They say that dogs are a human’s best friend but these people from the past beg to differ. When the rest of the world was spending time training and walking their dogs, these historical figures were busy cuddling and admiring their favorite feline friends.
While there were a lot of people in history who owned one or two cats, these people were bonafide cat aficionados. These writers, artists, and royals from history filled their homes with felines and in some cases used them as inspiration for their work. Here are some famous historical figures who weren’t afraid to be crazy about cats.
Catherine The Great Gave Her Cats A Salary
The Russian queen had so many cats during her rule that they were sometimes referred to as “cat colonies.” Catherine the Great (1729-1796) loved cats, especially her elegant Russian Blues. Her Blues were given high praise in court and allowed to run the top floors of her Imperial palace. Only when she was gifted an Angora cat did the Blues fall to second place.
It wasn’t just the elite cats that Catherine the Great loved. She also kept regular “working” cats. These ones had run of the palace basement and their job was to keep rats away. Catherine adored their work so much the cats were promoted to guard status complete with an annual salary!
Issac Newton Invented The Cat Door
Sir Issac Newton (1642-1727) was a tremendous inventor. He gave us calculus, the laws of gravity, the reflecting telescope, and the cat door! Yes, during his time studying at Cambridge University, Newtown found that while he loved his feline friends, they annoyed him by constantly asking to be let in and out. As a solution, Newtown cut a hole in the door so the cats could pass as they pleased.
Newton never ended up marrying and actually admitted to having few friends aside from his cats. Was Isaac Newton the original crazy cat lady (man)? We think so.
Abraham Lincoln Made Sure His Cats Were Tended To During The Civil War
Honest Abe (1809-1865) and his wife Mary Todd were both feline fanatics. At one point, Mary even said that cats were her “husband’s only hobby.” While he also had a dog, he didn’t take him along when he became president. Instead, he kept two kittens with him named Tabby and Dixie that were a gift from Secretary of State William Seward.
The felines were such a priority that when Lincoln left to lead the troops in the final year of the Civil War, he tasked a colonel with making sure his kittens were taken care of.
Mark Twain’s Cats Have Some Hilarious Names
The famous American author Mark Twain (1835-1910) may have been one of the craziest people in history. He once pondered that “if man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat.” That love of cats translated to him owning 19 cats at one time. When he was away from his cats, he would often pay homeowners large sums to rent their cats.
In true Mark Twain fashion, he made sure none of his cats had a boring name. Some incredible names include Beelzebub, Blatherskite, Soapy Sal, Bambino, and Satan.
Florence Nightingale’s Cats Helped Her On Her Deathbed
Writer and founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale (1820-1920) was one heck of a cat lady. While she struggled to maintain human friendships, Nightingale had no problems with feline friends. Over the course of her life she owned more than 60 cats!
The nurse’s cats became especially important to her later on in life when she became disabled from brucellosis and depression. Nightingale wrote that the close company of her cats made her feel at peace. Even on her death bed, she made sure to have meals arranged specially for the cat.
Calvin Coolidge’s Cat Escaped The White House
The 30th President of the United States brought four cats with him to the White House. Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) would often walk through the halls of the White House with one of his four cats—Tiger, Blackie, Timmy, and Smokey—draped around his neck.
If you’re wondering just how much he loved his cats, when Tiger once accidentally escaped the White House, Coolidge enlisted the city police to search for the cat. When that didn’t work, he turned to a medium and eventually put out a radio broadcast alerting the public. When Tiger was finally found, he got a new collar that said “My Name is Tiger. I live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Anne, Emily, And Charlotte Brontë Adored Felines
The Brontë sisters had a difficult life. They were born into a poor Irish family, were orphaned young, had to attend horribly strict school, and eventually lived in recluse as adults. Their isolated existence left them to turn to cats in the English countryside.
Emily, in particular, took a liking to cats. She was the shyest and solitary sister and often avoided contact with people outside their home. In one of her musings, she wrote: “A cat is an animal who has more human feelings than almost any other being.”
Charles Dickens Immortalized His Kitten In A Strange Way
He was one of the most influential writers in history and he was also a cat lover! Charles Dickens (1812-1870) gave us the quote “What greater gift than the love of a cat?” and he surely lived his life by it. Dickens constantly wrote with his cats by his side and never seemed bothered when they would extinguish his candle’s flame to get attention.
In 1862, Dickens was reportedly so upset after the death of his favorite cat Bob, that he had the feline’s paw stuffed and mounted on a letter opener. If you’re interested, that letter opener is on display at the New York Public Library.
Pablo Picasso Used Minou As Inspiration
Famous painter Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) was known for a lot of things like co-founding the cubist art movement but many people don’t know about the special relationship he had with his cat Minou. A young Picasso was gifted a Siamese cat and named it “kitty” in French. Both Picasso and Minou had large, sharp eyes which made them look almost related!
Minou purred by Picasso’s side as he became famous from his Blue Period into his Rose Period. There have even been sketches of Minou auctioned off to Picasso’s biggest fans.
Marie Antoinette’s Cats Ran Freely In Versailles
Marie Antoinette (1755-1793) was best known for being the wife of France’s King Louis XVI and for her expensive taste. She famously let the people of Paris starve while she hosted lavish parties at the Palace Versailles. While the queen is often associated with her love of small dogs, she also had a number of cats living at her Palace.
