- Associated Press - Monday, August 17, 2015

BRECKENRIDGE, Texas (AP) - In its storied history, Thomas likely is not the first fat cat to stroll the halls of the Stephens County Courthouse. But he’s probably the first to do it on four legs.

In 2013, a too-skinny, pitiful-looking creature wandered up to the building’s west door. With his gray fur clamped to his body, the little cat sat down to lament his bedraggled state. It was winter, and by all reports it was raining, if not worse.

“Yeah, he looked like a wet rat,” Richard Cook, who maintains the courthouse, told the Abilene Reporter-News (https://bit.ly/1f8RutQ).

“He just came up to the west door and everybody was just ‘Oohing’ and ‘Ahhing,’ thinking ‘Poor cat,’” recalled Sharon Trigg, the Stephens County treasurer. “The judge decided we’d take him in.”

County Judge Gary Fuller is credited with naming him Thomas. A collection was taken and the cat was neutered and vaccinated. Then came the wait for him to get comfortable in his new home.



“He wouldn’t come indoors for a while,” said secretary Bonnie Marsh. “But gradually, he finally just kind of moved in.”

Those skinny days are long gone, now. Thomas weighs in at a hefty 16 pounds and no matter how many rounds he makes through the courthouse, his new shape looks like it’s here to stay.

Some days he’ll visit Marsh for a nice rub-down. Later on, the cat will move down the hall to Joanie Gipson in the county clerk’s office, or drag himself over to Trigg’s desk for a sprawl across her desk.

To be truthful, though, it’s not just her desk he takes over. Thomas is likely to oblige himself at any workstation if the human occupant lets him.

“He just jumps up there when he wants his belly scratched,” Gipson said. “If you don’t respond within a certain amount of time, he’ll leave and go find someone else. He’s not partial.”

If there’s no desk to be had, there’s always the floor in the main hallway. That is, until Cook comes by.

“He’ll follow me around, up and down the hall, up and down the steps,” Cook said. “I’ve got to go up on the third floor a lot. He’ll try to beat me up there, sometimes.”

The emphasis is on the word “try,” however.

“It depends on how aggressive he is, because most times he only gets so far and then just flops down on the floor,” he said, laughing.

He’s not much of a mouser, either. Some time back, a rodent showed up in the clerk’s office.

“He just looked at it and watched it go by,” Cook said, laughing again.

Well, what about a favorite scratching post … does he have one of those?

“Yeah, my shoe,” Cook said.

“We have to buy Richard new shoes every once in a while,” Marsh laughed.

Trigg likes having Thomas around.

“I’m a cat lover. To me, he’s relaxing,” she said. “When he comes and sits in here, he relaxes me.”

Not everyone likes a cat; even Thomas knows that. Accordingly, he only visits the offices where he’s welcome.

“Every time I come in and see the cat upside down or in one of his weird positions, I can’t help but smile,” Trigg said. “Because he’s got a million of them.”

But if his lounge act starts dragging, Trigg knows how to get a move-on - bring out the comb. A cat can only stand so much grooming from its humans.

Unfortunately it does result in stray fur. Trigg resigns herself with a sigh, admitting the likelihood of cat fur filed away with some of her records.

“I just put it in the trash can when I find it,” she said.

He’s a smart cat, but he’s not so smart to figure out how the door opens to get outside. On the other hand, he is smart enough to wait for somebody to do it for him.

When outside, Thomas likes to hang out beneath the hedges, or maybe pad through the grass to sniff the wind. Trigg said Thomas has a girlfriend named Gracie, who also was fixed. The two of them play or lounge when the heat gets to be too much.

“Most of the time when I lock up, I’ll go out and call him and he’s ready to come in,” Trigg said. “But if he’s not ready to come in, he’ll run you for a merry chase.”

They keep a litter box and cat food in the basement. They used to lock Thomas there, too.

“But we thought that was cruel and inhumane. So we just let him roam the courthouse,” Trigg said.

But just in case, Trigg makes it a point to drop by during the weekend.

“I feel bad that he’s up here by himself, I can’t stand it that he doesn’t have anybody,” she said. “Because he’s a people pers … ,uh, cat, you know.

“I just feel bad if I don’t come up here and check on him.”

County Commissioner D.C. Sikes remembered the time someone took Thomas as their own.

“Yeah, somebody kidnapped him,” he said.

“They found him at some apartments across town,” Cook recalled.

But by now everyone knows Thomas.

“A lot of people look for him,” Trigg said. “We get people from out of town who want to see Thomas the cat.”

___

Information from: Abilene Reporter-News, https://www.reporternews.com

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