Erin Merryn and her family, which includes three adorable daughters, of Elgin, Illinois, have been abiding their state’s stay at home order during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, staying inside and finding their own ways to learn and have fun.
Luckily, Merryn’s family has a secret weapon in the fight against social-distancing-induced boredom: Carrot the Cat. Carrot is a year-old orange tabby, who might be the most patient and precious feline in existence.
Carrot happily allows her younger family members to dress her up, carry her around, push her in a stroller and so much more. Merryn adopted the kitten with her girls from Anderson Animal Shelter when Carrot was just 11 weeks old. From the beginning, Merryn knew her family had adopted a special feline.
“I knew I got a snuggly kitten that first night when she crawled up in my lap and fell asleep for hours,” Merryn told PEOPLE. “The very next day I realized we had a special kitten when she was riding around in a toddler car and in a doll stroller and she just sat there enjoying it.”
Baby Carrot was even content to let Merryn’s youngest daughter Claire, then 8 months old, squeeze her into the high chair with her.
“Carrot just purred away, where just about any other cat would have bolted immediately,” Merryn said.
Merryn, an activist against child sexual abuse and the founder of Erin’s Law, believes Carrot might have somehow learned a thing or two about patience and embracing the love of her three girls from the family’s late cat Bailey.
She adopted Bailey in 2004 when she was in college and found that the feline easily adapted to her changing life throughout the years.
“He went on to live the next 14 years as the sweetest, most affectionate cat who tolerated anything even baths. Five years ago, I had my first daughter and had no idea how he would react to a baby,” the mom of three recalled. “I had no idea the bond they would develop. Suddenly, I had a 2-year-old pushing Bailey around in strollers, feeding Bailey in a high chair, and taking the cat for rides around the neighborhood in her motorized car.”
Merryn posted photos and videos of the special bond Bailey formed with her daughters Abby and Hannah to the cat’s personal Instagram @Bailey_No_Ordinary_Cat. The account quickly amassed followers — it currently has over 211,000 — and caught the attention of animal lovers worldwide. The notoriety earned Bailey a book deal. In April 2019, Bailey No Ordinary Cat was released.
“Sadly, Bailey never lived to see that day. On Dec. 8, 2018, Bailey died of kidney failure. His memory lives on in his book,” Merryn said.
After Bailey’s passing, Merryn and her family were inundated with messages of sympathy from Baliey’s legion of international fans. They received drawings, stuffed animals, poems and more, all dedicated to the memory of the extraordinary cat.
Merryn feels fortunate she has managed to find another rescue cat with the same loving spirit. Like Bailey, Carrot has her own Instagram @The_Cat_Named_Carrot, where she has over 192,000 followers. Among these Carrot devotees is one rather famous friend: Ellen DeGeneres.
“I got a message in October from Ellen’s staff that Ellen is crazy about Carrot,” Merryn said. “She has even shown people videos and tells them to go look at her account and start from the beginning. She commented once saying ‘I check Carrot’s account several times a day.’ She has shared multiple videos and photos of Carrot on her Instagram account. She also sent Carrot a basket full of toys from her pet company. I have a feeling Carrot might be meeting Ellen one day.”
While Carrot has yet to meet DeGeneres in person, she has had a chance to chat with the superstar. The host recently called Carrot to wish the feline a happy early birthday. Carrot turned one on April 1.
“After wishing Carrot a happy birthday she went on to tell me what an amazing cat Carrot is. She cannot believe the things she does and how her cats would never do the things Carrot does. How cool is that!” Merryn wrote in an Instagram post about the call.
DeGeneres also posted about the call, sharing a video of Merryn’s two older daughters asking for their own birthday calls with the caption, “I called my favorite cat Carrot to be the first person to wish her a happy birthday. I may have gotten myself into something.”
Along with giving Merryn and her family the opportunity to make thousands smile, Carrot, and her growing social media presence, also offer Merryn a platform to share her important work to pass Erin’s Law in all 50 states.
“Erin‘s Law requires all schools to teach personal body safety education. Teaching kids the difference between safe and unsafe touches/safe and unsafe secrets,” Merryn says of the law she worked to create.
“We teach kids tornado, bus, fire drills, internet safety, lockdown drills, bully intervention but nothing on personal body safety. Parents fail to have this conversation most only talk about stranger danger 90% of the time kids are abused by someone they know and trust,” she added.
Currently, Erin’s Law is in place in 37 states, a feat that has been possible in part to Bailey and Carrot’s followers.
“One of the reasons I created Instagram accounts for the cats is to help reach an audience on Erin‘s Law that would never know about it. I tried for 7 years to pass Erin‘s Law in New York,” Merryn said. “This past summer thousands of Bailey/Carrot followers wrote New York lawmakers asking them to pass it.”
In August 2019, Erin’s Law was signed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and enacted.
“Carrot has helped me reach people on the other side of the world by sharing through her what Erin‘s Law is. People that would never know about it had it not been for the cat,” Merryn said, adding that through Carrot’s account she has also been able to raise funds for child abuse prevention non-profits.
It all ties into Baliey’s overall message of kindness, acceptance, and compassion — traits that this little cat exudes every day by loving her family no matter what adorably wild plans they have in store for her.
“My goal is to make people laugh and smile when they come to my account,” Merryn said of Carrot’s Instagram. “There is so much negativity in this world people see on the TV and social media I want to spread a little joy and happiness and I am doing it daily through a sweet silly kitten named Carrot.”