Source: CBC News (Extract)
Posted: October 17, 2023

Some residents in the Town of Lunenburg are hoping to memorialize a community cat — who brought comfort and smiles to locals and tourists alike — by painting a mural in her memory.

Little Miss Mini the Calico Kitty moved to Nova Scotia with her family from Newfoundland during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although she was new to the area, her owner says that didn’t stop her from becoming a cat about the town.

“She was always a little bit of a scaredy cat,” Lucy Newton, who runs the Purcell Family Art Gallery on Lincoln Street, told CBC Radio’s Maritime Noon on Monday.

“She never really came out of her shell until we moved here to Lunenburg, which was kind of a shock to us and kind of exciting to see how she affected the community.”

Newton said Mini could often be found napping in the window of the gallery, or on the chair of their neighbour’s art studio.

But she was also an explorer, Newton said, making her way to the nearby Hodgepodge Eatery for “second breakfast” or joining members of the Lunenburg Walking Society.

She would sometimes go all the way to the local distillery or try to sneak into the local museum on the waterfront, Newton said, while greeting people by rubbing against their legs.

“We quickly thought, ‘Well, she’s not really our kitty anymore, she’s a community kitty now,'” Newton said.

“And it was only till after, really, she passed that we found out really how big her reach was in the community.”

Newton said Mini died a few weeks ago, likely after being hit by a vehicle based on the damage to her collar that was recently found discarded in a community green space.

She said there have been rumours Mini ingested rat poison, but she doesn’t believe that’s the case.

“We did take a risk with her being an outdoor kitty. We tried to keep her inside, but she clawed the windows and meowed at the door,” she said.

“So we knew that she might have a shorter life, but a happier life, perhaps, if she was an outdoor cat and she had a job to do, too — to greet the neighbours, check in on our neighbours.”

Community reaction

Newton said after Mini died, many people reached out with videos, photos, flowers, cards and stories about how she would give “some extra love” to people who needed a friend or some company.

She said waitresses at the local cafe told her that Mini would walk them to their car after a shift, guided by the jingle of the bell on her collar.

“We are pretty proud of her and it showed us how important a cat is to the community, or can be, how important animals are to people in the community and maybe scratching a cat is more important than you think,” she said.

Newton said Mini was also popular among tourists, joking she was “more photographed than the Bluenose itself.”

Although Mini is gone, community members are hoping to keep her legacy alive with a new mural on Lincoln Street.

Mary Mills, the owner of the Hodgepodge Eatery on Lincoln Street, has been helping organize the efforts.

Mills said she has teamed up with Jennifer Harrison at the Lunenburg Arts Society to create a petition in support of the mural, which will eventually be taken to the town for consideration.

“People just love the idea of having a mural there that’s not showcasing the Bluenose or the red buildings on the wharf,” Mills said.

“This is something to do with community spirit and vibe and love and support.”

The Town of Lunenburg has a billboard structure in a small green space on Lincoln Street that has been used for murals in the past. The most recent mural was damaged during post-tropical storm Lee last month, and was just removed, Mills said.

She said the town has a process for selecting an artist and design for the mural space, which has slowed down their efforts.

“People have just been willing to do whatever it would take for us to get this rolling … it would be nice to have something nice to look at, something warm, something inviting, something that really showcases community support,” she said.

Mills said the mural, including materials and labour, would cost about $6,000.

She and Harrison have been collecting donations at their respective shops, and at the Jenny Jib gift shop on Lincoln Street.

Mills said if the mural doesn’t come together, all proceeds will be donated to SHAID Tree Animal Shelter in Bridgewater.

Newton said she supports the idea of a mural honouring Mini.

“Her passing really affected the community, and it was sad to see — I mean, we’re very sad to lose our kitty,” Newton said.

“We loved her, but the community also did, too, so I think they’re missing their visits from the community kitty.”