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.

Hee-Haw: The Wild Ride of "Dominick the Donkey"—the Holiday Earworm You Love to Hate

Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images
Delpixart/iStock via Getty Images

Everyone loves Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He’s got the whole underdog thing going for him, and when the fog is thick on Christmas Eve, he’s definitely the creature you want guiding Santa’s sleigh. But what happens when Saint Nick reaches Italy, and he’s faced with steep hills that no reindeer—magical or otherwise—can climb?

That’s when Santa apparently calls upon Dominick the Donkey, the holiday hero immortalized in the 1960 song of the same name. Recorded by Lou Monte, “Dominick The Donkey” is a novelty song even by Christmas music standards. The opening line finds Monte—or someone else, or heck, maybe a real donkey—singing “hee-haw, hee-haw” as sleigh bells jingle in the background. A mere 12 seconds into the tune, it’s clear you’re in for a wild ride.

 

Over the next two minutes and 30 seconds, Monte shares some fun facts about Dominick: He’s a nice donkey who never kicks but loves to dance. When ol’ Dom starts shaking his tail, the old folks—cummares and cumpares, or godmothers and godfathers—join the fun and "dance a tarentell," an abbreviation of la tarantella, a traditional Italian folk dance. Most importantly, Dominick negotiates Italy’s hills on Christmas Eve, helping Santa distribute presents to boys and girls across the country.

And not just any presents: Dominick delivers shoes and dresses “made in Brook-a-lyn,” which Monte somehow rhymes with “Josephine.” Oh yeah, and while the donkey’s doing all this, he’s wearing the mayor’s derby hat, because you’ve got to look sharp. It’s a silly story made even sillier by that incessant “hee-haw, hee-haw,” which cuts in every 30 seconds like a squeaky door hinge.

There may have actually been some historical basis for “Dominick.”

“Travelling by donkey was universal in southern Italy, as it was in Greece,” Dominic DiFrisco, president emeritus of the joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, said in a 2012 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. “[Monte’s] playing easy with history, but it’s a cute song, and Monte was at that time one of the hottest singers in America.”

Rumored to have been financed by the Gambino crime family, “Dominick the Donkey” somehow failed to make the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. But it’s become a cult classic in the nearly 70 years since, especially in Italian American households. In 2014, the song reached #69 on Billboard’s Holiday 100 and #23 on the Holiday Digital Song Sales chart. In 2018, “Dominick” hit #1 on the Comedy Digital Track Sales tally. As of December 2019, the Christmas curio had surpassed 21 million Spotify streams.

“Dominick the Donkey” made international headlines in 2011, when popular BBC DJ Chris Moyles launched a campaign to push the song onto the UK singles chart. “If we leave Britain one thing, it would be that each Christmas kids would listen to 'Dominick the Donkey,’” Moyles said. While his noble efforts didn’t yield a coveted Christmas #1, “Dominick” peaked at a very respectable #3.

 

As with a lot of Christmas songs, there’s a certain kitschy, ironic appeal to “Dominick the Donkey.” Many listeners enjoy the song because, on some level, they’re amazed it exists. But there’s a deeper meaning that becomes apparent the more you know about Lou Monte.

Born Luigi Scaglione in New York City, Monte began his career as a singer and comedian shortly before he served in World War II. Based in New Jersey, Monte subsequently became known as “The Godfather of Italian Humor” and “The King of Italian-American Music.” His specialty was Italian-themed novelty songs like “Pepino the Italian Mouse,” his first and only Top 10 hit. “Pepino” reached #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963, the year before The Beatles broke America.

“Pepino” was penned by Ray Allen and Wandra Merrell, the duo that teamed up with Sam Saltzberg to write “Dominick the Donkey.” That same trio of songwriters was also responsible for “What Did Washington Say (When He Crossed the Delaware),” the B-side of “Pepino.” In that song, George Washington declares, “Fa un’fridd,” or ‘It’s cold!” while making his famous 1776 boat ride.

With his mix of English and Italian dialect, Monte made inside jokes for Italian Americans while sharing their culture with the rest of the country. His riffs on American history (“What Did Washington Say,” “Paul Revere’s Horse (Ba-cha-ca-loop),” “Please, Mr. Columbus”) gave the nation’s foundational stories a dash of Italian flavor. This was important at a time when Italians were still considered outsiders.

According to the 1993 book Italian Americans and Their Public and Private Life, Monte’s songs appealed to “a broad spectrum ranging from working class to professional middle-class Italian Americans.” Monte sold millions of records, played nightclubs across America, and appeared on TV programs like The Perry Como Show and The Ernie Kovacs Show. He died in Pompano Beach, Florida, in 1989. He was 72.

Monte lives on thanks to Dominick—a character too iconic to die. In 2016, author Shirley Alarie released A New Home for Dominick and A New Family for Dominick, a two-part children’s book series about the beloved jackass. In 2018, Jersey native Joe Baccan dropped “Dominooch,” a sequel to “Dominick.” The song tells the tale of how Dominick’s son takes over for his aging padre. Fittingly, “Dominooch” was written by composer Nancy Triggiani, who worked with Monte’s son, Ray, at her recording studio.

Speaking with NorthJersey.com in 2016, Ray Monte had a simple explanation for why Dominick’s hee-haw has echoed through the generations. “It was a funny novelty song,” he said, noting that his father “had a niche for novelty.”

Cats Make Facial Expressions, But Not Everyone Can Read Them

takoburito/iStock via Getty Images
takoburito/iStock via Getty Images

Science has finally confirmed what humans have suspected for centuries: Cats are inscrutable creatures prone to peculiar behavior. Some of us, however, are still capable of picking up on their subtle emotional cues, including facial expressions, without relying on clues like tails, ears, or whiskers.

This new evidence of a cat’s slightly malleable face comes from a study in the journal Animal Welfare. Researchers at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, recruited 6329 participants to watch a series of 20 video clips featuring cats reacting to either a positive or negative event. A positive interaction was defined as a feline approaching a human for a treat or an owner-identified action the cat traditionally found pleasant, like climbing into a favorite spot. A negative response was when a cat was confronted with something it wanted to avoid, was prevented from going into an area or outside, or was displaying an obvious sign of distress, like growling. (Sounds were edited out.) Most clips were from YouTube, though some were submitted by veterinarians and university colleagues. Breeds with long hair that might obscure facial changes were omitted. Most respondents were cat owners, and 74 percent were women 18 to 44 years old.

Using these brief clips, the researchers asked subjects to classify the cats as exhibiting positive or negative behavior by relying only on closely cropped footage of a cat’s face. They couldn’t rely on the tail or any other body language. The result? The average score was just 59 percent correct, accurately identifying a cat’s mood in an average of 12 out of the 20 clips. These humans, in other words, had little idea what a cat was experiencing based solely on their faces.

So why do researchers think they have any expression at all? Roughly 13 percent of subjects scored well on the test, getting at least 15 of the 20 questions correct. Those that did well were generally people who had extensive experience with cats, like veterinarians. That led researchers to conclude that people can become more attuned to the subtle flickers of emotion that may pass over a cat’s face.

“They could be naturally brilliant, and that’s why they become veterinarians,” Georgia Mason, a behavioral biologist and the study’s senior author, told The Washington Post. “But they also have a lot of opportunity to learn, and they’ve got a motivation to learn, because they’re constantly deciding: Is this cat better? Do we need to change the treatment? Does this cat need to go home? Is this cat about to take a chunk out of my throat?”

The paper appears to offer encouraging evidence that “cat whisperers” really do exist. If you’re curious whether you could be one of them, you can take a shortened version of the video test online.

[h/t Washington Post]

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