From stray to stay, Keith the Te Manawa cat is as happy as Larry

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From stray to stay, Keith the Te Manawa cat is as happy as Larry

One of Palmerston North’s earliest houses is home to one of the city’s youngest residents. Keith might only be 2 but he’s met many Palmy people and visitors.

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Keith the cat lives under Tōtaranui House at the front of Te Manawa. Eleven months ago he was a stray until he was befriended by Te Manawa staff Neil Martin and Toni Edmeades. Edmeades has changed jobs but Martin continues to look after him and had the unenviable job of waking Keith up for his first media appearance.

While Keith prefers to sleep all day, if he hears Martin talking to people or the art gallery roller door opening he’ll come out from under Tōtaranui to say hi.

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Keith hasn’t always enjoyed interacting with people.

“It took us 11 weeks for him to come close to us,” Martin says.

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Building trust was a gradual process until one day Keith was circling around a very still Edmeades and eventually allowed her to pat him. A day or so later he offered the same favour to Martin.

“It was almost like that was the first human interaction he’d ever had.”

From stray to stay, Keith the Te Manawa cat is as happy as Larry

Keith the museum cat asleep on the Totaranui House verandah. Photo / Judith Lacy

Martin initially deemed Keith a misery guts due to his timidness and this reminded him of someone called Keith he used to know. While Keith the cat has made huge progress socially, the name has stuck.

It is estimated Keith is 2 and a half and he loves hiding in the bushes outside Tōtaranui. His favourite toy is a piece of flax he’s had for months and he loves having his tummy rubbed. He is friends with Andrew the cat who lives in the flats across the street.

Keith is not allowed in the museum through has tried to get in a few times. Instead the staff visit him.

“All the staff come and sit out here with him,” Martin says. “It’s therapeutic.”

Staff rather than Te Manawa pay for all Keith’s needs.

“I’ll do an email saying Keith needs some more money … before you know it, I email them back saying I’ve got enough money.”

Workers from The Square will pop in to see him.

“He’s got a little fan club … people bring their children down here to see him.”

Keith supplements his meals with night-time rodent hunting. Getting hold of daytime treats is now hard.

“We had to put him on a diet before Christmas because he was getting a little bit chunky.”

His bed under the house is insulated from the damp soil.

“It’s just a lovely, cosy bed under there, it’s nice and warm for him.”

Over the holidays, Martin went down at 7 every morning to feed Keith. The feline cleverly worked out some days Martin would come in his own car and other days his wife’s but both meant breakfast.

“He’s got a great life,” Martin says. “He’s as happy as Larry here.”

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