Cat travel week: Miscellany

Here’s a collection of various cat-related pictures I’ve taken on my travels.  First up is Ottawa, Canada, home of the cat condos.  If you look at a map of Ottawa—mine is below—you may see a strange landmark.  Check out the lower middle of this photo.  Cat condos!  Right next to Canada’s Parliament building.  What are they?  (Click to enlarge all photos.)

The original Parliament cats were mousers in the government building.  They no longer have this job, but, thanks to lots of volunteers and Canadian good humor, a bunch of cat condominiums were built for strays, just a kibble’s throw from Parliament. When I visited a friend in Ottawa, I of course demanded to be taken there.  Here’s a view; you can read more about the cats and their condos on the semiofficial blog.

Now across the pond to Dorset.  I spent a week in a rented cottage, roaming the countryside and soaking up history.  Dorset is of course Thomas Hardy country: his “Wessex.” There you can visit the beautiful cottage in which he was born, as well as Max Gate, the large Victorian house he built after he was famous.

Hardy loved cats.  Alma Evers describes his penchant for felids:

Hardy was, however, like so many artists and intellectuals, above all a cat-lover. In the late nineteenth century, at least eight cats were living at Max Gate; in the afternoon saucers of milk were placed on the lawn for others who just came to tea. These animals were adored equally by Hardy and his first wife, Emma; this passion was shared by many of his friends. When W.B. Yeats came to give Hardy a literary gold medal, Emma talked to him throughout the whole of lunch about cats. In the last few years of her life, when relations between Emma and her husband had become very strained, their devotion to the cats remained one topic on which they could communicate with enthusiasm. His letters to her include reports of his having reimbursed a maid whose hat one of the cats had ruined and of a servant being instructed to cuddle a cat deprived of her kittens. The most attractive pictures of Hardy show him with cats. One in particular reveals him as an authentic cat-lover: an aged Hardy sits on a hard upright chair, lightly supporting himself against a comfortable armchair where a cat rests. Like Queen Victoria, the Hardys had a pets graveyard, complete with headstones, in the garden.

And indeed, you can still see the cats’ gravestones in the garden, though you have to hunt to find them.  Here are the headstones of two of Hardy’s favorites: Kitsey and Snowdove.  It’s said that Hardy, having stonemason skills, carved these headstones himself:

I found a copy of Tess, written in Hardy’s own hand, at the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester:

Last year I did a lot of good traveling, including a visit to Guatemala to speak at the Universidad de Francisco Marroquin.  I was also hosted at the Finca de Los Andes, a coffee farm/nature reserve owned by one of the University officials.  Here, after a hard day of observing quetzals, I’m relaxing with a drink and the resident cat Oreo.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.

I also spoke at Groningen, in the Netherlands.  It was my first trip to that country, so of course I took some time off to visit Amsterdam.  And here, in the best beer bar I’ve ever visited—Gollum—I quaffed fine Belgian ale and petted the resident cat Sloopy.  The bar was closed, but I looked so pathetic peering through the window that they let me in an hour before opening. Sloopy and I had the bar to ourselves.

I collaborate with and visit colleagues at the University of Vigo in Spain.  On one of my trips I made a nonreligious pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.  There I found an exhibit about a Spanish writer. I don’t read Spanish well, but was fascinated by the photographs.  This writer obviously loved cats, and I took a picture of a picture.  This is one of my favorite photos of human + cat.  Sadly, I’ve forgotten who this writer was, and I can’t find him by Google-imaging, but I’m sure one of you will inform us.

UPDATE: Alert reader Luis (see comments) has identified this as Julio Cortázar, born in Argentina.

Finally, just because I came across this while searching for cat photos, here’s my father, Floyd P. Coyne, with Sophia Loren on the Acropolis in Athens, 1956.  She was 22 at the time.  That’s dad to Sophia’s right.  Check out the kitteh at lower right.  If you’re good, some day I’ll tell you the story behind this.

Okay, I had the kitteh Photoshopped, but the rest of the story, and the photo, is real.


  1. Jonn Mero
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 6:25 am | Permalink

    Any more felids and I’ll develop a cat-aract!

  2. Christopher
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 7:00 am | Permalink

    It should also be noted, amongst all this felinefilia, that Thomas Hardy (my favorite English poet) was also a great lover of dogs, namely his terrier Wessex.

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted September 16, 2010 at 7:02 am | Permalink

      Yes, he did have his dark side. We prefer not to speak of that here.

