Caturday felid trifecta: a rare Arctic cat; military hero cats; Henri the existentialist cat passes away (and lagniappe)

January 30, 2021 • 9:30 am

From Russia Beyond we have the story of Kesha, the only cat in the Svalbard Archipelago. Click on the screenshot:

There are several islands in the archipelago, lying way north of Norway, but only one is inhabited: Spitzbergen, with 3,000 intrepid souls. Here’s a map:

And there is also Kesha the Cat, in the Russian part of the island (excerpts from the article are indented):

About 3,000 people live on the Norwegian archipelago of Spitsbergen in the Arctic Ocean. The temperature here in winter drops to -16°C, and rises in summer to +7°C. The overwhelming majority of the population is Norwegian; Russians are concentrated in one small village called Barentsburg, where they can conduct research and commercial activities, due to the special status of the archipelago. It is here, among the small panel houses, wooden church and monuments to Lenin and communism, that Kesha the cat resides.

Moggies (especially Communist ones) aren’t allowed on Spitzbergen, but Kesha was smuggled in, registered as a “polar fox”.  (Foxes are honorary cats, anyway.)  Kesha is now a Senior Cat: 13 years old.

Kesha spends almost all his time outside in the street, where he gets fed by locals and tourists. Foreign visitors to the archipelago call him the Ginger Arctic Fox. [JAC: click on the preceding link!]

According to Olga Kostrova, who organizes tours of the archipelago, Kesha has a permanent owner. “He is not ownerless, but freedom-loving. He loves to go for walks, but lives in a house with his owner. If people feed him, he’ll happily oblige,” said Kostrova.

“He’s never been seen fighting with polar foxes. But when you’re out walking the dogs from the husky center, it’s better to give him a wide berth! Kesha has been known to attack dogs,” she tells.

Today, it is rumored that Kesha is no longer the only cat on the archipelago; in July 2020, tourists photographed a cat very similar to Kesha, but with a slightly different shade of fur. Yulia says that she too has begun to notice other cats on the island, but Kesha is still the most popular.

The title of the article is slightly misleading, as other cats have been seen on the island. However, Kesha is the King!

“Kesha makes me happy [when he appears] at lunchtime. Now he’s shed a lot of fur, got hairballs and his eyes water. But he’s still one of the main attractions in Barentsburg. According to legend, if you stroke Kesha and make a wish, it’s bound to come true,” says Litvinova.


Mental Floss has this piece on military hero cats. Click on the screenshot:

The Cats are Crimean Tom, Unsinkable Sam, Mourka of Stalingrad, Pooli (Princess Papule), Able Seacat Simon, and Private First Class Hammer. I’ve written about some of these cats before, and a couple have Wikipedia pages. I’ll show just one, but you should read all six, including about Simon, who in his short life (2 years) became the most decorated cat in military history.


Striped tabby Princess Papule was born on July 4, 1944, at the Pearl Harbor Navy Base in Hawaii. Pooli, as she was known to the sailors, was brought aboard the attack transport USS Fremont by crewman James Lynch. The ship fought in the Pacific theater of World War II and participated in the invasions of Saipan, Palau, Leyte, and Iwo Jima.

Pooli chose to sleep in the mailroom during battles. Upon crossing the equator for the first time, the tabby participated in a ceremony transforming inexperienced sailors from “polliwogs” to sea-hardened “shellbacks.” She was issued her own uniform and awarded three service ribbons and four battle stars for her time in the navy. Pooli put the uniform back on for a Los Angeles Times story celebrating her 15th birthday.

Pooli clearly lived to a ripe old age. Here she is coming out of retirement to show her uniform and battle decorations:

A retired Pooli models her uniform, adorned with her service medals, in 1959. LA Times


Sadly, Henri the Existentialist Cat, object of internet fascination, died last December at 17. Here’s a memoriam for Henri written by Jennifer Ouellette for Ars Technica (click on screenshot):

An excerpt:

We are très désolé to report that YouTube cat-video sensation Henri, le Chat Noir has died at the ripe old age of 17. His collaborator Will Braden, aka the “thieving filmmaker,” announced Henry’s passing in a moving Facebook post. Apparently, Henri had a deteriorating spinal condition and had been rendered largely immobile as a result. Despite the pandemic, a local vet made a home visit to “help him pass peacefully, surrounded by those that loved him,” Braden wrote.

Henri (née Henry) was not actually Braden’s cat; the Facebook post identifies Braden’s mother as Henri’s real-life caretaker. Henri lived in an undisclosed location in Seattle’s North End, largely oblivious to his online celebrity. He was a rescue cat, adopted from a local animal shelter as a kitten, who shared his living space with a second white cat, known to his fans as ‘l’Imbecile Blanc,” who survives him. While a student at the Seattle Film Institute, Braden noted Henri’s “regal presence and distinguished personality,” and he featured the cat in a short film for class. The video hit YouTube on May 24, 2007, and Henri’s existential musings soon began winning enthusiastic fans.

. . . It was the 2012 sequel (embedded below), Henri 2: Paws de Deux, that went truly viral and turned Henri into an Internet celebrity, with many declaring it to be the best cat video on the Internet. Indeed, the short film won the Golden Kitty Award at the Walker Art Center’s Internet Cat Video Festival. Henri gave a suitably world-weary statement on his win via Braden: “That I have received this golden, smiling idol for a film documenting my metaphysical torment speaks volumes about the spiritual void of humanity. Shiny and meaningless, life marches on.”

Here’s “Henri 2: Paws de Deux”, featuring the White Moron in a cameo role.

You can see Braden’s tribute to Henri at the cat’s Facebook page. In contrast to Henri’s lugubrious character, he was a “good-natured and happy character,” and “never suffered a single existential crisis during his life..”

Do read the tribute. And RIP, Henri, who is now truly free.


Lagnaippe:  A giant yellow cat catches a koi in Shanghai:


h/t: Ginger K, Jim

6 thoughts on “Caturday felid trifecta: a rare Arctic cat; military hero cats; Henri the existentialist cat passes away (and lagniappe)

  1. Awww…. sad to hear that Henri has gone to the rainbow bridge. He was an oldster though and what a lovely one! Thanks for the laughs.

    (The fish that got caught by the ginger cat might be an ordinary goldfish – can’t make out any whiskers on it.)

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