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Paul Ashwin

11 Cat Monuments

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Paul Ashwin

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.

1. Towser

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

Photograph by DC Thomson.

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

Photograph by Flickr user History Group.

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. 

4. Hodge

Photograph by Jim Linwood.

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."

5. Trim

Photograph by PanBK.

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
TRIM
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

German sculptor Siegfried Neuenhausen designed this 1981 monument to homeless cats in Braunschweig, Germany.

7. Totti

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

Photograph from For 91 Days.

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

9. Yelisei

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.

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Animals
Why Your Cat Can't Roar, But Jungle Cats Can
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Your kitty may have the swagger of a mighty jungle cat, but it’s hard to take the tough cat act seriously once it opens its mouth. Unlike their roaring relatives, domestic cats have a high-pitched, mewling cry. However, they do purr—a trait that isn’t shared with lions, tigers, leopards, or jaguars, the four species of cats with loud, growling vocalizations.

In the video below, SciShow’s Hank Green explains the science behind why your beloved ball of fur can’t roar—and how it’s linked to their ferocious cousins' lack of purring ability.

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats Love to Knead?
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If you're a cat lover, chances are your favorite feline has shown a penchant for kneading, and at some point has given you and/or a favorite piece of furniture a massage with his or her rhythmic paws. Colloquially called “making biscuits,” kneading is a common behavior among kittens and adult cats alike—but animal experts still aren't sure exactly why they do it.

Scientists have a few theories, some of which SciShow’s Hank Green outlined in this fascinating video. One theory is that your cat's kneading is an attempt to mark its territory—yes, even if that “territory” is you—with the scent glands in its paws. Another rationale is that kneading is a neotenic behavior, or a juvenile trait that sticks with cats into adulthood. Kittens knead their mother's belly to stimulate milk production—an act that’s nearly identical to that strange, Shiatsu-like practice it’s doing in your lap. (This could also explain why some adult cats also "suckle" the items they're kneading.)

Green does point out that domestic cats knead, whereas wild cats don’t, which raises the question: Why have only domestic felines retained this behavior? Green attributes this to the fact that house cats were selected over thousands of years for their friendlier, less aggressive traits, but says they've "probably also held on to some of their more social, baby-like behavior, just because it serves them well when they’re around people."

"I don’t know if you’ve heard this, but wildcats are not super social," Green jokes. "They don’t come up and cuddle, so much as try to eat your flesh. Felis silvestris, the ancestor of all domestic cats, is a solitary hunter that only socializes with members of its own species when it’s time to breed. So wildcats only developed social behaviors for two situations”—mating and caretaking behaviors between mother cats and their kittens.

“Unlike wild cats though, domesticated cats have a lot of social behaviors as adults, because they’re not wild loners anymore," Green adds. "They have us to cuddle with, con treats out of, and demand food from. So their innate tendencies for snuggling with mom and hitting on the lady cats are put to good use on us."

While occasionally painful or bothersome, kneading one’s owner is definitely a loving act on the part of the cat, a way of letting you know that it feels comfortable and safe with you. That said, don't sweat it if your cat isn’t big on the habit—or, conversely, worry that it kneads too much.

“Some cats are more needy and knead more than others,” Dr. Michael W. Fox, a veterinarian and author of the syndicated newspaper column "Animal Doctor,” advised one anxious reader who reported that her kitty had taken to kneading the family dog. “This behavior is exacerbated when a cat is weaned from its mother too soon. It’s an anxious cat’s way of seeking contact comfort.”

If you’re not a fan of kneading, it's futile to train your cat to cease a perfectly natural behavior. Instead, consider investing in a pair of nail clippers—and when you’ve finally had enough, gently push the cat away and enjoy the fleeting freedom of an empty lap.

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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