood of success," he says.
Once upon a time in the early aughts, people knew P!nk for being shocking. In an effort to promote her brand, the singer adopted a dog and named it "Fucker." He accompanied her to award shows. P!nk even used the dog to scandalize a young Beyonce. The future pop queen was interviewing P!nk on the red carpet at the MTV Movie Awards (at the time, P!nk was a bigger name than Beyonce), and P!nk showed her Fucker. "Beyonce's a church girl," P!nk later told Playboy. "She wasn't ready for that. She was like, 'He's so precious! What's his name?' I'm like, 'Fucker.' She's like, 'Back to you, Kurt [Loder].'"
The dog's name offered great soundbites but created real-world complications for P!nk. She made headlines when she lost the dog in a restaurant and had to call out, "Fucker!' in front of shocked patrons. P!nk eventually tired of the gimmick and gave the dog away to her dad. She told a reporter, "My dad adopted him and changed his name to Fred. He is a much happier dog now. He still responds to both names, but he's happier."
Fans know Miley Cyrus as a mostly responsible dog lover, with at least four dogs to her name. When coyotes killed her puppy, Floyd, the singer went into an elaborate phase of mourning. Cyrus created an enormous shrine to the dog, sang with a giant inflatable Floyd on stage, got a tattoo of the puppy, threw a one-year memorial for the dog, and even titled an album "Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz." Possibly sensing this emotional overkill, Cyrus's mother Tish gifted the singer with a fresh puppy named Moonie. Moonie lasted ten days in Cyrus's menagerie of animals before being given to a friend. Cyrus tweeted, "Moonie, thank you for giving me so much love, comfort, & peace. It's just to soon for me right now #missingmoonie."
What's the easiest way that stars (or anyone) can avoid some of the pitfalls of animal ownership? Adopting from shelters and rescue centers.
"Most shelters and rescue groups conduct thorough behavioral analysis of each pet to ensure that they will be the right fit for your family," says the Humane Society's Saldana. "We also want to remind people, that adopting a pet is a lifetime commitment, and shelters and rescue groups can provide advice on making your relationship with your pet the best it can be for the rest of his or her life."