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10 Excellent Bookstore Cats

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Not all bookstores have cats: the big chains don't have cats, and some mom and pop stores keep their cats at home, so if you are allergic to cats, you can still find a place to browse for reading material. But you'll find resident cats in many independent bookstores because they are nice to curl up with (just like a good book), they don't eat the merchandise, and they protect the premises from rodents who will eat the merchandise. Let's be honest, though - this list has more than ten cats. What it is is a list of ten bookstores that have cats.

1. Ralph

Mudsock Books & Curiosity Shoppe in Fishers, Indiana sells books, games, and children's toys. The resident cat Ralph is another draw, as he has quite a few fans. And he doesn't mind posing for a picture. Photograph by Flickr user Phil Jern.

2. Mojo, Molly, and Cupcake

Awesome Books in Pittsburgh has several cats. Pictured here are Cupcake Slim and Mojo. Mojo is the ginger cat; I know because there are other pictures of Mojo with his lion haircut. The third store cat is named Molly.

3. Parit

Pegasus Books in Berkeley, California, is proud of all the pets that belong to their staff, but Parit lives at the downtown store. This photograph was taken by an avid Parit fan who is also a blogger.

4. Sam and Trouble

The Other Change of Hobbit is a science fiction and fantasy bookstore in Berkeley. They have two cats, Sam and Trouble. Sam is the more outgoing of the two, and will jump on the shoulders of customers if given a chance.

5. Ginger

Orinda Books in Orinda, California features their bookstore cat right on the website's home page. They welcome you to come in and pet Ginger, who is accustomed to customers. Here you see her drawing attention to a table of books for sale. Photograph by Karen Lile.

6. Spike

Left Bank Books in St. Louis is home to Spike. Spike has his own page at the store's website, with an interview and some of his literary recommendations.

7. Hawaiian Bookstore Cats

Ed and Cat - Talk Story Bookstore

Talk Story Bookstore in Hanapepe, Hawaii is the sole bookstore on the island of Kauai and the westernmost bookstore in the United States. Owners Ed and Cynthia Justus are credited with revitalizing the small town of Hanapepe, and have a restoration project going for other downtown buildings. Talk Story Bookstore has three cats, whose names are not recorded online. Here you see owner Ed Justus with one of the cats. Photograph by Flickr user brewbooks.

8. AlleyCat

The American Book Center in Amsterdam has an auxiliary clubhouse nearby call the ABC Treehouse. AlleyCat lives there, and has her own Facebook page, where her activities and interests are both listed as "eating." Photograph by Harald Seiwert.

9. Dante Kot

Then there is Dante, who is quite the celebrity in Poland. Dante lives at a secondhand bookstore in Wroclaw. My Polish is rusty, and Babelfish translates "secondhand books" into "scientific antiques," so I haven't found much about the bookstore itself, but Dante has his own blog, and his own Facebook page, where he interacts with fans and other internet cats -in Polish.

10. Heterochromatic Cat

Love Her -Eyes- 4 of 4 -Bangalore-najeebkhan@hotmail.com

There's not much information available, but I couldn't resist this picture of a colorful white cat who lives in a bookstore in Bangalore, India. Her name is not recorded, but aren't those eyes something else? Photograph by Flickr user najeebkhan2009.

This list was inspired by a post at Metafilter which linked all five previous mental_floss Bookstore Cat posts, and where I found comments leading me to several of today's entries.

If your favorite bookstore cat isn't listed here, it may be found in one of the previous posts, 12 Bookstore Cats, 8 Bookstore Cats, Our Readers’ Favorite Bookstore Cats (Volume One), Our Readers’ Favorite Bookstore Cats (Volume Two), or Our Readers’ Favorite Bookstore Cats (Volume Three).

See also: 8 Library Cats

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Freak Out After Pooping?
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Cats often exhibit some very peculiar behavior, from getting into deadly combat situations with their own tail to pouncing on unsuspecting humans. Among their most curious habits: running from their litter box like a greyhound after moving their bowels. Are they running from their own fecal matter? Has waste elimination prompted a sense of euphoria?

Experts—if anyone is said to qualify as an expert in post-poop moods—aren’t exactly sure, but they’ve presented a number of entertaining theories. From a biological standpoint, some animal behaviorists suspect that a cat bolting after a deposit might stem from fears that a predator could track them based on the smell of their waste. But researchers are quick to note that they haven’t observed cats run from their BMs in the wild.

Biology also has a little bit to do with another theory, which postulates that cats used to getting their rear ends licked by their mother after defecating as kittens are showing off their independence by sprinting away, their butts having taken on self-cleaning properties in adulthood.

Not convinced? You might find another idea more plausible: Both humans and cats have a vagus nerve running from their brain stem. In both species, the nerve can be stimulated by defecation, leading to a pleasurable sensation and what some have labeled “poo-phoria,” or post-poop elation. In running, the cat may simply be working off excess energy brought on by stimulation of the nerve.

