Caturday felid trifecta: Medieval paintings of cats licking their butts; Japanese man makes 19,000 YouTube videos of himself feeding stray cats, gets no attention; and Pasadena’s “CatCon” gathering

August 3, 2019 • 9:30 am

As we’ve learned by now, nearly all painters up to the 18th century had big trouble depicting cats accurately. This was a special problem for medieval painters, who couldn’t seem to resist the impulse to put human faces on their cats, and didn’t have the chops to depict their bodies accurately. So here, from Sad and Useless, is a series called “Medieval Paintings of Cats Licking their Butts.” There are more at the site, but here’s a selection, apparently painted by cat-owning monks who, illustrating manuscripts, were bored and decided to show something scandalous.  As the site says:

Butt licking cats is a weirdly common theme in medieval art, and nobody’s really sure why. The theory is that they were just etched in the margins by bored monks who wanted to amuse themselves. They thought the idea of sneaking in naughty pictures of cats into serious books was funny. So the monks would pass long, boring days scribbling pictures of these beautiful creatures taking care of their basic hygiene.

But that’s just a theory. Only one medieval monk ever commented on it, and as far as he was concerned, his fellow monks were just wasting time and precious ink. “Good Lord,” he wrote. “Even if the foolishness of it all occasions no shame, at least one might balk at the expense.”

Without further ado, here are five, but there are seven others at the site. Not one cat is depicted accurately.

This is the closest we have to an accurate cat, though the feet are weird:

This moggie has the neck of a snake:

And last but best: look at that butt-licking cat right above Jesus! That’s profane!


The Outline has the sad tale of a Japanese man who’s made thousands of videos of himself feeding stray cats, and nobody pays attention. Click on screenshot:

Some backstory from the site:

Eight years ago, a middle-aged Japanese man started a YouTube channel and began posting videos of himself feeding stray cats. A lot of videos. Usually one per day, every day. As of this year, he had posted over 19,000 times. If you put all his videos into one big playlist and turned on autoplay, it would take you roughly six and a half days to reach the end. It’s possibly the most prolific non-automated channel on YouTube.

It’s also one of the loneliest. Over the long existence of his channel, most of his videos only ever got five or so views, and had only 100 subscribers. Yet he kept posting. When the channel was linked to on Reddit’s r/DeepIntoYouTube board in March of 2019, he suddenly gained a whopping 2,000. Despite this influx, it didn’t really make him a celebrity. Most of the videos still typically receive less than 50 views.

The lack of popularity is perhaps because the videos aren’t that interesting, at least not technically. They seem almost antiviral by design. For one, the videos are all untitled. Each just uses the default filename provided by his camera, a code and a string of numbers. The current filenames (DSCNXXXX) suggest that at least one of his cameras is a Nikon Coolpix. And indeed, these are some cool pix.

Also, the footage itself is somewhat uneventful. These are vérité-style scenes, almost as if the Maysles brothers decided to follow stray cats around for a decade. They’re usually about 30 seconds long, sometimes a minute, without any kind of drama.

With regards to content, a large number of the vids contain closeups of cats eating:


Or drinking water out of a bottle:

Or feature jangling toys in front of their indifferent faces:

Sometimes Cat Man calls to them from a distance, like one would call to an old friend, and their faces appear to light up with excitement, before they run over to him:

Sometimes there are no cats at all, and instead we get interesting cloud formations, or falling rain, dotting the pavement with gentle ripples:

Given that they don’t have titles, they’re in no way SEO-friendly, meaning they can only really be found by accident, usually through going to the YouTube search bar and typing a filename like IMG or DSC with four random numbers (e.g., IMG1234). If that’s too much work, there are sites that mine for them for you such as Astronaut  (2017) and Default Filename TV  (2019), as well as a whole subreddit devoted to digging up interesting finds. It’s pretty addictive.

On the bright side, some of these videos have gotten a considerable number of views. And kudos to this nice man who takes care of the stray moggies! Go over and click “like” on some of them.


CatCon is an annual cat convention that’s been going for 5 years. This year’s gathering was in Pasadena, California in late June, and attracted 16,000 ailurophiles. As the site notes,

CatCon is the biggest cat-centric, pop culture event in the world dedicated to all things feline, with a community of cat lovers that spans the globe. Part expo, part symposium, CatCon engages, educates and entertains thousands of fans, featuring the latest in groundbreaking products and ideas for cats and their people. Since its inception in 2015, the annual two-day immersive experience has welcomed 62,000 attendees, helped almost 500 cats find their forever homes, and donated over $193,000 to cat organizations. 2018 saw 174 cat adoptions in the CatCon Adoption Village, presented in partnership with 9Lives® Cat Food and World’s Best Cat Litter™. The event has been featured in over 1,000 outlets around the world, including The New York Times, BuzzFeed, Reuters, Vanity Fair, and Glamour.

Here’s agreat 6.5-minute ABC News “Nightline” video about the convention (the site also has a “blog“). It features Internet-famous cats, an updated version of the Cat Lady, and an adoption village. I’d go if I lived in L.A.!


h/t: Ginger K.,

20 thoughts on “Caturday felid trifecta: Medieval paintings of cats licking their butts; Japanese man makes 19,000 YouTube videos of himself feeding stray cats, gets no attention; and Pasadena’s “CatCon” gathering

  1. The first medieval cat is ridiculously humanized. I wonder if the artist intended it to look like someone in particular. 😎

    The third image is fairly naturalistic.

