Caturday felid trifecta: TED talks for cat lovers; Lucky Cat Museum; England’s first cat show

First I have a list of TED talks for cat lovers, which you can find here or simply clicking on the screenshot below. I can’t say that I’ve watched any of them because of my aversion to TED talks, but some of them may actually be good.

Screen Shot 2016-05-14 at 8.55.28 AM


Do you have a Lucky Cat icon—you know, the cat with one paw raised in the air? I do: here it is in my office:

Photo on 7-2-16 at 7.36 AM

You often see these in Asian restaurants and stores. The cat is actually known in Japanese as a “maneki-neko,” which simply means “beckoning cat.” Wikipedia has quite a long entry on the maneki-nekos, which includes this essential information:

The figurine depicts a cat (traditionally a calico Japanese Bobtail) beckoning with an upright paw, and is usually displayed in—often at the entrance of—shops, restaurants, pachinko parlors, and other businesses. Some of the sculptures are electric or battery-powered and have a slow-moving paw beckoning. The maneki-neko is sometimes also called the welcoming cat, lucky cat, money cat, happy cat, beckoning cat, or fortune cat in English.

Maneki-neko comes in different colors, styles and degrees of ornateness. Common colors are white, black, gold and sometimes red. In addition to ceramic figurines, maneki-neko can be found as keychains, piggy banks, air fresheners, house-plant pots, and miscellaneous ornaments, as well as large statues. It is also sometimes called the “Chinese lucky cat” due to its popularity among Chinese merchants.

. . . To some Westerners (Italians and Spaniards are notable exceptions) it may seem as if the maneki-neko is waving rather than beckoning. This is due to the difference in gestures and body language recognized by some Westerners and the Japanese. The Japanese beckoning gesture is made by holding up the hand, palm down, and repeatedly folding the fingers down and back, thus the cat’s appearance. Some maneki-neko made specifically for some Western markets will have the cat’s paw facing upwards, in a beckoning gesture that is more familiar to most Westerners.

Maneki-neko can be found with either the right or left paw raised (and sometimes both). The significance of the right and left raised paw differs with time and place. A common belief is that the raised left paw brings in customers, while a right paw brings good luck and wealth, although some believe the opposite, or that one paw is for luck and the other for wealth. Another interpretation says that a raised left paw attracts money, while a raised right paw protects it.  Still others say that a left paw raised is best for drinking establishments, the right paw for other stores (those who hold their liquor well are called “left-handed” (hidari-kiki) in Japanese). Yet another interpretation is that right is for home and left for business.

It is commonly believed the higher the raised paw, the greater the luck. Consequently, over the years maneki-neko‘s paw has tended to appear ever higher. Some use the paw height as a crude method of gauging the relative age of a figure. Another common belief is that the higher the paw, the greater the distance good fortune will come from.

Apparently the maneki-neko first appeared in the mid-eighteenth century, at the end of the Edo Period. The first record is in 1852, and here’s one, in a painting of that date by Hiroshige:


“Joruri-machi Hanka no zu” by Utagawa Hiroshige, created in 1852, depicts the selling of “Marushime-neko”, a variation of Maneki-neko, being sold at Sensō-ji temple, Tokyo.

Another early maneki-neko from the Edo period

A wooden mold for a Maneki-Neko and Okiagari-Koboshi Daruma figure from the Edo Period, 18th century. Brooklyn Museum.

And here’s an unusual one with both paws raised. It came from from the Sushi restaurant Isobune Sushi in Japantown, San Francisco, California (Flickr):
If you want to see several hundred of these, you can visit the Lucky Cat Museum in Cinncinnati, Ohio. Run by Micha Robertson, it’s open only by appointment; details are at the link.  If you have a maneki-neko, weigh in below.



