The Legend of Kiddy the Cat: Part IV

Brother Oliver

Brother Oliver

Disciples of Otis,

The Legend of Kiddy the Cat continues as Wyatt Earp heads west to Tombstone…

When he arrived in Tombstone, Wyatt Earp was disheartened to see stray and feral cats filling the streets.  Everywhere he looked he saw kitties that were suffering and in danger.  Not only that, the cathouses Wyatt had heard about were not at all what he had imagined them to be; however, this did not seem to prevent him from visiting them every chance he got.

The Cowboys had become a well-established organization by the time the Earps and Doc Holliday arrived in Tombstone.  Although the gang was mostly involved in performing bandit raids on small Mexican towns just across the border, they also intimidated and harassed the citizens of Tombstone.  Ike Clanton, his brother Billy, and fellow Cowboys Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Claiborne,  constantly went around town threatening people who attempted to keep their cats safely contained.  Ike’s cat, Kiddy the Cat, often followed them on these excursions, and he regularly urine marked the front doors of citizens who kept their cats indoors.

Wyatt Earp immediately ran into trouble with the Cowboys when he began trying to convince people to round up all the cats in town, neuter them, and keep them safely contained.  He also advocated for research into new and affordable ways to build outdoor cat enclosures, as the enclosures available at the time were not entirely adequate to the purpose they were meant to serve.

Early outdoor cat enclosure

The outdoor cat enclosures in Tombstone circa 1880 were secure, but not very enjoyable for kitties.

Eventually, with support from his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and his friend Doc Holliday, Wyatt founded the Tombstone Neuter and Retain (TNR) program, with the goal of eliminating cat homelessness in Tombstone by 1883.  He even struck a deal with local stable owner John Montgomery to modify his corral so that it would comfortably house up to 300 cats.  Wyatt proposed that the enclosure be named the Outdoor Cat Corral.  Montgomery agreed, although he thought “cat” was spelled “kat” and he used an abbreviated version of the name when he made the new sign.

O. K. Corral sign

After striking a deal with stable owner John Montgomery, Wyatt Earp opened Tombstone’s first feral and homeless cat rescue, the Outdoor Cat Corral. Due to Montgomery’s poor spelling skills, the sign was read “O.K. Corral” instead of “O.C. Corral”. Obviously, the original sign lacked the words “gunfight site” but, well, we’ll get to that in due time. (adapted from photo by Lars Hammar- copyright info)

Once the O.K. Corral was ready, Wyatt sought to galvanize the support of the town around his cause.  He did so surprisingly quickly, at least among the menfolk.  This might have had something to do with the way he described his project.  All of his promotional literature bore the banner headline, “Support the World’s Biggest Cathouse, Right Here in Tombstone!”  In the beginning, even the Cowboys were eager to get on board, but once they figured out what Wyatt was really up to, it wasn’t long before things came to a head.

Tomorrow- an avoidable tragedy takes place in The Legend of Kiddy the Cat Part V

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4 Comments

Filed under History

4 responses to “The Legend of Kiddy the Cat: Part IV

  1. It’s a fantastic story, my kitties are on the edge of their seats!!!

  2. Wow! TNR even back then…..

    • I know, Rumpy, I was amazed! And instead of releasing the cats, they kept them safely contained after capturing and sterilizing them. Who knew the Old West was such a progressive place?

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