Win one for the Zipper

Published 6:23 pm Friday, February 24, 2023

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Austin area cat with plenty of ‘cat-a-tude’ vied for top feline in online contest


By Linda Baier

There is a young and handsome tuxedo cat on the prowl in the outskirts of Austin and he was hunting for your support in making him America’s Favorite Cat.

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Zip or “Zippy” as his family refers to him, was entered into a contest that would allow his owners to provide him with a lifetime supply of catnip if he was to have won.

Unfortunately, as of Friday, the online contest reflects that Zip had fallen to third in the voting, though owners Faye and Stan Rudsenske of rural Austin said they hadn’t heard official word on that.

If Zip were to have taken first place in the current top five, nationwide elimination round he would have been automatically entered into the quarterfinals. If he remained in second place he would have competed in a shortened wildcard round for a chance to be in the quarterfinals, Feb. 27-March 9. The finals begin on March 17 and run through March 23, with the winner being announced on March 31.

Zip has become something of a celebrity as he was up for one of the top cats in America through Catster Magazine. Photo provided

Faye and Stan entered him into the contest after seeing advertisements for it on social media. The first place prize is valued at $11,500 and includes $5,000 in cash and a two page advertorial feature in a prominent cat magazine, Catster.

Zip is not your ordinary feline. He and his litter mates were born to a feral mother and were captured in the Lyle area. Faye saw a picture of Zip and knew immediately that she wanted him.

“He had a sweet little face and I thought he was a polydactyl,” she said.

A cat normally has 18 toes, five on each of the front paws and four on the back. If they have more than six toes on a paw they are considered a polydactyl. Zip actually only had three toes, “and they were big,” Faye said.

Stan on the other hand was reluctant, as he was not sure if he wanted another kitten. But after seeing him for the first time, he changed his mind as Zip identified him as his favorite person. He sleeps every night with his paw on Stan’s cheek.

The Rudsenske’s bottle fed Zip several times a day for a number of months. He has grown up to be a beautiful five year-old. He is a long-haired feline with four white socks, white whiskers, and white facial features which are surrounded by a sleek black body.

Zip spends his winters indoors and the summers outdoors.

“That’s his choice and he makes it very clear,” Faye said. The absence of two toes has not hindered him in the least. “He is a ferocious hunter and he has a lot of cat-a-tude.”

Zip’s nickname is “Growler” because it’s one of the things he does best — growl. Faye had roused him from one of his cat naps earlier this week and he growled from the first minute until he escaped from her grasp.

Despite being cantankerous at times, Zip has a playful side too. He loves catnip treats and his favorite toys are boxes. He was playing in one when the Rudsenske’s captured Zip poised, and perhaps a little surprised in a picture. It was that unique photo that was submitted to the America’s Favorite Pet contest.

Zip’s picture was handpicked by judges to advance into the top 25 finalists of the contest. From there his fan’s have voted for him in a series of elimination rounds. Throughout the week, Zip was in second place in his group. There is a separate category for dogs in the contest.

The contest is fan based, so Zip’s fans were able to go online and vote for him. Free votes are accepted every 24 hours and voting can be done at

Voters can also choose to donate to Progressive Animal Welfare Society (P.A.W.S.) for additional votes.

Should Zip have won the contest, the Rudsenske’s plan was to use the winnings for veterinary bills. Zip was diagnosed with kidney disease a few years back and must take meds twice a day for life. Some of the money also would have gone toward his vet care, but he also has numerous feline, canine and equine friends he lives with in the country. This includes a premature foal that was born last year, and whose mother was lost during birth. The aforementioned is where the majority of the Rudsenske’s veterinary expenses have come from.