1 July 2022 Susannah

Cats and books

Vicky Myron & Dewey Readmore Books

Cats and books seem to belong together, like bacon and eggs, or wine and cheese. Medieval monks knew that a cat in the monastery library would keep away rats that ate valuable manuscripts, candles, and anything else they could find. In the 18th century, Russian Empress Elizabeth ordered cats transported to her Winter Palace library so they could kill the rats there. Many modern libraries have welcomed cats into their bookish domains and in 1987 an official Library Cat Society (now defunct) was established to encourage the establishment and recognition of library cats.

There are many positives to the plan of keeping a cat in a library. Cats befriend patrons, boost the morale of librarians, attract children to the library, and generate publicity for their libraries, especially on social media. Libraries have traditionally encouraged silence, and cats are quiet creatures, and are low maintenance.

Not everyone likes the idea, however. People with cat allergies are against cats in such public spaces, while others have complained that their ‘service animals’ (such as guide dogs) are upset by finding cats in libraries. But when the Putnam Valley, New York, library removed the cat from its institution, the local community was decidedly upset. Two future benefactors removed the library from their wills as a result. Library cats can also trigger alarm systems if left alone in the building at night.

Contemporary library cats have featured in film and literature. The most famous is the appropriately named Dewey (his full name was Dewey Readmore Books) who lived for nineteen years in Iowa’s Spencer Library.

Dewey was dumped in a book return bin, but was rapidly embraced by library staff and the public, and spent the rest of his life promoting reading. Books were published about Dewey (he died in 2008) and the joy he had brought to library patrons. The 1997 film Puss in Books: The Adventures of a Library Cat was a charming movie about various library cats around America. The cats featured have delightful titles – The Boss, Librarian in Charge of Rodent Control, Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Library Mascot, and Library King. Some of them have wonderfully bookish names: Stacks, Pages, Browser, Libris, Bibliocat, and Homer are some examples.

Resident library cats demand a managerial role and for their status to be officially recognised by staff and visitors alike. The role can be a demanding one, requiring supervision of the premises from strategic vantage points (generally up high), ensuring books retain that ‘book aroma’, and customer relations (accepting pats from patrons). The position attracts a salary in the form of regular meals and sunny corners.

Do you know of any library cats? Perhaps you have one of your own living with you? Have you read Dewey’s books? Tell me your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Leave a comment.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until approved.


Featured image credit- Vicky Myron & Dewey Readmore Books, https://americanprofile.com/articles/library-cat-dewey-spawns-book-series/
Body image credit- Dewey’s books, images from https://www.amazon.com.au/

Comments (10)

  1. Melody Lord

    Australian novelist Belinda Alexandra recently published a nonfiction book about cats: The Divine Feline (full disclosure: I edited it). She tells the story of all the cats in her life and the way they have influenced her writing (even appearing in some of her novels).

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Oh thanks so much for letting me know about it. I’ll get hold of a copy.

  2. Christine Stevenson

    A friend gave me a copy of ‘Dewey’ some years ago, I really enjoyed reading of how a small furry creature could touch so many lives.

  3. Yvonne Read

    I enjoyed reading Dewey’s Nine Lives.
    More than 60 years ago our small village library has a resident cat. ( black with white socks).
    She was a favourite with all the patrons.
    It all comes back to me now. It was a wonderful library with lots of cozy nooks to sit and browse and read.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Memories of libraries are so special. They are places that give us so much more than books.

  4. Patricia Farrar

    Cats and books – my two favourite things in the whole world! My family has banned me from collecting any more of either – cats or books! A house without cats and books is not a home.

  5. Ros Dale

    Ruby, Evie and Daisy grace my library. I call them The RED Squad, from their initials. They are highly skilled at communication, ĺettig me know if anything is amiss, especially regarding food or unwanted visitors. They enjoy sharing a chair or my bed while I read and I sometimes share what I am reading with them, mostly if it is cat related.They are the best companions I have known.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Oh, I do like their names and am sure they bring warmth, elegance and joy to your library!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *