Gulfport Cat In National Spotlight

His name is Big Boy and his body lives up to the title.

"He's a really big cat and he gets fed a lot," said 7-year-old Gulfport resident Andrea Puckett, who dragged her dad out to Jones Park to see the cat after reading about him in the newspaper.

From an oak tree in Jones Park, the porky, round-faced cat eats and sleeps. He never comes down and he seems to like it that way. Now, Big Boy's story is becoming legend.

"I had heard that the last hurricane that blew through had blew a cat in the tree and he liked it there so much that he stayed there, so I wanted to come see him," Joey Puckett said.

Ron Roland works at a nearby bait shop and has known Big Boy since the cat was born at Jones Park on the 4th of July 1996.

Ever since Hurricane Georges, he's made sure Big Boy hasn't gone hungry. Lately, that job has been a lot easier.

"A lot of people now have come by to feed him," Roland said. "Not only me, but the visitors feed him, too, so he likes that part, too, as you can tell by his weight. I think he's gained about five pounds since this publicity."

Thousands of visitors come to the coast each month for our beaches and casinos, but Big Boy the cat has become the newest tourist attraction. He's getting nationwide media attention and people from all over the country are coming to this tree to see him for themselves.

"There was a bus full of tourists," Roland explained. "I guess they were comin' in for the casino and somebody got the tourist bus to stop here and they all piled out and took a look at him, too, so he's been quite popular around here."

Mary Hoffman and Bob Kramer heard about Big Boy on the radio. They're from South Carolina.

"On a local, syndicated talk show, we heard about the fat cat in Gulfport, Mississippi, so we had to come check it out," Hoffman said.

Perched on a high limb, Big Boy appears comfortable. Now, he's a media celebrity and seems to be enjoying all the attention.

Since the story made national headlines, people have started sending money to the bait shop to pay for cat food. A woman from Minnesota sent five dollars. Other people have hand delivered bags of food for Big Boy.