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Local News

Los Olivos Mourns Death of Maya the Cat

The feline, who gained fame for greeting visitors around the small town, reportedly was attacked by a stray dog

Maya the Cat, dubbed the unofficial mayor of Los Olivos, has died after more than a decade fulfilling her role as the small town’s furry and four-legged ambassador.

The petite black-and-white cat apparently fell prey to a stray dog on Sunday and died, according to Muse Management’s Sao Anash, who announced the death in a press release earlier this week.

In a town that once included King of Pop Michael Jackson as a rural resident, Maya became a bit of a celebrity herself.

Maya was a regular sight in the community, spending time at the Judith Hale Gallery, The Fess Parker Wine Country Inn, and other spots, including the Los Olivos Post Office.

“Petite yet fierce, she could be wonderfully haughty, preening or bathing in the sunshine, ignoring passersby who bid her a hello,” Anash said. “On other days, she could be disarmingly friendly, brushing herself up against a previously shunned local, calling out with an uncommonly loud meow for some attention.

"In between her walks about town, she could be seen sleeping on her favorite chair inside the lobby of the inn or lounging in the local park.”

Judith Hale, who closed her Los Olivos gallery in 2010 and now is affiliated with Solvang Antiques, said Maya technically belonged to a local resident but rarely spent time at that home.

“There was no corralling that cat,” Hale said.

Maya had her own rules for when humans could interact with her, prompting Hale to put up a sign.

“She did not want to be pet unless she wanted to be pet and you don’t pick her up,” Hale said. “Everything was on her terms.”

Some estimated Maya had fulfilled that role for closer to 20 years.

Rachel Haas of Coquelicot Tasting Room only learned of Maya’s death Wednesday.

“Oh my God. Oh my God,” Haas said, noting that Maya was old and walked more slowly in recent years.

Haas is allergic to cats but never had a reaction to Maya, who demanded her own seat and only accepted attention on her own terms. Yet Haas kept food and water available for the feline’s frequent visits.

“She would purr nonstop,” Haas added.

Maya also became popular among tourists, who would hear stories about the feline greeter from local shopkeepers or winemakers behind a tasting bar. 

Maya’s role as town greeter drew at least one mention in a hotel review online and several paragraphs in a book, Sideways in Neverland, by William Etling, a local real estate broker.

She apparently once had a Twitter account, with her biography noting, “Came for friendly wine tourists, who pet me and give healthy treats. Stayed for the field mice.”

The announcement of her death on social media sites brought a few dozen comments from visitors, former employees and residents who met Maya through the years.

“We can't count the times Maya made us smile with our chance encounters,” Visit Santa Ynez Valley said in a Facebook post. “She has contributed greatly to Los Olivos' charm and warmth, and will be greatly missed.”

At least one person’s comment called for lowering the flag on the pole that sits in the heart of downtown Los Olivos in honor of the cat.

Some thought she belonged to Los Olivos, but in typical cat attitude, Maya apparently acted as if Los Olivos belonged to her.

“She will be greatly missed by the town of Los Olivos and countless visitors who took her photo and were charmed by her fiery little personality,” Anash wrote.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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