When was the first cat show?  I can’t easily find the answer, but in England it was in 1871, as described in this article in Atlas Obscura.  Although I don’t go to many cat shows, I do occasionally, as they’re fun. Lots of cat owners are friendly and glad to talk about their show cats, and there are also Crazy Cat People running around in cat-themed clothes. (Yes, I know I have a Hili shirt!) And if you have a cat you can get all kinds of freebies.

The organizer of the first show, Harrison Weir, did so to refurbish their image. As the article describes (my emphasis):

Before Weir united cats and aristocrats, kitties were considered street animals. Cats provided a useful service—rodent extermination—but were not generally valued for their cuteness, cuddliness, or companionship. Charles Darwin lamented their “nocturnal rambling habits” in 1859’s On the Origin of the Species, while Windsor Magazine noted that the cat was merely a “necessary household appendage.” To snuggle with a cat would be to snuggle with your pest exterminator—it just wasn’t their function.

Weir, a lover of many creatures including poultry, pigeons, dogs, and rabbits, considered cats “possibly the most perfect, and certainly the most domestic” of animals. Weir was not always a cat enthusiast—in his 1889 book Our Cats and All About Them he confesses to having had “a bias” against them and says he took “some time coming to this belief.” But once convinced of cats’ merits, Weir became a feline evangelist.

Weir organized the first cat show in England at Crystal Palace, and the article goes on in an amusing vein:

On the train heading to the Crystal Palace for the big event, Weir happened to run into a friend, who enquired as to his well-being and the purpose of his journey. When Weir explained the cat show, his friend was astonished. “A show of cats!” he cried. “Why, I hate the things.” [JAC: Do not trust people who dislike cats. It is a moral failing.]

Weir took a deep breath. “I am sorry, very sorry, that you do not like cats,” he said, before spending several minutes explaining all the reasons he adored the animal. They can unlatch doors, or even knock with their paws for admittance! They catch rats and mice! They are full of sense!

According to Weir’s book, Our Cats and All About Them, this impassioned evangelism became a bit much: “’Stop,’ said my friend, ‘I see you do like cats, and I do not, so let the matter drop.’”

Here’s a photo of the Great Event, which apparently did a lot for making cats into beloved rather than despised animals:


The less-than-egalitarian nature of cat shows didn’t stop the animals from securing a more general affection. “[T]he cat is gradually creeping into the affections of mankind, even in this busy work-a-day world,” wrote Frances Simpson in 1903’sBook of the Cat. Simpson singled out Weir as a difference-maker, noting that “great strides” had been made in the realm of cat fancying since that day in 1871 when Weir “was laughed at by his incredulous and astonished railway companion.”

Lady’s Realm magazine expressed a similar opinion in 1900, saying Weir had “done wonders for the amelioration of pussy.” In three decades, cats had gone from being chased in the streets to being welcomed onto the hearth. Whether they won a prize at some snooty show was beside the point—as Lady’s Realm said, “how great has been the change in the conditions of life of the harmless, necessary cat!”

h/t: Grania, Stephen


  1. Dave
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I’ve got a very nice green maneki-neko with left paw raised, bought it at the British Museum a few years back. According to the box it came in, if you keep it facing south it brings “Strength in Academics”. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this, but the way my academic career’s been going lately I need all the help I can get, feline or otherwise!

  2. E.A. Blair
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I have a teapot in the shape of a white maneki-neko. Its tail is the handle, the upraised right paw is the spout, and to fill it, I have to pull its head off. I’ve had it for over thirty years; it was a gift from a long-ago girlfriend.

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    The beckoning gesture can be confusing. My dad told me of a story when he worked with an Italian that would mean “come here” but to Canadians it looked like “go away”.

    Talk about clothes and modesty in that cat show picture – look at the layers those women are wearing!

  4. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Hello – I have a bit of a cat situation, and since this seems like a good place from which to source some opinions on the matter and since I don’t really know that much about cats(our family is relatively new to having cats in the house and looking after them – in the past our cats have been farm cats of the ‘thanks for the warm milk, see you in a couple of weeks’-type.) I thought I’d try. Hopefully this doesn’t break any roolz.

