Carlton the campus cat gives SMU the warm fuzzies

Carlton the cat is enjoying a university experience most of us can only dream of. He comes and goes as he pleases, has an endless supply of snacks, and is pretty much the most popular student on campus.

Popular feline wanders in and out of classes, melting hearts along the way

Carlton is giving SMU's mascot, the Husky, a run for its money. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Carlton the cat is enjoying the kind of university experience most of us can only dream of. He drops in on classes when he feels like it, doesn't have to worry about tuition, and is without a doubt the most popular student on campus.

The friendly feline lives near Saint Mary's University, and started regularly showing up to classes last fall. Most days, he saunters down the hall, pokes his paw into a classroom or two, then stretches out for a catnap.

Students, faculty and staff call him "the Littlest Hobo" because he's always on the move. (Steve Berry/CBC)

The four-year-old even ran for a spot on SMU's student union. His election campaign made news in the U.S. and as far away as Russia.

But Carlton never lets the attention distract him from his studies. After all, he remains committed to being the first cat in his family to earn a university degree.  

"He comes to my classes all the time and I just get so happy," said fellow student Marissa Wiles. "I think he owns the school."

Carlton likes to keep an eye on things in the office. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Carlton never sticks around one class for too long.

"I say he's like the Littlest Hobo. Like, he comes in and he says good morning, hello, how you doing … and then he goes on his way," said Tara McKinney, a photographer who snaps photos of the cat. 

Student Kate Elliot often keeps track of Carlton's whereabouts on the SMU Twitter account, and says he can make it from one end of campus to the other. 

"Whenever the students see him on campus they just open the door for him, and he goes from building to building. Sometimes you will even see him in the library," said student union president Ossama Nasrallah.

Cat therapy

Students and staff joke that the campus cat is studying the feline arts. Or maybe he's preparing for a career as a therapist, given his innate ability to put his fellow students at ease. 

Not long ago, an engineering student was about to walk into an exam and was having trouble focusing. A couple minutes with Carlton and he was good to go, said Heather Harroun, who works in the registrar's office.

"That's what Carlton does," she said. "He just has his moment with you and then he's off for new adventures.

"It just says a lot about how a smile, a minute of warmth can change your day," said Harroun. "I think for the student, for the staff, for just the Saint Mary's community in general, that's what Carlton does and I don't think you can discount how much of a difference that makes."

His passion for higher learning doesn't seem to bother his owners. They're happy to let him wander the campus, as long as he comes home for dinner every now and then. 

Carlton's human family lives next door to the Halifax university, and are very proud he's earning his degree in the feline arts. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Sophie Smith Stewart said her family's cat has a unique personality, maybe because he was the runt of the litter.

"He's always loved people and been curious about people," she said before scooping Carlton into her arms and taking him home.

But don't worry, he has class in the morning. 

All that studying tires Carlton out. (Steve Berry/CBC)

With files from Colleen Jones and Steve Berry

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