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Cats' Adventures & Travels
Public Transport Buses
|Dodger, an elderly ginger cat from Bridport, a town in west Dorset in the south of England, came to fame in late 2011 when he was found to be riding the local buses and it turned out that he was well known at the local bus station. In his previous residence, his human Mrs Fee Jeanes said, he hardly went anywhere, but when they moved to Bridport in 2010, to a house on the main road but backing onto the bus station, he began to visit there every day although he went home every evening.|
|He was seen hopping on and off buses, sitting on passengers' laps as they waited, and devouring discarded sandwiches and bits of pork pie; some of the drivers even bought cat food for him. He seemed to love being around lots of people. He took a trip to Charmouth and back one day, a 10-mile (16 km) round trip, and had been seen on longer-distance buses, too. Sometimes he would just sit in the road and wait for a bus to turn up! He liked buses because they were warm inside, and he would sit on a warm seat vacated by a passenger. All the regular passengers and drivers knew Dodger, and children liked to stroke him. The drivers knew where he lived and would let him off at the right stop!|
A spokesman for bus company First said they didn't mind Dodger on their buses, but didn't actively encourage him. He said: 'The drivers have been asked not to feed him, because we recognise that the cat has an owner and we don't want to discourage him from returning home for food and shelter, but in principle we don't have a problem with him being around the bus station. Given that this cat is elderly, we suspect he would be eligible for free travel, perhaps a bus puss, if such a thing existed.'
Dodger's fame spread via the internet and he was featured on radio, TV and in Chat magazine. Pet-food company Whiskas even sent him a box of goodies! Sadly, though, Dodger's new-found fame didn't last long; he became ill and was found to have an inoperable tumour in his stomach. His owner Fee was also concerned that he might be losing his mental faculties, as she was getting phone calls reporting him in other parts of town, and she was worried he could either be run over himself or could cause an accident. Thus, in February 2012, the family eventually took the heart-breaking decision after cancelling it twice to have him put to sleep to prevent further suffering. He was 15 years old. She and her three children were in tears. 'But he had a good life,' said Fee. 'He was a brilliant cat, and he was spoilt rotten!'
Dodger is buried in a special part of the Jeanes' garden, where his memory will be treasured; and Fee put up a notice in the bus station. 'He made a lot of people happy,' she said. 'The response to him has been amazing.'
|In early 2007 bus drivers on an urban route between Walsall and Wolverhampton, in the British Midlands, noted an unusual passenger. A beautiful white cat wearing a purple collar, and with odd-coloured eyes one blue, one green started using the no. 331 bus several mornings a week. Drivers nicknamed him Macavity, after the mystery cat in T.S. Eliot's poem (and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical).|
|He always boarded at a certain stop, in front of a row of 1950s-era semi-detached houses, and then left the bus again at the next stop 400 metres down the road by a row of shops that included a fish-and-chip shop! One driver said he first noticed the cat getting off the bus with a couple of passengers, not having seen him get on, but the next day Macavity jumped on the bus when it stopped to pick up passengers by the houses, getting off at the next stop as before. He appeared two or three times a week; no one knew why, or who he belonged to.|
He didn't occupy a seat, but sat on the floor at the front of the bus, waiting patiently for the next stop. 'It was quite strange at first, but now it just seems normal,' said another passenger who caught the 331 to work each day. 'I suppose he is the perfect passenger really he sits quietly, minds his own business and then gets off.'
The story was picked up by the national press and then reached the internet, and at the time we thought the owner might have read the story and come forward to claim and name the cat, but as far as we know no one did. Then in April 2010 the no. 331 service that Macavity used to ride on was withdrawn and no longer operated. We weren't able to find out whether he used an alternative service or stopped riding the buses.