    Until recently we have had two cats – one is a black-and-white bloke-cat called Raffles who’s about a year old, the other is a female called Egg who’s about nine or ten months old. We found Egg in our yard, her neck stuck in a plaited wire fence, and ever since we brought her in she’s been impossible to approach and stroke unless she’s ravenous. She still hisses at our approach and bolts if anyone comes within seven or eight feet of her.

    Long story short, she got much bigger about four months ago and the vet said she was pregnant. She then appeared to’ve given birth around a month ago but our farm is big, be-bushed and be-shrubbed with lots of hiding places, and Egg’s not a friendly cat so we’d no real idea where she’d given birth, whether the kittens came out okay, whether they’d survived.
    The day before yesterday though we saw some kittens playing outside our front door, near a huge, sprawling, hanging bush which covers and climbs up about a quarter of one side of our house. The only way to see into this tangle of leaves is through our living room window and it now serves as a(bad) viewing gallery for Egg and her litter – how long they’ve been there I don’t know but that’s where she’s currently hiding them. There’s three kittens, they’re all about six inches long(two are black-and-white, one’s tortoiseshell – I don’t know how that works genetically or what that says about their parents).

    The issue is what to do about them: we’re a bit split. I’m eager to have some contact with these kittens – partly because I don’t want them to end up as excessively frightened and mentally damaged as Egg and partly because, well, they’re kittens and I want to squeeze their heads and put them in teacups* – other members of the family are far more reasonable and say we shouldn’t go anywhere near Egg, or try and interact with her kittens or she might just ditch them.

    Apologies for the length of the post, any advice would be very welcome.

    * I don’t really mean this.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted July 2, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Once they are weaned, Egg should be captured and neutered, and the likely way to do that is to live trap her. Maybe you can start by setting out the trap now, with bait, but rigged so she is not caught. Then she may be easily caught when it is optimal to do so. If there is much delay in this, then likely she will be knocked up again as soon as she can. She probably will never come around to trusting humanz but give her whatever shelter and nibbles she wants, and she should stick around.
      The kitties are another issue, but legend has it that they become bonded to humans at an early age. After that ‘window’ has past, they do not bond, as was the case for Egg. So do your best to trap them as well, while they are young. Then cuddle the hell out of them.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted July 2, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        Egg is okay being in the house, snuggling up with Raffles and all that, it’s only once she had the kittens that she spent more time outside. She’s very bad around humans but she’ll skulk around the house if she wants to, esp. if Raffles is there to follow around. So catching her for the vet isn’t such a problem – we just wait ’til she’s hungry and do a pincer attack – one person distracting, the other sneaking up and nabbing her.

        So I guess ‘once they’re weaned’ is the important part? They look like they’re approaching that period now(not quite there) but I’d really like to get them indoors so they don’t end up wildlings, lost to the uncertainties of the harsh Welsh countryside and its shite weather. I keep hearing ‘the mother will reject them’ but surely that doesn’t apply to Egg since she’s lived 60-40 in the house versus outdoors…

        Thanks for the advice. 🙂

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted July 2, 2016 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

          So catching her for the vet isn’t such a problem – we just wait ’til she’s hungry and do a pincer attack – one person distracting, the other sneaking up and nabbing her.

