Residents throw 10th birthday party for cat crowned king of village

A village is coming together to throw a birthday party for a cat who has become famous for making himself at home in local shops.

Wilbur was originally owned by Cathy Applebee, a resident of Ruddington near Nottingham, but he decided to break out on his own when she took in two rescue kittens a few years ago.

Now Wilbur, known as the King of Ruddington, has become a local celebrity with his own Facebook and Instagram pages as he approaches his 10th birthday on July 7.

Wilbur at the Red Lion
Wilbur is often seen at local pubs, including the Red Lion (Andrea Bamford/PA)

Ms Applebee told the Press Association: “He comes home but he doesn’t stay in the home because he doesn’t like the kittens.

“So the fact that the community’s embraced him in such a lovely way, because he is such a character, is lovely because it means, especially now he’s got his Facebook page, I can see what he’s up to.”

To stay away from the newcomers, Wilbur, who Ms Applebee describes as “bold” and “very friendly”, spends his time in shops and businesses around the village instead.

Wilbur eyes up a fish
Wilbur loves people but has not been so keen to share living space with other animals (Alan Goodwin/PA)

“He’ll just take himself in to any shop, anywhere,” she said. “There was one time when the doctor’s receptionist came back and he was sitting on her chair.

“When there was a gym in the village he’d go and someone sent me a picture of him on the equipment in the gym.”

Among his favourite haunts are a local hairdresser, two pubs and the Nottingham Building Society.

Lesley Harper, who works in the building society, said he has been a big hit with their customers.

Wilbur at the Nottingham Building Society
Wilbur is often to be found hanging out at the Nottingham Building Society (Lesley Harper/PA)

“He’s been a regular visitor for most of this year,” she told the Press Association. “He’s a very laidback chappie, happy for customers and villagers young and older to pop in and say hello.”

She also said he is a cat of expensive tastes who “likes his gourmet cat food”.

Such is the impression that Wilbur has made on the people of the village that they are now coming together to throw him a birthday party when he turns 10 next month.

Sarah Godfrey, who is organising the party, told the Press Association: “Wilbur is part of our lives, as he is everyone who lives in the village.”

Wilbur on the bar at the Red Lion
Wilbur has been described as ‘bold’ and ‘very friendly’ (Alan Goodwin/PA)

Organisers have ordered masks with Wilbur’s face on and people attending the event at the Frame Breakers pub are being encouraged to wear feline fancy dress, while there are expected to be cat-themed drinks available as well.

Around 100 people have so far registered their interest in the event on July 14 but Ms Godfrey says she has no idea how many will attend.

“I think people just love how weird it is,” she said. “It could be a couple of hundred – it could be 10, but I doubt it. I think it will be really weird in a good way.”

The event will also raise money for local charities.

Wilbur at the Red Lion
Local residents hope to catch a glimpse of Wilbur when they go to one of his regular haunts (Gianfranco Forlenza/PA‎)

While organisers are hopeful Wilbur will put in an appearance at a venue which is one of his two favoured pubs in the village along with the Red Lion, they will be at the mercy of an animal who marches to the beat of his own drum.

Nobody knows that better than Ms Applebee, who has had to come to terms with the new living arrangements since Wilbur struck out on his own nearly half his life ago.

“I was really sad because I love him so much,” she said. “But ultimately he’s his own character and his own mind and as long as I know he’s OK, and he’s being fed…”

She added: “Obviously I still really care about him but a cat’s a cat. He’s always been a roamer.”

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