In March 2009, we posted our most popular blog to date—explaining the role of the beloved cats that are diligent workers in Longwood's Integrated Pest Management Program. Since then we have added four felines to our ranks, so we thought it was time to introduce our newest furry ambassadors and update you on the rest of the crew! Our cats patrol all of Longwood's grounds, from the Nursery and the Peirce-du Pont house to the Abbondi Composting facility. Each cat has an assigned area of the Garden and a human caretaker. The responsibilities these felines take on are varied. Their primary job is on the Rodent Control Task Force, but they also work as greeters, work supervisors, lap warmers and highly skilled catmint pruners. They work in exchange for food, shelter, and a health care plan. Every spring, Dr. Spancake of Lenape Veterinary Clinic in West Chester, PA makes a trip to Longwood to administer an occupational health exam and give booster vaccinations. Some cats are a little afraid of the doctor and require corralling. Others, like Noel and Belin, purr through the whole affair.
All the cats got a clean bill of health this year, although at least one will need to up the exercise time to lose a little extra weight! After a rough winter with lots of snow and a few minor injuries, as well as a few extremely hot days this summer, all of Longwood’s cats are happy to be outdoors enjoying the pleasant weather.
First, let me introduce you to our three newest "employees": Sarge, Ben and Jerry
All three of these "new hires" came to us as kittens last summer. The three brothers were rescued from a golf course garage in Wilmington, DE. When we got them, all three were malnourished with fleas and eye infections. Happily, the boys are back to mouse-catching condition and cute as can be!
Sarge resides at the Security House and it’s been reported to me that his little feet never touch the ground! For all the spoiling this rambunctious teenager receives, he repays his caregivers by entertaining them with funny antics, lots of affection and a mouse every now and then. He loves visitors, but watch out! Close the door quickly or he’s likely to run out to grab a little fresh air!
Ben and Jerry are stationed at the Abbondi Composting Facility and are cared for by Glenn and Larry—wink wink! Jerry is almost identical in appearance to Sarge, but has a pink nose and a white chin. He is over-the-top friendly, with a loud purr and a comical high-stepping walk. I think he is just so excited to see people, he’s walking on air!
Ben is the complete opposite of his two brothers. He is grey with just a hint of white on his chest. He is friendly, but so shy we rarely see him. However, we know he ventures out occasionally because he once got himself stuck in a storm drain. Luckily, he was able to free himself using a strategically placed piece of fence and wooden pallet. I thought I was going to have to crawl around down there to coax him out of hiding!
Our brand new addition to the Longwood Cat program is Boca, named for his giant loud mouth! This handsome black cat with big green eyes arrived at the loading dock of the Garden Shop last Fall. Super-friendly and affectionate, Boca spent the chilly winter in the upstairs storage room of the Visitor Center resting and packing on the pounds. He makes sure you know when he is hungry by standing in the stairwell loudly meowing for food—remember how he got his name? Many of the Garden Shop employees fell instantly in love with Boca and he now has a monogrammed blanket, custom cat door, and many adoring visitors.
And now, for our familiar cast of characters:
Guardian of the historic Peirce-du Pont house, this large grey tabby has a name with historic origins; “Belin” (pronounced BEE-lin) is Ms. Alice du Pont’s maiden name. Belin is probably Longwood’s most famous feline due to his large size and friendly personality; however, he has very humble origins.
Rescued from a dumpster at The Terrace Restaurant in 2004, he was covered with grease and very afraid of people. Nowadays, Belin can’t get enough human attention and works closely with Longwood’s Guest Service Representatives as an ambassador to the thousands who visit the Perice-du Pont House each year. One of his favorite spots is curled up on a chair or sprawled out in front of the entrance like a welcome mat!
Kousa looks a bit like a cross between a cat and a polar bear.
She is large and white, and hibernates for most of the colder months inside the Carriage Shed on the eastern side of the garden. She is also stone-deaf, which means she isn’t perturbed by all the noisy machinery in her area, where mulch, soil, and debris are routinely dropped off and picked up. But don’t be late with her breakfast or she will really let you know about it with loud meows!
Noel and Smokey
This lucky pair inhabits the Idea Garden Shop on the western side of the Garden. Their home just happens to be the shop closest to the largest catnip patch on the property, which may explain their happy and affectionate personalities.
Given a choice between a person and food, Smokey would choose the person every time. Noel is a foul weather friend and the oldest of Longwood’s cats; the colder it gets the more she wants to be on your lap. In the winter, she often sneaks into the Conservatory where I have spotted her curled up contentedly next to seated guests. But in the warmer months, she is happiest outside sleeping in the sun or catching mice. Pretty impressive for a petite lady of a distinguished age!
Missy lives with the arborists at Anvil Shop near the Nursery.
She is a dilute tortie with a license to kill. She used to take her rodent catching duties far more seriously than most of Longwood’s other cats, often leaving gifts for her caretaker. However, the older she gets, the happier she is to curl up on a pile of Christmas lights!
Smitty and Jojo
Smitty and Jojo are the sisters who patrol the nursery.
Jojo is black with a white bib, stomach, and toes. Smitty is nearly all black, with white only on her stomach. They show occasional sisterly affection toward one another, stopping to bump noses now and then, but usually stick to their own turf. Jojo spends much of her time in the area around the barns and tenant houses. However, due to an ACL tear, she spent most of the winter months recuperating indoors at one of the Nursery’s tenant houses. Her caretakers gave her plenty of TLC and she’s back running around with barely even a limp. Smitty loves people and hangs out in and around the nursery greenhouses. Coaxed with treats, she will even do a few tricks!
Spooky and Vincenzo
This nearly inseparable pair shares a cozy little heated hut near the Terrace Restaurant.
Their close friendship goes to show that opposites really do attract. Their appearances and personalities could not be more different.
Vincenzo’s long grey fur sports the just-rolled-out-of-bed look; while Spooky’s sleek black coat can outshine any other cat in the garden. As for their personalities, “Spooky” is anything but. Vincenzo—more appropriately VincenzA (or Wild Thing depending on who you ask!)—was originally discovered behind the Italian Water Garden and was named in part for her tough demeanor, but she is actually super shy. When Spooky occasionally goes exploring on his own, Vincenzo cries and cries for her missing friend.
Iggy usually hangs out around Flower Garden Walk.
He has a black coat with a white face, chest and boots; but don’t let the tuxedo fool you. With a neurotic personality and a gift for getting into trouble, he more than lives up to his namesake–Iggy Pop. If he wants food or your attention he’s not afraid to open his mouth and ask for it. His high-jinx include getting himself locked in a women’s bathroom and caught in a have-a-heart trap set for capturing skunks.
Many of our guests have been asking about and missing the little tuxedo cat, Rebar, from the Hillside Garden. Well, I miss her, too. She died two years ago and I still feel sad when I enter the Hillside shop for a tool or some extra hose. I placed a memorial stone with an "R" made of rebar in the Hillside Garden in her honor. She was my furry little friend and Longwood just isn't the same without her. Feel free to give any of the cats a gentle hello if you see them. Many will take advantage of a warm lap if given the chance, but won’t be offended if they are too busy patrolling or cat napping! Thank you for visiting Longwood Gardens, and be sure to come again—there is always something new to see and do with the whole family!