The next time you take a stroll through Nelson’s downtown core, watch out for an approximately 14-year-old grey, orange and white tortoiseshell domestic shorthair named Izzy, otherwise know to the local community as the Baker St. Cat.
The former street stray, who spends most of her time in the 300 to 400 block, has a propensity for delivering mangled mouse carcasses to business owners and meanders daily wherever she pleases, walking amidst pedestrians and routinely checking in at her favourite haunts.
“Izzy rules the roost,” Noreen Lynas of Cotton Creek Clothing told the Star. “She’ll challenge any dog, she’ll push the limits. I’ve seen her jump in the back of a delivery truck, climb into a kayak on the top of a car, she even jumped on the rumble seat of one of the cars at the Road Kings parade. She’s a character. Everybody knows her.”
She’s also seen Izzy communing with the buskers and panhandlers on Baker St.
“I’ve seen it where the buskers are playing in the amenity area, and Izzy will come check out the guitar case, sniff around, then she’ll just sit and listen.”
Lynas first made Izzy’s acquaintance just shy of a decade ago, when she was in her former location in the 300 block. She’s now at 488 Baker. Izzy’s former local owner was an RCMP officer who rescued her from the middle of the highway on a rainy night—her life before that is a mystery—but she had since struck out to forge her own path. She now routinely sleeps at Cotton Creek Clothing.
“She just sort of showed up one day. I had this tin of food for her and I didn’t want to leave it outside so I brought it inside and sure enough she showed up looking for food and stayed.”
Otter Books manager Samara Nicoll told the Star they’ve been missing Izzy since Cotton Creek Clothing moved down the street, because she comes by less often.
“Izzy used to walk over every day and hang out with us. Sometimes the whole day she’d sit on one of the chairs, or in the window, and then she’d go searching for mice. I had a really nice rapport with her, and I would scratch her head while she sat in my lap and purred.”
Nicoll was forced one day to sweep up a bird Izzy dragged in and left for dead. Her favourite story about Izzy’s hunts, though, involves a panicked but savvy chipmunk who escaped her clutches.
“She chased this chipmunk in here and it survived because it hid behind a book shelf for two days, back between the journals and art books. We’d see it every now and then, and eventually he got out. I think he must’ve survived by eating gum off the carpet or something.”
Though she was foiled that time, Niccol said Izzy is a “huntress”.
“She sits in our back office during that time of year when mice start coming out and waits there in her little hunter pose. “
Another of Izzy’s favourite places to visit is Poulin Agencies, where insurance broker Karen Miller said Izzy routinely “guards the door” or “just hangs out”. Phoenix Computers’ Scott Newland told the Star he can’t remember a time during his ten years at his location that she hasn’t been there.
“She patiently waits at the door for people to let her in or out,” said Newland. “She likes to climb on the printer boxes where she can sit high and say hi to people as they come in. She’s pleasant with most people, but if she’s in a snit—and you can usually tell—it might be a good idea to steer away the small kid approaching her.”
And though she has a reputation for being a bit testy, Newland believes that’s a necessary survival tactic.
“She has to be that way. I know she’s loved and looked after and most people seem to know her. More often than not they’ll recognize her and pet her. It’s rare she’s not friendly.”
And Lynas said Izzy is perfectly capable of taking care of herself.
“We’ve had so many people pick her up, bring her by saying ‘we found your cat in the middle of the road’ and we just tell them ‘she’ll be fine’. I’ve seen her wait for a stoplight with the pedestrians, then walk with them. So she knows how to cross a street.”
Newland put it another way: “I don’t want to call her a street cat, but she’s a cat with a lot of freedom.”