Gallivanting Griffin: Why people love Canterbury’s friendliest, cheekiest, most adventurous cat

26th April 2024

Four thousand people -- an amount big enough to fill a stadium, occupy a cruise ship or even populate a large village. As of last week, it's also the number of followers on the official Facebook group of Canterbury's most famous feline.

Griffin, a two-year-old, grey and white cat, lives with his owner Rachel Craft in the King’s Mile area of Canterbury. At least, that’s where he spends some of his time – but it may be more accurate to say that Griffin has made the entire city his home.

Every day is a grand adventure for the former stray, and his exploits have certainly not gone unnoticed. There is no place that Griffin won't go, no one he won't befriend, and no end to the mischief he finds himself in.

This is the story of a cat that many consider the true animal mascot of Canterbury, Gallivanting Griffin, who may be the city's most famous animal.

Beginnings of a Canterbury tail

A couple of years ago, Rachel wasn’t looking to adopt a cat, but when she saw a photo of Griffin online, he instantly stole her heart.

“I came across a photo on Facebook of Griffin and his sister as adorable kittens, and I instantly fell in love,” she says.

Bid to Save a Stray, a charity dedicated to rehoming cats and dogs, rescued Griffin from the streets of Romania. Before Rachel knew it, he was making his journey from Târgoviște to Canterbury in late 2021.

Griffin, left, with his sister when they were kittens. (Photo by Rachel Craft.)

Griffin made his passion for adventure clear to Rachel very quickly, as he would often bolt for the door whenever it was opened.

“There were many occasions when I had to go running after him in my pyjamas, or sometimes in even less appropriate attire!” she recalls.

As well as his love for the outdoors, it didn’t take long for Griffin to reveal himself as a staunch socialite, always fascinated and curious with any new people he meets.

Rachel remembers calling plumbers to her house during Griffin’s kitten days, with the mischievous moggie demanding attention from them in the boiler cupboard, climbing in their tool bag and getting in the way while they tried to work.

Feline fame on Facebook

It wouldn’t be long before Griffin’s adventuring and complete lack of shyness would earn him a legion of online followers, but sadly, the first time Griffin called some major attention online, it wasn’t a heartwarming story like we typically see today.

Rachel explains: “There was an incident that I became aware of where a group of teens had been spotted throwing Griffin around along the river. Luckily, a passerby had intervened and then managed to track me down.

“I reported the incident to the police and appealed on the Canterbury Residents Group on Facebook for any witnesses. This generated quite a lot of attention, and later -- when I was regularly being tagged in posts asking, ‘Whose cat is this?’ or ‘Is he a stray?’ -- a suggestion to start up a group was made.”

Amazingly, Griffin’s run-in with the cruel gang of youths did not deter him from approaching people. In fact, he may be friendlier and more brazen now than he’s ever been.

Photo by Clare Walker.

It was pharmaceutical industry advisor Kerry Walker, 41, who suggested the name "Gallivanting Griffin" for what would become his official Facebook group.

"He kept popping up on the Canterbury Residents Group page. The name made sense with all his antics," she says.

"I love seeing what he has been up to each day and it's a great way to make sure he remains safe. I have yet to meet him but look forward to the day -- even if they say 'never meet your heroes!'"

With the Gallivanting Griffin group established, Griffin’s fame snowballed, quickly gathering fans in the thousands in the course of a year.

Rachel sees messages every day from people who were excited to have spotted him or had a nice interaction with him.

A purr-son of the people

Perhaps one of Griffin’s most notable attributes is his hilarious habit of inviting himself into strangers’ homes.

It’s something he has done since he was a kitten, according to Rachel.

“When I first started letting him out, I would hear from my neighbours that he’d invited himself into their houses. He then gradually began to explore further and further until he found his patch along the river," she says.

Retired teacher Terrie Chrones, 73, says that Griffin does regular rounds at all of the homes in Chantry Court.

“He has been known to leap the gate and casually come into the interior garden, visiting all the homes. He helps me prepare fish by leaping on my kitchen top,” she says.

Photo by Anne-Marie Logan.

Heidi King, 38, says the funniest Griffin story she’s ever seen was from a post she came across on the Canterbury Residents Group on Facebook.

“The poor lady and her daughter were absolutely terrified of cats, and she had posted wondering how one got into her house. And there’s a photo of him just lying on a bed, looking like he doesn’t know what the problem is.

