In my backyard, there’s a fairly large concrete slab, painted blue with the word “Biscuit” lovingly written in gold paint. I have to move that heavy rock twice every time I mow, but it means a lot to a young girl who buried her cat underneath. My daughter’s memorial to a beloved pet isn’t out of the ordinary. There are monuments to cats all over the world. Here are a few you can visit yourself.
Photograph by Paul Ashwin.
Towser worked at Glenturret Distillery near Crieff, Scotland her entire life, from 1963 to 1987. In those 24 years, she caught 28,899 mice! At least that’s the number recorded on the monument to her that you can see at the visitor’s center at the distillery. Towser was recognized as the World’s Greatest Mouser by the Guinness Book of World Records. That’s an average of three mice every day for her entire life!
2. Hamish McHamish
The town of St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, erected a bronze statue in honor of the town’s favorite cat earlier this year. And the cat is still alive. And he’s not even known for a specific heroic deed. But Hamish McHamish is a star among St Andrews' residents. The bronze statue of Hamish was created by Kilmany-based sculptor David Annand and Fife stonemason Colin Sweeney. The £5,000 cost was funded by donations. The unveiling ceremony was a big affair.
After students Hannah Holmes and Rosie Hanlon from St Andrews Opera had serenaded the assembled crowd with Rossini’s humorous duet for two cats, Hamish’s owner Marianne Baird said it all seemed a bit surreal.
She said: “I can’t really get over it. All I did was get a kitten."
Hamish is a wandering cat, and over the years has made himself at home at many local businesses and the University of St Andrews. People who travel to St Andrews often ask to meet Hamish. You can see pictures of Hamish at his Facebook page.
3. Mrs. Chippy
Mrs. Chippy was a ship’s cat on the Endurance during Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to Antartica in 1914-1917. He (despite the name, the cat was male) belonged to expedition carpenter Harry McNeish. After the ship became trapped in ice, Mrs. Chippy, along with the sled dogs, was shot. McNeish never forgave Shackleton for the decision to shoot his cat, and was later denied the Polar Medal the rest of the crew received due to Shackleton’s perception of his insubordination. Almost 100 years later, the New Zealand Antarctic Society commissioned a bronze statue of Mrs. Chippy and had it added atop Harry McNeish’s grave in Wellington, New Zealand.
Samuel Johnson published A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, the most famous of his many writings. During that time, he was kept company by his cat Hodge. Johnson doted over the cat, and bought him fresh oysters. In 1997, a bronze statue of Hodge was erected outside Johnson’s house in Gough Square, London. It was designed by sculptor Jon Bickley and consists of Hodge, Johnson’s dictionary, and some empty oyster shells. The inscription quotes Johnson: "a very fine cat indeed."
Matthew Flinders led the first expedition to sail all the way around Australia. On his journeys he was accompanied by his cat Trim. Trim was born aboard the HMS Reliance in 1799. He showed his spunk as a kitten when he fell overboard and made his way back by climbing a ship’s rope. Trim sailed with Flinders around the continent on the HMS Investigator and survived the shipwreck of the Porpoise. The cat even accompanied Flinders to jail when he was imprisoned in Mauritius, but disappeared during his sentence. A bronze statue of Trim by sculptor John Cornwell was installed at the Mitchell Library in Sydney in 1996. It is accompanied by a plaque reading:
TO THE MEMORY OF
The best and most illustrious of his race
The most affectionate of friends,
faithful of servants,
and best of creatures
He made the tour of the globe, and a voyage to Australia,
which he circumnavigated, and was ever the
delight and pleasure of his fellow voyagers
Written by Matthew Flinders in memory of his cat
Memorial donated by the North Shore Historical Society
6. Homeless Cats
This is a memorial to Totti, a cat belonging to Finnish poet Edith Södergran, who was a famous cat enthusiast. Designed by the Finnish sculptor Nina Terno, the monument is open to the public in Ozero Roshino, Russia, where Södergran and her cat spent their summers.
8. Gotoku-ji Temple
At the Gotoku-ji temple in Tokyo, Japan, there is a small shrine dedicated to Maneki Neko, the “beckoning cat” you’ve seen so many times. Maneki Neko is a pop culture icon, but it is based on the legend of a real cat named Tama. Tama lived at the temple in the 17th century. The feudal lord Naotaka Ii was caught in a rainstorm near the temple and saw Tama with her paw upraised, as if beckoning him. When he went to the cat, the spot where he had been standing was struck by lightning! Because Tama had saved his life, Naotaka Ii gave money to the temple and built a shrine to the feline there. Today, people bring ceramic statues of Maneki Neko to the cat shrine at Gotoku-ji temple by the hundreds. See more pictures here.
The siege of Leningrad during World War II isolated the citizens of that city for two and a half years. The cats of the city were eaten, which allowed the rat population to soar and destroy what little food there was. To combat the problem, cats were brought in from surrounding villages and they soon saved the city from the rat infestation. We don’t know the story of the cat named Yelisei, but he was chosen as representative of the cats brought in to save Leningrad from rats. This monument to all those cats is on the corner of Nevsky Avenue and Malaya Sadovaya in St. Petersburg, the original name of Leningrad, which was restored after the Soviet era.
10. The Experimental Cat
Another cat monument in St. Petersburg stands in the courtyard of the main building of St. Petersburg State University. It is the monument to experimental cats, in honor of cats who were used in scientific research at the university.
11. Tashirojima Cat Shrine
Tashirojima is a Japanese island that has around 100 people and many times that number of cats. Commonly known as “Cat Island,” it was once known for its silk. Those who raised silkworms liked to keep cats around to guard against the mice that threatened the worms. As the cat population grew, silkworm farmers and fishermen both began to observe the cats and use their behavior to predict weather. Feeding and petting the cats was supposed to bring luck. In the middle of the island is a shrine called Neko-jinja (猫神社), which means “cat shrine.” The story goes that a fisherman accidentally dropped a rock on a cat and killed it. He was so remorseful that he buried the cat and built a shrine to the cat’s memory at the gravesite. There are actually many cat shrines in Japan.