GULFPORT, Miss. – Big Boy may be up a tree, but he doesn't seem to mind. In fact, he's got a good thing going.
The story is that during Hurricane Georges in 1998, Big Boy, a tabby cat, was blown into an oak tree in Jones Park from his home on the roof of Lonnie Bobinger Sr.'s bait and tackle shop at Gulfport Harbor.
He has been there ever since.
To naysayers, there's plenty of evidence that he has made the tree his permanent home. Ron Roland, an employee of Gulfport Harbor Fuel and Bait shop, has fed him for more than a year – especially during the winter, when Mr. Bobinger, the cat's owner, closes his store.
Mr. Roland said neither he nor Mr. Bobinger has ever seen Big Boy leave the tree, even during 20-degree nights.
"You can feed him and pet him, but he won't let you hold him," Mr. Roland said.
Big Boy eats toward the south side of the tree. He'll readily gobble down a can of tuna or cheap cat food from the lower branch. A food container is nailed to the tree, but he will allow adventurous souls to hand-feed him.
From a north branch, he does his bathroom business. Yes, there is evidence.
Apparently, Big Boy has come down from his perch at least once, though.
"There was a bobtail cat who lives under the Coast Guard trailer," Mr. Roland said. "The bobtail cat decided to put his scent by the tree, and Big Boy came down and whipped [him]." Mr. Bobinger found Big Boy in the tree after the storm, but he couldn't get the cat down.
And no one else has tried since.
One can understand why: The 4-year-old cat weighs 15 to 20 pounds and has long, talonlike claws and a head as big as a dinner plate.
It's not that Mr. Roland really wants to hold him anyway.
"He comes from the school of hard knocks," Mr. Roland said.
"He's not really like a cat. He's more like a survivor."