A small-town superstar can walk on four paws but prefers to sleep in his blanketed bed.
Students, visitors and permanent residents alike stop outside a brick-faced building beside the courthouse to admire him through the window. They point and smile and show their friends. Maybe they kneel beside the glass to be eye-level with the mascot of the Athens County Board of Elections, but the chubby, orange tabby cat snuggled in the blanketed pet bed on the chair through the glass is indifferent. The attention he gets through the giant window of the old building is unexciting to him. In fact, nothing much excites him.
“Pumpkin is just Pumpkin,” Debbie Quivey, the director of the Athens County Board of Elections, said about the cat.
The preteen-aged rescue is a local celebrity in Athens near the Ohio University campus. His fans are mostly students and nearby residents, but his fame has already reached most of the state of Ohio. Even the Secretary of State’s office asks about him.
“Anybody in the elections in the state of Ohio, they know about Pumpkin,” Quivey said.
His fame started at the Athens County Board of Elections, which guides election officers and voters during every election as a bipartisan board of four appointees. One Reddit thread from a few years ago highlighted him as a working cat at the office, seeming to be a symbol attracting voters. He has shared reminders to citizens to vote or request mail-in ballots on his social media before.
The pet has social media accounts made in his name. Quivey and his other caretakers at the Board of Elections have no idea who runs those accounts, but they are very active, especially the Instagram account @pumpkin_the_cat_fanpage.
Like most celebrities today, Pumpkin receives a lot of fan art and gifts. A painted portrait of the pet is visible through the window behind his perch. He is also often given catnip and toys. The staff at the Board of Elections doesn’t accept food or treats for him because, like any diva, he is on a special diet recommended by the vet that only allows seafood.
Pumpkin is adored while lazing about, but his early life was far less kind to him.
“We’re pretty sure he was an abused kitty,” Quivey said.
Quivey found Pumpkin with the previous deputy director of the Board of Elections, Penny Brooks, while running an errand at the post office. At the student rental apartment next door, there was an argument between a young man and woman. The man said he no longer wanted the kitten anymore and would turn him loose to the streets.
Overhearing and watching the situation unfold, Quivey and Brooks approached the woman, who then handed the cat over to them and asked if they would find the kitten a home.
That was how the creature, now called Pumpkin, came to meet his new caretakers when he was only about a year old. Quivey said he was sick with fleas and mites at the time and was likely hurt by the previous male owner.
“He likes women more than he does men ... I’ve always thought that the guy probably kicked him,” Quivey said.
Like any pet, Pumpkin had a special bond with one person, Brooks, who was there when he was taken into his new home. Her recent death had greatly affected her furry friend. Quivey said Pumpkin grieved for a long time, staying in her room at the Board of Elections.
“He liked the rest of us and tolerated us, but he loved Penny,” Quivey said.
Since Brooks passed away, her son has come to work in her place. Another employee retired and was replaced by a new woman as well. Quivey said Pumpkin has since come to tolerate everyone a little more. He almost really likes anybody who takes up a position at the Board of Elections.
“They’re going to have to realize they’ve inherited Pumpkin,” Quivey said.
Pumpkin has mood swings, like many other cats his age. He might let someone pet him and show him love, but there is an equal chance that he would want nothing to do with them and will instead prefer to stay curled up by the window — which really has become his spot.
“He pretty much thinks he rules the place, which he pretty much does,” Quivey said.
Although he is generally well-behaved, he recently got himself banned from one of the rooms in the building. He used to roam the office unrestricted but, in what was either an assertion of power or a diss to the board, he made an unpleasant puddle in the boardroom, which resulted in a revocation of his privilege to explore that room further.
He is usually not quite so haughty, however. He likes to watch everyone at work and will walk from clerk to clerk, desk to desk and room to room, receiving loving attention along the way. Once that bores him, he returns to his bed — in his spot in the sunshine that pours through the window — and naps or stays awake doing nothing at all but somehow still making every passerby swoon.
“He doesn’t want to put any effort in playing with any toys. His favorite thing is laying in the front window,” Quivey said.
Since the first day he made that his spot, he has been drawing crowds of looky-loos to admire his effortless confidence and charming stripes by happily doing nothing.
“We hope that he has a very long, happy life here, and we’re sure that he will,” Quivey said.