The Cats of Longwood Gardens

What’s even better than a beautiful garden? A beautiful garden with beautiful cats! Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, one of America’s best display gardens, fits that description perfectly. What amazes me is that until recently I didn’t know about the famed Longwood Cats.

Cats have been a feature of Longwood ever since 1984, when its director Fred Roberts decided that the staff could not only keep a pregnant stray female found on the grounds but also that having a permanent group of resident cats would be a great approach to rodent control. The dozen or so cats – all of them originally strays or ferals – have specific areas and/or buildings within the Gardens and are fed, housed and cared for there by assigned human staff members. They receive veterinary services including spaying, neutering and vaccinations, and are beloved by Longwood employees and visitors alike.  Let’s meet a few of them (past and present.)


longwood-cat-boca-waiting-for-an-open-boxLongwood cat BocaYou can find Boca, with his sleek black fur and piercing green eyes, in and near the Longwood Gardens Gift Shop. He’s a sociable cat who politely greets visitors with a “hello” meow. In fact, he’s so vocal that he was named for it: “boca” is the Spanish word for “mouth.” Clearly he’s also a born supervisor, as shown in these photos. Gotta keep that inventory up!



longwood-cat-iggylongwood-cat-iggy-on-the-flower-walkSuch a sharp dresser as the tuxedo cat Iggy would look great anywhere, but he makes a particularly arresting picture along the blazing-with-color Flower Walk. He was named after Baby-Boomer rocker Iggy Pop, and claims the Gardeners’ Shed as his personal bedding-down domain.



longwood-cat-vincenzolongwood-cat-vincenzo-with-plantersA “longhair” of a different type is Vincenzo, who stands out even more because most or all of the Longwood cats tend to be shorthairs.


longwood-cat-sarge-nappinglongwood-cat-sargeSarge clearly has his work priorities straight!



longwood-cat-jerryAlthough easily confused with Sarge whom he almost identically resembles, Jerry has a pink nose whereas Sarge’s is dark. Jerry has a partner-in-crime named Ben (of course!) but apparantly he is camera-shy and so I could find no photo of him.



longwood-cat-noellongwood-cat-noel-nappingNoel is a longtime resident and patroller of the Idea Garden and the Conservatory. Susan Cartwright is the caretaker of Noel and her “work partner” Smokey.

longwood-gardens-cat-in-greenhouseAlthough not identified by name in the photograph, I have a very strong hunch that this may be Noel also, sunbathing in the Conservatory.



longwood-cat-smokeyAnd speaking of Smokey, here he is, looking picturesque with a backdrop of golden autumn leaves.



longwood-cat-jojolongwood-cat-jojo-on-benchlongwood-cat-jojo-in-autumn-displayVery similar to Smokey but caring for another area of Longwood’s 1000+ acres is Jojo, another tuxedo cat but this time a female. She and her sister Smitty patrol the nursery area.



longwood-cat-smittyHere’s Smitty proving once again that basic black goes with anything and everything.



longwood-cat-spooky-in-grasslongwood-cat-spooky-in-winterlongwood-cat-spookyYou can’t get more “basic black” than Spooky! This is one dramatic feline for sure.



longwood-cat-mulliganThe brown tabby Mulligan makes an artistic composition among the ferns.



longwood-cat-persimmonlongwood-cat-persimmon-in-gardenPersimmon is easy to spot anywhere because of her luscious coloring.



longwood-cat-pauliePaulie enjoys soaking up the sun amidst the spring floral displays.



The Hillside Garden, located adjacent to the Chimes Tower and its nearby stream and waterfall, was the favorite haunt of the little tuxedo Rebar.

The next three cats (a tortoiseshell, a silver grey, and a white) were not identified by name.




longwood-cat-belinlongwood-cat-belin-nappingPerhaps the most famous Longwood Cat was Belin whose purview was the Pierce-Dupont House. Named after Pierre Dupont’s wife Alice whose maiden name was Belin, this male tabby was generally regarded as the “head resident Longwood cat.” Incredibly mellow and gentle, he was rescued from a dumpster as a kitten in 2004. Although he did not approach or greet visitors, he took continual petting and fussing-over in stride without ever a whisper (whisker?) of complaint or resistance – even from rambunctious youngsters. In fact, a favorite place was right near the entrance door to the House, where visitors could not fail to notice and pet him. Sadly, Belin passed away in November 2015 after a short illness.



longwood-cats-signAlthough this sign on the Longwood grounds states that none of the cats wear collars, this policy was changed in 2015 as a result of an incident involving Belin. In March of that year Belin was taken from the grounds by a woman visitor who put him in her backpack and brought him home with her. One version of the story has it that upon telling her friend of the “rescue of a stray cat at Longwood” she learned that the cats there do belong to the Gardens and promptly returned him the next day. The other version has Belin traced via the security staff and cameras that are set up on the grounds. Either way, he was returned safe and sound within 24 hours. But the Garden then decided that such misunderstandings are best avoided and as a result all of the Longwood Cats now wear a nametag collar identifying them as such.

Long live the Cats of Longwood Gardens!

  10 comments for “The Cats of Longwood Gardens

  1. December 10, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Haha, nice idea for a post!
    Come to think of it I do remember seeing a cat or two there and it never occurred to me that there were no nearby houses for them to wander from. They looked pretty content and now I know why.

  2. December 11, 2016 at 11:59 am

    We were at Longwood for one visit but did not notice the cats! Great pictures!

  3. Betsy Richards
    July 11, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Time for microchips! Keep our little friends safe.

    • Martha Sue Taylor
      October 10, 2022 at 6:22 pm

      Adorable idea to have these BEAUTIFUL kitties live there! ABSOLUTELY great for them & their contribution to the owners 😊

  4. Toni
    January 12, 2021 at 12:16 pm

    We were at Longwood on Monday. In the conservatory we saw a cat sitting in a chair. He made no response to our talking to him. Even though he was moving we thought he was a realistic toy to amuse the visitors. We returned three hours to view the conservatory at night and the cat was in the same chair. This time the whiskers wiggled and he was breathing. Still no response to our trying to get his attention. Now today online I found out he is real and his name is Iggy. I supposed living in such a posh place he was thinking to himself “peasants, you are not worthy of me. I shall ignore you”. What a wonderful story about all the cats of Longwood

  5. John
    November 18, 2021 at 4:56 pm

    Belin was the most awesome ambassador at the old house. It warmed my heart one day to sit and listen to visitors exclaim “Kitty!” in 7 different languages.

    • November 19, 2021 at 12:39 pm

      What a wonderful memory! 😀 Thanks so much for sharing that, John. 🙂

  6. Eileen
    August 12, 2022 at 1:21 pm

    Hello! I’m wondering where you get new recruits for the Longwood Cats. I live nearby and recently rescued a stray, and she has been vet-checked & is ready to be adopted. She is a sweet young girl & also a polydactyl cat – she has 6 toes on each front paw. I thought she might possibly make an interesting addition to your cat collection.

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