Owner of Garfield the Sainsbury’s cat on his new book

Owner/media manager David Willer attends charity events with Garfield

Owner/media manager David Willer attends charity events with Garfield - Credit: Cate Caruth

After various media appearances and rising fame, Ely’s very own celebrity cat is the subject of a new book

David Willer and his grandson find Garfield in one of his favourite napping spots, the Virgin Holida

David Willer and his grandson find Garfield in one of his favourite napping spots, the Virgin Holidays store. - Credit: Archant

For most residents of Ely, Garfield needs no introduction. You may have noticed him waiting for titbits in the foyer of the Sainsbury’s on Lisle Lane. Or perhaps you’re among those who phone the shop in advance to check he’s there and coincide your shopping trips with his appearances (you know who you are, you shameless zealots).

For those who’ve been living under a rock and don’t know him, Garfield or Mr. Sainsbury’s as he is nicknamed, has gained local notoriety, not to mention a worldwide fan base of thousands. And all this from just hanging out in a supermarket. With a succession of previous antics and mischief, Garfield has now published his own book to enshrine his stories on paper.

The book starts by recounting how Garfield came to hang out in the supermarket. Originally, the land in front of his house was just a wild field where he liked to play. Garfield’s owner, or rather, his media manager, David Willers recalls when the construction work started. “He got along well with the builders, and he made the site his second home.”

The book, ‘What’s THAT doing there? A Garfy Book’ is written by author Cate Caruth. She explains: “The idea of the book is that he’s going into the field and suddenly they build a supermarket, ‘Well what’s that doing there?’ he asks himself.”

Garfield helped Virgin Holiday staff place bets on the 2017 Las Vegas boxing match Mayweather Vs. Mc

Garfield helped Virgin Holiday staff place bets on the 2017 Las Vegas boxing match Mayweather Vs. McGregor. - Credit: Archant

After its completion, Sainsbury’s became Garfield’s new territory and with it came new ways of ‘hunting’ for food.

He quickly learnt that while waiting in the foyer, passersbys delight in handing him a snack from their shopping bags. In time, David had to post a social media callout, asking shoppers to go easy on the treats because Garfield was putting on weight.

Without shame or fear he will approach anyone. When she first met Garfield, Cate was astounded by how much he loves attention. “He is really uncommon for a cat. Mine just bolts for the hills at the sight of a stranger, but he just wants a fuss.”

She quickly realised that he was the ideal subject for a children’s story. “From talking to David, I immediately knew he is perfect for a book. He is a gift, there were just so many stories in it.”

Garfield's new book is available from bookguild.co.uk.

Garfield's new book is available from bookguild.co.uk. - Credit: The Book Guild Ltd

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The entire book is based, albeit loosely, on true events. For example, in real life Garfield is known for climbing into the cars of unsuspecting shoppers while they are loading purchases into the boot. One couple drove five miles out of town before noticing they had a stowaway and then drove him home. In the book, Garfield goes a step further and rides all the way to the beach for a day trip.

On his Facebook page, started by a pair of fans, Garfield has over 6,000 followers. “That’s more than most celebrities!” exclaims Cate. David came across the page one day and messaged the couple who set it up. He later took it over and posts updates about Garfield’s day to day adventures and media appearances.

“He’s got fans everywhere; in Russia, New Zealand, Australia, America,” says David, who has received marriage proposals from Garfield’s fans from across the Atlantic. When asked about this he laughs. “Americans are crazy. I’m just nice to people.” Women have contacted David via Garfield’s fan page to chat about cats and quickly fall in love with him over their shared interest. But, as perhaps readers should also note, David has a girlfriend.

Another of Garfield’s claims to fame and a cause for local outrage, was a run-in he had with the supermarket’s Virgin Holidays concession. Garfield had always enjoyed a nap on their soft, red sofa, until one day when a young child came to say hello and got a nasty scratch. Once their head office got wind of this, he was banned. But his fans rose up in protest, boycotted the store and started an online petition to allow him back in. They were successful and Garfield was allowed to return.

Garfield enjoys the attention fame brings him. Picture: Sue Farrow

Garfield enjoys the attention fame brings him. Picture: Sue Farrow - Credit: Sue Farrow

The Virgin staff were later converted to Garfield fandom, placing a £50 bet just because of him. Customers were buying tickets to Las Vegas to see the 2017 boxing match, Mayweather vs. McGregor. They decided to ask Garfield who would win. Presented with a card symbol for each boxer, Garfield scratched four times on Mayweather. They bet on McGregor who lost, so they must have misread his signals!

His other infamous acts include antagonising Sainsbury’s management. He slipped into the food section on the top floor where he isn’t allowed for hygiene reasons. Shop workers had to chase him around for ages before catching him and chucking him out, much to the amusement of shoppers.

He’s featured in numerous local newspapers as well as on BBC news, radio shows, and in the Daily Mail. An artist and cat-lover even came all the way from Devon just to paint his portrait.

In the book, all this fame goes to his head. Cate says, “My favourite bit is when Garfield gets above himself because of the notoriety and starts trying on sunglasses and sitting on velvet cushions.” In real life he does seem to enjoy it. After all, as David, who knows him best, says, “He’s a big flirt and he just loves attention.”

‘What’s THAT doing there? A Garfy Book’ can be purchased from bookguild.co.uk

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