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Billy the Cat Talks Napping, Ankles and Mice

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PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANSON TEBBETTS
  • photos courtesy of anson tebbetts

Anson Tebbetts is the news director of WCAX-TV, a position he's held since 2009. He served as Vermont's deputy secretary of agriculture for a few years before that, though the appointed post was a deviation from his robust career in television and radio. Since earning a college degree in broadcast journalism in 1987, Tebbetts has spent years at WCAX and WDEV-FM, with guest stints on public television and radio. Delivering everything from award-winning news reporting to political commentary to a talk show about birds, he has a respected and influential voice in Vermont journalism.

But enough about Tebbetts. This story is actually about his cat, Billy.

Though feline fame is far from unusual on the internet, Billy holds a special place in the hearts of Tebbetts' Facebook friends. Is it because the cat is so, ahem, rotund? Or because every single photo shows the snow-white shorthair kitty sleeping on his back, legs in the air like he just don't care? Hard to say.

We might guess that pictures of Billy provide a moment of Zen, if a Zen-like state can include giggling. Seeing the boy in the most relaxed position possible for a mammal — under the propane stove in the living room, on a sunny windowsill or even, daringly, in the middle of the driveway — does give us momentary pause: Maybe I work too much. Maybe I need a nap.

At the same time, Tebbetts' smartphone pics of Billy can arouse concern, even suspicion: "Is that cat ever up on all fours?" commenters ask. "Exactly how much does that cat weigh?" "Are you sure he's still alive?"

Indeed he is. Billy is living quite well, thank you very much, with the Tebbetts family. Anson, wife Vicky, 12-year-old son Alden and 9-year-old daughter Adelie reside in a saltbox-style home in Cabot — where, incidentally, Anson graduated from high school in 1983. Keeping up his ag cred, Tebbetts owns a couple of Scottish Highland cows and some sheep, but he had no indoor pets until the family took in Billy from an ailing neighbor.

You'd think he would have been grateful, but the cat was "a little difficult," Tebbetts says diplomatically. He guesses Billy is now about 8 or 9 years old, and he weighed 17.5 pounds at his last veterinary visit. "He's probably a little heavier in the winter," Tebbetts allows.

On the advice of that vet, Billy is on a special regimen of moist and dry food, which he receives just twice a day. One of those times is 4:30 a.m. sharp — further evidence that cats are creatures of habit. "He wakes me up at 4:15 every day," reports Tebbetts. "If I'm not up by 4:30, he attacks whatever body part is sticking out of the covers."

PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANSON TEBBETTS
  • photos courtesy of anson tebbetts

Clearly, Billy is not always supine. He periodically walks 10 long feet from the stove to his food and water dishes in the kitchen and will bat them around if they're empty. Sometimes he jumps on furniture to bask in the sun or stare out the window at birds. And in the summer, says Tebbetts, "He does go out and look for mice. He's a pretty good hunter."

But most of the time Billy assumes his favorite, rather immodest, position. Lately, Tebbetts has become convinced that his pet is not as, well, catatonic as he seems. "I think he knows I'm taking his picture now," he says. "I think he plays to the camera."

Billy grumpily took time from his busy schedule to tell Seven Days about his life.

SEVEN DAYS: Billy, are you aware your dad frequently posts pictures of you on Facebook? 

BILLY TEBBETTS: What's Facebook?

SD: It's a place where people post pictures of cats.

BT: [Flicks tail.] People are weird.

SD: In all your pictures, you're lying on your back, asleep. How do you feel about everyone seeing you sprawled out like a dead opossum?

BT: I block out all that noise. I am a confident cat. I am part honey badger. #curvycat

SD: You're very good at relaxing. What's your secret?

BT: Staying focused on what is important.

SD: Do you remember your dreams?

BT: Yes, and I like to have them interpreted. 

SD: Your girth suggests that you do get up to eat. What's your favorite meal?

BT: I take issue with the word "girth," but it's a carefully crafted, high-end mix of dry and canned cat food. I try to sprinkle in an occasional mouse.

SD: What would you gorge on if you weren't on a "diet"?

BT: Chipmunks. 

PHOTOS COURTESY OF ANSON TEBBETTS
  • photos courtesy of anson tebbetts

SD: Some people are called "fat cats." Do you know what that means?

BT: I have heard that term at times blaring through the TV. Some guy with white hair shouting about Wall Street and waving his arms. But I don't really listen. Maybe by November I will engage and respond.

SD: You're pretty chill most of the time, but I understand you sometimes go on the attack — particularly of human ankles. What's up with that?

BT: People need to pay attention. You think you can ignore me, but it's not in your best interest. 

SD: Describe your daily routine.

BT: Sleep, eat, sleep, eat, litter box, sleep, eat, attack ankles, sleep, watch WCAX news, eat, litter box, sleep. 

SD: Who has the best lap at your house?

BT: Dad, with electric blanket on high. 

SD: Reportedly the house has been rodent-free since you've lived there. Do you catch mice or just scare the crap out of them?

BT: I am a boss. They would not dare visit this house. 

SD: Do you really watch the news with your dad? 

BT: Yes, but I turn away when a dog or bird report comes on. I don't think they do enough cat stories. 

SD: Fill in the blank: If the Tebbetts family got another cat, I would            .

BT:  Move.

Anson Tebbetts may have helped with this interview.


The original print version of this article was headlined "Cat Tales"

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