When Leslie Noel’s parents passed away, he prayed for a companion. He didn’t know his prayers would be answered in the form of a furry orange tabby cat.
“I prayed to God that I didn’t want to be alone … and I found him the next day,” Noel said, with his cat McLovin’ sitting on his shoulder in their usual spot, outside of the Air Canada Centre.
Noel found McLovin’ three years ago when a landlord unbolted the door to a room that he was looking to rent in the Silverthorne area. There were three dead kittens inside and one that was barely alive.
“I told him, I’m not taking the room, but I’m taking that cat,” he said.
Noel made a call to an animal rescue service that provided him with bottles and taught him how to feed McLovin’, a task he had to complete every two hours for two weeks.
Noel said that after weeks devoted to improving his cat’s health, he began to struggle to pay for his rent and their food. He needed to go back to work, which meant McLovin’ would have to stay at home without him, something that the cat was not happy about.
“One day I came home, when McLovin’ was still a kitten, and he had trashed my place. The police even came because he was making so much noise people thought something was wrong, but really it was because he was home alone without me.”
Noel said it was in that moment he realized he couldn’t leave McLovin’ at home anymore; he would have to take him everywhere he went.
However, Noel still needed to make money, so he dressed McLovin’ in a miniature tie and headed to the subway.
Noel said people began to flock around his cat, as they watched him calmly enter the subway and sit in a seat.
“They started giving me money and taking pictures with him because they were so amazed by him,” he said.
He said people were always asking him why McLovin’ doesn’t run away without a leash, like most cats would.
It’s simple, Noel said. “We share a bond and we trust each other.”
McLovin’ and Noel have found a popular spot in front of the Air Canada Centre, where they busk for money before every Maple Leafs home game. They can also be spotted at the ACC when the NBA Raptors play and at the Rogers Centre for Blue Jays games.
Long-time Leafs fan, Paul Casamassima, saw the duo at the final Leafs game of the season on Saturday and has encountered them on other occasions.
Casamassima recalled the first time he saw them. “We got there a bit early, so we decided to walk around Maple Leaf Square. As we got closer to the entrance of the ACC, between what’s now Legends Row and the alumni statues, and the main entrance, we saw an orange cat sitting atop a pillar.”
He said there is regularly a large crowd surrounding McLovin’ on game days and the fans seem to be taken by the cat’s placid demeanor.
“[Even] with the noise of the city, people and the music pumping through Maple Leaf Square, that cat is so calm and affectionate,” he said.
Casamassima added that McLovin’ “brought smiles” to the faces of everyone who walked by.
Noel explained, “In return for making them smile, the fans help us quite a bit, they provide us with enough money for the rent and for our food.
“Some people tell me what I did for him is touching and that I saved him … But this cat saved me more than I saved him.”