          This is likely to hurt you, and has a real chance of hurting the cat. Hoomins are clumsy. Seriously, contact your local SPCA (WSPCA, whoever) and you should be able to get a trap. This will be considerably safer for cat, yourself and kittens.
          Get the trap set (in locked-open mode) and start to habituate Egg to inspecting it for food. At you recharge the food bowl, also fiddle with the mechanism, because feline eyes will be watching you. While you’re habituating the queen to the trap, also try to habituate the queen and the kittens to you, and get the kittens to accept you as being a safe food source. But try to do this at a different place from the trap.
          Once the trap fires, get someone else (WSPCA officer?) to collect the trap and Egg and head off to the vets. Meanwhile, you can turn your attention to persuading the kittens into the house and accepting food from you. If they want to stay in the “tree nest”, live with it, but provide food and water while they wait for Mum to come back. (Now you see why someone else collects the trap and Egg?) With a hunting animal, Mum being out on the hunt for a couple of days is within the range of “has to be survivable”.
          You may be able to persuade the kittens to “adopt” you, in which case keeping the mother away until they’ve bonded enough to you may be appropriate. Later you can get them neutered. But otherwise, Egg has to come back, and soon. If the kittens bond to you OK, then probably best to say goodbye to Egg (sans ovaries). Which is another reason for already being in contact with the WSPCA.

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:08 am | Permalink

            I think I may have overstated Egg’s anti-social nature as well as our tactic of taking her to the vets – mainly we wait ’til she’s hungry at which point we can usually get up close, stroke her for a while then simply pick her up. The other-person-distraction technique isn’t really necessary any more as she’s better around us by now. I’ve also been feeding her by hand recently which seems to have helped(by contrast for the entire first week after we found her she hid in an incredibly awkward piece of panelling around the back of the downstairs toilet. All we could do was enter the room and leave food, water and a litter tray because she was so spooked,).
            As I type this she’s lying in the sun with the kittens by the front door, a few feet away from their home bush and although she’s still wary it’s an improvement from the day before yesterday. Since I first posted the kittens have entered the house, but only to run under the hallway grandfather clock together. I’m not sure why.

            Thanks for the post. This is the kind of advice we needed. I’m glad that any interaction with the kittens isn’t as verboten as I’d been led to believe. They’re very sweet although we still haven’t approached them yet. Egg’s still suckling them.

            • gravelinspector-Aidan
              Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

              Egg’s still suckling them.

              Sounds as if Egg is introducing the kittens to you in her own way.
              If feline reproductive physiology is like human, then when she completes weaning them is when she’ll start (hormonally) preparing for the next litter. That would be about the time that you would need to get her off to the vets- willing or no. So the capture plans need to be in place by then. The problem is if she decides to head off with the kittens on return – you’ll lose the opportunity to get them sterilised too.

    • Leslie
      Posted July 2, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      Saul, pick the kittens up immediately. Egg won’t reject them. In fact, you could bring them inside (allowing Egg to know where they are). Just get a nice box with a towel or blanket for them to snuggle up in.

      Of course, you’ll have to provide a litter pan for Mom & the little ones. Provide food & water and allow Egg to venture outdoors if she wishes.

      When you take her to be spayed (in a pet carrier to avoid any mishaps), ask the vet if/when the kittens will be old enough to sterilize. It’s up to you to stop this particular feline genealogy right where it is now.

      Good luck and kudos for being a responsible cat owner!


      • Leslie
        Posted July 2, 2016 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

        Saul, pick the kittens up immediately. Egg won’t reject them. In fact, you could bring them inside (allowing Egg to know where they are). Just get a nice box with a towel or blanket for them to snuggle up in.

        Of course, you’ll have to provide a litter pan for Mom & the little ones. Provide food & water and allow Egg to venture outdoors if she wishes.

        When you take her to be spayed (in a pet carrier to avoid any mishaps), ask the vet if/when the kittens will be old enough to sterilize. It’s up to you to stop this particular feline genealogy right where it is now.

        Good luck and kudos for being a responsible cat owner!


        PS Be sure to hold the kittens and play with them so they’re socialized. Pull a string for them to chase, move your fingers under a blanket for them to pounce upon,or buy a small “mouse” made especially for cats.

        • Saul Sorrell-Till
          Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:16 am | Permalink

          Thank you Leslie. That’s what I want to do of course – and the news that they’ve been found has persuaded both my sisters to come down from London to see them in a couple of weeks.
          Whatever happens, I want them to have a much happier and more contented life than their poor mum. It really is heartswelling to see how protective she is of them – for a month she must’ve moved them from place-to-place like they were little Salman Rushdies.

