Blount Today has a new staff member. He goes by many names - Rufus, Scoopers, Little Devil, Expletive Cat. But to most he is simply known as Scoop, the newspaper cat. Scoop is only 13 weeks old but already has quite the story to tell.
Jolanda Jansma, one of the Blount Today’s freelance photographers, happened to glance down as she was shooting photos of the Arthritis Walk for the paper one Sunday in May. There, laying beside a garbage can in Greenbelt Park, was a baby kitten.
At only three weeks old, dehydrated and scared, he barely had the energy to “meww.” Blount Today publisher Sherri Gardner Howell put him in a box and made her way to the pet store, going home with advice, kitten formula and a syringe. She gave the tiny kitten some food, and he immediately perked up. After the third feeding, he was strong enough to pull himself out of his tiny little box and go exploring. Sherri named him Scoop. It was a fitting name for a newspaper cat.
I met Scoop for the first time on Monday morning. He was tiny with the sweetest face and the most innocent eyes. I sent my husband, Steve Wildsmith, a picture and immediately got a reply of “Is this your way of asking if you can bring it home?” I quickly replied “No” that I was just sharing the cuteness with him. I don’t think he believed me.
Scoop spent the next week at the Blount Today office, going home with one of us at night. We had every intention on finding Scoop a good home. Blount Today is full of animal lovers, but we all said we couldn’t keep him for a variety of reasons. We were confident we could find him a good home where he would be loved and spoiled.
After some research, we discovered Scoop was a Manx. He has no tail - not even a stub. That first week we noticed he was having some problems using the bathroom correctly but chalked it up to him being so young. Sherri took Scoop for a vet appointment to see what could be done about his bathroom issues.
The news was bad. The vet said he probably had neurological problems because of his breed and that the most humane thing to do was put him to sleep before he got any worse.
As the vet waited, Sherri simply shook her head. It was a Saturday, and the thought of going to the office with the news that Scoop was gone just wasn’t going to happen. Scoop was the office cat, Sherri told the vet, and she couldn’t make that decision on her own.
Some of our team was working Sunday, putting together our graduation section. We talked about it, all happy that we still had some time to try to figure things out.
I refused to accept that there was nothing that could be done for Scoop. It just didn’t seem right. I made an appointment for Scoop at my vet’s office, Maryville Small Animal Medical Center, for the next afternoon. We weren’t going to give up on him without at least a second opinion.
I took him in with restrained hope, prepared to hear the worst. After a quick examination, a x-ray, an enema and a lot of screaming on Scoop’s part (after all, having your bottom messed with is almost as bad as having your toenails pulled out), we were sent home with some medicine and a hopeful prognosis. Scoop was a little backed up and that was causing him several problems. It was still a wait-and-see scenario but if everything improved, the vet saw no reason why Scoop couldn’t grow up to be a healthy, happy cat.
Since that vet visit, Scoop has continued to go to work every day and sleep at someone’s home at night. He continues to improve and grow. His personality has developed, and we’re still discovering his little quirks. When he’s hungry he stands at your feet and cries the quietest, weakest cry. I suppose it’s because he’s trying to convince you he’s so weak and hungry he’s about to die at any moment. Our office has partitions that are carpet covered - a little cat’s dream. One of his favorite daytime activities is climbing all the way up and stealing thumb tacks. He’s absolutely fearless. There’s no table, desk or stack of newspapers too high for him to launch himself off of.
He goes home with me most nights. I have two 90-pound dogs, Jack and Harley. Scoop finds great fun in crouching on the arm of the couch and waiting until one of them walks by so he can slap them on the behind and then run before they can get him. He has no problem sneaking up on my cat, Claire, when she’s not paying attention and grabbing her paw just to hear her growl and run off embarrassed. She’s slowly taken to Scoop and often at night I watch them chase each other from room to room in a game we refer to as “sneaky ninjas.”
Scoop finds sport editor Stefan Cooper’s bike wheels fascinating and spends many hours jumping through the spokes or getting chased away. Bike tires and kitten claws do not mix well.
Scoop is great company on our Tuesday night production nights. We are often here until the wee hours of the morning. A playful kitten is great entertainment for our sleep-deprived brains. He usually gets going about the time our brains start giving out on us and does an excellent job of keeping us alert and awake.
We had every intention on finding Scoop a good forever home. We really did. But after three weeks, we quickly realized Scoop wasn’t going anywhere. He officially became the office cat. He’s here to greet visitors every day that we’re working. Our office greeting has quickly become “How can I help you? Are you allergic to cats?”
He’s an equal opportunity cat and loves, scratches, bites and annoys us all the same. Often throughout the day you hear yells of “get down from there” or “stop that” or “no you can’t play with that.” He loves to climb legs and doesn’t care whether you’re wearing pants, jeans or have bare legs that day. He’s coming up. You never know who’s lap you’ll find him curled up in, purring and sleeping. In other words, he rules the roost around Blount Today.
Scoop hasn’t overcome all his bathroom issues completely yet, but he’s made so much progress we no longer worry that anything could be life threatening. Mostly he just hasn’t quite figured out how to get his legs out of the way when he’s in the litter box. We’re confident that with a little more time, he’ll figure it out.
Our publisher, Sherri, has a column in the Knoxville News Sentinel and has written twice about Scoop. The community reaction has been unbelievable, with Sherri saying she has received as much response from the Scoop stories as any columns she has written. Scoop has developed quite the following from Sherri’s stories. So much so that one of the producers at WBIR asked if they could come do a story on Scoop. The story will air on Thursday, July 29, during “Live at Five at Four.”
Scoop has been a great addition to our office family, and it would seem quiet and lonely now without the patter of kitten feet running from one room to the other at full speed. Friends from other offices in the Law Building come by regularly to visit him, often bringing him toys or treats. When you’re stressed and working against an ever-present deadline, there’s something relaxing and soothing about a kitten purring with absolute love and affection.
Scoop had a shaky start to life. But like all happy endings, with a little love, compassion and hope, he’s managed to steady his legs, and we think he has the brightest of futures.
Check out his story on “Live at Five at Four” on July 29, and stop by and visit when you’re in the neighborhood.