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10 Cats Who Live at the Library

I Can Has Cheezburger
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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The Real Bay of Pigs: Big Major Cay in the Bahamas
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iStock

When most people visit the Bahamas, they’re thinking about a vacation filled with sun, sand, and swimming—not swine. But you can get all four of those things if you visit Big Major Cay.

Big Major Cay, also now known as “Pig Island” for obvious reasons, is part of the Exuma Cays in the Bahamas. Exuma includes private islands owned by Johnny Depp, Tyler Perry, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, and David Copperfield. Despite all of the local star power, the real attraction seems to be the family of feral pigs that has established Big Major Cay as their own. It’s hard to say how many are there—some reports say it’s a family of eight, while others say the numbers are up to 40. However big the band of roaming pigs is, none of them are shy: Their chief means of survival seems to be to swim right up to boats and beg for food, which the charmed tourists are happy to provide (although there are guidelines about the best way of feeding the pigs).

No one knows exactly how the pigs got there, but there are plenty of theories. Among them: 1) A nearby resort purposely released them more than a decade ago, hoping to attract tourists. 2) Sailors dropped them off on the island, intending to dine on pork once they were able to dock for a longer of period of time. For one reason or another, the sailors never returned. 3) They’re descendants of domesticated pigs from a nearby island. When residents complained about the original domesticated pigs, their owners solved the problem by dropping them off at Big Major Cay, which was uninhabited. 4) The pigs survived a shipwreck. The ship’s passengers did not.

The purposeful tourist trap theory is probably the least likely—VICE reports that the James Bond movie Thunderball was shot on a neighboring island in the 1960s, and the swimming swine were there then.

Though multiple articles reference how “adorable” the pigs are, don’t be fooled. One captain warns, “They’ll eat anything and everything—including fingers.”

Here they are in action in a video from National Geographic:

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Christine Colby
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job secrets
13 Secrets From the Ravenmaster at the Tower of London
Christine Colby
Christine Colby

Christopher Skaife is a Yeoman Warder at the Tower of London, an ancient fortress that has been used as a jail, royal residence, and more. There are 37 Yeoman Warders, popularly known as Beefeaters, but Skaife has what might be the coolest title of them all: He is the Ravenmaster. His job is to maintain the health and safety of the flock of ravens (also called an “unkindness” or a “conspiracy”) that live within the Tower walls. According to a foreboding legend with many variations, if there aren’t at least six ravens living within the Tower, both the Tower and the monarchy will fall. (No pressure, Chris!)

Skaife has worked at the Tower for 11 years, and has many stories to tell. Recently, Mental Floss visited him to learn more about his life in service of the ravens.

1. MILITARY SERVICE IS REQUIRED.

All Yeoman Warders must have at least 22 years of military service to qualify for the position and have earned a good-conduct medal. Skaife served for 24 years—he was a machine-gun specialist and is an expert in survival and interrogation resistance. He is also a qualified falconer.

Skaife started out as a regular Yeoman Warder who had no particular experience with birds. The Ravenmaster at the time "saw something in him," Skaife says, and introduced him to the ravens, who apparently liked him—and the rest is history. He did, however, have to complete a five-year apprenticeship with the previous Ravenmaster.

2. HE LIVES ON-SITE.

The Tower of London photographed at night
Christine Colby

As tradition going back 700 years, all Yeoman Warders and their families live within the Tower walls. Right now about 150 people, including a doctor and a chaplain, claim the Tower of London as their home address.

3. BUT HE’S HAD TO MOVE.

Skaife used to live next to the Bloody Tower, but had to move to a different apartment within the grounds because his first one was “too haunted.” He doesn’t really believe in ghosts, he says, but does put stock in “echoes of the past.” He once spoke to a little girl who was sitting near the raven cages, and when he turned around, she had disappeared. He also claims that things in his apartment inexplicably move around, particularly Christmas-related items.

4. THE RAVENS ENJOY SOME UNUSUAL SNACKS.

The Ravenmaster at the Tower of London bending down to feed one of his ravens
Christine Colby

The birds are fed nuts, berries, fruit, mice, rats, chicken, and blood-soaked biscuits. (“And what they nick off the tourists,” Skaife says.) He has also seen a raven attack and kill a pigeon in three minutes.

5. THEY GET A LULLABY.

Each evening, Skaife whistles a special tone to call the ravens to bed—they’re tucked into spacious, airy cages to protect them from predators such as foxes.

6. THERE’S A DIVA.

One of the ravens doesn’t join the others in their nighttime lodgings. Merlina, the star raven, is a bit friendlier to humans but doesn’t get on with the rest of the birds. She has her own private box inside the Queen’s House, which she reaches by climbing a tiny ladder.

7. ONE OF THEM HAS EARNED THE NICKNAME “THE BLACK WIDOW.”

Ravens normally pair off for life, but one of the birds at the Tower, Munin, has managed to get her first two mates killed. With both, she lured them high atop the White Tower, higher than they were capable of flying down from, since their wings are kept trimmed. Husband #1 fell to his death. The second one had better luck coasting down on his wings, but went too far and fell into the Thames, where he drowned. Munin is now partnered with a much younger male.

8. THERE IS A SECRET PUB INSIDE THE TOWER.

Only the Yeoman Warders, their families, and invited guests can go inside a secret pub on the Tower grounds. Naturally, the Yeoman Warder’s Club offers Beefeater Bitter beer and Beefeater gin. It’s lavishly decorated in police and military memorabilia, such as patches from U.S. police departments. There is also an area by the bar where a section of the wall has been dug into and encased in glass, showing items found in an archaeological excavation of the moat, such as soldiers’ discarded clay pipes, a cannonball, and some mouse skeletons.

9. … AND A SECRET HAND.

The Byward Tower, which was built in the 13th century by King Henry III, is now used as the main entrance to the Tower for visitors. It has a secret glass brick set into the wall that most people don’t notice. When you peer inside, you’ll see it contains a human hand (presumably fake). It was put in there at some point as a bit of a joke to scare children, but ended up being walled in from the other side, so is now in there permanently.

10. HE HAS A SIDE PROJECT.

Skaife considers himself primarily a storyteller, and loves sharing tales of what he calls “Victorian melodrama.” In addition to his work at the Tower, he also runs Grave Matters, a Facebook page and a blog, as a collaboration with medical historian and writer Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris. Together they post about the history of executions, torture, and punishment.

11. THE TOWER IS MUPPET-FAMOUS.

2013’s Muppets Most Wanted was the first major film to shoot inside the Tower walls. At the Yeoman Warder’s Club, you can still sit in the same booth the Muppets occupied while they were in the pub.

12. IF YOU VISIT, KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR MONEY.

Ravens are very clever and known for stealing things from tourists, especially coins. They will strut around with the coin in their beak and then bury it, while trying to hide the site from the other birds.

13. … AND ON YOUR EYES.

Skaife, who’s covered in scars from raven bites, says, “They don’t like humans at all unless they’re dying or dead. Although they do love eyes.” He once had a Twitter follower, who is an organ donor, offer his eyes to the ravens after his death. Skaife declined.

This story first ran in 2015.

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