We found Ritchie von Rich’s Instagram profile and instantly became a fan of this stunning 3-year-young school cat. We asked his carer, Gina James, an Auckland school administrator, a few questions to find out a little bit more about him.
When and how did Ritchie become a school cat?
Our school found two litters of kittens hiding in the grounds a few weeks apart. We contacted the SPCA and was given the name of a local lady who would trap them for us. The kittens were caught and taken to a vet with several adult cats. Some were deemed suitable for rehoming (our principal even took a kitten home!) but others were neutered, ear tipped, microchipped and returned to school. We were not expecting that! Ritchie and his brother, Oscar, were described by the vet as “spitfires”, in other words too skittish to be rehomed. That proved to be completely wrong. We ended up with five cats and kittens returned to school.
What school does he own?
Ritchie owns a primary school in southeast Auckland.
Can you tell us about his extended family?
Ritchie lives at school with his brother, Oscar, sister Nala and his Aunty Betty and her only kitten Uno. They are a tight group who feed together and sleep in their cat den. They have an area set up with the help of our caretaker that is completely weatherproof and they can come and go as they please knowing that their den is safe and private. Their den has scratching posts, feeding area and different sleeping choices, both high and low, with baskets, boxes, snuggle beds, etc, so they have plenty of choice.
What does Ritichie do at school?
Ritchie sleeps in the school office during the day in a basket that was gifted to him. He is on top of a filing cabinet and can see everyone coming into the office. He often chooses to go outside behind the school where we have a stream and bush and find a nice place to curl up.
Do the children like playing with Ritchie or is he more aloof?
He is the most friendly of our cats to the children. Although he keeps a wide berth from them most of the time he is getting more and more friendly. He does allow one on one time with students, with them patting him (his most favourite pastime). We are starting to use Ritchie as a distracting tool for children who are upset or feeling a little sad … a pat with Ritchie seems to solve lots of minor problems.
How was the lockdown for Ritchie?
Ritchie and his family seemed to thrive in the lockdowns we have had. I think it was because I came to school every day and would often spend an hour or two with them. Under COVID-19 alert level 4 I had special clearance under the Animal Welfare Act to enter the school grounds to feed them. One day a police officer stopped me and followed me into the grounds as he was interested to see the cats ... he was impressed! Lockdown allowed Ritchie to get used to spending more time in the office when we went to level 3, so now this is where he chooses to be most of the day.
Who looks after Ritchie on the weekends and during holidays?
I look after the cats and go daily to feed them on the weekends and holidays. My family or other staff will feed them if I am unable to.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
What started out as a feral cat problem has turned into having a lovely cat family at school. The cats are all the same as cats you would have at home, loving cuddles, knowing their names and all have such beautiful personalities. Ritchie especially loves the attention and limelight. When the students leave school in the afternoon the cats usually come out and wander around, popping their heads into classrooms. They are excellent at mice and rat catching and leave the caretaker “presents” to dispose of occasionally. Ritchie loves posing for the camera and often runs to the playground to pose for photos on the weekend. He waits at the gate each morning for me to arrive at school. Maybe I should write a book or two: The adventures of Ritchie the School Cat.
You can follow all Ritchie’s adventures on Instagram.