Poland’s most famous cat, who made global headlines after becoming his city’s top-rated tourist attraction, has found a new home, a new name, and a new slimmed-down figure. He is now helping the local animal shelter raise funds to look after other cats.
Gacek (whose name means long-eared bat in Polish) for years lived in a box on Kaszubska Street in Szczecin. He first came to wider attention in 2020 after local news outlet wSzczecinie published a video of the animal, whom they called the “King of Kaszubska Street”. It has since been viewed over 5 million times.
This year, Gacek went truly global after Notes from Poland reported that he had become Szczecin’s highest-rated tourist attraction on Google Maps. His story was soon reported by leading media outlets worldwide, including the New York Post, the Guardian and Bild.
A large black-and-white cat named Gacek has become the top-rated tourist attraction in the Polish city of Szczecin https://t.co/12dtKDye81
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) February 9, 2023
However’s Gacek’s fame also led to concern about his wellbeing, in particular that he was being overfed treats by tourists, some of whom had even come to Szczecin specifically to meet him.
In April, the city’s Animal Welfare Association (TOZ) took him in for treatment after Gacek suffered problems with his teeth and joints. Their vet also recommended that he lose 4-5 kgs (9-11 lbs) of weight.
Some city residents criticised the shelter’s actions, appealing for the popular animal to be returned to the streets and accusing the shelter of seeking to profit from his fame, reports news website Gazeta.pl.
Gacek, the street cat who is Szczecin’s best-rated tourist attraction, has been taken into the temporary care of the local animal shelter for medical treatment.
He has problems with his teeth and joints, and the vet also recommends he lose 4-5kg of weight https://t.co/lvBSNgpkzn
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) April 4, 2023
“It was very hard on us,” wrote the shelter on Facebook in September. “A bucket of hate was poured on us from many sides.” But they added that they “know it was worth it” because Gacek had been adopted in a new home.
Images shared by the shelter last week show how the cat has been transformed, in particular by gaining a much healthier weight. TOZ also revealed he is no longer called Gacek.
“From now on, call me George…George Clooney in cat version, yes that’s the new me”, reads their post. “I’m fit and I feel good about it. I run up the stairs, jump on countertops.”
The shelter added that to help other cats enjoy Gacek’s “miracle diet”, people can donate cans of cat food or contribute to a crowdfunding campaign launched last week called “Gacek buys food for the homeless”. So far, total donations have already exceeded the 7,000 zloty target initially set.
However, now that Gacek has found a new home and a new name, his Google Maps rating has disappeared.
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Main image credit: TOZSzczecin/Facebook
Agata Pyka is an assistant editor at Notes from Poland. She is a journalist and a political communication student at the University of Amsterdam. She specialises in Polish and European politics as well as investigative journalism and has previously written for Euractiv and The European Correspondent.