Cat Dandy
Share this image

“That Lion Has Stone Balls!” and Other Cats of Europe

On a recent trip I found bar cats, cafe cats, ancient cats, and some truly bizarre cat artwork.

Keith Bowers  |  Jan 12th 2016


So there was that time I documented the cats of Europe. But Europe is a big place. It’s a continent, for meowin’ out loud. That means it has multitudes of cats: literal cats; cats solidified in statuary; and cats printed, painted, or photographed in various modern cultural vessels. So on my first go, I couldn’t get them all. The are bar cats. Cafe cats. Sanctuary cats. Cats on posters and signs. Cats imported from other continents. Cats in public squares that people climb upon. Cats in museums, as well as a museum devoted to cats. There’s also one very regal, prominent cat with balls made of stone.

What I’m trying to say is that, like in December 2013, when I visited Belgium and Germany with my lovely, talented wife twice-over Daphne and photographed every cat I saw, she and I did the same last month on a trip to France, England, and Holland.

What follows are the photographic highlights and verbal descriptions of cats witnessed in Paris, London, and Amsterdam.

First stop: Paris

This cat, asleep on a chair, lives in one of the many cafes along the city’s Champs-Élysées. Daphne petted this cat. The cat neither purred nor meowed nor acknowledged the contact in any way. Still, cute cat.

Eurocats-Paris-cafe-cat-01-d

Photo by Daphne Ann Bowers Phillips

These two painfully cute (and two-dimensional) cats appear on the sign for the China Cultural Center in Paris.

Eurocats-Paris-Chinese-sign

Daphne and I walked through the Jardin des Tuileries, which is near the Louvre, the city’s colossal art museum. There we encountered an impressive lion standing guard over the grounds.

Eurocats-Paris-Lion-02

I can’t tell you when the lion was sculpted, but further examination revealed that Paris did not support spay/neuter at that time. The lion has balls made of stone.

Eurocats-Paris-Lion-04

Whoa. Just … whoa.

Second stop: London

After Paris we caught a high-speed train to London, where we met up with executive editor Vicky Walker in her native habitat. She took us to her old neighborhood of Lewisham and a fabulous working-class pub called the Catford Constitutional Club.

Eurocats-Catford-CC-Vicky-01-d

On the way there, we found another pub called the Black Cat.

Eurocats-London-Black-Cat-01

Like Paris, London is populated by many sculpted lions, including this one (whose location I can’t remember).

Eurocats-London-Lion-02

The next photo shows one of four lions at Trafalgar Square. The day Daphne and I were there, numerous people climbed atop each lion.

Eurocats-London-Trafalgar-Lion-01

This more stylized lion guards the back of the British Museum.

Eurocats-British-Museum-Lion-03

The lion what had cross-paws.

Lest I give the impression that London’s cats are all regal and official rather than being fabulously weird, here’s a taxidermy cat we saw in a shop window.

Eurocats-London-taxidermy-cat

Here’s a cat-print dress.

Eurocats-cat-print-dress-01-d

Photo by Daphne Ann Bowers Phillips

Inside the British museum are tons of cats, mostly in the ancient Egypt sections. Here’s one:

Eurocats-British-Museum-cat-statue-01-d

Photo by Daphne Ann Bowers Phillips

The British Museum also houses the Rosetta Stone, which contains three languages and let researchers finally translate the meanings of Egyptian hieroglyphics. In a fabulously cool detail, the museum uses a cat to explain how the hieroglyphics work. (By the way, “miaow” must be Brit-speak for “meow.”)

Eurocats-British-Museum-Heiroglyph-01

Here’s a tortie Daphne and I saw in a small park near our hotel.

Eurocats-London-Tortie-01-d

Photo by Daphne Ann Bowers Phillips

As proof that Grumpy Cat is everywhere, we saw one of her calendars in a bookstore on Charing Cross Road.

Eurocats-London-Grumpy-Cat-01

Third stop: Amsterdam

Paris showed me stone lion balls, and London presented a stuffed cat in a retail window, but Amsterdam revealed far more cat-related weirdness than the other two cities. Much of that came in a cat museum.

