Not many of us have had a thriving social life over the last seven months. Locked inside, we gaze out our windows longingly, waiting for the air to be clear enough and the neighbors masked-up enough to safely stretch our legs.
However, one Bay Area resident has made themselves the talk of the town: a chatty nonbinary Siamese cat called Pinky. This outdoor Temescal denizen doesn’t just rub up on strangers to solicit a quick pet — Pinky has been known to follow newfound friends for blocks and blocks, sometimes all the way to the front door.
But while some find this cat’s friendliness totes adorbs, others are alarmed by the behavior — and they’ve taken to the neighborhood networking platform Nextdoor to levy accusations of neglect and share their suspicions about the Pinky’s mental fitness.
“I’m beginning to wonder with so many posts about his wandering behavior — if ‘Pinkie’ has a mental defect and doesn’t quite know where home really is?” wondered Jeanne Gordon, a Nextdoor user and self-proclaimed “life-long cat whisperer-type.”
“One of my cats used to act starved and trick the neighbors into doling out lots of treats” added Caitlin Young, wondering if Pinky was doing the same thing. These comments came as part of a flurry of posts about the cat, including three in just one day.
Of course, as is the case with many Nextdoor threads, the cat’s wanderings have set off neighborhood infighting, too.
“A tag on his collar isn’t going to protect him unless it’s radioactive to disease & speeding cars,” wrote Linda M. Birk, responding to a neighbor’s suggestion that the owner get proper tags for Pinky. Another user, Heidi Price, who seems to disapprove of the cat’s behavior, asserted (without evidence) that Pinky wasn’t current on their shots. A third implied that Pinky’s ward keeps the cat outdoors to avoid the hassle of cleaning a litter box.
Hard Times founder Matt Saincome — who initially brought this fiasco to our attention — posted a photo of his girlfriend, Celina Nikoo, with Pinky on Twitter, and cracked wise about the friendly feline to semi-viral fame. “Meet Pinky, an extremely social and outdoorsy neighborhood cat in Oakland who has no idea how upset people on NextDoor are about his adventures,” Saincome captioned the photo.
After an exhaustive 5-minute investigation, SF Weekly was able to identify Pinky’s owner, Nina Menendez — who regularly takes to Nextdoor to assuage the troubled minds of her neighbors. The way Menendez tells it, the cat is merely loquacious.
Menendez responds to posts frequently, describing where she lives and telling her neighbors that the cat is microchipped. And yet, despite Menendez’s attentive comments on Nextdoor, posts looking out for, and upset about, this social cat still appear on the neighborhood Nextdoor feed.
On one hand, the posts are a perfect example of where stay-at-home ennui and Nextdoor’s particular breed of Karendom collide.
But on the other hand, the amount of care devoted to one cat in Temescal might just be a reassuring example of how neighbors are extending a compassionate hand during this time of hardship, no matter how misplaced that compassion May seem.
Those of us who have maintained social distancing in a world of maskless labor day parties and continent-bound #travelgrams are desperate for connection, and sometimes, a cute neighborhood cat to gawk at online will suffice. It’s been a tough year, and it’s not too much of a leap to assume that many of these users just want to help each other — and zeh kittehs — through a difficult time.
As for Pinky, no degree of cyberbullying will break their stride. They still roam the neighborhood without a care in the world, and, to the dismay of condescending onlookers, avoid injury and disease with stealth — it’s pets and purrs only for Pinky the cat.
Hopefully, the advice from one loving neighbor will guide the future discourse: “When you see Pinky, just love him.”