Livestreaming for homeless pets

Katy Bentz in a room in Cat World
Learn how video game actor Katy Bentz got into livestreaming to raise funds for animals at Best Friends — and how you can, too.
By John Polis

When actor-livestream host Katy Bentz moved to Los Angeles in 2016 to pursue her career, her love of animals moved right along with her. Growing up in the eastern part of Washington state, her family always had animals.

So it wasn’t long after she moved into her L.A. apartment that she learned about Best Friends Animal Society and its longtime work in the City of Angels. That led to her becoming a volunteer, and not long after that she fostered her first cat from Best Friends. Katy’s dedication to the animals only grew from there, and when she got into livestreaming, it was a natural fit to use her platform to raise funds for them.

Katy is known for the role of Steph Gingrich in the story-driven, choose-your-own-adventure Life Is Strange video game series. Since she began livestreaming in 2017, her audience has continued to grow. Her first-ever livestream fundraiser, which took place in February 2020, was dedicated to Best Friends and brought in $3,400. A second in 2023 raised more than $5,000. She has a third planned this year on Memorial Day, May 27, and it aims to be her most successful yet.

[Dog adopters stream live, fun-filled fundraiser]

Katy’s fundraiser is set to be one of many taking place this spring. Livestreamers are invited to set up their own fundraisers between May 20 and June 8, when donations will be matched up to $200,000. Animal lovers are invited to do whatever their hearts desire — from gaming, music, and art to hanging out with a favorite pet on any platform they choose.

It’s one way people can join Best Friends in saving animals’ lives and work together to reach the goal of all shelters across the country becoming no-kill in 2025. Every dollar raised makes a difference in getting pets out of shelters and into homes.

In preparation for her upcoming livestream fundraiser, Katy visited Best Friends Animal Sanctuary for the first time. She streamed while visiting Cat World, Dogtown, and other areas.

In the following interview, we asked Katy about her longtime love of animals, her devotion to Best Friends, and her burgeoning career as an actor, host, and social influencer.

Where does your love of animals come from?

We always had tons of animals around our house — at least two or three dogs at a time. I grew up with two black Labs — Pepper, who was so tiny and just the sweetest dog, and Mia. Then there was Chipper, a dachshund mix, who looked like a big plushy hot dog; Maggie, who was my mom’s dog; a golden retriever, Molly; a cat named Miss Kitty, who lived 17 years; two parakeets (Ocho and Peepers); two hamsters, Helda and Zelda; and a bunny named Smokey.

What motivates you to livestream for Best Friends?

At first, livestreaming was just another career avenue for me to pursue. But when we decided to do charity fundraisers, I thought back to Best Friends and my time volunteering there, and that’s why that first one was for Best Friends. Since then, I’ve done many charity streams for organizations that are important to me: the Starlight Children’s Foundation, the 1,000 Dreams Fund, the American Heart Association, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

How did you get started in livestreaming?

I got started streaming on Twitch (a service that focuses on video game livestreaming, electronic sports, music, and in-real-life streams) through my part in Life Is Strange. Fans of the game are fantastic, and I would say probably like 80% of my community are folks from the game.

What happens on a typical Katy Bentz livestream?

I am a variety streamer, so I do IRL (in-real-life) streaming — going around with a selfie stick just streaming from wherever I'm at. I also do paint-by-number streams and cooking streams. We also do a lot of video game streams playing lots of multiplayer games like Party Animals. We also play Fortnite, and right now there’s a game called Lethal Company that we’re playing. We go live on Twitch each weekday at 11 a.m. Pacific time for about four hours, and then, depending on the week, I may come back on later and do a stream in the evening. (For more information on when Katy goes live, fans can follow her on X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram.)

How was your recent visit to the Sanctuary?

It was amazing! I felt at peace there. Everyone from the staff to the volunteers were incredibly friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. Getting to see all the different animals who live there was truly a treat. I even met and chatted with two of the founders, such kind and compassionate people. I did three livestreams, and by the end of the weekend a viewer from my community sent in an adoption application for one of the cats! That was definitely the coolest thing. We’ll be using some of the content we shot at the Sanctuary during our Memorial Day fundraiser for Best Friends.

