Linton Zoo's 'baby-sitting' cat Arnie receives 'global' tributes after death

Safina the lion cub with Arnie the cat Arnie the tom cat helped to look after the zoo's young animals, including lion cub Safina

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A cat who became a "baby-sitter" to newborn animals at a Cambridgeshire zoo has become a "global star" after his death was reported online, staff said.

Linton Zoo manager Kim Simmons posted photos of Arnie the cat looking after some of the animals online after he died on 9 January.

"We had hundreds of messages but it went crazy when MSN ran it in America," she said.

"His story seems to have touched, and been shared by, so many."

She added: "His most special job... was as the baby-sitter of abandoned newborn animals brought into the house for hand-rearing.

'Outstanding cat'

"Arnie baby-sat all four of our adult lions when they were cubs and some of their offspring too."

She said the zoo did not like to hand-rear animals unless absolutely necessary, but added: "Arnie did the job wonderfully for us.

Zara the lion cub with Arnie the cat Arnie also "baby-sat" Safina's cub Zara

"He would climb into their baskets and snuggle up. There is nothing quite like a real, warm beating heart next to a young animal."

The zoo's Facebook tribute, posted a few day's after Arnie's death, read: "On the morning of Wednesday 9th January, after completing his staff greetings and doing his usual morning rounds to see his zoo friends, purring all the way, Arnie, our ginger tom returned home for a spot of breakfast and then snuggled up on his bed and went to sleep.

"There he passed away peacefully."

Mrs Simmons said Arnie had arthritis in his rear legs together with "other age-related problems, for which he was receiving appropriate medical support".

"He had a good and thorough life," she added. "He was outstanding in everything he did."

Mrs Simmons said staff were now busy responding to requests from around the world for more photographs and stories about Arnie.

"We are thinking about putting together a book," she said. "His life is the stuff of Disney movies."

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