The queen owned six Angora cats and they were permitted to roam the halls and even attend dinner parties. Their free roam wasn’t always a good thing though. Guests would often comment on how filthy the palace was.
Ernest Hemingway’s Cats Still Reign In Cuba
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) was a famous American author, journalist, and even won the Nobel Prize for Literature. He later became a recluse and moved to Cuba where he spent his days deep sea fishing, bullfighting, and hanging out with his six-toed cat.
Hemingway’s first cat was a six-toed (polydactyly) white cat named Snowball. Hemingway loved Snowball but sadly, Snowball outlived its owner. Today, there are more than 50 polydactyl cats that still live on the Hemingway property in Cuba and are all descendants of Snowball.
A Musical Was Inspired By T.S. Eliot’s Kittens
Another writer and poet who felt a special connection with felines was T.S. Eliot (1888-1965). His cats were known for their eccentric names like Old Deuteronomy, Mr. Mistoffelees, and Rum Tum Tugger. If any of those names sound familiar, that’s because they were the inspiration for the characters in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Broadway musical Cats.
T.S. Eliot didn’t just give his cats weird names, he wrote about them too. His book called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was a collection of 15 poems that described the different personalities of each of his cats.
Charles Baudelaire Wrote Poems For His Felines
Another poet with a penchant for cats, Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) praised cats frequently in his work. In his poem “Les Fleurs du Mal” he wrote that his cat’s voice “seems to pearl and filter/Through my soul’s inmost shady nook.”
Not only did he write about cats but he followed and adopted them frequently. When Baudelaire would see a cat on the street, he’d completely veer off course to pick them up and pet them. The poet would even ignore humans and play with their cats if he was visiting a feline-friendly household.
Robert Southey Couldn’t Stop Writing Letters About His Cats
Poet Laureate Robert Southey (1774-1843) never shied away from talking about his love of cats. Felines made frequent appearances in his poems and many letters to friends featured lines asking about their cats or describing the status of his own.
The poet could even speak to cats (or so he said). In a charming letter to his 7-year-old son, Southey once wrote “The Dutch cats do not speak exactly the same language as the English ones. I will tell you how they talk when I come home.” If he could speak to cats then I wonder how much they influenced his poetry?
William S. Burroughs Wrote A Cat-Themed Autobiography
Author William Burroughs (1914-1997) was best known for his long, wild, drug-induced musings but he also has a softer side. Many of Burroughs’ less popular works focus on his love and affliction for cats. In 1986 he published 133 copies of his autographic novella The Cat Inside.
The novella talked about all the cats he had owned throughout his life and the “pure love” he felt for his four cats Fletch, Ruski, Spooner, and Calico. Burroughs even went so far as to call his love his cat the “most natural painkiller there is.”
Victor Hugo Gave His Kittens Gifts
The French author of classics such as Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a notable cat dude. Victor Hugo (1802-1885) filled his personal journals and nighttime diary with references to his cats. He even gifted his favorite cat its own large red ottoman to lay on in the middle of his study.
In one diary entry, Hugo remarked about the same favorite feline that “God made the cat so that man might have the pleasure of caressing the tiger.”
Théophile Gautier Wrote An Entire Book About Cats
Famed French author Théophile Gautier (1811-1872) loved cats so much that he wrote an entire book about his life with his feline friends. Seriously. The book began talking about his black and tan tabby cat named Childebrand, that Gautier admitted only got its name because he needed something to rhyme with “Rembrandt.”
The book goes on to feature his other cats Angora Don Pierrot de Navarre and Marquesa Dona Séraphita. And you thought “Mr. Fluffypaws” was a mouthful. Gautier’s love of cats even followed him to the grave. His headstone has carved cats throughout it.
Paul Klee Featured Cats In 30 Different Art Pieces
The Swiss artist Paul Klee (1879-1940) loved cats so much that he actually used them as an inspiration for his artwork. Art fans might notice that almost 30 pieces of Klee’s art feature a cat of some sort. Not only did cats appear in his art but they also gave him a helping hand (or a helping paw).
His cats Fritzi, Bimbo I, Bimbo II, Mys, Nuggi, and Fripouille (Skunk) stayed by Klee’s side while he painted. Bimbo I even once walked over a watercolor painting and Klee remarked that one day, people will “wonder how in the world I ever got that effect.”
Pope Paul II Saved Felines From The Street
Pope Paul II (1417-1471) loved a lot of things like jewels, expensive clothes, and animals. While he was known for being cold-hearted, his furry four-legged friends brought out a warmer side of him. He would apparently even stop to rescue animals if they were on the way to the butcher.
Cats were supposedly Pope Paul II’s favorite and he would do anything for them. When one of his cats grew sick, he summoned his personal physician to take care of them. Paul II’s cat love was so strong that the people of Rome actually made fun of him for it and would write jokes and graffiti about it.
Cardinal Richelieu Had A Soft, Furry Side
Even if you don’t know of him from his work in the Catholic Church, you might recognize the name Armand Jean du Plessis de Richelieu (1585-1642) as the villain from the book The Three Musketeers. When he wasn’t secretly running French society, he was tending to his 14 cats.
Richelieu had a house built specifically to hold his mostly Persian and Angora cats and was said to never work unless there was one lounging on his lap. For a cardinal, he was pretty creative when it came to names. One of his cats was named Ludovic le Cruel because he was especially good at killing rats.