After the robust discussion around dogs at work sparked by Rebecca Ritchie’s post a few months ago, I thought it was only right that the other half of the population also get to have their say. That’s right – I’m talking about cat people. (And no, I’m not talking about a Doctor Who-esque human-feline hybrid, but those of us who prefer that winning combination of aloofness and unexpected pouncing in our furry friends.)
As it turns out, the concept of cats at university is not new at all, mostly due to the long and illustrious tradition of the library cat. As a librarian AND a cat person I can’t believe that this delightful practice hadn’t been brought to my attention sooner.
Cats have been treasured members of libraries since antiquity, when their hunting skills were called upon to protect precious manuscripts from knowledge hungry rodents. In more recent times, the role of library cats has shifted a little from predatory protector to snoozer in the stacks, but their presence remains as valuable as ever to the patrons of the public and university libraries in which they reside.
You may have seen in the news recently the plight of Browser (oh yes, librarians and puns), a cat who was due to be evicted from his library home in Texas after 5 years of service to the local community. His case attracted international attention, with 13,000+ signatures and messages from “everywhere in the United States as well as Germany, Australia, Malaysia, Guam, and England” contributing to the unanimous decision for him to stay. Members of the library staff cited several benefits that library cats can have on patrons, including helping promote relaxation, and bringing people into the library who may have never considered it as a space for them before.
And not to be outdone by the dogs – a fairly recent study suggests that owning a cat could reduce your risk of a heart attack by 30%.
With many people living in housing situations which don’t allow pets, such as nursing homes, apartment buildings, and other rental accommodation, the library cat is a purrfect solution. Quieter and more independent than most dogs, cats are the ideal animal to get some quality pet cuddling time with, while not being overly needy or bothering your fellow readers too much. According to the Library Cats Map compiled by Iron Frog Productions, there are currently 302 known library cat residents across the world. (Although I’m not sure the stuffed cats should really count I am absolutely behind the inclusion of a ghost cat). However, Australia is trailing behind with a measly 6. Surely we can do better than that!
While I’m not suggesting that the Macquarie University library should obtain a feline mascot of our own to help students through the stress of long hours studying for exams (I may be suggesting it a little), I think it’s worthwhile to raise awareness of our fuzzy counterparts in the pursuit of knowledge and frequent naps. Sound like any students you know? I thought so. And frankly, isn’t being able to share cute/funny cat pictures the whole point of the internet?
If you’re STILL not convinced, check out this job description and list of library rules created for the famous Dewey Readmore, a library cat for nearly 20 years who has been immortalised in several books. Who could possibly oppose such a thing, I ask you?
What do you think about the role of cats in libraries? Would a resident cat influence your decision to visit a library?