Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Merli the cat's last stop

Merli the cat at rest in the bus stop.
Merli the cat at rest in the bus stop.

Merli the cat has always been a personality in his neighbourhood - getting on buses, attacking dogs, hob-nobbing at parties and snoozing in the pub.

Now 17 years old, Merli has put his wild days behind him and retired, to a bus shelter in the Auckland suburb Northcote Point.

"Hi, my name is Merli," reads a sign above the sleeping cat.

"I do have a home and whanau at 23A, B & C Queen Street who love me ... but I have now decided to leave my permanent home and take up residence in this bus shelter.

"... Thank you for the many pats and affection you have given me."

Merli's owners, Tony and Krys Lanigan, said they put up the sign so people wouldn't think he was abandoned and call the SPCA.

"No he's not, the sod. He's just drinking up all the love he can," Mr Lanigan said.

In his younger days, Merli was a regular sight around Northcote Point.

"He used to go up to the pub for lunch. My wife had been up to get coffee and there was a girl there who said 'this cat often comes up and sleeps in the private lounge before it's opened'.

"We also wondered why he wasn't eating at home and then we discovered he'd wonder up to the garden bar over summer and get fish and chips."

Merli was raised rough near Le Roys Bush in Birkenhead, where there was a large cat population, before being adopted by the Lanigans.

"He used to attack dogs. He patrolled our gateway and would put the fear of God into people running with their dogs," Mr Lanigan said.

"There's another chap who's a jogger, and he used to come with cat biscuits and give him a few but he came past one day and didn't give him anything so Merli ran after him and was trying to scratch his legs.

"People would cross the road rather than walk past him because he wouldn't move from the centre of the footpath. He's slowed down since then."

Merli would sometimes head to the nearby ferry terminal when there were functions happening, and wait for revellers to toss him snacks.

"I'm sure he's had a few canapes in his time. And we feed him at home so he must eat shed loads."

Neighbours had also seen him hopping on and of buses, and drivers would regularly talk to him.

"I think he's just a very a social animal and our neighbours all look out for him. We've found out he's got a constituency far bigger than those who live at our house," Mr Lanigan said.

Merli was now believed to be deaf and partially sighted, and could have senile dementia.

"He is loved, it's just he's chosen, at this senile age, to bugger off from home."

This note was left in the bus stop to explain the snoozing cat.
This note was left in the bus stop to explain the snoozing cat.

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf05 at 25 Oct 2014 13:51:26 Processing Time: 508ms