Caturday felids : Once again, Bristol’s cat pub; desirable cat tee-shirts; what people named their cats in the Middle Ages; and lagniappe

February 4, 2023 • 10:15 am

I’ve written before about the Bag of Nails pub in Bristol (see here and here), which became famous because it featured more than a dozen moggies roaming about. The customers loved it (who wouldn’t?), and I even induced a reader to visit and send me a photo of himself enjoying a pint among the cats (see second link above). It closed for a while during the pandemic, and I was worried, but it’s now open again and doing better than ever.

This new article from BristolLIVE (click on screenshot) shows that the Bag of Nails has become even more famous, with people from around the world droppping in. I tell you, putting cats in a shop or business (if they’re allowed) is the best way to make it grow.

Quotes are indented:

When landlord Luke Daniels took over the Bag of Nails pub in Hotwells in 2012, he never thought it would become home to 14 felines, let alone a destination for cat tourists to visit in their droves. Bag of Nails on St George’s Road started out as a traditional real ale boozer, and after Luke took in one of his friend’s cats, Malcom, the feline residents grew over the years with as many as 24 at one time after the arrival of several litters.

What started as Bristol’s best-kept secret exploded with a flurry of national media attention that stemmed from an article in the Bristol Evening Post in 2015. “From that moment onwards my life went completely mental for six months straight,” Luke remembered. His phone was ringing non-stop with national papers all hoping to get the story.

Bag of Nails went global having been picked up by dozens of websites in Russia, Thailand and Japan, with two Japanese film crews visiting in 2016. “For about six months, the pub was rammed. The furthest distance someone travelled just to come to our pub was Tokyo. Imagine someone flying all that way just to see the Bag of Nails? It’s just a bit mad.”

Photo: Dan Regan/BristolLive

The clientele is mixed, Luke said. “With our customers, it’s about half cat tourists, half people who like good beer and good music.” ‘Cat tourism’ is one of the latest travel phenomena to grip the world.

There are hundreds of cat cafes, hotels and attractions that charge entry – Bristol once had You&Meow, a cafe inspired by Japanese zen gardens – but the Bag of Nails is different. In reality, it’s just a traditional boozer where cats happen to live.

Luke moved in above the pub at the start of the pandemic to take care of the cats while it was closed. “The lockdown was obviously quite difficult but it was difficult for all of the pubs, but very quickly we started doing takeaway beer. As soon as the Government said breweries with taprooms are allowed to do takeaway beer I thought ‘we have the same licence, we must be able to do it as well’.”

Photo: James Beck/Freelance

The pub lies on the boundary of the Clean Air Zone, and Luke believes a loading bay near the pub is just outside of the CAZ. Fortunately, Bag of Nails has found a local brewery that can sell quality beers for a sensible price, meaning that pints of ale stays low.

Luke added: “We’re going to always try and have Cheddar Ales for £3.50 a pint so that there’s always an affordable option for people. I think that’s quite important at the minute, some people have got money and some people just don’t anymore.”

But do they have Tim Taylor’s Landlord. If they did, I’d just move in and never leave.  Here’s the publican, Luke Daniels:

Photo: James Beck/Freelance

Along with its strong range of real ales and its resident cats, the pub is also known for its very specific set of rules – some of which are not printable – including ‘No Scientology’ and ‘Babies and toddlers must be stored in the cellar’. Most of the rules have stayed the same apart from one rule – ‘No mobile phones’.

“People keep on breaking this rule. During the World Cup, some people came in and started watching a match at top volume on their phone. I had to ask them to turn it down because there were other people in the pub who don’t want to watch it.”

It’s known for being a sport-free pub that prioritises good music. Luke recently acquired a gramophone meaning they can play original 78s and LPs. It’s also popular for its extensive board game selection and has recently started a Monday poker night.

Bag of Nails is certainly unique due to its furry residents who live rent-free, but besides being a cat pub, prioritises quality, local breweries above all. It’s garnered a following beyond cat tourism which means it’s cemented itself as a pub to stay within the Hotwells area.

If you want to go there, and you should if you’re not that far, it’s at 141 St George’s Rd, Hotwells, Bristol (BS1 5UW). Here’s a photo from WhatPub, and the pub’s Facebook page is here.


From I Heart Cats comes a collection of great teeshirts for cat lovers (they don’t just have to be for men!):

Sadly, they don’t tell you where you can order them, but I suppose a Google Image Search will help you out. Here are my favorite six:

. . . and the “if it fits, I sits” classic:


Here from Open Culture is an article of tremendous historical interest: a compilation of cat names used in the Middle Ages (you may be familiar with Pangur Bán). Click to read; I’ve indented excerpts.

