STRATHAM — Dr. Stephen Bassett and his staff at Exeter Veterinary Hospital are mourning the death of Ugly Bat Boy, a mostly hairless cat who gained international fame in recent years and was considered by some to be the world's ugliest cat.
The rare cat, called Uggs by those who knew him best, died peacefully in his sleep Saturday at the veterinary hospital on Stratham Heights Road.
Bassett arrived in the morning and found the 12-year-old cat who kept watch over the hospital curled up on his office chair.
Bassett believes Uggs died of a heart condition discovered last December. He was being treated for cardiomyopathy and seemed to be responding well, but he likely suffered a fatal arrhythmia.
"You would never know he was sick. It obviously took him by surprise," Bassett said of Uggs, who insisted on eating roast beef on a regular basis.
While Uggs was the oddest cat Bassett has ever had living at his hospital, his appearance didn't matter to the workers and clients who adored him.
"To us he was just our hospital cat. We've all been pretty sad. He was truly a presence here," said Bassett, whose hospital has drawings of Uggs hanging on the walls.
Bassett owned Uggs since he was a baby. He was one of two strange-looking cats born in a litter of four who were mostly bald, with only hair on the chest, head and some on the side.
"I think it was a genetic throwback," Bassett said.
Uggs lived at Bassett's home until around 2008 when he decided to bring him to the veterinary hospital.
Word of the ugly cat spread quickly, and soon photographs and stories about him became the talk of national and international media.
People traveled great distances to catch a glimpse of Uggs. At one point, Bassett feared someone would try to steal him in the night, so he brought him back to his house to sleep.
Bassett said Uggs will be cremated and his ashes will remain at the hospital along with the ashes of others.
"We've had some great cats in a long line," Bassett said.
A sign informing clients of Uggs' passing was posted at the hospital Tuesday. Many often asked where he was whenever they arrived with their own pets for a checkup.
"They knew he meant a lot to us," Bassett said.
Uggs spent most of his time sprawled out on a windowsill in the office. Bassett said he also liked to hang out on his expensive machines.
The hospital has another cat, Reno, who sat alone Wednesday morning on the blanket on a shelf that he once shared with Uggs.
Hospital technician Christie Hartnett couldn't hold back her tears as she recalled the many good times spent with Uggs.
"I just loved him," she said. "He was a great cat."