Walls and doors can't hold back Quilty, the rogue cat who will not behave.
The unruly feline has become famous in recent weeks for sowing chaos at the Houston animal shelter where he broke out of his confines several times a day, often setting his cat comrades free in the process. Somehow capable of prying open heavy doors despite his diminutive stature and lack of opposable thumbs, he exasperated his handlers with his crafty ways.
"Quilty will not be contained," Friends for Life Animal Rescue and Adoption Organization wrote on Facebook last month, posting photos of a decidedly guilty-looking Quilty meowing from his cat jail. "And he has no shame."
But as it turns out, people love meddlesome cats who refuse to apologize for their devious behavior. The shelter's frequent updates about Quilty's latest crimes have turned him into an Internet celebrity with nearly 30,000 Instagram followers, and, on Tuesday night, he got a special shout-out on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Trevor Noah." As of Wednesday morning, Friends for Life's original Facebook post had been shared more than 16,000 times. Meanwhile, Quilty has found what the shelter hopes will be a permanent home, and appears to have put his life of crime aside in favor of placidly napping with his new owner.
"He has all of them fooled!" the shelter wrote on Facebook.
Oddly named after the pornographer who abducts a teenage girl in Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita," Quilty was born at Friends for Life and adopted at a young age. But his owner moved away and wasn't able to bring him along, the Houston Chronicle reported. Several months before his social media debut, Quilty returned to the shelter.
He soon started leading after-hours insurrections - though it took a little while for staffers to realize that he was the ringleader.
"We would come in the morning and have to collect all 15 of the cats who had had a blast during the night," Jennifer Hopkins, the spokeswoman for Friends for Life, told CNN.
Like the seasoned crime scene investigators that they are, the shelter's employees pored through surveillance tapes to find their culprit. The security footage pointed to one suspect: Quilty.
As Friends for Life explained on Facebook, the rambunctious tabby had perfected his technique at his former owner's home, where he inexplicably felt compelled to open the door for the family dog. At the shelter, while the rest of the world slept, he would get up on his hind legs and repeatedly fling himself into the air, grabbing the door handle with his paws and pulling it down. The door would spring open, and the feline rampage would begin.
Because Friends for Life uses a "free roam" model where cats cohabitate in shared rooms, rather than being held in individual cages, Quilty couldn't free himself without also freeing the other denizens of the senior room. Tired of being greeted with feline anarchy first thing in the morning, staffers temporarily banished him to the lobby while they "Quilty-proofed" the room.
But the wily, irrepressible cat wasn't done causing a ruckus. When he made his heralded return to the senior room, Quilty had to first spend some time in an "integration kennel" so that he could readjust to his surroundings. He was not pleased.
"THE DISPLEASURE!" the shelter wrote on Facebook. "He is being a spicy a-hole now because he is, once again, contained . . ."
Sure, enough, several days later, Quilty found a way to bust out of the integration kennel. "He has been returned to solitary," Friends for Life reported. "The review board will take up his case again tomorrow."
Even with the law cracking down on him, Quilty continued with his antics. Employees at the shelter caught the freedom-loving cat frantically pawing at a window and flopping around while aggressively pummeling a door. He also somehow managed to crash a staff meeting. "Quilty is not a smol boi, but he sure does sneak like one," the shelter wrote on Facebook.
Meanwhile, the #FreeQuilty movement was taking off. The more crimes the bold cat committed, the more his fan base grew. Answering to popular demand, the shelter's staffers slapped his face on shirts and stickers, and began selling black #FreeQuilty wristbands. They also held a mock news conference on Friday, where they refused to comment on a possible book deal but confirmed that Quilty had launched an exploratory committee for a presidential run in 2020.
Despite his criminal ways, "spicy" personality, and propensity for leading feline uprisings, people began clamoring to adopt Quilty. On Saturday, the shelter invited supporters to come in and wish him good luck as he went off for a one-week trial in his potential new home.
"Good luck to any family that adopts Quilty," comedian Roy Wood Jr. joked on "The Daily Show." "The parents are going to come home and look around the house, and they're going to be like, 'Hey! Who opened the baby gate?' Quilty's going to be like, 'Hey, I don't believe that kids should be in cages.'"
"In fact," he added, "maybe this cat should be in charge of the immigration policy."
So far, though, Quilty appears to be turning over a new leaf. On Tuesday, Friends for Life shared an update from his prospective new owner, who reported that the reformed felon "hasn't shown any slickness at all yet" and was "the most loving and affectionate cat I have ever met!"
But it wasn't the end of the movement, the shelter promised. Superfans could still adopt one of Quilty's many law-abiding look-alikes. As for those who just "enjoy chaos," there were several escape artists up for adoption, too.
"#FreeQuilty is for those souls, feline and otherwise, who will not be contained and have zero shame," the shelter wrote on Friday. "We see you. And we love your spice."
This article was written by Antonia Noori Farzan, a reporter for The Washington Post.