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Museum Cats 10


Percy Katz

of Joplin, Missouri

Percy Katz, feline greeter at the Joplin Museum Complex, Joplin, Missouri, USA


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Museum cat Percy Katz on patrol - Joplin, Missouri Percy Katz, a handsome Russian Blue, is the official cat-in-residence and museum greeter at the Joplin Museum Complex in Joplin, Missouri, in the southern United States. He joined the staff in December 1999, when as a small kitten he was found one day crouching under a large, wooden hand jig (a kind of mining tool) that stands in front of the museum entrance. There wasn't much room under there, but museum director Brad Belk was able to slide in a plate of food for the youngster. Staff continued to feed him thus for about a week, until the weather forecast threatened a heavy snowstorm and led to fears for his safety. Brad managed to grab him and take him inside — and he has lived there ever since. Percy has become the mascot and trademark of the museum and in some ways has come to represent Joplin itself, so well known has he become. He is named after local Joplin composer Percy Wenrich.

Percy Katz, Joplin Museum Complex, Joplin, Missouri Percy has two great attributes for a museum cat: he is very agile, so is able to navigate around the place without knocking over or damaging artefacts; and he is excellent at public relations! He likes to 'meet and greet' visitors at the door, but doesn't overdo it and knows when to back off and not outstay his welcome. Children love him, and he is fine with dogs — he just doesn't much like other cats, having had no former experience of them. Most years he has a birthday party, to which local people are invited in return for a donation to one of the town's humane societies.

In August 2006 someone 'catnapped' Percy; staff made a plea to the public to assist in searching for him and the event was reported all over the local news media, receiving 'as much attention as the Lindbergh baby kidnapping'. Fortunately he was returned within a couple of days, being put into a cat carrier that had been set up outside the building.

Percy with his portrait in the background - Joplin Museum Complex, Joplin, Missouri Percy's portrait at the Joplin Museum Complex, Joplin, Missouri Later that same year the cat suffered from cancerous lesions on his abdomen and one of his hind legs, for which he was treated at Overland Park, Kansas — but an aggressive form of fibrosarcoma returned. He therefore needed radiation treatment, which was carried out at the University of Missouri-Columbia Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, where there is not only an innovative veterinary oncology programme but also one of the few linear accelerators dedicated to radiation therapy for veterinary use. Percy had a stay of four weeks and 20 or so doses of radiation, which seemed to clear up the problem with no bad side effects. He recovered over the Christmas period of 2006. Nurses kept the curtains drawn around him when possible, so he couldn't see and become upset by other cats being treated at the facility. The museum emphasises that Percy's treatment was funded by donations and there was no question of using any museum funds.

Percy Katz, Joplin Museum Complex, Joplin, Missouri So Percy was soon back on the job, greeting museum visitors from all over and even receiving letters from around the world. In the local area he is quite a celebrity, with a number of newspaper and magazine articles written about him. He counts the Governor of Missouri amongst his many fans, and he even has his portrait in oils (above), painted and donated by a local artist, hanging in the museum lobby. Apparently on one occasion Brad Pitt's mother visited the museum, wanting one of Percy's kittens to give to Brad's wife at the time. Unfortunately for her, of course, Percy was neutered!

Images of Percy in the window, and the close-up of his portrait, courtesy of jamie_lee3 at Flickr.

Updates

May 2011
Our thoughts are with the people of Joplin following the devastating tornado that struck the town on 22 May, causing terrible loss of life and property. At present we don't know the fate of the museum and its staff, including Percy.

January 2013
A short video clip of Percy can be seen at the Travel Channel. As it dates from 2012 it seems the museum, staff and Percy survived the tornado safely.

April 2014
After ruling the roost at the Joplin Museum since his arrival in 1999, Percy now has a companion — or in fact two of them! In late June 2013 a grey cat similar to Percy was seen in the town park, causing someone to call in and say he had escaped: but he was safely at home. Museum staff put food out for the stray — as it appeared to be — which was quickly eaten. Eventually, after a few days, they were able to catch it and take it in, where it was cared for in a quiet area away from where Percy hung out. It turned out to be a thin but friendly female cat — and she was pregnant!

Crystal the cat with kittens, Joplin Museum Complex, Joplin, Missouri The plan was to let her have the kittens, have them adopted when they were old enough, and keep her at the museum on a trial basis to see whether Percy approved, and of course whether she fitted into museum life herself. There were six kittens, and Crystal, as she was now named, turned out to be an excellent mother, taking good care of them. After weaning, five of them were adopted to new homes, but for some reason one wasn’t; named Roxie, it was decided she too should join the museum staff.

Crystal was spayed so she wouldn't have more kittens; but there was a scare with Roxie later when she became lethargic and wasn't eating. A trip to the vet indicated that her intestines had 'telescoped' and would need quite complex surgery. For a few days her fate was in the balance, but then she made a complete recovery.

In February 2014 it was reported that after a 'brief period of adjustment' Percy had accepted the newcomers, and in fact they had brought new life to the 'old boy' and he was spending less time sleeping! It also means that when he eventually passes on, his succession at the museum will be assured. For now the Joplin Museum Complex is home to three beautiful feline residents.

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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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