From flea-ridden stray to honorary graduate, meet the University of Buckingham’s ‘biggest name on campus’ - a black cat called Dennis.
The 6 year old moggy is so well-known amongst students and staff that a Facebook group called “the adventures of Dennis the cat” was started to document his sightings.
Since then he’s been a regular on Hunter Street, prowling through lecture theatres and student accommodation whenever he pleases.
Even the vice chancellor Sir Anthony Seldon has grown to be so fond of the campus cat that he regularly serves him milk whenever Dennis visits him at his home, and calls in to check up on him when he’s away.
He said: “Dennis is as much a part of the University as the staff and students. He attends lectures, greets visitors in reception and even sits in my in-tray pawing over the day’s newspapers.
His impression at the uni has been so strong that when Dennis was taken ill last month, the 400 members of the group banded together to help pay his vet bills.
Dennis has now been lauded as a ‘force of positivity’ for students, serving in much the same way as the university’s resident dogs, Milly and Darcy, who are employed to help manage stress and anxiety amongst the undergraduates.
Anthony continued: “Research has shown that petting cats and dogs can help relieve stress. There are no shortage of students and staff willing to brighten up their day by tickling his tummy or giving him a friendly stroke. I am thinking of making him Professor of Feline Studies.”
The Buckingham BNOC has lived on Well Street, next to the university, for 6 years, having been rescued by a primary school teacher in London when he was just 3 months old.
Becky Lang, one of the managers of domestic services at the University, said: “Dennis has just become a bigger and bigger name on campus over the years. Whenever I come over to the reception, the first thing I do is look for Dennis, he’s often sat on my chair.
“One of my first memories of Dennis was of him lying on a speed bump, in the middle of the road. I thought I’d pick him up and move him to the side of the road as he just doesn’t seem to care where he is when he’s basking in the sun.
“He will go anywhere on campus. A student told us that he went for a shower and when he came back Dennis was asleep on his bed.”
Senior administrator Julie Cakebread, who has worked at the University since it opened 41 years ago, said: “I meet him most mornings at eight o’clock to feed him. We give him a tin of meat and a saucer of milk. He goes to other departments and sometimes gets fed there too.
“I think he should be at least be given an honorary professorship, he’s definitely an academic cat - he’s always somewhere near a book.
“We’ve recently had schoolchildren visit the university and one of the tasks on their worksheets as they go round campus, to earn an extra point, was to spot Dennis the cat. He get’s a lot of attention.”
Psychology student Sophie Hughes said: “He’s absolutely lovely everytime I see him I get really excited, I sit and stroke him for a good twenty minutes.
“Everyone knows of Dennis, everybody loves him and he’s a very spoiled cat. Not to be too cliche, but it’s like a family and he’s like our cat - as a university.”
Despite all the attention, Dennis’ owner Sophie Barlow is more than happy for the feline to make friends. She said: “6 months after we moved to Buckingham he started disappearing for a day here and a day there. We soon learnt that we didn’t need to worry. When we go on holiday we used to put him in a cattery, now we don’t need to.
“I can’t control his nature, as long as he’s happy and healthy he can go where he pleases - it’s just the way he is, he’s semi-feral.”
Sophie, with her husband Neil, is now planning a book of anecdotes about Dennis, bringing together pictures from the group and stories from his fan club at the university.