Normally, nothing good follows the phrase “he peed in my bed.”
For Pumpkin, the cat best known for his appearances in the Athens County Board of Elections’ window, it meant finding a better home and becoming an Athens icon.
In October 2012, the now-celebrity did some damage to his owner’s bed, leading to a fight between that man and his girlfriend. Debbie Quivey, the director of the Board of Elections, and Penny Brooks, deputy director, overheard that argument.
“We could only hear the fight,” Quivey said. “It was really funny because we thought he was talking about a roommate.”
The man said, “I don't want him no more,” and, “He makes too much of a mess.” Then the two women heard him say, “He peed in my bed.”
“We were like, ‘The roommate peed in his bed?’” Quivey said.
The fight wasn’t about a roommate at all, but a year-old, orange cat, who was then named “Pierre.”
To save the cat from a life on the streets, the woman turned to Quivey and Brooks, asking them to take care of the cat. The two didn’t know how they could take on a kitten and run the Board of Elections at the same time, but they took him in, renamed him Pumpkin and spoiled him.
“Our heart just melted,” Brooks said. “We had him hid for a while and thought, ‘OK, we're gonna be in trouble because we have a cat.’”
After keeping him hidden for a while, Pumpkin escaped and made his way to the front window. Quivey and Brooks returned to find a crowd of people banging on the front window.
“Oh my God,” Quivey remembered saying. “The cat's in the front window. He's in the front window, and everybody's just looking. The cat's out of the bag!”
Since that day, Pumpkin has become part of the daily lives of many Athens residents.
“Our intention was to find him a good home,” Quivey said. “We just didn't realize at that time that the good home was going to be here.”
For the past five years, the office of the Board of Elections, 15 S. Court St., has been Pumpkin’s home. He loves to spend time in the front window of the office, but ultimately, the whole office is his domain. He has a “cat tree” in Brooks’ office and the entire floor to himself at night. His litter box occupies a bathroom, and no humans can use the toilet without him being in there with them.
“He gets his litter box cleaned, his nose cleaned (and) his bum cleaned,” Quivey said in an email. “He likes to lay on his table in the front window. He always gets company. He goes and visits everyone at their desk. He takes a lot of cat naps. We feed him and clean his litter box before we go home. Pumpkin is treated like the king that he is!”
Pumpkin has been treated like royalty by not only the seven women who work in the office, but also by many people in the City of Athens.
A guest book the Board of Elections keeps for Pumpkin had more than 1,100 entries by the beginning of October.
“He has this book near where he sits that people can write little notes to Pumpkin in, and if you start writing in it when he's around, he walks over and lays down right on top of the notebook,” Clancy Thomas, a sophomore studying history who is a big Pumpkin fan, said in an email. “It's hilarious and adorable!”
Entries in the guestbook include doodles drawn by children and notes from graduating seniors saying goodbye to a cat who was a big part their lives in Athens.
“I’ve looked at you through the window for four years,” one entry read. “My daughter is graduating tomorrow, and I finally got to pet you!!”
Other entries simply show love for the cat and tell him he’s the best one around.
“Pumpkin, you are the King of Court Street!” another entry read.
People stop in the office to see Pumpkin every day, Quivey said, and for some, he is a routine part of life in Athens.
“He has company every day. I mean every day,” Quivey said. “We are amazed at the students who bring their parents in to meet him. And at graduation time, we cannot believe the (number of) students who come in and want a picture with him in their cap and gown because they're leaving.”
Thomas said she goes to the Board of Elections at least once a week “just to say hi” to Pumpkin. She said she misses her cats at home, so having Pumpkin close by is great.
“I love his orange fur, his sweet attitude and his dedication to civic involvement,” Thomas said in an email. “He also has a funny-looking face that is unique and so adorable. I'm a huge cat lover in general, and he's one of the chilliest cats around. He loves to be pet and stopping in to the (Board of Elections) is a great stress reliever because of him!”
Thomas isn’t the only one who thinks Pumpkin is a great stress reliever. Quivey and Brooks said when they are working long hours during election season, having a cat around the office has been great for their happiness and morale.
“We give up a lot of our own family time, and we all get along so well in here,” Quivey said. “The cat comes in and he just brings so much happiness to us. We're an election family, and he just brings a lot of happiness. He is a stress reliever. You can be stressed and upset and go and talk to him and play with him.”
Other boards of elections have tried to get cats or other pets in their offices, but Pumpkin is unique. In many ways, that uniqueness has made him famous and landed him appearances in the Ohio Secretary of State’s news page, the and other media outlets, Quivey said. He has accounts, and even in the works.
While his reach is statewide, people in Athens love Pumpkin just as much, and some are willing to do anything for him.
“Our kitty came into an inheritance,” Quivey said. “There was a lady who would come in and she had been left money to take care of her sister's cat. The sister's cat passed away, and she wanted to pass the generosity on.”
The woman set up an account for Pumpkin at a local veterinarian because the women at the Board of Elections had been paying to take care of Pumpkin themselves. Quivey and Brooks paid more than $300 in veterinarian bills when they first got the cat in 2012, and Pumpkin has some digestive problems to take care of, Quivey said.
“He really thinks he's something now because he got an inheritance,” Quivey said. “He really thinks he's hot stuff.”
Pumpkin has a mind of his own and comes with a “cattitude,” Quivey said. But one thing he does love is elections.
“He is into everything. He watches everything," Quivey said. "Anytime we have meetings, he's right there watching everybody and listening to everything that's said. He has to have his nose in everything in here.”
Like most people involved in public service, Quivey said he’s not without political opinions. She thinks Pumpkin is a “Democat.”
“I'm the Republican here, but I'm convinced he's a ‘Democat,’ ” she said. “(Cats) pick out one person they like the best — he loves Penny. He tolerates me.”
Despite the “cattitude,” people love Pumpkin. Quivey and Brooks, along with the more than 1,100 people who showed their love for the cat, don’t know what they would do without him.
“We fell in love with him,” Quivey said in an email. “The plan was to find him a home. We found him a good home in our office.”