Cats and Bookstores: Fewer Things Go Together Better
As long as they consent to sleeping beside your book rather than on top of it, cats are the perfect literary lounge buddies. Writers are also known for keeping cats, especially Ernest Hemingway, whose famous adoration of polydactyl cats earned the six-toed felines the title “Hemingways.”
Perhaps for these reasons -- or perhaps because they enjoy extended periods of inactivity conducive to reading -- cats are regular fixtures in bookstores. The two seem to go together naturally. Here are four awesome bookstore cats from coast to coast.
In the midst of the occasionally desolate Kansas plains, Lawrence is an eclectic oasis that is equal parts hippie and hipster. Along its main downtown drag you’ll find the Dusty Bookshelf, a cozy independent bookstore that has occupied its storefront since 1997.
You’ll also find a regal brown tabby named Alice. She’s named for writer Alice B. Toklas, who was Gertrude Stein’s life partner, “even though most kiddos prefer to believe she’s named after Alice in Wonderland, and we think that’s lovely, too,” says Stacey from the Dusty Bookshelf.
Alice has lived in the bookstore since 1999. According to Stacey, she loves to eat but is on a strict diet due to arthritis, so she is less “adorably plump” than she used to be. Thanks to her weight loss, though, at age 15 she’s healthy and easing gracefully into her senior years.
One of Alice’s favorite spots to camp out is on the green chair in the “Animals & Pets” section, but Stacey says that “most of the time you’ll find her sleeping, sprawled out, belly up, right in front of the doors, so be careful not to step on her!”
The Dusty Bookshelf also has a location in Manhattan, Kansas, that is home to a tortie named Cleo.
West Roxbury, Massachusetts
Specializing in science fiction, fantasy, and horror, as well as a sizable collection of comics, Seek Books buys and sells books online as well as out of their brick-and-mortar location. If you’re in the area, you’ll probably want to stop by and see the real thing, so you’ll have the pleasure of meeting Asimov.
Named for sci-fi novelist Isaac Asimov, the sleek white kitty is a charmer. With one blue eye and one yellow, Asimov doesn’t need to try too hard to make friends, so his affable personality is like the frosting on the fluffy white cake.
“He is super friendly,” says Brad Kinne, co-owner of Seek Books. “When he hears the bells ring signifying that someone has come into the store, he runs to greet them.”
Asimov lives at the store during the week and goes home with Kinne on the weekends. But he’s no freeloader –- this literary kitty has his own Facebook page and is responsible for running the Seek Books blog, though Kinne says “he is pretty lax in doing so.” While he’s working, Asimov wastes no time cozying up to customers.
“He loves to sit on people’s laps or be carried around the store, and he’s pretty good with kids,” Kinne says. “He loves to sit in front of the glass door and watch people go by, and many people stop to chat with him even when the store is not open.”
St. Louis, Missouri
Independently owned Left Bank Books has been selling new and used books in St. Louis’ historic Central West End neighborhood since 1969. According to their Facebook page, their specialties include “politics, contemporary arts and literature, high-quality children’s books, African-American interest, GLBT titles, and more.”
Spike came to live at Left Bank Books in 2005, and in the last seven years he has become quite the star. He’s been featured in books, blogs, and television shows, and last year he was awarded the first-ever “Bookstore Cat of the Year” award from BookExpo America. He did not give an acceptance speech because his schedule conflicted. According to Left Bank co-owner Kris Kleindienst, proud and occasionally bossy behavior is normal for the handsome, black-haired boy.
“Spike, like all of us, has moods,” she says. “Sometimes, he just likes to curl up in a corner and take a day-long nap. Other times, he strolls the store and accepts all kinds of attention. He is especially fond of upstaging authors at readings, jumping on the signing table while they are still at the podium speaking, or just walking back and forth in front of them.”
Spike’s other hobbies include terrorizing most dogs “regardless of their size and demeanor,” running from small children, and camping out on the lap of Kleindienst’s partner, Jarek Steele, who works at a desk most of the day. It is this sedentary nature that Kleindienst says makes cats and books such a great pair.
“You must generally sit still to read a book and you must generally sit still if you want to have a cat pay attention to you or sit on your lap," she says. "So cat people who are book people (and vice-versa) generally expect both things to happen at once.”
Big Sur, California
I met Theo in person when I went on a solo adventure to Big Sur last month. He is a stunning Maine Coon-looking fellow who likes to stretch out in front of the wood-burning stove and was none too pleased with being photographed.
The “library” is actually a bookstore dedicated to writer Henry Miller, who spent several years of his life in Big Sur. It is also a concert venue –- one time the Flaming Lips played to a packed crowd right beneath the towering redwoods outside.
Even with such an impressive resume -- and a lovely sculpture garden to boot -- it was meeting Theo that made the visit truly special. Home is where the cat is, after all.
Is there a bookstore kitty or kitties where you live? Share stories and photos in the comments!