GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — For more than 15 years, Scrappy has pawed his way into the hearts of firefighters and visitors.
“Nothing fazes him,” said Hannah Johnson, a senior firefighter. “When the truck rides by he knows exactly what to do. He stays put, or he’ll wait till the truck leaves and you’ll see him scoot out the door.”
The gray tabby’s notched ear gives a clue about his early life as a feral cat — part of a colony that lived off Downwind Road between the fire station and an indoor gun range.
Animal welfare groups often notch the ears of feral cats that have been trapped and spayed or neutered so they aren’t collected again for the procedure.
Retired fire engineer Todd Shelton recalls Scrappy watching him from the woods near the station in west Greensboro years ago.
“I had a cat, and so I just started bringing food and I’d sit it there beside my truck,” Shelton said.
Initially, Scrappy would only come for the food after Shelton left.
It took more than a month for the cat to begin to trust Shelton enough to let the firefighter pet him.
Shelton put a dog house lined with blankets on the porch of the fire station and eventually Scrappy found his way into the bay area.
“As time progressed, he just got more comfortable with everybody and the noises and all that. From then on, he was just like the station cat and he sort of ruled the roost there,” Shelton said with a chuckle. “All the crews have taken care of him. I think it’s just good stress relief to have him around.”
Scrappy earned his name one day when he chased a much bigger tomcat away from the station.
Recalled Shelton: “I was telling the guys ‘he’s a scrappy rascal’ and that just stuck.”
Over the years, firefighters have taken Scrappy to get veterinary care. It wasn’t until recently that a vet mentioned a cat the station assumed was a she was actually … a he.
“For 11 to 13 of the 15 years, we thought this was a girl cat,” Johnson said.
Scrappy is even listed on the roster as “senior feline” and howls at the kitchen window if he wants to come into the bay and the doors are closed.
The crew takes up a collection to pay for vet care and prescription food to address his “old man issues,” which Johnson said runs about $65 per bag.
She said the firefighters are careful to wash their hands after handling the cat “just because you never know who’s allergic.”
Scrappy is also a hit with visitors, especially children who come by to see the trucks.
Said Johnson: “It’s always a surprise … like ‘Oh my gosh, you guys have a cat?’”
She corrects people, though: “We don’t really have a cat. He kind of adopted us and likes to hang out here.”