Meet the Furry Four-Legged Beast that has Stolen Longhorns’ Hearts

Everything the Tower’s burnt-orange light touches is his kingdom. He spends his days lounging on his grassy throne outside the Flawn Academic Center or prowling up and down the plaza. His name is Domino, and the Forty Acres has belonged to this cat, adorned in black-and-white fur like that of a tiny, lithe cow, for the last 10 or so years.   

When I visit the King of the West Mall one morning this past August, campus is quiet. I spot his feral majesty—accountable to no man—underneath the shade of the winding branches in front of the FAC with his food and water bowls, filled daily by his campus minions. He stretches, greeting the day, then steps out from his resting area and begins to walk around.  

At first, he goes unnoticed (I imagine he likes it this way). But a few students, headphones in, rushing to their classes, stop in their tracks when they see him.   

“So cute!”   

“Omg.”  

“Here kitty, kitty.”  

Do they approach? Can they touch him? Ever the gracious feline, Domino welcomes a few pets before continuing his morning promenade.  

Though he has been here longer than most students currently enrolled, Domino rose to internet fame in early February. One foggy night, he went for a stroll. As the Tower lit up the evening sky, Domino took a moment and sat before it. That’s when photographer and biology junior Joshua Raichur whipped out his camera and took a photo of the pretty kitty that would launch him toward his current celebrity status.  

Calling the photo a “happy accident,” Raichur uploaded the image of Domino—the Tower lights colorized to be an ominous, celestial purple—to Reddit. UT students almost instantly started to share the picture of the cat with a heart-shaped patch of fur on his back, wanting to know more about him. “I knew Domino has special powers,” one Reddit user wrote. Soon after, The Daily Texan published a video starring Domino. “What’s it like to be famous?” reporters asked him. But the four-legged beast had no comment.   

Domino is part of a long line of feline friends on campus. “Cat colonies” have existed at UT for years. In 1997, there were more than 100 cats roaming campus. According to an issue of The Daily Texan from that year, an anonymous person known as “Cat Man” made sure they were fed, spending up to $30 a week on food. In response to university policy at the time—which was to euthanize the feral cats—a group of about 50 passionate staffers and students created the Campus Cat Coalition, which worked to capture strays and have them vaccinated and neutered.  

Nowadays, the university does not relocate or euthanize stray cats and in 2010, Austin became a no-kill city. Domino has his own court of caretakers who tend to his needs, made up of current and former UT faculty and staff, some of whom have known him since he was just a little prince. They change his water and feed him every morning and every night, following a scheduled rotation of duties. Recently, they took him to the vet to get microchipped, vaccinated, and medicated for fleas.   

UT staff member Christina Huizar, MA ’11, is one of Domino’s underlings. She and her partner Patrick Parker, who run a Facebook page called West Campus Cats dedicated to caring for the feline inhabitants of Domino’s neighboring land, joined the caretakers a couple of years ago. She describes “Domi,” as she lovingly refers to him, as full of “cattitude”—sassy and never boring.   

“Domino has a lot of personality,” she says. “For some people, he will crawl into their lap and purr like a kitten. For others, as soon as you put down the food can, his interest in you is over. He’s a character, and much beloved. He’s a second mascot for UT at this point.”  

On the morning I observe Domino, I begin to understand why campus has chosen this cat to be the object of their affection. Why so many people want to care for him, or why passersby unwittingly smile in his direction until he is out of sight. He has a laissez-faire demeanor, unfazed by the birds and other critters who take from his bowl of food. He is approachable, unlike everyone’s favorite bovine Bevo, though that’s no fault of the steer’s own. And when you see him appear, just like an albino squirrel skirting through a pile of leaves, it’s a whimsical surprise for students dealing with a stressful day of schoolwork.   

Smitten myself, I watch him meander until he trots back toward the FAC and disappears beneath the bushes, where he will rest until he deigns to grace the Longhorns with his presence once again.

Photograph by Joshua Raichur

 
 
 

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