Pumpkin is a most unusual cat–one who comforts wild birds and consoles frightened dogs. But these days he’s famous for being best buds with a rat. Pumpkin is a greeter cat and FIV-positive mascot at the Oakridge Animal Shelter in Tennessee, where he reassures nervous animals brought into the shelter on a daily basis. But it’s his friendship with a Dumbo rat named Batman that got the attention of National Geographic Channel.
The feature about the cute animal odd couple will air on Nat Geo WILD’s Unlikely Animal Friends program on May 21, said Julie Armes, shelter supervisor. Batman was a rescue rat who escaped being used a snake food and became a popular shelter mascot, Armes told the Knoxville News Sentinel.
The friendship between Pumpkin and Batman began in November of 2013 when the rat’s cage door was being cleaned. “Pumpkin just jumped right in and started purring and head-butting him (Batman), as cats do,” Armes said. The two began grooming one another and hanging out together at the shelter, to the delight of visitors. Pumpkin’s fondness for Batman isn’t out of character for him. Just the opposite. The little shorthair with the wide-set eyes and expressive face is a natural nurse cat.
“We brought in a wild goose that had been pretty badly injured after being hit by a car. And here comes pumpkin. That goose settled right down after pumpkin jumped up on that table with him. We were all kind of shocked by that. A wild animal was calmed down by our cat, Pumpkin.”
A film crew spent a day videotaping Pumpkin and Batman last September, she said. Since then, Batman has died at a ripe old age of three years. But Pumpkin is still at the shelter, looking out for new arrivals. “Pumpkin comes in and greets every one of them. And he kind of relays the message that they’re in good hands.”