      • Christopher
        Posted September 16, 2010 at 7:05 am | Permalink

        I’ll say no more…

  3. Luis
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Actually the man with a cat in the photo of a photo is Argentine writer Julio Cortázar (August 26, 1914 – February 14, 1984). Here a brief comment about him by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda:

  4. Dominic
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Prof Jerry, it’s all very well spreading the good word, but with all that travel… carbon footprint? :'(

    By the way, did you ever read Stephen Budiansky’s book Covenant of the Wild, in which he argues that domestication was’chosen’ by certain animals…?

  5. Posted September 16, 2010 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    The author in the photograph is the argentinian novelist Julio Cortázar.

  6. salon_1928
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    That’s one hell of a woman. Still is…

    Anyone who denies this should watch “Boy on a Dolphin…”

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted September 16, 2010 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      That’s the movie she was filming in Greece when this picture was taken. And my father met her because, in an indirect way, he helped with the movie.

      Here’s a famous scene featuring La Loren sponge diving and discovering the eponymous statue:


      • Hempenstein
        Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        Wow, what a set… of lungs – she was down there for 1:20! What was your father’s role?

  7. JBlilie
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Jerry, your trip to Gollum prompts are question all:

    What’s you favorite Belgian beer? (Or, a non-Belgian beer if you don’t go for Belgian beer)

    Mine: La Chouffe (though I love plenty of others. First runner-up: Lindeman’s Kriek)

    Belgium = Beerland. Also: Franken = Beerland

    • whyevolutionistrue
      Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      St. Bernardus Abt. 12, which I sampled at Gollum.

      • JBlilie
        Posted September 16, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        Oh yes, very very good! Yum yum drink em up!

      • JBlilie
        Posted September 16, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        Next time you are in Belgium, go to Antwerp and visit the Kulminator. Absurd number of beers. And Café Pelgrom, which I loved.

      • Chris
        Posted September 16, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

        One of my favorites. A nice 11% alcohol content, I believe.

        I drink it for its excellent taste, of course.

        • JBlilie
          Posted September 16, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

          Here are the Beer Advocate stats:

          St. Bernardus Abt. 12:
          Brewed by: Brouwerij St. Bernardus NV

          Quadrupel (Quad) | 10.50% ABV

          It’s as strong as many wines (German).

          If you have a number of these on an empty stomach, then my advice is: You can tell where the lavatory is: the baseboard tastes different there!

      • Jack van Beverningk
        Posted September 17, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        Speaking of Belgian beers, next time try “Mort Subite” (means: ‘sudden death’ .. nuf said)

        (google it)

        • JBlilie
          Posted September 21, 2010 at 6:45 am | Permalink

          Mort Subite is lovely!

      • JBlilie
        Posted September 21, 2010 at 6:46 am | Permalink

        I had a 750ml bottle of Abt.12 over the weekend. Oh, now that was one fine bottle of beer!

    • JBlilie
      Posted September 16, 2010 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      “prompts are question all”

      Ooh, that was gibberish!

  8. JBlilie
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    “he argues that domestication was ’chosen’ by certain animals”

    An interesting idea. It certainly has helped spread the genes of many species. Species adaptation to a part of their environment: humans. Like the spread of coyotes, just a different mechanism. Genes in phenotypes useful or desireable to humans have fared well with us in the environment.

  9. daveau
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    The spousal unit uses pictures similar to the one of you & Oreo to blackmail me. She shows them to the cats, saying: “See, Keeshu, here’s a picture of your dave betraying you on vacation.”

    It seems as though you are running out of steam on this, and it’s only Thursday.

  10. Posted September 16, 2010 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I’ve been to the Dorset county museum! Very nice too. Also Maiden Castle just outside of town (Dorchester) – not a castle but earthwork fortifications.

    Tourism moment over.

  11. Sili
    Posted September 16, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    If he loved cats so much, why did he feed them milk which they cannot digest in adulthood?

  12. Posted September 16, 2010 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    re Oreo,

    Only a cat can trust so deeply.

    • jdhuey
      Posted September 16, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Cats do not trust: they just find it inconceivable that anyone – either staff or even visiting staff – would even dare betray them.

  13. Jacobus van Beverningk
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    This HAS to outdo the condo’s in Ottawa:

    I liked it .. until I saw that church!
    A church for kittehs? Come ON! That’s absurd!

  14. sman
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    In Amsterdam the:

    A cat rescue/shelter on a canal boat

  15. John Taylor
    Posted September 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    The cat condos near Canada’s parliament are no more.

%d bloggers like this: