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  • Lezlie Sterling / lsterling@sacbee.com

    A hat featuring a cutout of local feline sensation Norm Lopez is worn by Chris Knepp during Saturday's charity pub crawl.

  • Lezlie Sterling / lsterling@sacbee.com

    Norm the cat, lounging on Chris Knepp's lap, is petted by Jill Thomas at the Shady Lady bar. The five-stop pub crawl featured raffle ticket sales to raise funds for the Front Street Animal Shelter.

Fans of fat-cat Norm weigh in at pub crawl to raise funds for shelter

Published: Sunday, Sep. 1, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

One attendee joked there should be a self-help book called "The Zen of Norm."

"Norm just lays there and lets everyone pet him," said Sacramento resident Missy McVittie, one of the roughly 100 people who turned out Saturday for a pub crawl in honor of the city's most famous feline. "He doesn't care if you're human, dog, cat, it's just: 'Pet me, love me, here I am.' "

Capital city fat cat Norm Lopez lived up to the title of that proposed book. He remained calm even as admirers fawned over him in front of Shady Lady bar - the first in a five-stop pub crawl.

At each location, the cat's owner, Tyler Lopez, and other volunteers sold raffle tickets and Norm-themed T-shirts.

By the end of the day, the team had amassed about $1,400 through raffle ticket sales for the Front Street Animal Shelter. T-shirt sales have yet to be tallied, Lopez said.

"I keep watching $20 bills go in," said shelter manager Gina Knepp at the crawl's third stop, the newly opened Starlite lounge. "But it doesn't really matter - more than anything this is getting the word out about microchipping your animals and animal adoptions."

The shelter last week ran a marketing campaign called the "Ab-'Norm'-al End of Summer Blowout." From Wednesday to Saturday, the shelter charged $10 for animal adoptions. According to Knepp, with Norm's celebrity help, 120 animals found homes the past four days.

Her husband, Chris, sat with Norm on his lap in the patio area outside Shady Lady. He dubbed himself the cat's "bodyguard."

"It's been crazy, but that's the attention of Norm," Chris said. "The funds that he has raised for the shelter are far beyond what I expected."

Lopez adopted Norm two years ago from a relative's neighbor. The cat gained popularity as neighbors frequently came across him lying in the middle of sidewalks.

"Half of the employees always end up parking in front of the area where Norm's house is," said Jason Boggs, owner of Shady Lady. "You park, you get out, you pet Norm and you go to work."

Lopez started throwing "Friends of Norm" barbecues in her front yard and launched a Facebook page for the cat. Lopez decided this year to host a pub crawl because the cat's fan base had grown too large for her yard.

But Norm's fame has grown even more.

The Sacramento Bee reported last month about a passerby mistaking Norm for a pregnant cat in distress, and bringing him to the shelter. Norm was quickly released because of his Facebook friends' intervention.

Norm's story was picked up by national and international media outlets, and the coverage caused his number of Facebook friends to swell from 500 to more than 4,500.

Christina Clem came out to the crawl because she adopted her own cat, Bowie, from the Front Street Animal Shelter. She attributed Norm's popularity somewhat to his weight - 26 pounds.

"I have to say, you don't normally walk upon a 20-plus cat hanging out on the side of the street," Clem said.

But Norm has lost 4 pounds in the two years Lopez has owned him.

"I think he'll live a lot longer if we can get him down to that healthier weight," said Kelly Byam, a veterinarian at Abel Pet Clinic in Elk Grove.

Clem said fans will still love Norm once he sheds those extra pounds.

"I think fortunately like many superstars -- like Drew Carey -- we still love then when they lost weight," Clem said. "I'm hopeful, and I think Norm can do it."

Call The Bee's Kurt Chirbas, (916) 321-1030.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Kurt Chirbas



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