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In fond memory: Pitch, the campus cat

One of Mills’ longest and most beloved campus residents, Pitch the cat, passed away this semester. Pitch was a fluffy, blue-eyed white cat with brown markings; his most frequent haunt was near Rothwell Center, beside the blue door that leads to the Campanil’s offices. Campus lore holds that he was named for the article “pitches” being lobbed nearby during the newspaper’s weekly meetings.

Pitch was known for his soft coat, calm demeanor and popularity with students, whom he would often allow to stroke him as he lounged by Rothwell. Oakland resident Jack Mills muses fondly, “I don’t know how many times […] a student would be kind of sitting down here, petting Pitch. […] He was just a really good guy. Kind of a little therapy cat — very calming. He just had that temperament.”

Photo credit: Kim Nghe

Mills and his wife, Hoa Kim Nghe, are among those who knew Pitch longest and best. The two of them have been caring for him, as well as other stray cats on campus, since 2010. Formerly part of a volunteer group called the Free Roaming Cat Coalition (FRCC), they now undertake the work largely independently, after most other FRCC participants (who were primarily Mills staff members) have moved on from the college. The pair have fed and befriended 16 different cats on campus over the years, several of whom they have helped to place in loving homes, including five who they adopted themselves. 

Mills and Nghe have also taken a few cats to be put down over the years, just as they did with Pitch earlier this year. In August, after noticing some wounds he had sustained to his nose and ear, they took him to a local veterinary clinic with the help of a friend. They were informed there that he had cancer.

Mills said that the vet told him that if Pitch lived “in a reasonably safe place, [we could] put him back there and just keep an eye on him, basically. If it was just going back on the street, they wouldn’t have allowed it, but we said, It’s a really good, safe place,’ you know.”

Nghe visited Pitch regularly, twice a day on average, after she and her husband brought him back to campus. Although he seemed to be in good spirits at first, by October, he was no longer eating and looked visibly unwell. On the 21st, they took him in for euthanasia. Mills and Nghe say that Pitch was over 16 years old at the time of his passing, making him the longest-lived of the campus’s permanent feline residents by far. 

Though Pitch is no longer with us, his memory will remain with the students who sought comfort from him when they were missing their pets, or simply in need of a friendly, furry face. Pitch’s impact on the Mills experience has already been commemorated by more than one Millsie on the senior paint wall. Taylor Callan ‘21 painted his likeness there earlier this year, along with a message of thanks, and Mills remembers another student writing “Pitch got me through” on the wall approximately a decade prior. 

Photo credit: Jack Mills

Another memento of Pitch remains on campus in the form of his longtime companion, a black cat that Mills and Nghe call “Penny.” Penny was often seen near Rothwell, guarding Pitch as he ate, or crouched in the leaves while Pitch napped in the sun. Mills and Nghe say that she spent over ten years by Pitch’s side. While Penny is usually far more skittish than Pitch, students may be able to win her trust with affection and patience as Mills and Nghe have done, and offer what consolation they can for her loss. 

Photo credit: Ari FitzGibbon