‘Cat’-ch me if you can: four legged visitor a fixture at the University of Toronto Scarborough

by Megan Harris

Sept. 24, 2009

There is a rather unusual creature walking around the UTSC residence village. It is black and white, and can be found sleeping in someone’s front yard or meowing at a door of a house. This creature is a cat called Pooky – and he’s been at UTSC longer than many students.

Contrary to popular belief, Pooky is not a stray cat. In fact, he has owners; a father and daughter living in the surrounding neighbourhood, a place to sleep at night, and daily meals. Even so, residence students often offer the cat food and invite Pooky into their homes to sleep.

According to one of Pooky’s owners, Zipora Richman, Pooky has been visiting the university ever since he was a kitten. Richman still remembers the day 14 years ago when she found Pooky while she was driving home.  After hearing a cat meowing, they discovered Pooky up a tree. Eventually, they convinced a local kid to climb up and get him.

“He instantly became a family fixture,” Richman said, adding that Pooky also soon became “a neighbourhood icon.”

There is even a cheer about the cat which new students learn at the annual Residence Orientation each September:  “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Pooky!”

Pooky can often be found either walking around residence, or visiting students in their houses, although this is against the rules. According to the Student Housing & Residence Life handbook, “Pets are not allowed in residence other than fish in small fish bowls.”

Emily Fitzpatrick, a student residence advisor (R.A), said that despite the rules, most of Pooky’s visits to houses go unmentioned.

“The R.As can’t do anything about it because they don’t see it,” she explained.

“Pooky is exceptional,” said Jennifer Gordon, a 4th year student. “He’s somehow accepted, even though no pets are allowed – but everyone can share Pooky.”

Roomates Doug Liu and Shaun McKinlay were new to residence last year, and not knowing all the rules, once brought Pooky inside with them. Liu said that he left Pooky sleeping in his room, and came back an hour later to find that Pooky had disappeared. The two housemates searched for the cat, and after half an hour, finally found him.

“He came out from under Doug’s bed and said ‘Meow!’”, McKinlay recalled.

Liu and McKinlay used to try to feed cereal to Pooky when he came to visit them. Offering food to Pooky is common among residence students, even though the R.As let students know that Pooky has a home, and therefore doesn’t need to be fed. In fact, Richman said that although Pooky spends a lot of his time visiting the

university, he comes home at least twice a day to eat and take a nap, and also comes home most nights.

Pooky has also been spotted in a number of other strange places over the years. Richman remembers one time when her cat befriended a master’s student.

“Pooky would hang out in the lab with him,” Richman said.

This September, 4th year student Ys Lee spotted Pooky coming out of the 3rd floor elevator of Foley Hall, the upper year apartment style residence. UTSC graduate Andrew Scott, who lived in residence for several years, recalls a similar incident in which he spotted Pooky in the Foley Hall lobby.

“I thought to myself, ‘Oh, it’s just Pooky’, and I began to head for my room,” Scott said. “After one or two steps, I thought, ‘Wait a minute, that cat’s not supposed to be in here!’ I escorted Pooky to the exit and wished the cat a pleasant evening.”

Along with the various ‘Pooky stories’ that students have collected over the years, several conspiracy theories about the cat have emerged.

“There’s one that Pooky is 100 years old,” said Fitzpatrick. “Or that there are two Pookies, one male and one female, and another that Pooky has died several times and been replaced with new cats.”

Upon hearing these theories, Richman just laughed.

“It’s the same old Pooky!” she said.

Richman feels that everyone at UTSC has recognized that Pooky is a remarkable cat, and that everyone looks after him. Once, Pooky was injured in a scrap with another cat. A student noticed this, and immediately called the cat’s owners, having found the phone number on Pooky’s tag, and had them meet him at the vet.

“It was just amazing,” said Richman. “The way you guys treat him, it makes me feel good, makes me feel good about letting him go out there.”

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