Edward Gorey House Cat, The Late Ombledroom
Yarmouth, Cape Cod
© Christopher Seufert Photography
July 26, 2012
YARMOUTHPORT — He might have been the most petted cat on Cape Cod, a white behemoth with a center part in the black splotch on his head.
For five years, Ombledroom — known as Pepper to his intimate friends — ruled the roost at the Edward Gorey House, delighting staff and visitors alike.
But alas, sometime Monday night this fixture of the museum dedicated to Gorey, the admittedly eccentric artist and illustrator, passed away. He was 12.
"Perhaps fittingly, he died in the very room Edward died in," museum curator Rick Jones said. "The upstairs living room."
The cat had shown no signs of illness. "A veterinarian said it was a heart attack," Jones said.
Adopted five years ago from the Animal Rescue League of Boston during the annual Gorey House pet adoption day, Ombledroom never knew Gorey, who died in 2000. But this fabled feline would certainly have fit in with the many cats Gorey had throughout his lifetime and that populated his quirky books and drawings.
He was named for an imaginary creature featured in "Utter Zoo Alphabet Book." Beneath the illustration, Gorey wrote, "The Ombledroom is vast and white, and therefore visible by night."
During his years in Yarmouthport, when his 19th-century house was covered in vines and overgrown, Gorey was known to keep cats, often up to half a dozen at a time. The major beneficiaries of the Edward Gorey Charitable Trust are nonprofit animal welfare organizations.
This Ombledroom arrived quite by chance five years ago.
"We were having an animal adoption day, and one of the employees walked into a tent, and there was this mammoth white cat all by himself," Jones said. "He weighed 28 pounds." Jones was hesitant, not out of worry about the contents of the house, but for the cat who would have to contend with many strangers in his domain.
"From the moment we hefted him onto a table in the house, he made himself at home," Jones said. "He jumped off the table, walked in and out of people's legs and explored every corner to be explored."
During the winter months when the museum is closed, Ombledroom made his home with Yarmouthport resident Doris Cipolla. She created a somewhat unorthodox but somewhat successful exercise program for Ombledroom, who lost five pounds during the five years of his reign as Gorey House cat.
"Doris would use treats to get him to jump from bed to bed," Jones said. "She'd toss a treat on a bed, and he'd jump for it. She'd toss another treat on the other bed and he'd jump there. Back and forth, back and forth."
Ombledroom will be long remembered, Jones said. This year's annual Fantastagorey, a day of games, reading and celebrations for children, will honor him, Jones said. The event runs from noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 4 and is free.
Ombledroom was buried Tuesday wrapped in a shroud made from one of Gorey's shirts. He now lies beneath a Southern magnolia next to the house — the one place he would dash, if a 23-pound cat can be said to dash on those rare occasions he would sneak outdoors.
Will there ever be another house cat to greet visitors at the Gorey House?
"Maybe. It's too soon to tell," Jones said. "It would have to be one very special cat. We'll know if we meet him."