In the 1980s, two small-town library cats named Baker and Taylor became some of the most famous felines in the world after they starred in a series of promotional posters for the book distribution company for which they were named. As these Scottish Folds became celebrities, fans from around the world flocked to the Douglas County Public Library in Carson Valley, Nevada, to visit them in person. The duo’s faces appeared on merchandise such as bags and mugs. Fan clubs were set up in their honor — complete with a theme song, which you can check out at the end of this article.
Baker and Taylor’s story has been told in a memoir titled The True Tails of Baker and Taylor: The Library Cats Who Left Their Pawprints on a Small Town … and the World. Here Jan Louch, the former librarian who wrote the book along with Lisa Rogak, looks back on the rise of these two book-loving Scottish Folds.
Baker and Taylor were originally brought in to help with the library’s vermin problem. How bad was it?
There were mice and voles outside — the cats would go to the window and growl whenever they saw one. The library was new and only one year out from being an alfalfa field, so burrowing animals were there. We also had black widow spiders, which Baker took care of — he was a superb spider hunter.
What made Baker and Taylor qualified to take up the position of library mousers?
Scottish Folds are the direct descendants of barn cats, whose existence is predicated on being able to dispatch rodents or terrify them. So they excelled at their jobs.
How would you describe the personalities of Baker and Taylor?
All I can think of is The Odd Couple. Taylor was Felix and Baker was Oscar, but they were really very similar in being placid cats who were able to adapt to just about anything — except being photographed.
How did the idea to have Baker and Taylor star in a poster come about?
Bill Hartman was our Baker & Taylor sales rep, and he came up with the idea. Baker looked like a baker, kind of doughy, and Taylor looked like a tailor, neat, put together. The poster — and the cats — was never intended to be anything other than a minor marketing tool. The success surprised everybody.
At the first and subsequent photo shoots, the photographers did as much as they could with the cats, who were just horrified by the whole thing. Despite the fact that they were pretty placid cats, they were not natural models, and they were startled by the lights.
What do you remember about the first photo shoot?
The company just wanted to have a photo with the cats. It took a very short amount of time. They took lots of pictures of the cats at different angles and introduced the shopping bag to give it a different look. The photo shoots later on were more involved and planned.
How did Baker and Taylor react when people started to turn up at the library just to see them?
For the cats, the crowds and visitors were just another day at the grindstone. They were just another bunch of people coming into the library, and the cats were used to that. They knew from morning till night there were going to be people around, and that at night it was peaceful. Unless they were chased, then they’d go hide.
Did either of the cats ever destroy any of the books or property in the library, by scratching or toilet mishaps?
They didn’t destroy anything. They sometimes pawed at a paper, but someone was usually around to rescue it. They would move the papers so they could sit on them.
Speaking of which, as they roamed around the library, where did they poop?
They had two litter boxes in the storage closet in the staff workroom, and like most cats they used whatever one was cleanest.
In modern social media terms, can you explain how big Baker and Taylor became?
As novelist Carole Nelson Douglas, author of the mystery series starring a black cat named Midnight Louie, said in her interview in the book:
“Baker and Taylor were big in their time, they were just immense. If you went to any book convention, whether on the state or national level, everybody there was walking around with bags with the cats’ pictures on them. I always thought it was almost like a surreal movie where the director is showing you that everybody is regimented by wearing the exact same thing. In this case, everybody was carrying a shopping bag with Baker and Taylor’s picture on it. Because I set [my first Midnight Louie novel] Catnap at a bookseller’s convention, I had to include Baker and Taylor.”
If Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and the rest were around back then, Baker and Taylor would be on a par with Grumpy Cat’s fame today.
If a film version of the book were to be made, which famous cats would play Baker and Taylor?
Taylor Swift’s Scottish Fold, Meredith, should play Taylor. She has the spirit of Taylor and has the same brow markings so she can look worried, just like Taylor did. She also has his same stare that says, “I’m reading your mind, and you can’t do a thing about it.”
Baker has brow markings that go to the top of his head, more like [Taylor Swift’s other cat] Olivia. Alternately, Baker could be played by Grumpy Cat because he got grumpy if you disturbed him: “I’m asleep, leave me alone.”
The True Tails of Baker and Taylor is available now via St. Martin’s Press.