Along the streets and in the homes and businesses of Northeastern Capitol Hill, roams an orange tabby cat, known by many, loved by more, the venerable Lord Byron, King of Capitol Hill.
Lord Byron, tenderly shortened to LB, is a five-year-old inside-outside housecat, whose prolific wanderings through the neighborhood North of East Denny Way and South of East Aloha Street, have garnered him a number of admirers. His most prolific stomping grounds, or at least the area with the most sightings listed on his personal website, is on 15th Avenue East along the row of shops between Mercer and Harrison.
Upon further investigation, it seemed like every shop along this stretch of street had an anecdote about Lord Byron. The florist at Flowers on 15th, who wished to remain unnamed, said that unprovoked and despite her allergies, LB had once planted himself in the flower shop for days. Additionally, he had also been known to roam the isles of both Walgreens and QFC across the street. At Rainbow Natural Remedies, LB has a “designated chair,” an armchair in the back of the shop that was claimed by LB and is now widely accepted as his. And Tim Nicholson, the owner of Tim’s Barber Shop, happily shared his photos of LB, who hadn’t been seen in weeks after his owner came to pick him up. “I kinda miss him. I like it when he comes to the shop,” Tim lamented.
But who is Lord Byron? Where did he come from, and why were we blessed with his regal presence?
Lord Byron the Man
Lord Byron the cat is named after the 19th-century poet George Gordon Byron, the 6th Baron Byron. This Byron — English, pansexual, deformed in one foot, and relatively poor for a Lord — built his fame via a regular poetry journal, which recorded his daring adventures around Europe during a time when most people felt safer staying at home. Lord Byron was charming, impetuous, reckless, and amoral, choosing to conduct his life with all the chaos of a housecat at midnight.
Lord Byron the man cultivated his public persona diligently, commissioning paintings of his portrait and insisting on posing with a moody pout before it was #instacool. Upon returning to England, Lord Byron stirred up an idolizing fury never before seen but all too common today, becoming the OG modern celebrity. He continued to live his life daringly, with multiple lovers and scandal. In the 1950s, famous playwright Tennessee Williams featured Lord Byron as a character in his play Camino Real, where he envisioned him exclaiming, “Make voyages! Attempt them! There’s nothing else…”
And so we return to our feline friend, the venerable Lord Byron of Capitol Hill, whose famed wanderings and charm mirror those of his namesake. Indeed, Lord Byron the cat has been known to venture much further than his Capitol Hill kingdom.
In fact, Laura, Lord Byron’s owner, said that he once vanished for 11 whole months. LB is outfitted with a Tile tracking device, which will send a location ping to an accompanying app, but only if it’s in range. As the months wore on, Laura began to become disheartened, but occasionally, as Laura would pass a certain area of town her phone would ping. Despite hopeful searches near the ping’s location, LB was never found. With the nudging of her partner, Laura decided to adopt a new cat. “I had a feeling that as soon as we adopted a new cat LB would come home,” Ari, Laura’s partner mused. Turns out, he was right.
Well, Lord Byron didn’t exactly come waltzing home at the end of 11 months. In fact, Laura learned of his whereabouts after a call from a local property manager. Apparently, LB had been held captive, though hopefully with love, in an apartment not too far from Laura’s home. But strangely, the residents chose to leave Lord Byron in the apartment when they left, which is where the property manager found him. Even stranger still, LB was wearing his collar, complete with Tile and the usual dog tag, which is how the property manager knew how to contact Laura.
But this wasn’t LB’s only crazy adventure, according to Laura. The ever-curious cat purportedly found his way into someone’s vehicle on two separate occasions. In one instance, Laura was contacted by the vehicle owners, claiming they had driven all the way to Tacoma before they noticed Byron was in there with them. They said they would return him in exchange for gas money, and so Laura met them in a Safeway parking lot for the exchange. The author can’t help but imagine this going down like a drug deal, tucked into the far shady corner of the lot, exchanging cash with palm faced down, and in return receiving the flopping orange Byron, eyes wide with adventure and yowling mischievously. However, that is probably not exactly how it happened.
On the other occasion, Laura was contacted by an animal shelter in Everett. Again, Lord Byron had snuck into a stranger’s car. This time LB had managed to shuck himself of his collar, so the driver dropped him off at the closest shelter, where he was briefly renamed Linguini until his chip was scanned and Laura was contacted for his return.
There’s Nothing Else…
“I probably sound like a bad cat mom,” Laura lamented. But the author once had a wandering cat as well, Cosmo Kramer, who also had a propensity to insert himself into other people’s lives. Any attempt to quell his adventurous nature resulted in a fat, depressed cat, who hid for days under the furniture and yowled spitefully at the mere sight of a human face. Some cats are just meant to be free.
And the world is better because of cats like Lord Byron. After all, studies have shown that cat purrs are therapeutic, helping to release endorphins and possibly even promote bone growth. Plus, they’re hilarious, adorable, graceful, and full of love (or at least lots of cuddles). In fact, Lord Byron’s friendly wanderings and impromptu cuddle sessions have brought joy to as many as 402 people, all members of LB’s Facebook group, Lord Byron – King of Cat-paw-tol Hill.
“LB has shown us how many good-hearted people there are in Capitol Hill,” Laura concluded. Indeed, in a world with so much opportunity for division at least some of us can experience the joy of being united by one cat, Lord Byron, the venerable King of Capitol Hill.
Harlow Poffenberger is a Visual Media student at Seattle Central College where she works as an editor at The Seattle Collegian and curates the weekly ART SPACE column. Harlow also likes thru-hiking, traveling, and other adventurous pursuits, and once lived in a house with a bear.