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She’s been depicted as a silent movie starlet, sitting delicately in a fur-lined coat, stroking the pearls around her neck while she gazes indifferently off screen. She was a disciplined, stand-in model for Spanish painter and printmaker Francisco Goya, with her rigid posture showing total control of her pet birds as her inferior, feral brethren bowed down behind her.
In another scene by French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard, she’s dressed in an early modern gown, peering right back at the viewer as she manhandles a longhaired lapdog. Lagniappe readers may know her as the Most Interesting Cat Alive, but to her owner Gin Mathers, “Tudge is just a chonky cat.”
Tudge, the 2021 Nappie Award winner for Mobile Bay’s Cutest Cat, came to Mathers as a kitten four years ago, after she hitched a ride in the engine compartment of her boss’s SUV from Spring Hill to Prichard, emerging unscathed and tough.
“Tudge is a cat’s cat,” Mathers said. “She’s a bit standoffish and judgemental, she kind of chooses when she wants to be petted and when she wants to snuggle, and she likes to sleep and eat. The only exercise she gets is walking to and from the food bowl.”
Mathers grew up with dogs as pets, but was introduced to cats after college.
“I had a roommate that had a cat and I fell in love with the low maintenance aspect of it and the ability to travel that dog people don’t get,” she said. “So ever since then, I’ve been a big cat person.”
Mathers said Tudge joined her household at a time when she already had a 21-year-old cat and an 18-year-old cat.
“I can keep cats going quite a while. I’m pretty good at it,” she said.
But now, one of Tudge’s favorite activities is curling up with her younger sibling, Willie.
Mathers is a freelance graphic designer, inspired by the Nappie Awards campaign to Photoshop her cat onto various royalty-free works of art and post them on social media.
“I love vintage photos and historical artwork and think it’s hysterical when a cat’s face is on one of them,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll browse the collection at [The Metropolitan Museum of Art] looking for the right one. I’ve done that with all my cats.”
Tudge appreciates the award, Mathers said, even if she isn’t likely to express it.
“Tudge is honored to be the recipient of Lagniappe’s first year of this cat-egory,” she said. “She ran a tight campaign. I’m also thankful she won Mobile Bay’s Cutest Cat. Ever since I told her she was nominated she’s been over here acting like she already won, and I couldn’t tell her any different.”
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