Tucker, Raleigh’s celebrity cat, will leave downtown for a ‘well-earned retirement’

Tucker, Raleigh’s celebrity cat who once padded down Fayetteville Street topping 30 pounds, catching smiles from bank executives to panhandlers, posing for dozens of selfies a day, will soon leave downtown for a last warm spot in the sun.

The oversized half-tabby, half-Maine coon announced on his popular Instagram profile — Oak City Kitty — that he will depart the urban sidewalks in his family’s move.

“I wasn’t supposed to live long enough to tell you this,” wrote the Instagram feline, who is 21, “I’m saying goodbye.”

“In a week I’ll be leaving downtown to start my final adventure,” he continued, “leaving behind the head rubs, the well-wishes and admiration, the treats (of course the treats) and other nuisances of social interactions accompanying the ‘celebrity cat’ title, trading it all in for a well-earned retirement.”

An apartment resident in The Hudson, Tucker learned to ride the elevator downstairs to the sidewalk and stroll leash-less around the Fayetteville Street storefront. His human, Ron Kirk, hoped to whittle down Tucker’s bulk, and as the cat held court on the stone benches and planters, ducking his head inside open doors, he shed 7 pounds.

“He walks into the bank,” Kirk, a database analyst who works from home, told The News & Observer last year. “He walks into every single place that will let him in. People will stop their cars. If he wobbles away, he’s easy to find.”

At last count, Oak City Kitty had more than 10,000 Instagram followers — four times as many as Mayor Nancy McFarlane. By early Thursday morning, his post had garnered nearly 2,000 likes — most of them laments.

“There will be a new spot for me to rest and absorb the sun on my well-regarded belly,” Tucker concluded, “and certainly a pleasant breeze to tickle my often-admired whiskers.”

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Josh Shaffer covers Wake County and federal courts. He has been a reporter for The News & Observer since 2004 and previously wrote a column about unusual people and places.