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Big Boy Draws a Following Worthy of a Town Fat Cat

April 13, 2001|From Associated Press

GULFPORT, Miss. — As tourist attractions go, Big Boy ranks decidedly lower than Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon. But the corpulent cat has nonetheless attracted a cult following.

Big Boy blew into town three years ago, riding the tail of Hurricane Georges. He was hurled off a bait shop roof and dropped onto a 60-foot oak tree in Jones Park. From his perch, the 4-year-old tabby has since nurtured his celebrity status.

Children and local fishermen bring him treats. The local paparazzi snapped his photo for the newspaper. Some days, crowds of up to 100 people have gathered, necks snapped back, hoping to glimpse the town fat cat.

"People from all over send me food," said Ron Roland, 52, a retired mortgage banker who has taken on the role as Big Boy's caretaker. "A lady in Minnesota who heard about him sent me a check for $5."

Roland swears Big Boy hasn't left his treehouse since the storm of 1998--not that there'd be much reason for him to social climb. Big Boy--who appears to weigh at least 20 pounds--eats and drinks from dishes nailed to the tree, and he's not shy about demanding refills.

"He lets out a loud meow," Roland said. "He's not mean, but if you try to pick him up, he'll swat you."

When he's not sleeping or sharpening his claws, Big Boy moves from limb to limb for exercise. He has a particular branch to take care of his personal business.

Roland is convinced the fluffy feline could climb down if he wanted to, but he believes Big Boy is an outdoorsman at heart. Besides, his descent to earth could mean he'd lose the upper paw.

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