Less interesting is the notion that notoriously hygienic cats may simply want to shake off excess litter or fecal matter by running a 100-meter dash, or that a digestive problem has led to some discomfort they’re attempting to flee from. The fact is, so little research has been done in the field of pooping cat mania that there’s no universally accepted answer. Like so much of what makes cats tick, a definitive motivation will have to remain a mystery.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E
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Art
New Smithsonian Exhibit Explains Why Felines Were the Cat's Meow in Ancient Egypt
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Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.406E

From bi-coastal cat cafes to celebrity pets like Lil Bub, felines are currently enjoying a peak moment in popular culture. That’s part of the reason why curators at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery—which will re-open to visitors on Saturday, October 14, following a 3-month closure—decided to dedicate a new exhibition to ancient Egypt’s relationship with the animals.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt” looks at the cultural and religious importance of cats, which the Egyptians appreciated long before YouTube was a thing and #caturday was a hashtag. It's based on a traveling exhibition that began at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City. On view until January 15, 2018, it's one of several exhibits that will kick off the grand reopening of the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler galleries, the conjoined national museums of Asian and Middle Eastern Art.

The Freer has been closed since January 2016 for major renovations, and the Sackler since July 2016 for minor ones. The upgraded institutions will make their public debut on October 14, and be feted by a free two-day festival on the National Mall.

Featuring 80 artworks and relics, ranging from figurines of leonine deities to the tiny coffins of beloved pets, "Divine Felines" even has a cat mummy on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. These objects span from the Middle Kingdom (2008 to 1630 BCE) to the Byzantine period (395 to 642 CE).

An ancient Egyptian metal weight shaped like a cat, dating back to 305 to 30 BCE, on view at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Weight in Form of a Cat, 305 to 30 BCE, Bronze, silver, lead
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

The term “cat” is used loosely, as the Egyptians celebrated domestic mousers and fearsome predators alike.

“The Egyptians were close observers of nature, so they were observing cat behaviors,” Antonietta Catanzariti, the exhibition's in-house curator, tells Mental Floss. “They noticed that cats and lions— in general, felines—have aggressive and protective aspects, so they associated those attributes to deities.”

The ancient Egyptians viewed their gods as humans, animals, or mixed forms. Several of these pantheon members were both associated with and depicted as cats, including Bastet, the goddess of motherhood, fertility, and protection; and Sakhmet, the goddess of war and—when appeased—healing. She typically has a lion head, but in some myths she appears as a pacified cat.

A limestone sculptor's model of a walking lion, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Sculptor's Model of a Walking Lion, ca. 664 to 630 BCE, limestone
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 33.190

While Bastet was a nurturer, Sakhmet—whose name means “The Powerful One”—could use her mighty force to either slay or safeguard humanity. These characterizations are typical of the ancient Egyptian worldview, which perceived the universe in dualistic terms. “There’s always a positive and a negative,” Catanzariti explains.

Contrary to popular belief, however, ancient Egyptians did not view cats themselves as gods. “The goddess Sakhmet does have the features as a lion, or in some cases as a cat, but that doesn’t mean that the Egyptians were worshipping cats or lions,” Catanzariti says. Instead, they were simply noting and admiring her feline traits. This practice, to an extent, also extended to royalty. Kings were associated with lions and other large cats, as they were the powerful protectors of ancient Egypt’s borders.

These myriad associations prompted Egyptians to adorn palaces, temples, protective amulets, ceremonial vessels, and accessories with cat images. Depending on their context, these renderings symbolized everything from protection and power to beauty and sexuality. A king’s throne might have a lion-shaped support, for example, whereas a woman’s cosmetics case might be emblazoned with a cat-headed female goddess of motherhood and fertility.

An ancient Egyptian figurine of a standing lion-headed goddess, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Figurine of a Standing Lion-Headed Goddess, 664 to 630 BCE, Faience
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.943E

While cats were linked with heavenly figures and kings, they were also popular domestic pets. Their ability to catch vermin made them an important addition to households, and owners loved and anthropomorphized their pets just like we do today.

Egyptians often named, or nicknamed, their children after animals; Miit (cat) was a popular moniker for girls. It's said that entire households shaved their eyebrows in mourning if a house cat died a natural death. Some also believe that cats received special legal protection. (Not all cats were this lucky, however, as some temples bred kittens specifically to offer their mummified forms to the gods.) If a favorite cat died, the Egyptians would bury them in special decorated coffins, containers, and boxes. King Tutankhamen, for example, had a stone sarcophagus constructed just for his pet feline.

An ancient Egyptian bronze cat head adorned with gold jewelry, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Cat's Head, 30 BCE. to third century CE, bronze, gold
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 36.114

“Divine Felines” breaks down these facts, and more, into five thematic sections, including “Cats and Kings"; “Cats and Gods”; “Cats and Death”; “Cats and Protection”; and “Dogs as Guardians and Hunters.” Yes, there’s also an exhibition section for dog lovers—“a small one,” Catanzariti laughs, that explains why canines were associated with figures like Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification and the afterlife.

Did the ancient Egyptians prefer cats to dogs? “I would say that both of them had different roles,” Catanzariti says, as dogs were valued as hunters, scavengers, and guards. “They were appreciated in different ways for their ability to protect or be useful for the Egyptian culture.” In this way, "Divine Felines" is targeted to ailurophiles and canophiliacs alike, even if it's packaged with pointed ears and whiskers.

An ancient Egyptian cat coffin, on display at the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.
Coffin for a Cat, 664 to 332 BCE, or later, Wood, gesso, paint, animal remains
Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 37.1944Ea-b

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