By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated 3 January 2012)
The following cats have made international headlines as a result of their job titles.
Dewey Readmore Books – Official Library Ambassador
Vicki Myron, head of the Spencer Public Library in Iowa, found a tiny kitten in the book drop one bitterly cold winter morning. The fluffy orange tabby, which had nearly frozen to death, was adopted by the library staff and given the position of Official Library Ambassador.
Dewey’s job description included greeting patrons, providing comic relief, and generating publicity. As his fame grew, he became a beacon of hope in a small town devastated by the 1980s farm crisis.
Dewey not only entertained library patrons and staff with his antics, but also demonstrated a profound sensitivity. Bret Witter and Vicki Myron share this touching anecdote that illustrates Dewey’s intuitive compassion:
“I will never forget Dewey’s friend Crystal, a severely mentally and physically handicapped girl so withdrawn that everyone thought she was dead inside. But Dewey sensed something, and he started following her wheelchair. Then he started climbing up and sitting on her wooden tray. She couldn’t control her muscles, so she couldn’t pet him, but she would squeal with delight. One day, I placed him inside her jacket. Dewey put his head on her chest and purred, and Crystal…she just exploded. She was alive with joy.”
Dewey has been featured in newspapers, magazines, television programs, and books, including the bestselling Dewey, the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter. Dewey lived 19 years, and when he died in 2006, his obituary appeared in more than 250 publications.
Tama – Stationmaster Cat
The struggling Kishigawa railway line saw dramatic increase in revenue after appointing a cat to the position of Stationmaster in 2007. As Tama’s fame and revenue-generating capacity grew, she was promoted to the newly created position of Super-Stationmaster and provided with a human Assistant Stationmaster to guide visitors to her.
Tama’s job consists of wearing a uniform, posing for photos, and delighting tourists. When Tama holds her front legs together, her calico fur pattern forms the shape of a heart. Couples consider it good luck if Tama displays this heart mark when they visit.
Mike – Feline Museum Guard
Mike, an eccentric cat famous for guarding the British Museum for 20 years, hated dogs and human females equally, and would chase either away if they tried to approach. Mike was owned by Sir Ernest A. Wallis Budge, Keeper of the Museum’s Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities, and fed by three gatekeepers who cooked his fish and, according to Budge, “treated him as a man and a brother.”
After Mike passed away in 1929, F.C.W. Hiley, Assistant Keeper of the Museum’s Department of Printed Books, wrote a funeral ode to the famous cat that ends: “Old Mike! Farewell! We all regret you, although, you would not let us pet you; of cats the wisest, oldest best cat, this be your motto — Requiescat!”
Cat Mandu – Co-Leader of the Official Monster Raving Loony Party
Cat Mandu, an orange tabby, was jointly elected with his owner, Alan “Howling Laud” Hope, to lead Britain’s Official Monster Raving Loony Party (OMRLP) after a close race in which Hope ran against his cat. The pair replaced the party’s former leader, Screaming Lord Sutch, who died in 1999.
The OMRLP has a cult following, and various members have been elected to Council seats from time to time. Insight into where Hope and Cat Mandu stood on pressing political issues can be gleaned from the party’s 2001 manifesto, which included such innovative ideas as:
- Reducing class sizes by giving children smaller desks and placing them closer together
- Granting regular citizens the right to cover people who use mobile phones in public with Silly String
- Creating a Ministry of Silly Walks
- Changing the British national anthem to Do the Funky Gibbon by the Goodies
- Encouraging national debate as to why there is just one female Smurf
Humphrey, Sybil, and Larry – Chief Mousers to the Cabinet
Various UK cats have held the position of Chief Mouser to the Cabinet over the years, the three most recent being Humphrey, Sybil, and Larry.
Humphrey, who was awarded the title in 1989, later became the subject of dark accusations. After the cat was sent away during the Blair administration, Mrs. Blair’s alleged dislike of cats sparked rumours that the Blairs had done away with the Chief Mouser. To clear the Blairs’ name, officials brought reporters to the secret location where Humphrey was living happily with an unidentified elderly couple.
Humphrey was succeeded by Sybil (named for the wife of Basil Fawlty in the popular comedy series Fawlty Towers), but this latest Chief Mouser to the Cabinet failed to settle in and left after just six months. Larry, a local stray, is the current Mouser to the Cabinet.
Humphrey was not the only political pet to provoke controversy. The Bush family’s cat India, named for the Texas Ranger baseball player Ruben Sierra (nicknamed “El Indio”), angered Hindu Nationalists. The outraged nationalists demonstrated outside the U.S. consulate and held an elaborate ceremony during which a dog was named George Bush in retaliation for the perceived slight.
- BBC News. (25 November 1997) “Purr-Fect Ending fur Humphrey”; (25 July 2001) “Hindus Dog Bush over Cat’s Name.”; (28 July 2009) “Ex-Downing Street Cat Sybil Dies.” News.BBC.co.uk.
- CNN. (23 September 1999) “Monster Raving Loony Party Race Heating up Between Chairman – and His Cat.” CNN.com.
- Japan Probe. (23 April 2008) “Stationmaster Cat Draws Tourists.” JapanProbe.com.
- Knoller, M. (5 January 2009) “Death of a White House Underdog: The Cat.” CBSNews.com.
- Myron, V. (n.d.) “Dewey – The Small-Town Library Cat That Touched the World.” DeweyReadmoreBooks.com.
- Spencer Public Library. (2008) “Meet Dewey Readmore Books, Library Cat.” SpencerLibrary.com.
- The Official Monster Raving Loony Party Website: LoonyParty.com.
- The Times. (27 May 2008) “Tama the Station Cat Brings Passengers to Kishikawa Railway Line.” TimesOnline.co.uk.
- Time. (20 January 1930) “Budge on Mike.” Time.com.