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The Cat’s Pyjamas: Cats in Culture and Society


The domestic cat, Felis catus, has become an integral part of our daily lives. But have you ever stopped to consider the cultural significance of our feline friends?

Two black and white cats from a manuscript scan

The Cat’s Pyjamas: Cats in Culture and Society is a two-day interdisciplinary conference held at Senate House Library on 25-26 May that aims to delve deep into the multifaceted role of cats in our society.

The conference will explore the influence of cats across various mediums, from literature and film to social media and music. Scholars are invited to discuss what cats truly signify to us, how we interact with them, and how they impact our health and wellbeing. The conference includes three keynote talks covering the role of cats in history, cat-human interaction, and cats in literature.

In addition to the talks and panel sessions, the conference will include an exhibition from Senate House Library’s collections. The exhibition, which is curated by staff from Senate House Library and available in an online gallery, will include a selection of items that highlight the rich and enduring bond between cats and the written word.

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 Cat’s Pyjamas: Cats in Culture and Society is a unique collaboration between UCL and Senate House Library and was partially funded through the University of London’s discretionary fund. The conference is dedicated to the memory of Liz James, who worked at Senate House Library and loved cats. 

For more information and to register for the event, please visit The Cat's Pyjamas: Cats in Culture and Society website.