Crash, a One-eyed Rescue Cat, Stars as Cadbury’s Next Easter ‘Bunny’

Michael Paz
Crash in a photo taken for his Cadbury entry. Cadbury announced in March that the one-eyed tabby had won the company’s fifth annual Bunny Tryout to star in an Easter commercial for Cadbury’s chocolate eggs.

Patty Cutler wasn’t sure whether the small orange tabby cat she’d found lying on the side of a road in November 2018 was going to make it. The cat had been hit by a car, and its injuries were severe – a broken jaw, a broken leg and a damaged eye.

Luckily, Cutler was on her way to work at a Boise, Idaho, animal shelter. She bundled up the cat in a towel and drove to Simply Cats, where she serves as executive director, and staffers rushed the cat to a veterinarian. They asked Cutler for a name they could enter into the clinic’s system.

“The first word that came out of my mouth was ‘Crash,’ ” Cutler said.

Crash staged a remarkable recovery from the accident, though vets couldn’t save his right eye. He became such a friendly companion that Cutler and her staff decided to keep him as the resident shelter cat. They trained him to give high-fives and greet customers, and he won the hearts of pet owners in Boise who came to visit.

Then in March, Crash charmed his way to the center of a national advertising campaign. Cadbury announced last week that the one-eyed tabby had won the company’s fifth annual Bunny Tryout to star in an Easter commercial for Cadbury’s chocolate eggs.

Crash’s TV debut aired Monday, winning him more adoration online – and a $10,000 prize Simply Cats will use to continue treating rescue animals.

Crash’s journey to stardom almost ended where it began, on a busy roadside not far from the Boise shelter. Cutler didn’t see the accident that left Crash crumpled on the road, but the driver of the car that struck the cat had stopped and was despondent, she said. It was clear Crash was badly hurt.

“I think he was in shock,” Cutler said. “. . . One of his lives clearly got used.”

Few were optimistic when Simply Cats workers rushed Crash to a veterinarian, Cutler said, but to their relief, vets were able to stabilize him. Crash eventually needed six surgeries.

Crash wasn’t neutered and had no microchip, Cutler said, and no one came looking for him. The Simply Cats staff considered putting him up for adoption with the rest of their felines. But between Crash’s dramatic rescue story and his sparky personality, he proved too hard to let go.

“He’s like a dog,” Cutler said with a laugh. “. . . He’s just always been this super gentle, nice, extremely social cat.”

Crash instead became an ambassador for Simply Cats, trained to greet customers by lifting his paw to offer high-fives. Simply Cats cleared a room for him – larger than anyone’s office – and filled it with cat trees and toys. Crash turned out to be outgoing and unfazed by the hectic environment of an animal shelter, which made him an ideal resident, Cutler said.

“I don’t think there’s a person he’s ever met that he didn’t like,” she added. “He’s not afraid of anything, he doesn’t hide from things, he’s always in the spotlight.”

Then the spotlight came looking for Crash. In late February, Simply Cats’ outreach and fundraising coordinator Maddie Corey saw an advertisement on social media for Cadbury’s Bunny Tryout competition.

Corey knew little about the contest, a search for an animal mascot to star in the chocolate company’s long-standing tradition of creating Easter-themed advertisements for its chocolate eggs. But she saw that the competition this year called for rescue pets.

“I think Crash is the epitome of a rescue pet,” Corey said.

So Corey submitted a photo of Crash wearing a set of pink bunny ears and wrote up a short recount of his story. The next day, she learned that he’d been picked among the top 20 entrants. Cadbury asked Simply Cats to send video of Crash sitting still and performing tricks on camera. Crash aced his audition and was named one of 10 finalists to compete for Cadbury’s title in a popular vote.

Corey campaigned for Crash on Simply Cats’ social media channels, and Boise’s communities of animal rescue volunteers and pet owners responded.

“Everyone was sharing every day and sharing [the poll] with their co-workers,” Corey said. “I know there was a woman who said every day at lunch, she gets everyone to vote for him.”

On March 21, Cadbury announced Crash as the winner of the competition – and the first cat to win the company’s starring role after the previous four editions of the contest crowned three dogs and a frog.

The weekend before the announcement, a team from Atlanta flew to Boise to film Crash’s commercial. Crash, surrounded by film lights and a green screen, kept his cool as usual.

“He didn’t seem to mind at all,” Corey said. “He was getting lots of treats. And a lot of attention.”

The commercial aired Monday, cutting between several animals vying for Cadbury’s “Bunny” title before declaring Crash the winner, triumphantly raising his paw.

Crash’s debut won $10,000 – a $5,000 prize went directly to the shelter, and another $5,000 was awarded to Corey, who plans to donate it back to Simply Cats. Cutler said the money will help pay for medical procedures for cats the shelter takes in. Since last year, Simply Cats has seen a large increase in cats given away to the shelter by pet owners struggling with rising rents in the city, Cutler and Corey said.

Crash will be happy to have the company, as long as his housemates know who’s boss. He was acting “a little sassy” on the day Cadbury declared him the winner, Corey said – he broke into another cat’s adoption room, knocked over a container of food and started snacking.

“I don’t know how he knows, but he definitely knows he’s a star,” Corey said.