No one knows exactly when or where Big Boy was born or how he came to live at UC Santa Barbara. As best anyone can figure, he showed up around 2005, and he’s made the campus his home ever since, cared for by many but owned by no one.
People usually find out about Big Boy through word of mouth. Katie Title, who works as an academic advisor in the College of Engineering, was told by a former coworker about a very friendly campus cat. Title started spending a few lunch breaks per week visiting him and eventually decided to step up and become his primary human liaison. “I was just a fan originally,” Title said, “but now I have become the central contact for him.”
Many different people contribute a small part of Big Boy’s care, Title explained. Someone prints and delivers a new log sheet for his feedings each month; another person trims his nails; fans bring hordes of Greenies, his favorite treats. For an outdoor senior cat, he’s in excellent health, a recent vet visit confirmed.
Big Boy’s admirers come from all over campus to sit with him for a few moments, giving him some love and getting a little comfort in return. “Thanks for the much-needed kitty therapy,” one visitor wrote on Big Boy’s log sheet, adding, “finals suck.” Another person wrote: “Came back from L.A. just to see him!” During the rainy season, he has his choice of two warm shelters, one donated by Title and the other courtesy of a groundskeeper named Carl Anderson.
Title and Big Boy’s other caretakers recognize that he won’t be around forever. He is already spending more time napping in the shade than he used to. Title hopes that when Big Boy reaches an age where he no longer enjoys being outside or greeting guests, he will have a chance to go to a peaceful home. “I hope that when it’s time, he gets to retire from campus and live comfortably,” she said, “but as long as he is moving around and eating, he is living a good life and has no reason not to be here.”
She promises to keep helping him however she can. “I’m in it until he retires or I retire,” Title said. “He gave me a lot of lunchtime companionship, and this is my way to pay him back.”
A longer version of this story was originally published by The Current on August 7.