“Cats love anti-gravity. I bet you didn’t know that.”
Thus spake Flickr user Mr. Thinktank.
As a matter of fact, I didn’t know that. You see, this is exactly why I got into journalism more than 20 years ago — it’s an excuse to never stop learning. I also didn’t know that a Swedish immigrant named Per Karlsson (notice that Per is a phonetic match with Purr) invented something called the Cat Levitator in 1954. Mr. Thinktank provided that detail too.
Here’s an illustration of the device.
“A small series was produced in Wellington [New Zealand] for a while,” Mr. Thinktank continues, “but people didn’t go for it as much as Karlsson had hoped, maybe because they didn’t fancy having the cat hover around too much.”
I can see the disadvantage. Imagine the mischief. Thomas! Stop chasing those birds and dive-bombing the neighbor cats!
I immediately attempted to trace the device’s origins. The name on the first illustration is Chris Ebbert — maybe he was a designer or illustrator who worked for Karlsson? A web-image search for “Chris Ebbert” produces several photos of a man who looks curiously like the photo identifying Mr. Thinktank on Flickr. Okay then. “Thinktank” sounds a lot like something associated with an inventor.
But that’s where it ended. Multiple searches for “Per Karlsson,” “Cat Levitator,” and “Chris Ebbert” all led back to Mr. Thinktank at Flickr. This brilliant illustrator must have the only remaining record of the device, and also the only details about its existence — at least details that are available on the web.
Nonetheless, I wondered about the controls and propulsion systems.
“In case you’re wondering what the little cap with the ‘antlers’ is,” Mr. Thinktank writes, “it’s the mind reader. The cat steers the machine with her thoughts, because how else would she?”
Considering that I believe Thomas communicated with me metaphysically through a Tarot reading last year, I shouldn’t automatically reject that detail as BS. Still, nothing can explain why the Karlsson Cat Levitator (when it doesn’t contain a cat) looks like a giant sex toy from a film directed by Terry Gilliam.
Having exhausted my search and come up with only (naughty) pictures and scant details, I concluded that if I couldn’t test the Karlsson Cat Levitator itself, I could at least test its initial premise — namely, would a cat consent to being hauled around by such a device?
So I used the closest approximation I could find — a hand-towel from Halloween containing an image of a cartoon ghost. I mean, ghost, right? What could be more perfect for levitation?
Before summoning Thomas, though, I tried some other test subjects for levitation. The first was a stuffed beaver. Yes, Daphne and I have a stuffed beaver. The beaver currently lives near our fireplace. I believe it belonged to Daphne’s dad. They both went to Oregon State University, whose mascot, along with that of the state itself, is the beaver.
I put the beaver in the ghost towel, and presto!
Next up was a sculpture of mine that approximates the human form (albeit on a much smaller scale) called Cyclops.
Again, the towel suspends the proto-human just fine.
Now it was Thomas’ turn. So I put my kitty on the kitchen table and loaded him up.
It didn’t work too well. In fact, he escaped and hopped on the floor. So I tried again.
Still nothing doing. Thomas retreated to the little magazine box between the kitchen and living room.
Part of the problem, I reasoned, was the lack of support area in the hand towel. I realized that Thomas is wider and heavier than a stuffed beaver or a Cyclops. So I got a bath towel and folded it in half.
After several attempts, including one where Thomas lay down on the towel as if to prepare for a nap, I got it under him and began the levitation process.
It seemed to be working!
… until about 0.75 seconds later, when Thomas was overcome with the “Why the hell am I in this thing?” wriggles.
I lowered the ersatz Cat Levitator, and away he went.
This time he assumed a defensive posture.
But he got over it quickly. My experiment was complete and I had the results. I put Thomas back on the table, gave him some treats and pets, and all was forgotten.
My conclusion? A cat — this cat, anyway — would not tolerate a Cat Levitator if he had one. Maybe that’s why Karlsson’s device didn’t succeed — he didn’t test it thoroughly. Maybe that’s also why Chris Ebbert hides behind a pseudonym when presenting the only known evidence of Karlsson’s invention. I might not want to be associated with such lack of foresight either, not to mention a cat vehicle that looks like it was part of an experiment at the Kinsey Institute in the late 1940s.
And now for something that has nothing to do with inventions, levitation, or sexual health:
I just got these 4-gauge stainless-steel plugs through the mail from a place called King’s Body Jewelry in Kentucky. They go well with my other accessories, and they also go with my cat. Notice how the circular form repeats not only the shape of my gigantic watch but also Thomas’ eyes. Also, the chrome fits the silver theme set by my watch and rings, and it’s a nice accent alongside Thomas’ black and gray fur.
Does your cat like to levitate? Can he do it on his own? Have you tried the Karlsson or ever seen one used? How did it work? Are there old ones for sale in thrift stores in New Zealand?
Cat Dandy gets the joke and doesn’t believe the Cat Levitator is real:
About Keith Bowers: This broad-shouldered, bald-headed, leather-clad motorcyclist also has passions for sharp clothing, silver accessories, great writing, the arts, and cats. This career journalist loves painting, sculpting, photographing, and getting on stage. He once was called “a high-powered mutant,” which also describes his cat, Thomas. He is senior editor at Catster and Dogster.