RIP, Alexei. Governor Cooper’s black cat dies after lymphoma diagnosis

Alexei Cooper, the 13-year-old black cat who occupied a special place in the home and hearts of North Carolina’s first family, has died.

Alexei, a much loved member of Gov. Roy Cooper’s pet family, was diagnosed with lymphoma last month. His passing was announced on the First Pets of North Carolina Facebook page Thursday afternoon.

The post paid tribute to Alexei’s life with the family, which started when he was 10 days old and came to live with the Cooper family as fosters. According to the post, Cooper’s daughter Natalie was holding Alexei when he opened his eyes and saw her face for the first time. The post continued: “This morning, he lay cradled in her arms as he took his last breath, his eyes still on her.”

The post said that Alexei’s name stemmed from Natalie’s childhood obsession with the Romanovs, and that the cat turned out to be exceptionally crafty.

“Wickedly smart, there wasn’t a cabinet door that could keep him out. He was able to turn deadbolts with his paws. When the family installed a doggie door that could only be activated by special collars worn by the dogs, Alexei figured out how to make the dogs his accomplices. Eventually, there was no choice but to shut the whole dog door system down.”

Alexei’s health trouble was first reported on May 28, when a post revealed that the kitty wasn’t feeling well and was having tests performed. The next day, a post noted that Alexei had an appointment with an oncologist at the N.C. State Veterinary Hospital in Raleigh and that he would probably need a biopsy.

The discouraging update came on May 30:

“Well, Alexei has an aggressive form of lymphoma. We have chosen to treat it as long as it remains a humane option for him. It is in other hands than ours now. The family, both two and four legged, deeply appreciates your support. Hug a loved one for us.”

Thursday’s post announcing his death noted that “He fought hard, but finally encountered an obstacle he could not overcome.”

According to the Facebook obituary, Alexei is survived by “his furmom, Natalie; aunts Hilary and Claire; grandparents Roy and Kristin Cooper; cousin Ben (a dog), and his little (cat) sisters Adelaide and Jennyanydots.”

The Cooper family thanked the N.C. State Veterinary School and its oncology staff for Alexei’s care.

They ask that those wishing to honor Alexei’s memory consider a contribution to the SPCA of Wake County or to the NCSU Vet School.

And, the note ended, “If there is room in your heart and home, adopt a black cat. That would make Alexei purr.”

Other Cooper family pets have passed on

The Cooper family has lost some pets in the past couple of years.

In May 2017, Gov. Cooper and his wife said goodbye to their beloved rescue sheltie named Chloe, who was 16.

Then Winifred “Fred” Cooper, dubbed the “First Mantis of NC,” died in June 2017 at the age of 10 months.

Another pet preying mantis named Daisy passed away in July 2018, at the age of 14 months and five days.

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Brooke Cain is a North Carolina native who has worked at The News & Observer for more than 20 years. She writes about TV and local media for the Happiness is a Warm TV blog, and answers CuriousNC questions for readers.