Tell us about your rescued cat.

His name is Banx because we rescued him as a little kitten eight years ago off the banks of a river in the Pacific Northwest. His mom was nowhere in sight, and we couldn’t just leave him there. He has a lot of feist in him. It’s his way or the highway, so I just let him be and do his thing. He enjoys lounging around and cuddling up with me on his own terms. He loves being dragged around in boxes and laundry baskets and playing fetch with his crinkle balls. You may even see him as a guest appearance on one of my livestreams! He does love me in his own way, and I am very OK with that. He’s with me for life.

Are you still helping out at Best Friends?

I foster from time to time. Last fall I fostered a cat named Daisy, who was about 6 months old and oh so sweet. She was just this little fluff ball rug, and she just wanted to cuddle and just be loved. I’m telling you, I was back and forth talking with one of the foster people about potentially adopting her. Overall, I’ve fostered five cats, and I’m very excited that all of them eventually went to new homes.

How did you get into performing?

Back when I was 14 and starting high school, I joined the dance team. It wasn't for me. Then I found drama. I auditioned for a play, and that's kind of where it all started. I really enjoyed it. I went on to get my theater degree at Western Washington University, and my minor was public relations. For me, acting and PR go hand in hand. I really enjoy photojournalism and multimedia projects. It’s all helped me for what I’m doing now because as an entrepreneur and Twitch streamer, I’m doing a little bit of everything.

What’s it like acting in a video game?

It’s different. For the last Life Is Strange: True Colors game, I did what they call “full performance capture.” You are dressed in a full motion-capture suit with a camera mounted on headgear. I had to go in multiple times and prepare in advance as though I was going on a film set, except it wasn’t an actual set. We’re in a studio and the cameras are rolling, recording the movements of my body and face and capturing voice and emotion. When you watch it, you see my character’s face, and while it doesn’t necessarily look like me, the actual recorded movements of my face help guide the animation.

Tell us about Steph Gingrich, your character in Life Is Strange.

Ah, she is very down to earth, and I would say she's much cooler than I am. I've actually learned how to be cooler by playing Steph. She is a Dungeons and Dragons-DJ-lesbian-drummer nerd who fans have fallen in love with over the years. As the story progresses through the series, we get to see that she has been through a lot, yet she’s still like this rock for a lot of people in her life, and she is very true to who she is as a person. I think that's what fans really love about her. Very grateful to have helped bring her to life.

What is it that drives you to care so much about animals and other causes?

I guess it’s partly because I'm a very emotional person. And domestic animals are just so sweet, and they just don't deserve a lot of the things that they have to go through — a lot of which is caused by people. That just makes me sad. They didn’t agree to any of this. And so, yeah, I want to help. Over my whole life, I’ve just always had a really soft spot for animals. We will always continue to raise money for charity. So far, we’ve raised $119,000 for charities through my streaming, and my goal this year is $125,000. Who knows? In the next five years, if I’m still streaming, maybe we can someday pass $500,000 raised for charity. That would be incredible.

Join Katy to raise funds for the animals

You can set up your own fundraiser for the animals in honor of Best Friends Day, or find Katy’s May 27 fundraiser on Tiltify. Donations between May 20 and June 8 will be matched up to $200,000.

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill by 2025

Our goal at Best Friends is to support all animal shelters in the U.S. in reaching no-kill by 2025. No-kill means saving every dog and cat in a shelter who can be saved, accounting for community safety and good quality of life for pets. 

Shelter staff can’t do it alone. Saving animals in shelters is everyone’s responsibility, and it takes support and participation from the community. No-kill is possible when we work together thoughtfully, honestly, and collaboratively.

Silhouette of two dogs, cat and kitten

Help save homeless pets

You can help end the killing in shelters and save the lives of homeless pets when you foster, adopt, and advocate for the dogs and cats who need it most.

Let's make every shelter and every community no-kill by 2025

Together, we're creating compassionate no-kill communities nationwide for pets and the people who care for them.

Let’s be friends! 

Connect with us on social media to stay in the loop about the lifesaving progress we’re making together.  

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