Missy the 13-year-old cat was a local fixture at a bus stop in Hampshire, England. She died recently after a brutal attack. Her tormenters remain at large, but her community responded with an outpouring of tributes and a crowdfunding campaign to purchase a plaque in her honor (the remainder of the proceeds will go to a cat charity). In a country as moggie-mad as the U.K., it’s hard to imagine anyone being so cruel to a beloved feline member of the community, especially because Missy wasn’t alone — in fact, cats “work” at bus stops, train stations, and other transit points all across the U.K.
This case raises the concern that other cats in similar positions could be at risk of attacks just like this one. While their guardians live close by (and some are affiliated with the stations), there’s something that keeps drawing them, whether it’s friendly humans, prey, or the excitement of a busy train platform or bus stop. Many have their own Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and have become social media forces. When cats are accustomed to affectionate, friendly treatment, they’re not expecting cruelty — and it could happen to any cat, even one who lives at the station as a full-time staff member.
It’s hard to say how cats like Missy should be protected, given the fact that animal cruelty is unpredictable and difficult to monitor. The U.K. is also currently dealing with a serial cat killer who started in Croydon and appears to be expanding, a common trend with people who engage in animal violence. People who abuse animals tend to be violent toward people as well, or become so eventually, “practicing” on defenseless animals until they get up the nerve to attack humans. Far from being anomalies, cases like Missy’s are warning signs that something is gravely wrong.
In Missy’s honor, we celebrate some of her comrades on the job — the hardworking cats across England who make commutes a little easier, keep things tidy ’round the station, and trust the humans around them to treat them with respect and kindness. Missy was the victim of cruelty, but let’s hope these cats never have to be.
Felix, a striking tuxedo cat, is the senior pest controller for the First TransPennine Express at Huddersfield Railway Station in West Yorkshire. Depending on traffic and conditions, he roams the platform, occasionally greeting travelers, especially in the small hours of the morning. He can also be found in and around the office and at the ticket window. Staff have equipped him with his own foul-weather gear and private cat flap onto the platform, and I am not at all bitter than he has many more Facebook followers than I do.
On Twitter, she’s known as the Gipsy Hill Cat, but her family calls her Fanny. This curious feline loves people and spends nearly more time at the train station than she does at home, making her a hit with commuters. After being featured on Buzzfeed last year, she weathered some controversy over her refusal to wear a collar, but I can sympathize — getting Loki to wear a collar is like trying to wrestle a greased pig. Her Twitter is well worth a follow if you enjoy a steady stream of cat pictures posted by her delighted fans (she’s an assiduous retweeter).
This black British Shorthair keeps an eye on things in a car park in the south of England, and, yes, can be found on Facebook. Her Facebook fans keep up a steady supply of cat memes interspersed with photos of her going about her regular adventures, and woe betide the person who parks without a permit.
He’s not a public transit employee, per se, but Dodger still became a media phenomenon in Dorset in 2011 when he started hitching rides on the bus on a regular basis. The orange tabby wasn’t the only cat who enjoys riding the bus: Casper, a black-and-white longhair, rode the bus every day for four years before sadly being killed in a hit-and-run.
After three years on the job in Hertfordshire, Brian was outed via microchip — the “stray” turned out to have a family whose members were very grateful to be reunited with him (a good reason to make sure your cats are microchipped). Before his career came to an end in February, however, he enjoyed loving attention from staff and passengers alike, who kept him well supplied with pets and treats. Incidentally, in case you’re wondering, his real name was Obama.
Jumper, who works in Manchester, isn’t Britain’s friendliest railway cat, but she is the most outgoing of four cats at the Oxford Rail station. The all black cat and siblings certainly keep the platforms clear of pests, and Jumper is graceful about being given treats and posing for pictures. Yet she doesn’t appreciate being handled. In fact, she tolerated intimate attention from only one person, an employee of the railway who has since passed away.
The Warminster Train Station, explains Alex de Mora, isn’t anything special — it’s “in the middle of nowhere” and certainly doesn’t have much in the way of hustle and bustle. But one thing it does have is a cat, one who’s apparently a familiar fixture for frequent visitors to the station. Casper is all fluff, and evidently quite friendly to travelers.
Oats (who passed away last month) was one of several felines who has worked along the Stainmore Railway Company’s line in Cumbria. Along with a companion named Quaker, Oats was watching a painstaking restoration of a historic train station that had fallen into sad disrepair. Unlike my own cats, Oats apparently didn’t mind the sound of a steam engine, because the railway operators run one regularly during pleasant weather.
This magnificent ginger lives at Rushden Station in Northamptonshire, and staff members maintain a Facebook page to keep fans apprised of his doings. Like other railway cats in Britain, he supervises all doings at the station closely, but he’s not immune to some friendly attention — and he’s a regular recipient of fan mail.
Sausage was a stray who called the Perrygrove Railway his home but also spent a fair amount of time at a neighboring farm. He sadly passed away in 2014 after being struck by a car but will be remembered fondly by station staff. “In all my years I have meet a few people that I did not like,” one of his fans commented, “but I have never met a cat that I did not love.”
Pebbles, who worked at Barbican Station in London in the 1990s, is commemorated with a plaque at the station — in fact, many railway cats have also been memorialized and sometimes even buried at the stations where they worked, illustrating how beloved they were to staff members. London is teeming with famous cats such as Pebbles, including Dick Whittington’s cat, Hodge, and the assortment of cats hired as chief mousers at 10 Downing Street.
Working on the railway — and elsewhere — can be dangerous for those of all species. Missy will be missed, and her name will join the ranks of many cats of public transit who brightened the days of people who interacted with them. Hopefully her killers will be caught, and her community will have a larger conversation about the connection between animal cruelty and human violence and how to address cases like hers.
About the author: s.e. smith is a cat-owned writer, editor, and agitator living in Northern California with felines Loki and Leila. While not mediating cat fights, s.e. explores a wide variety of subjects in writing and elsewhere, in addition to enjoying reading like a fiend and baking like an angel. Follow smith on Instagram,Facebook, and Twitter.