Julian Assange kept a lot of secrets pent up with him in a cramped corner room at the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. But as his seven-year tenure there ended ignominiously last week, one final mystery captured the attention of the international community.
What will happen to Embassy Cat?
The asylum seeker’s furry friend was Assange’s only consistent companion during some of his lonely years as a self-styled political refugee. The cat had a significant Internet following of its own – though its views hewed suspiciously close to its human’s – and it was apparently a fixture at the embassy, with a penchant for pouncing on Christmas tree ornaments and for defusing tension as the WikiLeaks founder tangled with a bevy of world leaders. It was named for its famous home, but occasionally went by “James” or “Cat-stro” after Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Its Twitter and Instagram accounts – with 31,000 and 5,000 followers, respectively – also monopolized the coveted market for cybersecurity-meets-cat puns (the cat was reportedly interested in “counter-purrveillance”).
So when British police stormed the Ecuadoran Embassy, arrested Assange and took him into custody after a U.S. federal court unsealed an indictment charging him with conspiracy, many worried about the fate of the feline.
Would the cat’s asylum end, too? Or was it just beginning? Would someone adopt it, or would it also face extradition to the U.S.? Would it fall victim to a vast conspiracy? Did it know too much?
“Is Julian Assange’s cat going to be okay though?” one person asked.
“I do hope that someone looks after his cat, who must be very confused about all this,” another said.
While it’s unclear exactly what happened to Embassy Cat, multiple sources have indicated that it long ago left its home.
Italy’s la Repubblica newspaper reported in November 2018 that the cat was gone. But, according to the paper, its departure was for its own good. The author, who visited Assange for the story, wrote that “Not even the cat is there anymore. … Assange has preferred to spare the cat an isolation which has become unbearable and allow it a healthier life.”
Sputnik News, the Russian government-funded Kremlin organ and diligent reporter of Embassy Cat developments, said it had contacted the Ecuadoran Embassy about the cat and a spokesperson confirmed that it has been gone for months.
“It is not here since September, I think,” the official told Sputnik. “It was taken by Mr. Assange’s associates a long ago . . . It is not here. We are not a pet store, so we do not keep pets here.”
But the person closest to Assange to comment on Embassy Cat, a member of his legal team, said Assange gave the cat to a family member after the embassy threatened to take the pet to a shelter.
“Insensed at the threat, he asked his lawyers to take his cat to safety,” said Hanna Jonasson in a tweet. “They will be reunited in freedom.”