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Neighbourhood visits of the feline kind

By Jacob Hoytema –

It was a normal weekday that Janet Wright received a call from St. George Catholic School, telling her that Jacob got in trouble and needed to be picked up from the principal’s office.

When she walked across the street to the school office, she found Jacob the cat in the principal’s arms, soaking up attention and head-scratches.

Jacob the cat is a local celebrity in his neighbourhood around Keyworth Avenue, known for his extreme sociability and his love of the spotlight. He is a frequent visitor at St. George, where he enjoys the students’ schoolyard company. On that day, he had somehow slipped inside after recess and was checking out the school halls and adventuring into classrooms.

“We will never be able to leave [the neighbourhood] as long as we have Jake,” says Janet. “He just loves going over and hanging around the kids.”

When the weather is warm, Jake spends his morning visiting not only the schoolyard, but a nearby daycare, and his neighbours’ houses and yards. He wears a collar bearing his name and Janet’s phone number for when he inevitably ventures his way into someplace he shouldn’t be. Janet says she and her husband Jim are “delighted” to have become “celebrities by association.”

Jacob the cat is one of the most celebrated residents of Champlain Park. Photo by Jacob Hoytema

Stephanie Langley, a neighbour of Janet’s, says that many residents welcome Jake inside for a visit and to offer him treats. Sometimes she’ll visit another of her neighbours’ homes, and Jake will already be there.

“If anybody lives in this neighbourhood, they know Jacob,” Stephanie says. “He’s just a super-friendly cat that everybody’s happy to see.”

Janet and her family moved to Ottawa from Calgary, where they originally welcomed Jake as a four-month-old kitten. (Janet says that the creature bonded immediately with her then-teenage son.) In that city, they lived across from a building which housed a synagogue on Saturdays and a United Church on Sundays. Jake, whose friendliness knows no denomination, would stop by to greet attendants for both services. He even proceeded to the altar on occasion.

Perhaps Jake’s most infamous encounter was when he decided twice to venture onstage last summer during a Shakespeare production in Champlain Park. Stephanie, who was present at the production, said an actor tried to incorporate Jake into his monologue before removing him from stage.

Having made friends with the St. George kindergarten students, their teacher asked Jim to bring Jake in for a visit, possibly making Jake’s education-related goals a reality. The cat was likely just as excited as the kids.

Would Jacob like to be a classroom kitty? Only he knows the answer to that question. Photo by Jacob Hoytema

Were a cat to do this once, he might go viral; when he does it over and over, he becomes a living gathering point and a frequent conversation topic. Jacob is a sort of mascot and symbol for his neighbourhood of Champlain Park. His frequent presence at local institutions and events makes him a model active community member — even if snow has lately restricted his little feet to the indoors.

Do you have a tale to tell about Jacob the cat? We’d love to hear it. Leave it in the comments below or send to us it via this form!

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