Nebraska's "Capitol Cat" brings paw-sitivity to politics

LINCOLN -- Nebraska lawmakers, legislative staff, and lobbyists start their day by walking into the State Capitol building to introduce bills, debate policy reform, and, if they’re lucky, be greeted by their favorite political animal: Cameron the Capitol Cat.

The dark brown and black striped tabby, who does have a home just a few blocks away, is usually seen lounging around the south and west doors of the state house, awaiting pets and treats regardless of party affiliation.

The feline fixture has been the legislature’s unofficial mascot since 2020 - even posing with Republican Gov. Jim Pillen in support of the Pet Insurance Act last year.

“It’s kind of wild he’s such a sensation,” Cameron’s guardian, Diana McGinnis, said. “I don’t think I’ve had a cat as sociable as Cameron.”

Cameron, the Nebraska State Capitol's "Feline Fixture"
Cameron, the Nebraska State Capitol's "Feline Fixture"

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McGinnis adopted Cameron in 2015 when he was just a kitten from the Capital Humane Society and, while well-fed and taken care of, is often seen roaming the state capitol grounds to the delight of staffers, including Scott Shafer, who works for the Nebraska Commission on Indian Affairs.

“Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, everyone loves that cat; he’s an escape from the rigors of political life,” Shafer said. “There’s something about that cat; he seems to be a safe space.”

Although quite the celebrity at the state house, there was an inadvertent “catnapping” in August 2022 when two women mistook Cameron for a stray because he wasn’t wearing a collar and taken to the local human society.

Given his wandering ways, McGinnis didn’t even realize Cameron was missing until she read a post on his fan page on Facebook. “I thought he was at the Capitol until I got a tip that someone had taken him,” McGinnis told the Lincoln-Journal Star when it happened. “He may come (home) once or twice a day just to get something to eat, and then he’ll be right back outside, probably back to the Capitol again.”

Fortunately for everyone, Cameron was microchipped and quickly returned home.

Cameron, the Nebraska State Capitol's frequent visitor
Cameron, the Nebraska State Capitol's frequent visitor

During a time of political rancor and partisan politics, elected officials from both sides of the aisle appear to agree on at least one thing - Cameron makes everything a little better.

“It’s a real bonding opportunity,” State Sen. Anna Wishart told USA Today. “It doesn’t matter what issues we’re debating ... we all enjoy his company.”

Since Cameron started coming to the state building, he has gotten more comfortable coming up to people, even stopping to sit on some laps, according to Wishart. She says he even has an “internal clock” and knows when people will be coming and leaving, even showing up to the statehood gala last year, greeting the attendees in their gowns and tuxes.

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Although given a blue collar with his name embroidered to avoid future confusion, a recent photo on X, formerly known as Twitter, shows the eight-year-old tabby defiantly collar-free, proving nothing can keep him from greeting everyone from politicians to taxpayers.

“Cameron’s there when you’re walking into work in the morning and you’re tired. When you leave for the day, he’s there,” Shafer said. “Cameron doesn’t judge.”

Nebraska Capitol visitors write messages about Cameron in the snow.
Nebraska Capitol visitors write messages about Cameron in the snow.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nebraska's "Capitol Cat" brings paw-sitivity to politics