150 Celebrating Christchurch City Libraries 1859-2009 RSS feed

Library cats

Over the years some of our libraries have been lucky to have a cat in residence. This is not surprising given the often joked about fondness that librarians are said to have for cats.


George the catGeorge was cat in residence at the old Canterbury Public Library on Cambridge Terrace from 1963 to 1976. Librarian Barbara Collie regularly fed George at weekends when the library was closed and there is a lovely little photo sequence showing this. George could sometimes show a bit of temperament and scratches were not uncommon. He also had a playful side and cataloguer Brian Gilberthorpe remembers him sitting on the wooden card cabinets and reaching up to swat the art work which hung above them.

A humorous story in the Christchurch Star in January 1975 described George as “one of the city’s best-known cats”. The same paper noted his death in April 1976. George was estimated to be about 14 years old and had been unwell for about six weeks before it was decided that he should be put down. George occasionally disappeared but would always return to the library. Several customers regularly left money for his support.

Pete the Shirley Library cat

In March 1995 the libraries’ Bookmark magazine introduced Pete the Shirley Library cat:
“Due to the development of a mall at Shirley, the area around the Shirley Library resembles a bombsite. More than 10 houses have been removed to make way for car parks and a barren wasteland has been created. Out of this turmoil came a small orphaned feline who was in much need of a home and some TLC. He very quickly adopted the library as his home and the staff as his family. His name is Pete.”

Pete recorded his own story (with a bit of useful book recommendation thrown in):

Pete the cat“I’ve really landed on my feet becoming the Library cat – life couldn’t be better. When I first arrived they sent me away for a small operation which I wasn’t too happy about and on my return I found a book called First aid for the cat and this helped in my recovery. At first the staff couldn’t decide what breed of cat I was; I could have told them but being experts they preferred to check me out in a book called All about cats. They found out that I’m a Russian Blue (this noble ancestry comes from my mother’s side) Enough from me for now; please feel free to come and search me out at the library; I just love visitors, especially those bearing edible gifts.”

Pete became a popular figure at the library. His preferred time in the public area of the library was first thing in the morning when it was quieter. If he was tired of the public attention he would retreat under the book stands or go to the workroom where he had a chair he would sleep on. Except in really cold weather, Pete was put out each night and slept in a kennel outside in a closed courtyard at the back of the library.

When the Shirley Library caught fire in 1997 Pete disappeared and at first there were fears for his safety. After two days he was found hiding in long grass behind a nearby building. At first he was sent to a nearby cattery, but then made his home with librarian Barbara Reed and did not return to the refurbished library.

More cats, more tails…

Other library cats have included Charlie Girl, Starsky and Malvina at Hornby Library in the 1970s and just recently Boysie at Library Outreach Services. Boysie came to Library Outreach (the people who support the Mobile Library and Storyline among other services) in 2004. At first quite wild, Boysie settled down to become a companionable cat about the work place. Unfortunately Boysie was picked on by neighbourhood cats, costing a fortune in vet’s bills and eventually he went to live with a former library staff member at Kaiapoi.


Library travels with my Father

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