  5. bric
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Weir was well-known to Darwin:

    “Well known as a naturalist, he was an obsessive keeper of pets – with homes teeming with cats and dogs – and a breeder of sundry small animals. His expertise was recognised by Charles Darwin, with whom he corresponded; their letters survive. Darwin consulted Weir on aspects of breeding and variation in domestic birds, pigs and rabbits, and the artist is acknowledged throughout Darwin’s exploration of The Descent of Man (1871). We do not know if Weir concurred with Darwin’s theories, but it is interesting to note how the professional practice of zoology is informed with the observations of a diligent amateur.”

    I live a mere stone’s throw from the site of the Crystal Palace (it burned down in 1936, just the garden terraces survive).
    The other point of interest for WEIT readers is that Crystal Palace Park still hosts the earliest attempts to reconstruct dinosaurs from fossil remains (around 1854)

    • Richard Jones
      Posted July 2, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      I believe the two towers were spared from the flames but were destroyed at the beginning of WWI because they were highly reflective and would act as a guide to the Luftwaffe.

      • bric
        Posted July 3, 2016 at 2:22 am | Permalink

        Yes it’s a pity we lost the towers too, but they were 260 ft high on the highest part of London so the War Ministry had a point. They had in any case lost their original purpose long before the fire; they were built by Brunel as water towers to power the many fountains in the park, the local hard water had silted up the distribution pipes before the Crystal Palace Company went bankrupt in 1906.
        This is a film of the demolition of the North Tower; it’s foundations later became the base of the BBC T V transmitter tower.

        There is a pub in Upper Norwood called the Two Towers, I’m sure most people now think it’s something to do with Tolkien.

        • Richard Jones
          Posted July 3, 2016 at 7:34 am | Permalink

          Thanks. I grew up in Peckham and know Norwood (shades of Sherlock Holmes) and Crystal Palace quite well.

          • bric
            Posted July 3, 2016 at 8:32 am | Permalink

            Conan Doyle’s house in Tennison Road has a blue plaque, and is said to be one of the top ten tourist attractions in South Norwood. I have no idea what the others are.

            • Richard Jones
              Posted July 3, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink

              The Horniman museum is not too far away. I remember that from my childhood. I had not realised Doyle actually lived in S Norwood, I guess that is why he set a story there.

  6. Richard Jones
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Alice (Alice in Wonderland. 1865) had a cat named Dinah who she talked to. Dinah had kittens and Alice was very find of them. Not to forget the Cheshire Cat.

    Seems cats were household companions before that cat show, in Oxford at least.

  7. barn owl
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I have a traditional white maneki-neko, about four inches high and with right paw raised, which friends bought in San Francisco. I’ll send PCC(E) a photo I took of two large wooden maneki-neko, at a shop in the cat-friendly Yanaka neighborhood in Tokyo; one has the left paw raised, and the other the right.

  8. aaronwbg
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    My curiosity insists that I ask: Where does your aversion to TED talks come from?

    • Posted July 2, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      The laws of physics.

      • Aaron Weyenberg
        Posted July 2, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

        I see. Well thanks for linking to the playlist, despite these laws, and hope you enjoy them if you do decide to watch any (perhaps starting with Richard Turere’s – a seven minute story by a delightfully smart kid).

        Unrelated, thanks for Faith vs. Fact. It’s been on my shelf for a few months but just go around to it. I’m enjoying it so far.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted July 2, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        Ironic, since the supervisor of TED has given a laws of physics analysis on why the talks are limited to 18 minutes, and a few TED talks have been about the laws of physics which somehow reminds of me of Bertrand Russell’s paradox of the barber who shaves everyone in town who does not shave himself.
        The solution is the barber does not live in that town, and since you presumably enjoy talks on physics not given at TED, that seems to go along with the Russellian resolution!

