Ben Huh runs what's arguably one of the most popular cat-based Web sites around: icanhascheezburger.com, better known as Lolcats. But ironically, the Seattle-based businessman doesn't even own a cat.
"I really like cats, but I have bad allergies," he tells PEOPLE Pets. "People think it's funny because I run a cat site, but I tell them that this is my way of interacting with cats — without sneezing."
Huh and his team of 21 run the Cheezburger Network, which includes Lolcats, plus nearly 20 other blogs such as Loldogs and the FAIL Blog, as well as two super-cute new sites, Dreaming of Kittens and Dreaming of Puppies. "We're serious about what we do," he says. "We want to bring laughs to people daily. But the manner in which we do it is pretty goofy."
Huh purchased Lolcats in September of 2007, after his personal blog was linked on the site and sent his servers crashing. "It wasn't until after I started working there that I started seeing the relationship between the Internet and cats," he says. "Cats are the dominant household pet in the U.S., and the Internet is a giant litter box." From there he continued developing his other sites, and an empire was born.
Now, employees sift through the more than 10,000 photos submitted daily, looking for shots that really bring the "lolz." After screening them for appropriateness, they let their readers take a crack at the hilarious captions and comments.
"The amount of creativity that comes from the audience is incredible," Huh says. "People are really expressing something that's relevant to their daily lives. Having a little dog myself, I can say that we pet owners are just a little crazy about our pets."
The success — and cult following — of Lolcats and Huh's other sites recently led to a book deal. Last October, the team released"I Can Has Cheezburger: An Lolcat Colleckshun," and saw it spend 13 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. "It blew my mind," Huh says.
Their follow-up, "How To Take Over The Wurld: A Lolcat Guide 2 Winning," debuted at number seven on the list after its release on Sept. 1, and hit number four in its second week (it currently sits in the fifth slot). "We're working on a dog book to come out next year, as well," Huh promises.
So with all the love from fans, what's been the most shocking gesture so far? "Somebody actually sent us six pounds of smoked bacon," says Huh. "I haven't finished it yet, though."