This week, Istanbul honored one of its most famed felines with a statue that replicated its chill pose beloved by the internet. A statue of Tombili, was inaugurated on October 4. His jaunty pose, with one furry arm up on the curb, casts in bronze the laid back photograph that made him a meme.
Tombili died in August after illness. According to Hürriyet Daily News, sculptor Seval Şahin “voluntarily erected the sculpture demonstrating Tombili’s iconic pose on the sidewalk,” installing it right where the photograph was taken. The unveiling follows an enthusiastic Change.org campaign for Tombili’s memorialization.
Tombili joins a long line of famed cats honored with public statuary. Here’s a quick tour through some highlights of feline monuments:
Hodge was the companion of 18th-century dictionary pioneer Samuel Johnson. James Boswell, in his Life of Johnson, wrote: “I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature.”
Near their former shared home in London, you can find Hodge in bronze, seated atop a dictionary, alongside some empty oyster shells, the remains of his favorite food. Emblazoned on the statue unveiled in 1997 in Gough Square are the words: “A very fine cat indeed.”
Towser the Mouser
With a lifetime tally of 28,899 mice killed, Guinness World Records proclaims Towser our “most prolific mouser” on record. Known as Towser the Mouser, the long-haired tortoiseshell was the bane of barley-loving mice at Glenturret Distillery in Perthshire, Scotland, from 1963 to 1987. After her death, the distillery memorialized Towser with a bronze statue.
A plaque alongside the statue of Trim the cat in Sydney, Australia, anoints him the “best and most illustrious of his race.” Trim was an adventurous black cat with white paws, who accompanied his master, Captain Matthew Flinders, on several voyages, including the circumnavigation of Australia. Trim’s final voyage was in 1803, when he was taken prisoner along with Flinders after a shipwreck on the French-controlled island of Mauritius. The cat’s fate after that is unknown, but he was added in bronze behind a statue of Flinders in Australia in 1996, the sculpture by John Cornwell joining the beloved feline with his friend.
Dick Whittington’s Cat
There may be more legend than reality to the tale of Dick Whittington and his cat, which is remembered in a couple of statues in London, including the above limestone monument on Highgate Hill, erected in 1821. There was a real Sir Richard Whittington who is the basis for the myth of a man whose cat was so good at mousing it could be sold for gold. The real Whittington, and the folkloric one, were both Lord Mayor of London in the 15th century — but it’s unknown if Sir Richard actually had a cat, or if its mousing abilities earned him enough wealth to go from rags to riches.
Poor Panteleimon died in a fire in Kiev after friendly service in a restaurant near the Ukrainian city’s Golden Gate Park. The Persian cat is remembered in a 2009 bronze by Bogdan Mazur on a boulder outside the park, its metal ears now shiny from loving hands.
Finnish poet Edith Södergran was a cat person, even penning a 1916 poem called “Luck Cat” about holding a lucky cat in her arms. A statue of her cat Totti is now in Roschino, Russia, commemorating the place where they summered together.
Hamish McHamish was so popular in his hometown of St Andrews, Scotland, he received a statue before his death. Placed on April 5, 2014, the monument was supported by residents who donated thousands of pounds. Yet Hamish McHamish wasn’t a hero of any kind or some celebrity’s pet, he was just a friendly neighbor, roaming the shops and University of St Andrews, winning admirers wherever he strolled. Just a few months after the monument was unveiled, Hamish McHamish died at the age of 15.
Sir Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–1917 is famed for the perseverance of its ice-trapped crew, but not all the beings aboard the Endurance survived. Shackleton ordered that the sled dogs be shot, as well as Mrs. Chippy, a cat owned by Scottish carpenter Harry McNish. Despite the name, Mrs. Chippy was actually a male tabby, but McNish was nicknamed “Chippy,” and the cat’s moniker reflected their close relationship. McNish never forgave Shackleton, and that tension undoubtedly contributed to his being excised from the greater fame the other Endurance survivors enjoyed. In 2004, the New Zealand Antarctic Society, which had previously marked McNish’s anonymous grave in New Zealand, added a life-size statue of Mrs. Chippy to McNish’s tomb, finally rejoining them in death.
Readers Sandy Lerner and Vicki Bendure brought another incredible cat monument to our attention. On the campus of North Carolina State University (NCSU) is a statue of Cyrano L. Catte II, or “Ratty” as the long-haired orange and white cat was known. Ratty, who was owned by Lerner, received the first feline knee replacement on campus, and was also the first feline stereotactic radiation recipient. You can read about the pioneering surgery on the NCSU site. Sadly, Ratty has since passed away, but the sculpture was dedicated in his memory.
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