Classroom-visiting cat inspires joy during pandemic
VICTORIA -- The cat could have been any other in the neighbourhood. It seemed unremarkable at first.
"She was the cat I’d seen once in while," Maria says. "I didn’t see her much in the beginning."
But then Maria started noticing the cat here, there, and everywhere around her school. It would walk down the locker-lined hallways, along the classroom shelves below the whiteboards, and inevitably end up in the arms of whoever would pet it.
"Even inside the staffroom sometimes," the 17-year-old student smiles.
The teachers and students at Esquimalt High couldn’t seem to get enough of the cat.
"I guess she was the star of her show!" Maria laughs.
The cat was a star with no social media presence. So, Maria created an Instagram account titled Esquimalt Cat, featuring photos and videos of the feline from students inside, and from hundreds of followers outside.
"I was petting her outside one day and somebody said, 'Hey! Do you know that cat has an Instagram account?'" Xeniya recalls with a laugh. "And I said, 'Our cat?'"
Xeniya didn’t know how her family’s cat had been spending its days, or that it was on social media. But she wasn’t surprised.
Ever since Xeniya rescued her in Calgary, when the cat was just four months old, it had been full of surprises—like how it was named after the snowman from the Frozen movies.
"Turns out she’s not Olaf," Xeniya laughs. "She’s Ola!"
It turns out Ola also has a morning routine. At 8 a.m., she runs over to the door and starts meowing to be let out. Then she commutes across the street to the high school and waits until somebody lets her in so she can relish playing with her human friends, as is shown in many videos on her Instagram page.
But suddenly one day—this past Spring—Ola couldn’t find any of her friends.
"She would walk around the whole school yard to the track, looking for people," Xeniya says. "She was definitely distressed."
Ola didn’t know there was a pandemic. But Maria did.
"You see all the new cases in B.C. and it can be scary," Maria says.
So, she would stop by the school to pet Ola or take her picture. It seemed to ease both their anxiety.
"[It’s] a new focus," Maria explains. "Instead of worrying about what’s around you, [it’s], 'How’s Ola doing?'"
The cat couldn’t be better—Xeniya says—now that school's back in session.