        • Posted July 4, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

          The town in question is of course also in Australia or Brazil. (Or maybe Australia *and* Brazil.)

          (Will anyone get that?)

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 2, 2016 at 2:52 pm | Permalink


    • compuholio
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 4:45 am | Permalink

      I can relate. TED is mainly a stage for self-promotion. Nearly all people on that stage have a very big ego and very little to say. As far as I can tell that has always been the case but recently I have the impression that it has become even worse.

  9. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    One can like some good causes for the worst possible reasons (Ayn rand and free markets for example), and Camille Paglia seems to be one who loves cats for dubious reasons.

    “Cats are autocrats of naked self-interest. They are both amoral and immoral, consciously breaking rules. Their evil look at such times is no human projection: the cat may be the only animal who savors the perverse or reflects upon it.”

    (However, her analysis of cats in Egyptian iconography remains intriguing.)

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted July 2, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      In the news this week: a Wisconson couple was driven to call 911 because they were being held hostage by their cat I’m sure that cat was both savoring and reflecting on this perverse situation. Contrary to PC folks, who detest Paglia, I find her analyses of most everything intriguing, and even if one doesn’t agree, her observations and analyses are thought provoking, which is much more important than whether one agrees or disagrees with her. But talk about projection — in describing cats, she describes herself.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted July 2, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Agreed on all of the above points.

  10. Jenny Haniver
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    No free will, but we can have “lucky” cat icons? Perhaps that says something about the phantasm of free will.

    This morning, NPR aired a story about a Beatrix Potter story, due to be published soon, that had been lost and rediscovered “about a well-behaved black cat that lives a double life.” The original report seems to have aired back in January, which includes a link to an interview with the publisher who discovered it, and that’s the only link I can find to the NPR report, so I give it in case fans of hers wish to check it out Here’s a link to a BBC story about the book

  11. Posted July 2, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    “The ameliorization of pussy,” needs to be the title of a book, song, album, something.

    • bric
      Posted July 2, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      perhaps a self-help book?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted July 2, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      Too many syllables for the Adult Movie industry.

  12. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    And here’s an unusual one with both paws raised.

    Isn’t that cat about to do the devastating roundhouse kick from a series of children’s movies called something like “the Karate Kid”?

  13. Leslie
    Posted July 2, 2016 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    I was gifted with a maneki-neko by my niece, which waves hello with it’s upraised paw (solar powered). It’s been in my office window for 5-6 years and still going strong!

  14. Posted July 2, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

    It is cat lovers, especially who attribute even minimal intelligence or usefulness to cats, who are moral failures. As an evolutionist I fully understand that cats, not being social animals, never needed to understand or respond to human signals, language or body language, hence their inability to recognize their name, follow orders or learn anything at all. Any animal that gets agitated over a flashlight being focused on a dark wall is by definition a retard. Cats couldn’t care less if you are sick, in trouble or dying, nor could they care less whether you pet them or not. It’s strictly a business deal with them: they get housed and fed and you get a useless flea ridden schnorrer to whom you owe nothing except the ability to make up stories about how YOUR cat is different from all other cats and YOUR cat DOES know its name. I’ll spare you the spiritual and psychological benefits of having a dog because most people in the world know and enjoy them. But enjoy your myths about cats. You can talk to dogs, they respond, they have feelings, they are
    continually tuned in your behavior and actions, and they are FUN. It is dogs that are used for companions to people with mental and physical problems. It is guide dogs, not guide cats. It is watch dogs, not watch cats. And so forth. You are pitiable for not knowing and caring for dogs. My deepest sympathies.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 3:38 am | Permalink


    • bric
      Posted July 3, 2016 at 6:17 am | Permalink

      I think you are missing the utility of the daily lessons in irony involved in being a ‘cat lover’.

  15. Darren Garrison
    Posted July 5, 2016 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I have two maneki-neko myself. One a coin bank (he’s holding a daruma, so double the cultural references!) and one a furin-type windchime.

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