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Still wearing its 1960s Santa hat, the cat had used up all of its nine lives before finding its forever home.
Still wearing its 1960s Santa hat, the cat had used up all of its nine lives before finding its forever home.

World's Largest Cat

Field review by the editors.

Pine Island, New York

It took an unlikely duo of a former New Jersey garbageman and a former San Francisco hippie to save the World's Largest Cat.*

Unique cartoon character totem pole.
Unique cartoon character totem pole.

The cat, 19 feet long, was built in the late 1960s as a float for New York City's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. A brown tabby with an impish smile, it has big eyelashes and a little Santa stocking cap perched jauntily on its head. Old film clips show the cat slowly motoring down Broadway as it sat atop a six-foot-high wheel of fake Swiss cheese. The cat's eyes opened and closed, apparently too sleepy to notice the humans dressed as cartoon mice that walked beside it.

*(This may in fact not be the world's largest cat -- there was at least one that once was bigger -- but it's the largest that we know of.)

When Macy's purged its warehouse in the early 1970s, garbageman Billy Moriarty was approached to haul several old floats, including the cat, to the dump. A dinosaur and Cinderella's castle met their end in a crusher, and the cheese was sacrificed as well. But Billy, who loves animals, couldn't bear to destroy the cat. "I just fell in love with it," he told us. "I didn't want to ever get rid of it."

Blue Arrow Farm art gallery features a familiar feline face.
Blue Arrow Farm art gallery features a familiar feline face.

And he didn't. For the next 50 years Billy found safe havens for the big cat atop friends' business rooftops -- we visited one in the early 2000s -- and inside storage units and warehouses, all in northern New Jersey. Whenever the cat was imperiled, Billy would use his own truck and muscle to move it someplace else.

In 2021 Billy had parked the cat near some abandoned railroad tracks, and that's when it was spotted by Wheeler Antabanez, who was walking the tracks to research a book about the railroad. He got the cat, and Billy, on the local tv news.

Peace-and-love wheels of Don Oriolo.
Peace-and-love wheels of Don Oriolo.

Billy recalled the media frenzy that followed. "One guy wanted $10,000 for the cat," he said. "He was gonna put it on the roof of a hot dog stand. How long you think that would have lasted? He would have destroyed it!"

The news report was also seen by friends of Don Oriolo: artist, musician, one-time hippie, and the steward of another cat, the cartoon character Felix the Cat, which had been co-created and drawn by Don's father. Like Billy he loved animals, and he owned a rescue sanctuary, Blue Arrow Farm, just across the state line in New York. He had also, as a child, marched in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. "It's like some things are just meant to be," he told us, marveling at the coincidences. Don's friends called Don, Don called the tv station, and the station put Don in touch with Billy.

"Billy came up and looked at the place," Don told us, "and he said, 'I love this place! This is my dream! This is what I had in a dream! That the cat would go to an artist who has a rescue farm and would fix him!'" And on November 8, 2021, Billy trucked the cat one last time to its new home.

The cat was designed to open and close its big eyes as it was wheeled down Broadway in New York City.
The cat was designed to open and close its big eyes as it was wheeled down Broadway in New York City.

Blue Arrow Farm, formerly owned by Johnny Carson bandleader Doc Severinsen, has under Don's Oriolo's guidance become a shelter for rescued horses, cows, alpacas, sheep, goats, chickens, mules, miniature horses, pigs, and ducks. Don said that "music and art" are its primary draws for the public (The Cat falls into both the "rescue animal" and "art" categories). Concerts, car shows, weddings, dances, and food trucks populate the grounds during the warm weather months. "I've been in the entertainment business my whole life," Don said. "I like to see smiles."

Another Oriolo vehicular billboard spreads the message.
Another Oriolo vehicular billboard spreads the message.

Parked on the property are two old VW vans and a school bus covered in colorful paint, hippie-style, by Don. "I can't even remember how many cars and buses I've painted," said Don, who began exploring this particular form of expression back in his free-spirited San Francisco days. Inside the main farm building are a gallery of Don's custom guitars and another that showcases more of his artwork (He told us that he completes a painting a day, like his hero, Bob Ross).

Don is usually somewhere on the grounds, tending to the animals or creating something new. "I have all kinds of cool stuff," he said. "I think like a 12-year-old."

Several totem poles stand on the farm; one, out front, was designed by Don and is carved with the various cartoon characters that he's been involved with. Felix the Cat's grinning face can be found here, and in many other places on the property. A wooded area called "The Magic Forest" has lifelike dinosaur statues, a pirate ship, a cartoon princess and fairy cottage, and a human-size photo-op Barbie box. These may or may not be there when you visit, depending on what Don feels inspired to acquire, build, or recycle. Another part of the property has teepees where visitors can relax; Don said that they were added after he glimpsed them in a vision.

The World's Largest Cat, mounted on a wheeled platform, is moved to various spots on the 100-acre farm depending on where the most visitors are likely to admire it. Don has repaired the cat with fiberglass and paint -- the tabby's first first-aid in over 50 years. "I think you're happy with how I restored it, right, Billy?" Don asked the cat's savior. "Aw, fuggetaboutit," Billy answered in approval. "I'm happier than ever!"

One of Don's next projects, he told us, is to re-create the cat's long-lost block of Swiss cheese.

Also see: Former Home of the World's Largest Cat

World's Largest Cat

Blue Arrow Farm

Address:
86 Glenwood Rd, Pine Island, NY
Directions:
Blue Arrow Farm. On the east side of NY-26/Glenwood Rd, a half-mile north of the New Jersey-New York state line. It's moved around on the property; ask at the front desk for directions to the big cat with a Santa hat.
Hours:
Hours vary; call ahead. (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
845-533-3351
Admission:
Donations welcome.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Pacem In TerrisPacem In Terris, Warwick, NY - 4 mi.
Gingerbread CastleGingerbread Castle, Hamburg, NJ - 9 mi.
Fairy Tale Forest EntranceFairy Tale Forest Entrance, Oak Ridge, NJ - 14 mi.
In the region:
Pyramid Tomb of C.F. Harms, North Bergen, NJ - 40 mi.

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