Leo the cat, who portrayed Church the cat in this year's Pet Sematary, has died. Leo became something of an internet star earlier this year as the studio was promoting the movie, with the Maine Coon showing up all over social media. Unfortunately, his owner Kirk Jarrett took to social media to confirm the news that Leo has sadly passed away. The news was confirmed in an Instagram post via Leo's official account, which is run by Jarrett. Here's what he had to say.
"It is with deep sadness that we tell you that Leo has passed away. He will forever be missed by his human and fur family. May his star always shine bright!!"
Pet Sematary was released in April but initially made its debut at SXSW in Austin, Texas in March. It was around that time that Leo really started making the rounds on social media. There were four Main Coon cats that were used during the production for the role of Church. However, it was Leo who mostly played the undead version of the cat that wound up on the poster and was used a great deal in the marketing.
Kirk Jarrett served as one of the cat trainers who worked on the movie. Jarrett wound up loving Leo so much that he ended up adopting him. Jarrett started the Instagram account for the cat back in October of last year and it has since amassed nearly 18 thousand followers. In an interview with the A.V. Club back in April, one of the other trainers, Melissa Millett, explained what made Leo so unique.
"Part of it was that he's just got such a cool look, different from any other cat I've seen. He's got this beautiful face, and these eyes that are so expressive. But during the training phase, you look at yourself as a coach, and you figure out the strengths of all your team members. We did end up using Leo for almost all of the undead stuff."
Once the press tour kicked off for the movie, photos of Leo began circulating online, dressed up in bowties and other fancy cat clothes. Naturally, the cat-loving internet began to fall in love with the feline, making him something of a star even beyond the high-profile Stephen King adaptation he was featured in. It was very much this distinctive, expressive look that Melissa Millett is talking about that helped set Leo apart from the other lovable cats online.
While Pet Sematary proved to be a bit divisive amongst critics and moviegoers, Church became an inarguable highlight and much of that has to do with Leo's performance. Many took to social media to express their sadness following the news of Leo's passing. It's been a rough few weeks for internet cat lovers, as Grumpy Cat also recently passed away. We've included some social media tributes, as well as some of Leo's most memorable photos, in addition to the announcement from Leo's Instagram below. RIP, Leo the cat.