The Eudora Welty House and Garden has a scavenger hunt for kids (and the young at heart) who visit the museum. While some of the items on the list are easy to find, one in particular may give visitors some trouble, depending on how this item is feeling: the resident cat, Sal.
Sal the Cat, whose full name is Salvadore, has been in the neighborhood for about six years. His family had lived in Belhaven, but when they moved, Sal stayed in the Belhaven area, Rachel Lott, the special projects coordinator for the museum, explained.
"He's got it pretty good," Lott says. "... We feed him, the neighbors feed him. He's got, like, an electric heated bed over at their house. I know there are a couple of Belhaven girls who will feed him. He's the most taken care of stray you will ever meet."
Sal's life is a little different than other strays, though, as he's a local Instagram star.
Lott got the idea to start his account about two years ago when she was on her lunch break.
"He's adorable," she says. "Everyone needs to see him daily."
His first post on the Instagram account, @a_cat_named_sal, was a selfie with the caption, "Welcoming myself to the 21st century with my own Instagram and my first selfie."
Now, the account has about 294 followers. Those who venture to the page can find Sal doing everything from reading one of Welty's books to listening to "meowsic" to promoting a Valentine's Day replacement holiday, SALentine's Day, which is essentially Sal Appreciation Day. They can also find Sal hanging out in and around the garden.
What's it like running a cat's Instagram?
"Purrfect," Lott says. "It's really cute. It's fun. The Welty House did not have an Instagram account yet. It was something that we were wanting to do, but we weren't sure if we were going to have the kind of feedback we were wanting, so I was like, 'Well, maybe I'll just play around with this."
The account began taking off as the Welty House started using the account to promote events at the museum, and then when the museum got its own Instagram account in August 2019, Sal was a fun add-on, Lott says.
Sal has been known to attract some guests to the museum.
"He'll post stuff about, 'The weather is great. Come by. I'm on the porch for snuggles,' or whatever, and people will come in and be like, 'The cat's here? Where's the cat? Where's Sal?'" she says. "People love him. People want to hang out with him and see him."
And when the museum has events, Sal makes his presence known.
"He knows the tour schedules," she says. "If the weather is nice enough and people get out of the house, he's ready to take them through the garden. We joke that he's the only four-legged tour guide in Jackson."
But as the most senior staff member at the Welty House, Sal is selective about the events he attends.
"He can be more selective if it's raining, or if it's just cat nap time," Lott says.
When Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway came to speak at the Welty House, Sal got up on stage and sat with her, Lott says.
Sal is a good gateway to the museum for younger kids or people who think they would not enjoy the Welty House because they haven't read any of the author's books, Lott says.
"We do so much more than just reading Eudora Welty," she says. "Part of our mission is to inspire creativity, and Sal helps us do that."
Sal was not available for comment at the time of publication.
The Eudora Welty House and Garden (1109 Pinehurst St.) is open for tours by reservation Tuesday through Friday at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m., and 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. the second Saturday of each month. Starting in January, tours will be available every Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The garden is open to the public. For more information, visit mdah.ms.gov/welty.