Something very strange happened on a recent Sunday night in Columbia City. Tillotson Goble and her husband were fast asleep in the main bedroom of their house in the South Seattle neighborhood. At 2 a.m., Goble's husband felt fur on his nose and mouth and eyes.
"This obviously scared the shit out of him," Goble recalled over the phone the other day.
Her husband awoke to find a big cat sitting on his face. The Gobles do not own such an animal. They keep dogs.
"What's a cat doing on his face?" Goble continued. "He threw it off the bed. It was really scary. It was like: HOLY SHIT. How did it get in our bedroom? It had never even been in our house before."
The cat, however, was not a complete stranger to her. She had seen it hanging out on her porch over the summer. Then it disappeared for seven months, and all of sudden it showed up on her husband's face.
"It was just chaos. The dogs began barking. I was trying to get the cat out of the house and trying to call its owner. The cat wouldn't go away. It wanted to get back in the bed with us."
The cat is well-known in this part of town. His name is Felix. Many call him "the mayor of Columbia City." He had entered the Gobles' house by way of a newly installed dog door.
"My story is the tip of the iceberg," Goble added. "Felix gets around. He loves people, and so he will go home with just about anybody. He's such a chill cat that he just wants to socialize with anybody and everybody in the neighborhood."
The day after the incident, Goble posted about it on Facebook. The post generated about 80 comments. Many thought it was a funny story. No harm done—just Felix doing his mayor thing. Some thought that the Gobles were lucky it wasn't a raccoon that entered the house and got into the bed, and they recommended that the Gobles buy an electronic dog door (at a cost of about $400). A few thought the incident was just horrifying and accused Felix's owner of negligence.
At this point, the cat's owner, Sophia Arellano, stepped into the online fray to defend herself: She's a single mother, and it's really hard to keep track of a cat that's so unusually social and wants to get out all of the time.
At this point, Goble decided to delete the post (and with it, all the comments). She felt it was getting a touch too personal.
But Felix's owners have addressed their cat's unusual behavior on their own Facebook page dedicated to him (Unofficial: Felix the CAT). "The struggle's been real with our little Felix," begins a Facebook post from October. "He was a rescue kitten from the pound. From the day we brought him home he was wild!! And yes, there is definitely more to the story than we just let him out all the time!! He is definitely an escape artist... I have been picking him up from people all over near and far... Sort of reminds me of an out of control teenager!"
The spring day that I visited Sophia Arellano's apartment had very weird weather. It rained cats and dogs in the morning; then in the afternoon, the clouds vanished and the sun blazed like it was the middle of summer. Dark clouds were swiftly gathering again in the sky when I entered the apartment building around 6 p.m.
After climbing two sets of stairs, I was at the door of her place. She opened it, and immediately I saw Felix in the inside hallway. He wasn't looking at me; he was looking right through me. All that mattered to this odd cat was the open door behind my body.
I closed the door and looked down at the local celebrity for a moment. Compared to other celebrities, he is small—but for a cat, he is largish, a bit muscular, about 14 pounds. He has a healthy coat of gray-and-white fur and a pink nose.
Sophia's son picked up Felix and carried him to the living room. The cat's brown eyes never left the door.
Once in the living room, Felix focused on the open windows. He left the boy's arms and jumped onto a window ledge. There were no screens on the windows. Felix looked down at the ground outside, his long tail flicking this way and that. Felix, apparently, could not overcome his fear of the fall—the apartment is on the second floor and nothing stood between the window and the far-down ground.
Felix finally gave up and tried another window. For a long moment, he stared at a tree-shaped holly bush that was only a few feet away.
"He is so notorious," said Sophia after pouring me a glass of white wine. "Every business owner in Columbia City knows him. Even the people at my son's school, which is three miles away, know him as 'the mayor.' He often goes to Seward Park, which is two miles away... But it's not like he is trying to run away. He just likes to get out. And wherever he goes, he always expects me to show up and take him back home... He is also aggressive about following people to their houses and he demands attention. But people love him. I get calls from Lottie's Lounge saying: 'Tell Felix we have a manhattan on the rocks waiting for him.'"
Sophie got Felix two years ago for her son, who wanted a pet. She thought a cat would be low-maintenance, as they tend to be less demanding than dogs. But almost immediately, the young Felix revealed that he was not like the rest of his kind. He wanted adventure.
Before he was even a year old, Felix left the apartment and didn't return. This was during the Christmas season of 2016. Sophia got worried. Would she ever see him again? Would her son ever see him again? A few days later, she received a call from a friendly person who got the cat's information from an implanted microchip. Felix was hanging out at their house. But this house wasn't in Seattle—it was in Stevens Pass. "I was hoping to just make a short trip to pick him up. Stevens Pass is 80 miles away... It's more than an hour away. I have no idea how he got there."
Felix was still on the ledge of the west-facing window, his eyes fixed on the bush. Was he going to jump to it and attempt to climb down its bendy branches? He badly wanted to explore his hood.
Then he suddenly looked up. Something in the sky caught his attention. A moment later, hailstones began falling from the dark clouds. They fell all over Columbia City.
Felix looked at this weird weather with complete indifference, leaped down from the ledge, walked across the living room, and returned to the hallway near the door. He knew I would be leaving sooner or later.