The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Cheeto the Cat: EIU Volleyball’s pillow

Eastern’s volleyball team has been explosive on the court as they are currently 19-2 for the season.

Along with this success, the Panthers found a way to confuse color commentators during a live broadcast on ESPN+.

Kate Dean (12), a sophomore middle blocker holds up a pillow version of Cheeto, Emily Wilcox’s (20) five month old kitten during the volleyball game against Morehead State. (Rob Le Cates)

During the second set of a Panther win against University of Tennessee-Martin, sophomore middle blocker Kate Dean held the pillow of five-month-old Cheeto above her head, swinging it around to the rhythm of the music.

“We gotta get the cat story,” one of the color commentators said.

Five-month-old Cheeto is senior outside hitter Emily Wilcox’s kitten.

Wilcox explained that she adopted Cheeto from a Decatur animal shelter in June 2023. Cheeto was a barn cat that got abandoned by his mother.

“I knew that I wanted to get a cat,” Wilcox said. “The apartment that I lived in this summer, there was some lady that was trying to offer me her cat, but it was already old.”

Wilcox decided to look for kittens on Facebook and picked Cheeto out of a selection of six kittens.

“I thought he was the cutest,” Wilcox said. “He’s a nice cat. I feel like you hear about cats being mean and hiding and sleeping all the time, but he’s always around. He wakes me up every morning.”

One day, Wilcox’s mom, Michelle, surprised her daughter by sending a cat shaped pillow with Cheeto on it.

“I took [the pillow] into the locker room one day, and [the team] thought it was the funniest thing, and I put him on the bench too,” Wilcox said. “The whole team, even people that don’t like cats, I don’t know if they’re lying to me, but everyone loves Cheeto.”

Wilcox said the initial comments from the UTM game prompted her to continue bringing the pillow to the volleyball games.

Cheeto the cat, who has over 5 thousand followers on Instagram, lays on his owner’s, Emily Wilcox’s floor, and stretches on Tuesday afternoon. (Ashanti Thomas)

“I kinda wanted it to be anonymous because it’s a public account and there are weirdos, but it’s like, the ESPN people started talking about it too,” Wilcox said. “I think it’s just a running joke because he’s just a cat, but all of my teammates comment on his posts and my coaches even repost it.”

Wilcox also lives with three of her teammates; sophomore setter Catalina Rochaix, junior outside hitter Kaitlyn Flynn and senior outside hitter Giovana Larregui López.

Wilcox admitted that Cheeto isn’t a big hassle when it comes to living with a kitten and three roommates.

Emily Wilcox, a senior electrical engineering major and a middle blocker for Eastern’s volleyball team, picks up her almost 6 month old cat, Cheeto, whom she recently got over the Summer. (Ashanti Thomas)

“He doesn’t make much noise or much of a mess,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox also said that students on campus will offer to watch Cheeto while the volleyball team travels for their away games.

“I’m not even exaggerating, a lot of people when we go on our travel trips ask to watch him,” Wilcox said. “If I take him to the vet, it’s like 15 dollars a day, and I haven’t had to do that yet. Some of the soccer girls will watch him, and some of the baseball boys will watch him.”

Wilcox started an Instagram account for Cheeto when she first got him.

“I started an Instagram for him and just started posting reels and some of them blew up,” Wilcox said.

A reel posted on June 19 of a seven-week-old Cheeto received over 46,000 likes which attracted a large number of followers.

Under the username cheeto.cat20, Cheeto now has over 5,000 followers on Instagram.

Zaria Flippin can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Zaria Flippin
Zaria Flippin, Sports Editor
Zaria Flippin is a junior sports media relations major. This is her first year at The News.
Rob Le Cates
Rob Le Cates, Editor-in-Chief
Rob Le Cates is a junior journalism major. He previously served as summer editor-in-chief, photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.
Ashanti Thomas
Ashanti Thomas, Photographer
Ashanti Thomas is a senior digital media major. She previously served as photo editor and assistant photo editor at The News.

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