  2. Went to site with the medieval art collection of butt licking cats and did a forward to a few other friends who are cat lovers. It is funny. Worth noting that from an artistic view the medieval artists didn’t paint babies worth a stink either.

  3. The Japanese Cat Man: I don’t think it is sad – he has found something that pleases him. I think he has his cameras & mobile phone set up to upload direct to YouTube without his instruction & he uses it simply as an archive that he probably never visits.

    HERE & HERE are the Japanese Instagram-style accounts where he presents more of a narrative.

    Joe Viex of Outline has email commed with Cat Man & he has this to say:

    Cat Man is actually named Mr. Niiyama. He’s 52 years old, and he’s based in the Chiba Prefecture, about an hour east of Tokyo. Niiyama feeds the cats on the quay near his home, almost every day. “I will distribute breakfast at seven a.m. every morning,” he said. “We distribute over 360 days a year.” He started filming the videos because, as he explains, “I wanted to see the life of a cat.”

    Currently, he tends to seven cats, but he estimates over the years he has taken care of 50. Why does he do it? “Because taking care of cats leads to your own happiness.” Hard to argue with that.

    1. Thanks for the extra background. Sounds like a great guy. It seems all the cats are healthy. I have to think they get veterinary care. At least worm pills. Maybe flea shots too.

  4. I cannot escape the impression that these medieval scribes didn’t want their cats look like cats, or were somehow not interested in a naturalistic look. The third one shows that when they wanted, they could.
    I agree with Michael Waterhouse that the fifth appears a later addition.

    1. I believe the scribes in general [I’m heavily generalising here] were not interested in a naturalistic look [as you say], had different visual values to us today – more interested in the symbolism of the image than proportion & perspective for example, did not appreciate that all living organisms have a related underlying structure based on the evolutionary ‘tree of life’ & were not schooled to perceive certain relations in objects that even moderate drawers/sketchers take for granted today. These scribes were copyists & didn’t think like a modern art students in terms of connected volumes of space & underlying structure.

      I also think they didn’t draw from life – they worked from memory, guesswork & ‘patterns’. The patterns might come from their own individual copybooks that they each made as they learned their craft by slavishly reproducing the work of the previous generation – mistakes are inherited.

      A couple of retired women I know have taken up sketching & colouring & it’s an eye opener! Even copying from a cartoon pictures of characters they both distort the original material in surprisingly similar ways:
      Placing eyes 2/3 of the way up the skull rather than the correct 1/2 way up.
      getting the articulation of the neck on a sideways turned head improbably wrong because of no appreciation that the spinal column at the rear of the body is the support for the skull.

      The women never thought to imagine the creature form as a series of connected spheroids & then drawing these in with axis lines as a guide – their go-to technique is to draw the entire outline & fill it in with details.

      1. their go-to technique.

        Indeed. Children begin with stick figures. The first are depictions of family members. The arms grow out of the neck and the head is a roundish circle. They slowly advance to flat planes with no volume. Then they get a job, a mortgage, a car. So, they are stuck with a crude vision of solid form until retirement when they finally pick up a pencil again and resume where they left off. 😎

        1. The women have offered their primitive** representational art to their community centre – they’ll be nicely framed & hung on the walls. I expect there will be a production line of garbage until arthritis, grand kids or knitting changes their hobbies – many an eye for decades to come will be offended, just so these two can have their name up there [they sign & date bottom right in permanent marker in large, black font – sub-Trump sharpie].

          The strangest aspect is the material is not relevant to their lives nor the area, they are in their “Who Framed Roger Rabbit period” [their words] at the moment! Give me strength.

          ‘primitive’ is a positive in art criticism & the opposite among normal people who are not invested in writing 2,000 words of bollocks.

          1. The positive side of all this, of course, is the reward many of these people get from the artistic process. Painting and drawing(and I have done some) is, at best, a meditation and can be practiced by anyone at any level of talent. Some of these primitives work hard to improve and actually grow and achieve quite a bit. And it provides a social context that is often therapeutic.

            1. Thanks. Maud is very good. Subjects in her life, excellent composition & colours. Eyes mostly in the right place! Folk art.

            2. If we don’t mind including men, Henri Rousseau should be considered. He was a primitive painter much admired by the post impressionists.

    2. I’ve heard blether from art-history type people (while I’ve been waiting for the “doing ridiculous things with stone” parts of the programme) that there was a noticeable change in style from deliberately non-naturalistic to painfully looks-like-it’s-meant-to-be-realistic stuff in around the 10-hundreds. Considerably earlier than the “discovery” (*) of perspective in the Renaissance.
      IF I remember correctly (big IF) perspective backgrounds (buildings, frameworks etc) went out for a while in this late-mediaeval period. The Romans and Greeks knew about perspective, they just didn’t use it often. Then people tried other “stereotypes” until the Renaissance came along with the stereotypes which dominated until the mushroom-eaters, absinthe-gurglers and such came out of the woodwork in the 1850s and entered into a death-spiral with “representation”.
      Art class just didn’t connect for me. It shows, doesn’t it?

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