The night Mango chose me

My unexpected experience hosting Charlottesville’s most famous neighborhood cat

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Katherine Firsching is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Emma Klein | Cavalier Daily

After a long night in the library studying for finals at the end of last semester, I was making my way home via a shortcut near my house when I heard a noise in the bushes behind me. Before I had time to think “lions and tigers and bears — oh my,” a skinny, orange cat crawled out of the shrubbery and stared me straight in the face.

Letting my sense of college pet withdrawal override the fact that a random animal emerging from the bushes could carry multiple diseases, I knelt down to pet it. As it purred and licked my hand, I checked its heart-shaped name tag — Mango.

“Goodnight, Mango,” I said as I stood up and started to walk away — but Mango wasn’t done with our interaction. The cat trailed behind me for the duration of my three-minute walk, and when I opened the front door to my sorority house, she bolted straight inside. Uh oh.

I tried everything — feeding her, giving her water, encouraging her to follow me back out the door — but Mango wouldn’t budge. It was freezing outside, and nobody else in my house was awake, so I made a game-time decision to carry Mango up to my room in the attic. As soon as I set her on the floor, she ran and jumped up on the bed of my sleeping roommate, cozying-up into a ball at her feet.

“I’ll explain that one in the morning,” I thought as I closed the bedroom door.

When I woke up early the next day, I sat up, put on my glasses and looked around the space that appeared to be completely normal — no animals. I giggled to myself, recalling a funny dream I must have had about a cat spending the night in the attic.

I was settling back down into my covers when I saw it — the bedroom door … cracked open.

Springing out of bed faster than you could say “animal control,” I frantically tiptoed around the house, searching each and every room for an orange, furry addition.

“Mango! Here, Mango,” I whispered, hoping none of 20 girls were allergic to cats.

Losing hope as I checked the last bedroom, I headed down to the kitchen, trying to figure out an explanation for how I both found and lost a cat in a 12-hour window — that may or may not be somewhere in the establishment.

To my surprise, when I made it to the kitchen, I discovered five of my friends playing with Mango.

“Mango!” I exclaimed, startling the group.

“I’ve always wanted to meet Mango,” one said.

“Wait, you know Mango?” my friend asked. 

“You don’t? Everyone knows Mango,” another said.

As it turns out, Mango is a famous Charlottesville cat. As far as I know, she has no home, but she somehow finds a place to sleep each night with students who adopt her. It’s common knowledge apparently, and undergraduates look forward to their turn hosting her. Surely enough, after we said goodbye to Mango, she appeared on a friend’s Snapchat story the next evening, settling in for a good night’s sleep in the 14th Street apartments.

I’ve been back in Charlottesville for about a month now, and I have yet to see Mango. I take the same shortcut by the same bushes every day, keeping my eyes peeled for my furry friend. I’m not sure if I’ll see her at all in 2019, but I’m confident she’s out there somewhere in Charlottesville, following new people and making new friends.

Mango’s life is one I find positively fascinating — with different caretakers and homes each night, her journey is unique and colorfully spontaneous. Though the students who host her may be strangers to one another and never cross paths, she connects us all in a way by giving us a each a special story in common — “The Night Mango Chose Me.”

Katherine Firsching is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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