Update: Alas, there was no final triumphant raise for Izzy the cat, but she did look like she had a nice time on the roof.
Izzy, the grey and orange tabby who inspired the viral “raise the cat” tradition across the Sixers fanbase, will be laid to rest tomorrow, her owners have said.
About three months ago, the 14-year-old feline was diagnosed with bone cancer in the jaw. The time has come to be put to sleep, her owner said, but there is a final wish: For the 76ers to win Wednesday’s game five against the Atlanta Hawks, so she can be hoisted one last time.
“Tonight will be special,” said Dennis Grove, Izzy’s owner. “They should win, and I’ll hold her up one last time.”
» READ MORE: Raise the Cat: A Sixers phenomenon here to stay?
“If she could talk, I think that’s what she would say: ‘Let’s get one more,’” he said.
Izzy became a viral sensation during the 2017 NBA season, at a time when Grove, a lifelong Sixers fan, was desperate for something positive amid a dismal season. He had seen Sixers guard Ben Simmons pose with his Savannah cat on his shoulder, and decided to tweet that if the Sixers won, he would raise his cat.
The team got the W, so up went Izzy, and thus, a Philadelphia sports tradition was born.
Each time the Sixers won, Grove would hoist the 12 pound fur ball into the air and tweet a photo. Sixers fans across the country chimed in, posting photos with their cats and dogs, alongside the hashtag #RaiseTheCat. The meme was so popular that Grove made T-shirts with the slogan that raised $4,600 for Philly PAWS and the Morris Animal Refuge. It was runner-up for NBA meme of the year, losing to Russell Westbrook’s wardrobe — how fitting that the Sixers knocked Westbrook’s team out of the playoffs this year.
“I think she is leaving a pretty recognizable legacy,” Grove said.
Grove announced the tragic news on Twitter Wednesday afternoon, and the same way Philadelphians embraced Izzy when she was healthy, they sent condolences about her illness. Some users called her one of the “all-time greats” and shared old photos of themselves raising pets who had recently died.
“That made me tear up,” Grove said.
Izzy Imogen Heap Grove was born in Maryland, and was just a kitten when Dennis’ wife, Valerie, took her in. In May 2014, Valerie and Dennis were married, and Izzy became Dennis’ first pet.
Izzy was a people cat, always eager to be near her owners, perched on their lap atop her red blanket, especially when the Sixers were on. In her prime, she weighed upward of 14 pounds, Grove said, partially due to her love of tortilla chips and Pringles.
As soon as her owners walked through their door, Izzy would roll over on her back, asking for belly rubs. She typically spent her days lounging in the windows, talking to birds and squirrels. But her favorite activity was stalking birds on the rooftop of their condo, located in the Ludlow section of North Philadelphia.
Grove said Izzy will be euthanized on that rooftop. She’ll be closer to heaven from there, he said. Plus, honoring the #Raisethecat tradition, “we’ll get her up high.”
The Groves plan to adopt two cats in the next few months.
No names yet, Grove said, but he added: “I’m not ruling out any Sixers-related names.”