Archer knows I'm looking at other cats. He just knows.
I'm on Facebook, with testimonies for the fat cats on the internet. It is acalled "THIS CAT IS LOVING YOU", where proud members send pictures and videos of their beloved fuzzballs and comments pour in hundreds. Together with over 270,000 others, I worship at Chonky's house. We're lurking here. We comment. We find deep comfort.
Facebook has been hit for privacy and scandals, and as social media in general, it has been proclaimed to provide loneliness and depression. Also, social media-knowledgeable political rock star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ended Facebook. I have been tempted to follow suit, but I partially stop for Chonky. And I'm not alone.
Yes, Chonky is too oohing and ahhing over cats with stomach flaps and kittens with poofy cheeks. But for many it is also a light in the dark.
A Chonky mod asked members to share what the group means to them – and received over 1000 responses. "It's a sunbeam in a gray negativity," replied a member. Another said, "It has been many days where I isolate myself and cry nonstop but this group can stop it in an instant."
Members who go through breaks set up the call for soothing cat photos to lift their spirit. People who just lost their beloved pine companions turn to Chonky for support and a virtual axis to cry on.
Chonky founder Tori Diaz receives messages from group members who want her to know how Chonky has encouraged them during their most stressful moments. "What made me the most difficult," says Diaz, "the people responded, saying that the group has helped them through suicidal thoughts, depression and serious medical problems. "
I visited Chonky one day when a young woman expressed thoughts of self-harm. The group arrived to tell her that her life is important. They shared their own stories of depression and how their cats gave them something to hold on to. The original poster later updated the message to say that she had reached out to a therapist for help.
Chonk Club's first rule
Chonky is not the wild west. You can share photos of your cats and comment on photos, but you can't wobble insults. The group has strict rules of conduct. Rule No. 1: No Chonk Shaming. This is "the ultimate sin". Don't be ashamed of the owners either. It does not include calling them bad pet parents because their cats are overweight.
"Don't be discouraging, stupid, or urge arguments," read the rules. No policy or medical advice.
In an internet world full of snoring and trolling, Chonky is meant to be sacred ground. Jerks will be banned.
Diaz, who lives with a ginger tabby named Flynn (formed at the top of this article) created the Chonky group one night in May 2018. "A major problem I noticed in animal groups was the owner and pet shaming, especially if the animal was overweight, Diaz tells me. "It made me sad to see them tear down to send a picture of a beloved pet they were happy to share."
You don't have to look far to see what Diaz is talking about. Reddit's popular Aww group is sometimes obsessed with this issue. A post showing a short video of a fat and fluffy cat received replies calling the owners out for "at least negligence, if not straight addiction". It is difficult to know the stories behind the overweight domestic animals we see on social media. Are they on diets? Do they have medical conditions? Do they save recently?
Diaz created Chonky to be "a safe group to send hilly cats, or some cats, without meanness". The term "chonky" came to her when she looked at a photo of a fat cat. She thought it felt like internet talk for "chunky".
Chonky tugged Facebook heartstrings from the beginning, zipping to over 100,000 members by the end of 2018. When it hit 125,000, Diaz accepted the help of a small group of Chonky supporters who offered to become moderators. They work their butter off.
"Chonky is not immune to the problems of nasty internet users and trolling, me and the mods only take away problems quickly and have learned what types of posts are likely to start problems," says Diaz. "Much love and work goes into keeping the group the way it is. "
Moderator Natalie Bunting, who also volunteers at a cat rescue, says that the rule of" being kind "is the one who usually breaks. She has witnessed (and acknowledged) arguments for and against outdoor cats, political statements and personal attacks, like a member who tells another to clean up a house seen in a photo.
"There are literally over a thousand member requests each day and at least 200 posts per hour," she says. is completely blowing. "
Volunteering to shake Chonky posts is time consuming, but Bunting is sticking around because she is connected to Diaz and the other modes. They blow off steam in a chat group behind the scenes, where Bunting says they laugh, cry and support each other.
Many conversations are about Chonky business, such as which services should be approved or if a member should be banned, but sometimes it depends on families, food and work. "The topic can change 30 times within 30 minutes and it's the most entertaining chat I've ever been a part of," says Bunting, who has two chunks: Cubby and Baxter.
"They are the best boys," she reports.
Chonky is a closed group, so you have to be a member to see the fur flight. Here's a typical day in Chonky's life: Emily shared a photo of her big black cat sitting on a cable box, eyes poppin and two front legs hanging straight down. It attracted 222 comments, including some photoshopped parodies that show the cat wearing a suit or walking through a western city. Another poster required to see the group's "oranges" and kicked over 600 comments on ginger cats.
Lizzie put up her wonderful 14-year-old fluffy boy, who has a diminishing health. She got a lot of love. "Cherish your time together, I'm sure he does," wrote a Chonky member.
If you are lucky to be accepted into Chonky and you can follow the simple rules, you need to know some vocabulary.  Beans: toe pads
Cat treasure: gives a photo of your own cat when requesting photos from others
Chonk: a fat cat
Hamba / hambina: a cat
Beats: a cat
Slonk: a skinny cat
Small bones: teeth
Jewelry: in a paragraph: My Boi Archer is a semi-chonk void hamb, while his sister is a smol void slonk.
Fear of the Inevitable
Bunting's avocado-loving cat, Cubby, suffered from a mysterious disease for months before the veterinarians finally diagnosed the rare Cushing's disease, an adrenal problem that can be difficult to treat. The Chonky team set up a GoFundMe fundraiser on behalf of Bunting, and the community has raised money against the $ 2000 target to offset the cube's steep health expenses. "Send healing energy to cubby! Thank you for sharing the chonks with the world," wrote a Chonky loving donor.
Bunting says the campaign absolutely blew her away at a time when she was dealing with an unexpected death in her family. "As silly as it sounds, the whole thing gave me reasons to laugh for an extremely difficult time," she says. Chonky fans also send out their little cubby shirts to wear to protect their fragile skin. "I still have no idea who sent any of them," Bunting says.
I've been working on this article for a while. My big boy Archer has curved inside his UFO-shaped cat bed under my display stand. He sleeps, but it is now a small paw that appears under my keyboard holder and reaches the front of my shirt. "Listen to me!" I change my position so that his teenage sister Delia can sit on my knee.
I visit Chonky a couple of times a day. I do it for the cat's pictures.
I'm also here because I'm afraid of the future. My cats are over 17 years old. I have known them since it was born in a friend's wardrobe so little angles of fur, and I love them as if they were carved from my own heart. They both have kidney diseases.
Delia gets clumsy. Archer had a mysterious attachment a few months ago. The vet calls them seniors, and I know one day, probably not too long from now, I will lose both of them.
As much as I fool on Chonky, I rarely post. When the day will tell me goodbye to my beautiful cats, I already know that I will go to Chonky for comfort.
And I know that a big community of cat loving Chonksters will be there to support me.