Submitted by Subeditor on Sat, 2016-02-06 19:31 Bengaluru: If you love Garfield and Tom, and wondered how it would be if they were real, you need to meet Bengaluru’s own celebrity cats who have become cartoon heroes on social media. No, they are not imaginary characters, but real cats whose lives have been captured on canvas by well-known cartoonist and illustrator Dinesh Francis Toony Tiger, Mewtoon and Cheni have followers on Facebook and among the art students who flock Dinesh’s art school in RT Nagar. He has made lively cartoons of them doing endearing kitty things like following him to kitchen, playing with the computer keyboard and doing the quintessential cat thing: lazying around. Ask Dinesh about this animated world’s beginning and he recalls how he fell in love with the runt of a litter when he went to pick up a kitty put up for adoption. And being a cartoon lover, he named her Toony Tiger. “I had her christened by a priest. She was like my family member, so it was only apt that the naming is also done that way,” Dinesh said. “She changed my world of cartoons, and I started working on comics about Toony. My students – around 50 – loved the cartoons and would always talk about Toony, which encouraged us to start a Facebook page,” says Dinesh, who teaches art at home. For almost all students, Toony Tiger was their first experience with a four-legged creature. They lived, breathed and followed her antics closely. After being the centre of attraction at the art school, it was heartbreak time when Toony went missing. “After Toony went missing, I had to continue telling her stories to my students. I tell them that Toony came from the forest and she has gone back in search of her parents. And that her son, Mewtoon, is staying with us,” says Dinesh. And then came Cheni. Also adopted. Soon, it was heartbreak time again when the docile Cheni fell prey to stray dogs. Dinesh then decided that cats were going to be a part of his life and adopted Mewtoon —one doesn’t have to guess why such a name. “As my students befriended Toony and later Mewtoon, both would play with them on the computer key board, drawing books, etc. I would also take them to artists’ meetings, where children of other artists became friends with the duo. All this led to their popularity on Facebook rising,” said Dinesh. Now, the eight-month-old Mewtoon is holding the virtual fort of Toon Cafe, Toon Tigers Den and the Facebook page of Toony Tiger, which has about 200 followers. As a result, the first question that Dinesh’s students ask him on entering the classroom is about Toony Tiger. “After Toony went missing, I had to continue telling her stories to my students. I tell them that Toony came from the forest and she has gone back in search of her parents. And that her daughter, Mewtoon, is staying with us,” says Dinesh. Owaiz, who learns cartooning from Dinesh, says that the first thing he does on entering the class is to greet Mewtoon. “I am eagerly waiting to see Toony come back after meeting her parents in the forest,” Owaiz said. “My life has changed because of the cats, which is helping me to make cartoons on human behaviour and their love for pets. Even my students are doing the same,” says Dinesh.