Cats in the Enlightenment (Part 13 – Cats in Art – William Hogarth)

The English painter, William Hogarth, (1697-1794), who was highly critical of the lax social mores of the time, set out to draw and paint about issues which he felt strongly, using the cat symbolically in many of his works.  A versatile artist, Hogarth was both a painter and engraver.  Some of his most famous engravings […]

CATS IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT (Part 5 – Poems and Epitaphs for Deceased Cats)

Composing  poetry to deceased beloved companion cats was a trend of the times. Just as Johnson had mourned the death of Hodge, Bentham and many others would mourn the deaths of their beloved companion cats.  The following are some examples from the London Magazine of 1733, but interestingly enough these poems are anonymous, probably because […]

CATS IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT (PART 3 – Samuel Johnson and Hodge)

Samuel Johnson, the father of the first English dictionary, had a cat named Hodge for whom he cared deeply.  James Boswell, Johnson’s friend and biographer, found Johnson’s relationship with Hodge so important that he included a description of this bond in Johnson’s biography.  “Nor would it be just under this head, to omit the fondness […]

CATS IN THE ENLIGHTENMENT (Part 2- Jeremy Bentham)

Building on Diderot’s earlier philosophy, Jeremy Bentham’s (1748-1832) English philosophy of Utilitarianism was also based on the belief that all actions should lead to happiness ‘…it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong’.  Undoubtedly, as a cat owner, he must have considered and included the happiness […]


The cat is referred to in many of Shakespeare’s 37 plays, albeit always negatively.  And it was Shakespeare who borrowed the name Tybalt from the fable Reynard the Fox, and used it in his play Romeo and Juliet, wherein Mercutio insultingly remarks that Tybalt is a “rat catcher” and the “king of cats.” He also […]

Cats in Early Modern Period Literature – Beware the Cat 1570

Perhaps not so surprising, the first novel written in English is entitled Beware the Cat by William Baldwin (1515-1563), and includes cats as the main characters. What dog could live up to this claim to fame? First published in 1570, during the Reformation, and set in Ireland, it is a satire on Catholicism; an attack […]

Cat Poems – Sacrifice to the Cat that Scared all the Rats, Mei Yao Ch’en (1002-1060AD)

During the latter part of the T’ang and Sung Dynasties (618-1279 AD) Chinese cat poems and paintings became popular. Here Mei Yao Ch’en (1002-1060AD) writes a heartfelt poem to his dead cat.   Sacrifice to the Cat that Scared all the Rats When I had my Five White cat, The rats did not invade my books. This […]

Cat Poems – Agathias 550AD

Agathias wrote the first poem about a cat in history.  Born in 530AD in Asia Minor, in today’s Turkey, he was known as a poet and a historian of the reign of the Byzantine Roman emperor Justinian I between 552 and 558.     In this poem written in 550AD Agathias mentions a ravenous cat attacking one of his beloved […]


The Dutch painters of the golden age turned to realism instead of religious subjects, as portrait painting was much more lucrative. Dutch genre paintings tend to illustrate everyday life at all levels of society, and cats, essential to most households, are often in these still lifes and portraits. In The Katzen Familie (1650), the Dutch […]


By the 1590’s, the Baroque style was just beginning to spread across Europe. Noted for its dramatic use of line and vivid color, the style, through its energy and movement, expressed power and control.  Favored by the church, the main patron of art at the time, the easily understood Baroque style conveyed the church’s religious, […]

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