The text:

“The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,” declares the opening poem in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot. But the possibilities are many and varied: “Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James”; “Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter”; “Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat.” Things must have been  less complicated in the Middle Ages, when you could just call a cat Gyb and be done with it. “The shortened form of the male name Gilbert, Gyb” explains Kathleen Walker-Meikle in Medieval Cats, dates as “a popular name for individual pet cats” at least back to the late fourteenth century.

In a slightly different form, the name even appears in Shakespeare, when Falstaff describes himself as “as melancholy as a gib cat.” Gyb’s equivalent across the Chanel was Tibers or Tibert; the sixteenth-century French poet Joachim du Bellay kept a “beloved gray cat” named Belaud.

Legal texts reveal that the Irish went in for “cat names that refer to the animal’s physical appearance,” like Méone (“little meow”), Cruibne (“little paws”), and Bréone (“little flame”). Walker-Meikle also highlights Pangur Bán, a cat “immortalized in a ninth-century poem by an Irish monk.” This hymn to the parallel skills of human and feline begins, in Seamus Heaney’s English translation, as follows:

Pangur Bán and I at work,

Adepts, equals, cat and clerk:

His whole instinct is to hunt,

Mine to free the meaning pent.

I like Auden’s translation better, and I’ve put it below.

Frequent Open Culture readers may be reminded of the twelfth-century Chinese poet who wrote of being domesticated by his own cats, verses we featured here a few years ago. More recently, we put up a list of 1,065 Medieval dog names, which run the gamut from Garlik, Nosewise, and Hosewife to Hornyball, Argument, and Filthe. You’ll notice that the names given to dogs in the Middle Ages seem to have been more amusing, if less dignified, than the ones given to cats. Perhaps this reflects the strong, clearly centuries-and-centuries-old differences between the natures of the animals themselves, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. But whatever our preferences in that area, who among us couldn’t do with a Pangur Bán of our own?

This link gives the Pangur Bán poem (the name means “white Pangur”) in the original old Irish text, and below is the original transcription by an Irish monk living in Germany: (I’ve indicated the poem):

Samuel Barber turned the English version of the poem into one of his “Hermit Songs“; below is a beautiful version by Barbara Bonney with André Previn at the keyboard. I love the poem because it compares a scholar’s efforts to study with a cat’s efforts to catch a mouse. The lyrics are Auden’s version, the best translation I know of. I rate this poem, along with “For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry” (a fragment of Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno) as the two best cat poems ever.

The Monk and His Cat

adapted by W. H. Auden from an 8th or 9th century anonymous Irish text

Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are
Alone together, Scholar and cat.
Each has his own work to do daily;
For you it is hunting, for me, study.
Your shining eye watches the wall;
My feeble eye is fixed on a book.
You rejoice when your claws entrap a mouse;
I rejoice when my mind fathoms a problem.
Pleased with his own art
Neither hinders the other;
Thus we live ever
Without tedium and envy.
Pangur, white Pangur,
How happy we are,
Alone together, Scholar and cat.


Lagniappe: Readers’ cats in Boxes.

Here’s reader Divy’s cat Jango, playing a homeless moggy. As she said, “This is what happens when you leave an unattended box. He kept hanging out there so much that I placed the little cup next to it. He didn’t mind”  Note what’s written on the cup:

And here’s reader Merilee’s 18-pound chonk named Booker T, in a photo called “Even if I don’t fits. . .”

From Deborah:

This is Morrie (of (Morrie’s Bar & Grille) recovering from a catnip hangover.  He owns the joint, so he sleeps it off in his box on top of the video game, in a sunbeam by morning.  And he never lacks company, since thanks to his beer goggles, all girl cats become Persians at last call.

h/t: Ginger K.

6 thoughts on “Caturday felids : Once again, Bristol’s cat pub; desirable cat tee-shirts; what people named their cats in the Middle Ages; and lagniappe

  1. Both Auden’s and Heaney’s versions are lovely. I think Heaney is trying to stay close to the form and internal rhyming patterns of the Old Irish.

  2. TNX so much for time taken to put the Caturday posts together. As usual enjoyed them all this week. Would love to drop in to the Bag of Nails pub in Bristol with my son. He has two cats he calls his ‘little girls’.

  3. But do they have Tim Taylor’s Landlord.

    The answer to that question is “not normally”. They do have a lot of guest ales though and, if you are lucky, you might be there when Timothy Taylor is making an appearance.

    I don’t really understand the gramophone comment. I’ve been going there for probably five or six years and they’ve always had a turntable and a selection of LPs. It used to be that you could put a record on yourself (they had instructions on how to operate a turntable because many of their clientele have never seen one) but now it has to be operated by the staff to prevent damage to the records.

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