A place called KattenKabinet

This literally means the Cat Cabinet. It’s fitting, because it’s more like a cabinet than a museum. It’s inside a big house, and it’s more like someone’s massive collection of cat-related artifacts that took several decades to accumulate. Most things are not labeled like they are in other museums, so if you’re not sure what something is or where it came from, you have to ask. That said, the KattenKabinet website does list all the works and their creators.

Eurocats-Cat-Museum-sign

This is the sign outside KattenKabinet.

Here’s a pretty well-known photo of Truman Capote with a cat.

Eurocats-Cat-Museum-Capote-cat

Here’s an Italian rendition of a poster from the Disney film The Cat From Outer Space.

Eurocats-Cat-Museum-space-poster

From here it gets weird. Below is a Cosmopolitan magazine cover — no idea whether it’s a real cover or an artistic adaptation.

Eurocats-Cat-Museum-Cosmo-02

Next is a rather unnerving work by Italian painter Stanislao Lepri called Punizione, or Punishment. Read into it whatever you want — any number of interpretations are possible and, for that matter, valid.

Eurocats-Cat-Museum-Stanislao-Lepri-Punizione

Here’s a photograph that might as well have come from the issue of Cosmo above. I can’t help but notice the woman in the photo bears a certain facial resemblance to Steve Jobs.

Eurocats-Cat-Museum-cat-legs

KattenKabinet does have several resident cats, including this mackerel tabby who’s facing off against a cat statue.

Eurocats-Cat-Museum-cat-gray-01

This white cat inhabited a cushy padded bench in the reception area.

Eurocats-Cat-Museum-white-01

The floating cats of Poezenboot

Catster contributor Kristan Lawson wrote about de Poezenboot — translated as the Catboat — in 2014. It’s a waterborne sanctuary for strays and feral cats floating in an Amsterdam canal. When Daphne and I walked in, here’s the lineup who greeted us:

Eurocats-Poezenboot-lineup-d

Photo by Daphne Ann Bowers Phillips

Straight away, a cow cat walked over and inquired as to my identity.

Eurocats-Poezenboot-KB-cow-cat-d

Photo by Daphne Ann Bowers Phillips

We arrived just before feeding time, which led this gray-and-white longhair to take on a very satisfied pose.

Eurocats-Poezenboot-gray-longhair-02-d

Photo by Daphne Ann Bowers Phillips

This tabby mix proves that when you’re a cat, anything’s a seat.

Eurocats-Poezenboot-corner-bucket-01

Elsewhere in Amsterdam

Outside of the cat museum and Poezenboot, Daphne and I met a deli cat near Amsterdam’s Red Light District.

Eurocats-Amsterdam-deli-cat-02

Photo by Daphne Ann Bowers Phillips

Here’s a better look at this beautiful cat.

Eurocats-Amsterdam-deli-cat-01

We visited a bar called Cafe ‘t Spui-tje. It’s tiny but very friendly, and the owners of the place are absolutely obsessed with Frank Sinatra. His music plays on the sound system, and his photos and show posters line the walls. There we caught sight of a bar cat exiting the front door.

Eurocats-Amsterdam-bar-cat-01

While walking through a stretch of several cafes with outdoor seating, we encountered this creamsicle cat who was waiting to be petted by passersby.

Eurocats-Amsterdam-cafe-cat-02a

Across the canal from Poezenboot we spotted this cat, exiting a cafe where we got coffee.

Eurocats-Amsterdam-cafe-cat-01a

Here is some cat graffiti I found pretty intense.

Eurocats-Amsterdam-graffiti-cat-01

Those are the most noteworthy cats I saw on this overseas visit. At the end of my 2013 “cats of Europe” post, I revealed that I’d asked Daphne to marry me, and that she’d accepted. While I have no announcement of comparable significance this time, I’ll say 2016 might include some big changes. So, watch this space, as they say.

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.