One of the guides, John Casey, is the grandson of former Gov. Pat Brown, the last governor to live in the Victorian mansion at 16th and H streets, and therefore the nephew of the current governor, Jerry Brown.
Casey was given the black ceramic cat by his aunt, former Treasurer Kathleen Brown, with a story that Pat Brown used it to denote whether his conversations with reporters at the mansion were on or off the record. If the cat was sitting on a hall table, so goes the legend, reporters knew the conversations were off the record, but if it was missing, everything was for attribution.
Casey contacted me in hopes that I could verify or debunk the story so that the cat could be properly displayed in the mansion, which is now a state park facility, but I wasn't around the Capitol in those days, nor were any of my current reportorial colleagues. But if anyone knows the real story, he or she can either email me at email@example.com or post a comment on this item.
PHOTO CREDIT: The exterior of the historic Governor's Mansion in downtown Sacramento on Wednesday September 6, 2006. The Sacramento Bee/ Randall Benton