"The outpouring for this silly cat has been crazy," said meteorologist Jeff Lyons about his gray and white longhair feline.
Jeff Lyons has been a television weatherman for over three decades. During this time, he's gotten used to people randomly popping up behind him or honking a horn while passing by his outdoor live shots. So when he moved his nightly forecast for Channel 14 News in Evansville, Ind., into his dining room last year, Lyons was under the impression that he was past the days of unexpected guests. Little did he know, his 11-year-old cat Betty had other plans. About three weeks into Lyons' weather broadcasts from home, the feline sauntered out from under the dining room table and caught the eye of the news director back at the station.
"Working from home has been an adventure. I have my studio and green screen set up in the dining room. It's nice to have a 30-second commute after the late news," Lyons told Bored Panda. "Betty was under the dining room table during one weathercast, and the director asked to see her, so I held her up for the camera." The news director urged the meteorologist to put Betty on-air and despite being a little apprehensive about the idea, Lyons cradled the gray and white longhair feline in both arms and introduced her to his viewers.
"We just had the final 30-second weather to do, so I kept her in my arms just for fun… little did I know," the 56-year-old said. By the next day, Betty had become an internet sensation. She now has her own Instagram page with over 10.4k followers and makes appearances on the Channel 14 weather segment most nights with her own 'Betty the Weathercat' graphic. Ever since Betty started helping out her human, the show's viewership has seen an unprecedented hike with viewers even tuning in from Europe and Australia.
"The outpouring for this silly cat has been crazy," said Lyons. "I've spent 34 years in local TV as a meteorologist, so I am used to being known around this area (southern Indiana), but this is something that has really thrown me for a loop!" Recounting how Betty came into his life, Lyons revealed that his family was chosen by her. "Betty just showed up on our windowsill about 11 years ago," he said. "My daughter, who was 10 at the time, begged to keep her. I had always had cats growing up, so it was an easy sell, plus, I'm a softie!"
Speaking to The Washington Post, he explained that decades on the job have taught him the importance of having fun while doing the weather. "When the weather is threatening, you have to be serious, but for the rest of the time, it's important to be happy," he said. "My sense is that people want a diversion right now during this horrible pandemic. They're looking for something that's kind of fun. So at least for now, doing the forecast with Betty fits right in." He added that throughout his career at Channel 14, he's constantly been on the lookout for ways to liven up his nightly forecast.
Over the years, he has dressed up as Benjamin Franklin on Halloween and also done live shots from the Goodyear Blimp. However, he's been forced to really step up his game ever since he began filming with his furry co-host. "When I turn on the dining room light, she comes running in, so I'll put her on her throne and she'll usually sit there and watch me or start washing herself on live television," he said.