As It Happens

How the 'World's Worst Cat' found a home with feline fanatics who 'take it all in stride'

Most people probably wouldn't answer a shelter ad for the "World's Worst Cat" — but Betty Genovese isn't most people. 

Noel the cat is known for 'staring into your soul until you feel as if you may never be cheerful again'

Noel, formerly known as Perdita, was described by North Carolina's Mitchell County Animal Rescue shelter as the 'World's Worst Cat.' (Mitchell County Animal Rescue/Facebook)

This story was first published Feb. 5, 2020.

Most people probably wouldn't answer a shelter ad for the "World's Worst Cat" — but Betty Genovese isn't most people. 

The Munroe County, Tenn., woman describes herself and her partner Joe as "crazy cat people" who have six felines at home, some of which have histories of neglect or abuse.

So when they saw the viral Facebook ad for Perdita — a cat the Mitchell County Animal Rescue shelter in North Carolina described as "not for the faint of heart" — they figured they could handle her. 

"We have other cats and they all have their moods, and so we figured it was just, you know, not a big deal," she told As It Happens host Carol Off. "You've just got take it all in stride."

'Staring into your soul'

The shelter ad for Perdita describes her as "the World's Worst Cat" whose dislikes include Christmas, kittens, hugs and the Dixie Chicks; and whose likes include "lurking in dark corners" and "staring into your soul until you feel as if you may never be cheerful again."

And so far, Genovese says she's living up to her reputation. 

The cat — which they have renamed Noel — was happy and purring on the drive home, she said. 

"But the minute we stopped to get her and her carrier, then we saw the evil side."

She growls, hisses, attacks, and bares her teeth, Genovese  said. But worst of all is that notorious stare.

"She will freeze and look at you," she said. "When she walks, she stops and she stares. It's like, OK, what is she contemplating now?"

Noel enjoys 'staring into your soul until you feel as if you may never be cheerful again.' (Mitchell County Animal Rescue/Facebook)

But Genovese says she's making progress with the mercurial creature.

"I sit on the floor with her so I'm not overbearing, and she actually crawled in my lap yesterday and I didn't know what to do. I was a little surprised," she said.

"And then later on in the evening ... all she did was growl at me and then run under the bed. So it's kind of fun to see what kind of mood she's in."

Betty Genovese's home is all decked out for cat habitation, including ramps on the walls and a kitty tree for climbing. (Betty Genovese)

At first, staff at the Mitchell County Animal Rescue shelter thought the cat might be sick or injured because of the way she would lash out violently any time someone attempted to touch her somewhere other than her forehead.

"The vet that we worked with had done some tests and looked at some things and said, 'No, we can't find anything physically wrong with her. We think you're right. She's maybe just a jerk," shelter worker Amber Lowery told As It Happens last month.

But she has come by her bad moods honestly, says Lowery. Noel was left alone for a long time after her owner died. 

"She has absolutely earned every right to be a jerk. I'm sure that she's stressed," Lowery said. "It's our hope that somebody is going to prove us very wrong by adopting her and making her the sweetest cat in the world."

Enter Genovese and her partner, who have experience with fickle felines, and whose home is veritable cat paradise. 

They have a 4,200 square foot house with cat ramps built into the walls, a kitty tree for climbing, a deck just for the cats, and a 240 square foot "catio" complete with artificial turf, lounging rocks and a waterfall.

"We just love our animals," she said.

Genovese's cats have their own 'catio' and deck, complete with artificial turf and lounging rocks. (Submitted by Betty Genovese)

Right now she's keeping Noel in what she calls a "transition room" to get her used to her new home without overwhelming her.

But soon she'll be allowed to roam free with the other cats, some of which have their own difficult histories. 

"We started with our first one who was abused and abandoned. And after that it was just all about saving them and giving them a better life," Genovese  said. "We had no problem taking in one more." 

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interviews produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes and Jeanne Armstrong.