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10 Cats Who Live at the Library

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I Can Has Cheezburger

A library can operate without a cat, but a library with a cat is special. They draw new patrons to the library, they make people smile, calm the staff, and they keep mice away. Some also work to promote literacy, library use, and pet adoption. And curling up with a cat and a good book is a pleasant way to spend time at the local library.

1. Ernie

Ernie lives at the Bealton Library in Bealton, Virginia. He was found at the nearby depot and adopted by the library staff. Since Ernie is a polydactyl cat, the literary name he earned is Ernest P. Hemingway, after the author who was fond of polydactyl cats. Ernie sleeps in the manager's chair, keeps an eye on the parking lot, and greets patrons. Ernie also supervises the library’s “Flat Ernie” program, in which patrons can take a picture of Ernie with them on their travels.

2. Stacks

The Litchfield Public Library in Litchfield, Illinois, adopted Stacks from Benld's Adopt-a-Pet shelter in 2009 to rid the library of mice. There are no longer any mice at the library, and Stacks spends her time near the computers, waiting for a lap to sit on. See more pictures of Stacks on her library page. Sales of t-shirts and coffee mugs with Stacks' picture on them benefit both the library and Benld's Adopt-a-Pet shelter.

3. Elsie

Elsie is the reigning cat at St. Helena Public Library in Saint Helena, California. She describes her duties on her Facebook page.

My job: greet staff in the morning and give night report, investigate file drawers, help unpack boxes, management by walking around, direct staff in maintaining my celebrity lifestyle

In the spring of 2012, Elsie was surrendered to a shelter when her family lost their home. That’s right around the time the library found they had a mouse problem. It was a match made in heaven! Elsie is an inside cat, a good mouser,  and is used to children and dogs (the library is open to all pets as long as they behave). Her name has two explanations: she was named after library benefactor Elsie Wood, but the pronunciation, “L.C.” can mean Library Cat. Watch Elsie debunk superstitions in this video

4. Whispurr Nap

The Bradford Public Library in Bradford, Pennsylvania, has a cat named Miss Whispurr, or, as she calls herself Whispurr Nap. On her Facebook page, she posts library news as seen from a cat’s point of view. And plenty of pictures! She also graces the top of the library’s Facebook page.

5. Trixie

Trixie came to be the resident cat at the Independence Public Library in Independence, Kansas, five years ago today! She was just a kitten when she was dropped off in front of the library, and she’s been there ever since. The library even has a cat image in their logo now. Trixie takes full advantage of the library’s facilities, especially the giant chess set that makes for a good photo opportunity. You can follow Trixie’s adventures at her Facebook page.

6. Pages

Pages works at the Valley Center Public Library in Valley Center, Kansas. Pages has her own blog called Posts from the Paw, which is updated infrequently but enthusiastically. There, she tells the story of how she was a tired young stray taken in by the library in 2010. Other posts tell of library happenings, but there is an occasional personal post, like the time her tail was stepped on

7. Miko

Miko is the unofficial mascot at the Texas A&M University Libraries. She lives at the Medical Sciences Library, where she holds the title of Pest Control Specialist. She also models for library literacy campaigns like the poster you see here. There are also postcards of Miko available at the library.  

8. Library Cat

A black and white cat began hanging out at The University of Edinburgh Central Library in Scotland, and the staff have make him welcome. Although he isn’t friendly enough to be exactly domesticated by the library staff, he is willing to be petted and catered to by its patrons. Known only as Library Cat, he has taken to Facebook to post his thoughts on life in general and grace us all with his opinions and day-to-day activities. Although he relates his tales in the third person, we can tell who is telling the story by his inner thoughts.

When Library Cat dreamt, he often found himself sifting between a multitude of multicoloured thoughts, relating to the reader-response theory, the Large Hadron Collider and George Orwell.

But this afternoon was different. In his dream, he was in a strange blue room filled with many many turgid mice, each staring at him with such devotion that Library Cat got the feeling that their consumption by himself might even be taken as some sort of high honour. They reminded him slightly off the hideous Camus-esque robotic mice he had spied on that ill-fated pilgrimage to the Hugh Robson Essay Bunker.

9. Rosie

Here’s a story about a cat who was only a temporary library employee. Stephanie Villani told how her cat Rosie stowed away on her husband’s fish truck one day as it left Long Island. When he opened the doors at the Farmer’s Market in Brooklyn, Rosie bolted and made off for Prospect Park. Eight months later, Villani got a call from an animal hospital saying they had Rosie! Where had she been all that time? Well, she’d been at the Brooklyn Public Library, where the staff had taken her in and make her a library cat. The staff eventually took her in for medical care, and the vet scanned her for a microchip, revealing Villani’s contact information. Rosie was reunited with her family, and it appears that she has adjusted well to moving back to the fish business after her stint as a librarian.

10. Kuzya the Russian Library Cat

A cat walked into the library in Novorossiysk, Russia, and found a home, a job, and stardom. A library or bookstore with a cat is practically an institution in the U.S., but the cat that came to be named Kuzya has captured the Russian imagination.

Kuzya showed up at the library’s door one day and impressed staff with his uncanny ability to look cute and fluffy. After arching his back and running his face along people’s legs he was able to procure food and (secretly) a warm place to spend cold winter days.

Unfortunately, Kuzya lacked the proper documents to be kept in a public space such as a library, so the staff, seeing the cat’s potential, worked to acquire it. Kuzya would need a cat passport, which apparently does exist. To get it he had an ID chip embedded along with a rabies vaccination.

With the paperwork in order, Kuzya could now openly roam the aisles of the library. Under his new title of “pet” he worked hard licking himself, looking cute, and taking naps so much that the library saw a significant increase in patronage. It turned out that people would come for the cat but stay for the book lending service.

It wasn't long before Kuzya was promoted to assistant librarian, which meant issuing a certificate. It also means Kuzya has to dress up for work -in a fetching bow tie. You can see Kuzya at work on video.

See also: 8 Library Cats and 9 Delightful Library Cats. And you might want to check out the series on Bookstore 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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