In his golden years, 12-year-old Casper the cat has discovered a very efficient way to get around the English city of Plymouth. He leaves his house, trots across the street to the bus stop, waits his turn in line and hops on the city bus! The cat even has a favorite seat — in the middle of the aisle — where he kicks back for a spin around town before hopping off at his destination.
"He just gets on and off as he wants to. Goes for a little ride," says Karen Baxter, a public-relations manager for First UK Bus, who operates local buses in the Plymouth area. "If the drivers notice that he's there, they make sure that he doesn't get off at some random stop. The cat seems to know where to get back off, then he trots off home."
Casper, whose story was first reported by BBC News, belongs to a local woman named Susan Finden, who rescued him from the Cat Protection League about four years ago. Finden, who cares for a bunch of geriatric felines, noticed that Casper would occasionally disappear and eventually return home. She had even gotten a call from a parking garage a mile-and-a-half away but didn't know how he'd gotten there.
But one recent morning, Finden went to the bus stop near her home and Casper followed her. She soon learned about the secret life her kitty had been leading for months. "The driver told me he gets on all the time," Finden told local Plymouth newspaper The Herald. "I couldn't believe it.
Several weeks ago, she wrote a letter to the First Bus Company. "[Finden wanted] drivers just be aware of it so if they either saw the cat coming that they'd not let it on the bus, or once it was on the bus, not to kick it off in the city center because it would be miles away from home," says Baxter.
Though First UK Bus staff spread the word about Casper on posters at the bus depot, many of the drivers were already well-acquainted with the commuter kitty. "Invariably, we can't really stop the cat from getting on and off," says Baxter. "If you've got a group of passengers queuing at a bus stop, then that's your first priority and you're not perhaps looking at the floor to check who's going on and off."
And Casper is like any other senior citizen who rides public transportation. "In the U.K., people over the age of 65 travel on the bus for free," says Baxter. "So we worked out that the cat was about 111 years old in cat years, therefore it was fine. He can travel for free."