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|Just like Macavity above, another English cat was found to be riding the buses and did so for some four years, this time in the south-western naval city of Plymouth, Devon. Casper, a 12-year-old rescue cat, regularly took a ride on the number 3 service run by the First UK Bus Company. There was a bus stop close to his home in the Barnes Barton area of St Budeaux near Plymouth, and he liked to hop on around mid-morning and ride the whole 11-mile (17.5 km) route before making his way home.|
Owner Susan Finden, who took him on in 2002 and also has a number of other older cats, had noticed that Casper sometimes went missing for a while, but had no idea where he went. Then one day when she was going to take the bus herself, he followed her to the stop. The bus driver told her that the cat was a frequent passenger! 'I couldn't believe it,' she told local newspaper the Plymouth Herald. She wrote a letter asking the bus company if they would request drivers to look after Casper if he boarded and not to put him off the bus in the city centre, where he would be a long way from home.
The company put up a poster about him in the depot, but it turned out many of the drivers on the route were already well acquainted with the travelling cat. 'We can't really stop him getting on or off,' said one. 'When there's a group of passengers waiting at a stop, they are the first priority, and you can't look at the floor to check for cats!' Casper joined the queue with other passengers and just quietly padded his way on and off. Drivers said he liked to curl up on the back seat for the trip, and never caused any trouble.
The First Bus Company was quite relaxed about Casper's travels. Public-relations manager Karen Baxter said, 'In the UK people over the age of 65 travel for free on the buses. We worked out that the cat was over 100 in cat years, so that's fine he could travel free.' It's estimated he could have travelled several thousand miles all told since he started using the service. A large image of the cat was even painted on the side of one of the company's buses (right, with another taken later when the book was published). His story was followed with interest in many countries.
It was Casper's wanderings that gained him his name, after Casper the Friendly Ghost, because he was always disappearing. 'He was always a free spirit,' said owner Susan. 'He did like people, and I don't know what the attraction was, but he also seemed to love big vehicles like lorries and buses.' One idea was that perhaps in his earlier life he had lived somewhere like a haulage yard, where he became used to people coming and going, and to large vehicles.
Tragically, and perhaps ironically, it was a vehicle that ended Casper's life on 14 January 2010, when he was killed by a hit-and-run driver on the road outside his home. The car, thought maybe to have been a taxi, did not stop. Susan was devastated, as were his many fans in the city, at the bus company and around the world. 'I doubt I shall find a cat like him again,' she said. 'I had been trying to stop him travelling so much, but it was difficult and he loved meeting people. Unfortunately, though, he had no road sense whatsoever.'
Tributes and condolences were received from many places, including Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada and even as far afield as Australia. Susan put up a notice at Casper's bus stop, reading: Many local people knew Casper, who loved everyone he also enjoyed the bus journeys. Sadly a motorist hit him and did not stop. Casper died from his injuries. He will be greatly missed ... he was a much loved pet who had so much character. Thank you to all those who befriended him. The bus company said that in Casper's memory it would be retaining his image on the bus for a time. One correspondent wrote, 'I'm sure he already knows the bus schedules to Rainbow Bridge.'
In August 2010 Susan Finden's account of the travelling cat's adventures was published in the book Casper the Commuting Cat.
In April 2013 the Plymouth Herald reported that a film was to be made about Casper's life, because of his fame in many parts of the world and the translating of Susan Finden's book into nine languages, and a search was being instigated for a suitable feline to play the lead role. It would need to be a cat that could board buses, get on with the public and not be put off by being filmed. We don't envisage that a 'Hollywood blockbuster' was planned, but a more modest production that would be shot mainly in the city of Plymouth. The following month the same newspaper reported that Mark Collicott of Whitechapel Films would be producer and director, that there had been a large number of applicants to play Casper, that the script for the film was ready and that filming could take place during summer 2013. However, there doesn't seem to be any more recent news (October 2013), so we aren't sure whether the project is going ahead.
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Our featured feline at the head of the page is Socks, pictured in 2003 surveying his 'estate' in the early morning sunshine. Affectionately known as Soxy, he blossomed from a thin and hungry stray into a substantial and handsome cat who loved life and company, and his gentle ways endeared him to many friends. He is now no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.
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Page created February 2009 (originally in Fragments section), with later revisions and additions