One Facebook friend dubbed the feline "the George Clooney" of cats.
Turns out, Norm Lopez has his own international following. Since The Sacramento Bee's report last week of the plus-size cat's quick release from the city animal shelter because of his Facebook friends' intervention, his fame has spread around the globe.
His number of Facebook friends has increased sevenfold - growing from nearly 500 to 3,800, and at least five continents are represented.
According to his new Facebook friends, places as far-flung as Brazil, Malaysia, Germany, India and New Zealand have all carried his story. They have posted accounts in various languages and Norm's photos.
Now Norm's social-media presence has spread to a Twitter account, @norm_lopez. Friday's first tweet: "Why am I on a site with a bird host?"
Paparazzi have descended upon his 14th Street stomping grounds. They come both in the form of everyday citizens, who hope to snap a picture of themselves on the ground with the feline celebrity - who likes to recline and not move - and local TV.
Norm also made Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman's Sunday take on possible designs for a new arena, putting him with the likes of Gov. Jerry Brown and Mayor Kevin Johnson.
Norm's owner, Tyler Lopez, said she has gotten a kick out of her pet's newfound fame, and she loved Sunday's political cartoon.
"It's been a common saying around here, even before he got popular, 'Norm for Mayor,' " Lopez said. "So I think it's hilarious that he's right there next to Kevin Johnson."
Lopez adopted the cat in January 2011 as a rescue, and ever since admirers often have stopped by her house during lunch breaks or after work to pet and say hello to Norm.
She has organized community "Friends of Norm" barbecues, and she created a Facebook page so his fans could keep in touch.
Norm caught the public's attention when he was dropped off at Sacramento's Front Street animal shelter Aug. 9 after a well-meaning passer-by mistook the heavyset feline for a pregnant cat in distress.
The shelter manager recognized Norm from his Facebook page and posted the picture. Within hours, a neighbor returned Norm to his porch.
When The Bee posted a video and Norm's story on Wednesday, Lopez discovered local TV reporters outside her home that morning. "That was a big surprise," Lopez said. "It was probably when I saw 'Good Day Sacramento' and Channel 13 in front of my house that I thought, 'Wow, this has really gone big.' "
The most overwhelming part of the experience, Lopez said, has been trying to respond to the thousands of Facebook friend requests. If Norm's profile reaches 5,000 friends, the profile automatically will turn into a fan page.
Lopez has been organizing a Norm-themed pub crawl, with proceeds from raffle tickets and a portion of T-shirt sales to benefit the Front Street Animal Shelter. The cat's sudden burst in popularity, however, has made planning the event slightly more difficult, Lopez said.
"One bar actually said they don't want anything to do with it anymore because they think the crowd is too big," Lopez said.
Right now, the pub crawl is slated to occur on Aug. 31, beginning at 2 p.m. at Shady Lady Bar. Lopez said she plans to solidify the rest of the route this week.
Some online commenters have criticized Norm's popularity, suggesting his story promotes pet obesity. But Lopez said Norm is on weight-control food, and has lost 4 pounds, from 30 to 26, in the two years that she's owned the cat.
"We do what we can," Lopez said. "We are moving in the right direction, but I think his popularity is not because of his size, but because he's a really lovable and relaxed cat."
Call The Bee's Kurt Chirbas, (916) 321-1030.