There are mornings when Ksenia Zmanovskaya wakes up in St. Petersburg, Russia, and realizes that nothing except a tabby smothered with a short stack of homemade pancakes and hot maple syrup will do.
And then there are afternoons when she wonders about a Persian covered in chocolate fondant, a Russian blue nestled inside a cozy bowl of potato chowder and a Sphynx stuffed inside a savory wonton.
What she never imagined, though, was that her Cats in Food photo edits on Instagram would go viral, with the account already gaining close to 84,000 followers.
An artist and illustrator who lives alone with a cat named Smoky, Ksenia, 22, was inspired six months ago to combine two of her biggest passions — cats and food — after playing around with Photoshop one day.
Although her first digital image, a pic of a snoozing Smoky tucked inside a cheeseburger, didn’t get many hits, it wasn’t long before she’d developed a loyal following after posting doctored photos of cats stuffed inside taco shells, rolled up in sushi and lounging on top of a pepperoni pie.
“I’m a cat lover and can’t imagine not having a cat near me,” Ksenia tells PEOPLE. “As a creative person, I always wanted to create something funny, and I enjoy the fact that I’m making people a bit more happy in life with my photo edits. Hiding cats in food has been a lot of fun.”
Although Smoky has starred in several of her projects, most of her pets are found in images online. Ksenia then matches the felines with some of her favorite stock food photos (freshly-baked croissants, tarragon chicken, blueberry pie), often camouflaging the cats in the cuisine.
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Her most popular pic to date is of a striped orange tabby sprawled in a frying pan, surrounded by a color-coordinated cream sauce, followed by a sushi cat, and a feline that shares a plate with a matching croissant.
Ksenia, who recently held her first cat-themed digital art show at a St. Petersburg cat cafe, recently started designing custom creations for followers who contact her on Instagram and send her snapshots of their favorite foods and felines.
Although some have urged her to expand her food combos to include dogs (a hot dachshund on a bun, anyone?), Ksenia says she’s strictly a feline foodie. A canine floating in a hot cappuccino, she says, simply won’t have the same charm.