The Cat’s Pyjamas: Cats in Culture and Society

Senate House Library, University of London

Broadsheet ballad of Dick Whittington and his cat, 1805

The Cat’s Pyjamas: Cats in Culture and Society two-day conference will be held at Senate House Library May 25-26, focusing on the historic role of cats in our literature and society.

The conference will explore the influence of cats in literature, film, social media, and music with keynote talks looking at the role of cats in history, cat-human interaction, and cats in literature. Talks include:


  • Kathleen Walker-Meikle (Science Museum Group) on The Paradoxical Medieval Cat
  • Charlotte Lindgren (Uppsala University) on The Swedish Cat Findus on Book Covers
  • Lily Kahn (University College London) on The Representation of Cats in the Jewish Textual Tradition
  • Timothy Bourns (University College London) on Cats in Medieval Icelandic Life and Literature

According to the organisers: "The relationship between cats and libraries is centuries old - monastic records from the Middle Ages indicate cats were kept in medieval monasteries to control rats that might otherwise eat valuable manuscripts. Although rodent control is now less of a concern, there is still a strong symbiotic relationship between cats and libraries, with some cats even holding down steady jobs as librarians, a topic Dr Richard Espley, Chief Librarian and Keeper, V&A National Art Library, will explore during the conference."

The conference, available both in person and online, is dedicated to cat lover Liz James who worked at the Senate House Library until her death in 2022.

As well as talks and panel sessions, the conference will include an exhibition from Senate House Library’s collections which is also available in an online gallery, highlighting the rich and enduring bond between cats and the written word including Horace Walpole's Selima and Puss-in-Boots in pantomime.