Bush’s Produce staff are mourning the sudden death of Tiger, the Bendigo store’s much-loved cat.
Manager Frank Webb said the tabby’s health quickly deteriorated on Wednesday night.
Long-serving Bush’s Produce staffer Simone Hamley, who was with the almost 20-year-old cat to the end, said the vet suspected a stroke.
Tiger died late on Wednesday night.
“This will affect so many people,” Frank said.
People were passing their sympathies on to the staff less than an hour after Bush’s Produce made a social media post in Tiger’s memory.
The community rallied behind a plea to find the cat after she went missing in the summer of 2014.
She stumbled into the store almost seven weeks later, looking the worse for wear but glad to be home.
Tiger came into the lives of the team members at Bush’s Produce as a six-week-old kitten.
She was born in Kurting, near Inglewood, on April 10, 1997.
As her feline predecessor at Bush’s Produce neared 17 years of age, the need for a new cat came to one customer’s mind.
The woman told her daughter to give Frank one of her kittens.
Crying as she left the store, the little girl parted with the baby tabby she had named Tiger.
“She came back here a few years ago… walked in as a young woman,” Frank said.
She asked whether Tiger was there – of course, she was.
“She had the run of the whole place,” Frank said of Tiger.
There was no such thing as too much affection for the sociable cat, who lapped up the pats lavished on her by school groups, visitors and passers by.
Frank said Tiger had her rounds, which included the nearby church, shops and the footpath outside the store.
“She would lay in the middle of the footpath – people would walk around her,” he said.
But the spot most people associated with the cat was the historic store’s counter.
“They [customers] would be taking to Tigey before they’d be talking to us,” Simone said.
“We had people come in to give Tigey a pat and say hello.”
There was one visitor, in particular, who Frank said came in especially to have a chat to Tiger.
“She had a following far and wide,” Frank said.
Many years ago, he said the store was targeted by vandals.
Windows at the store, where Tiger lived, were smashed.
When the news broke in the morning, Frank said the community’s thoughts immediately turned to Tiger.
“It was all, ‘Hows’ Tiger? Is the cat okay?’” he said.
There was a woman who made the cat food, though Tiger was seldom lacking tasty food to eat.
“She used to eat the stuff from the south of France,” Frank said.
The tabby was spoilt for sleeping options, having claimed many beds within the store.
Though for the most part luxurious and loving, the Tiger’s mysterious disappearance in the summer of 2014 seemed to have been a dark point in her life.
“She just came staggering in the front door,” Simone said.
Tiger lost about half her body weight and was missing pieces of skin.
Frank said it was difficult to believe it was the same cat walking through the door.
“She was nearly dead then,” he said.
Tiger was gone for almost seven weeks, reported missing in January that year.
It took her about three months to recover from her adventure, much of which she spent sleeping in the Bush’s Produce office.
Having worked at Bush’s Produce for almost 10 years, Simone said the cat had been a big part of her life.
Tiger was sorely missed on Thursday morning.
While in the midst of a period of emotional change, Bush’s Produce is also undergoing a physical shift.
The business has vacated the store at the corner of Williamson and Myers Streets and is operating from the one behind it, where Frank said Albert Bush started his business 160 years ago.