“The cat’s a legend, honestly. The way he just lets himself into people's houses for a rest and doesn't care!”

As disrespectful of people’s privacy as he may be, most people seem to adore Griffin’s confident, attention-loving nature. He simply loves humans, voluntarily approaching people of all ages, playing with children, and alleviating the stress of students.

Damien Turner, 47, couldn't believe his luck when he was finally blessed by Griffin's presence after being an avid follower for a long time.

"My partner said she’s never seen me so happy!" he says.

Griffin’s even made friends in high places, with Canterbury City Councillor Charlotte Cornell calling him a “Canterbury treasure.”

When the cat’s away

It's not just the neighbourhoods where Griffin works his charm, however. While the little scamp certainly has a routine, he also loves to explore places most unusual for a cat, even one as curious as he is.

After finishing his aforementioned shift in Chantry Court, Griff goes to his regular, the Millers Arms pub, where staff feed him and customers fuss over him. Another go-to for Griff is the University of Kent, where students are always delighted by his presence.

Clare Walker, 52, works at the Parkinson's Centre for Integrated Therapy (PCIT) at the university. She has followed Griffin’s adventures on Facebook for a while but had never met him in person until just days ago – and like most of his fans, she was left starstruck.

“It actually made my day! He's such a delightful character, and I'm normally a dog person,” she says.

“He adds a real, feel-good element to people's day, I think. Following him on Facebook has become almost like a hobby and to meet him in person is like meeting a celebrity. He spreads a little joy to your day, then off he goes to share some more with his next encounter.”

"Not too long ago, Griffin spent a few days at home voluntarily. I was so worried by this that I instantly took him to the vets for a check-up."

Griffin also commonly goes by the “Sainsbury’s cat,” as the Kingsmead Road supermarket is another favourite hangout of his. When he isn’t darting through the store shelves, he’s joining customers for a coffee at the shop-in-shop Starbucks. Security staff aren’t phased by Griffin’s antics, instead finding it hilarious whenever he needs escorting out.

Throughout his time in Canterbury, he has been spotted in a nightclub, a gym, a nursery, a cobbler’s, and has even checked himself in at the vet’s.

He was once found in Herne Bay, eight miles away from his home. Rachel still has no idea how he ended up there, only able to speculate that he must have hopped on a bus or copped a lift in someone's car.

With Griff sometimes away from home for days at a time, Rachel can't help but worry about him sometimes. However, having such a large community keeping an eye on him and tracking his activities helps keep her mind at ease.

In fact, Rachel is so used to Griffin's ways that she is more concerned when he isn't outside.

"Not too long ago, Griffin spent a few days at home voluntarily. I was so worried by this that I instantly took him to the vets for a check-up," she says.

"He was fine, of course, but it took me a while to recover from the shock of him voluntarily deciding to stay at home for that long!"

Photo by Dee Rundle.

The cat’s meow of Canterbury

Unsurprisingly, Rachel remains baffled by the amount of love and attention her cat receives every day. As strange as it is to have thousands of people obsessed with her cat, she says that the unexpected rise of the Gallivanting Griffin Facebook group does have its advantages.

“I think the main perk is that I can always know where he is and what he’s doing. There are some lovely people in the group and many of them even transport him home, when necessary,” she says.

Rachel has even made 2024 calendars featuring Griffin, with proceeds going towards the charity that rescued Griffin, Bid to Save a Stray. She has raised an incredible £852 from the calendar sales.

“I am beyond proud of the achievement and will definitely be doing another calendar this year,” she says.

Rachel teases that there are plans for more Griffin merchandise in the future. In the meantime, gift shop Canterbury Makers in the Marlowe Arcade has some pin badges featuring fan art of Griffin, designed by Steph Goodwin.

Griffin pin badge from Canterbury Makers, designed by Steph Goodwin (UglyBugSteph on Instagram).

It can’t be understated just how big an impact Griffin has had on the Canterbury community. He brings smiles and laughter to thousands of people every day, whether it’s the people he passes on his adventures or the people who see his latest photos, videos and stories online. He has single-handedly brought people together in what many call their favourite Facebook group, and has raised hundreds for a cause that helps rescue strays just like him.

Of course, he’s completely oblivious to all of the positivity he creates while he’s out having the time of his life in the city. If you see him, be sure to give him some strokes and ear scritches. If there’s a cat that deserves love and attention from everyone, it’s Gallivanting Griffin.

[Header image by Damien Turner.]