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Purr-fect: conference charting relationship between humans and felines is the cat’s whiskers


The long, intimate relationship between humans and cats is being explored in a two-day conference at Senate House library, University of London on May 25-26. 

black and white cat

“The Cat’s Pyjamas” will investigate cats in society, social media, literature, film, TV series, music, language, history, and in our every-day lives.

Topics up for discussion at the interdisciplinary conference will include Cats in Arabic Love Poetry; Decolonising Gender through Feline Femininity; and Cats and Language Pedagogy. Per-Arne Bodin of Stockholm University will also give a talk titled “Ukrainian and Russian Cats ‒ On Language and War.” The programme is available online.

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 the Library and available online, includes a selection of items that highlight the rich and enduring bond between cats and humans. There are illustrations of London’s first mayor, Dick Whittington, with his cat; the Cheshire Cat of the Alice in Wonderland stories; and a poster from a 1936 production of Puss in Boots.

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. The conference will open with a tribute to Liz by Senate House Library staff.

Academic librarian Andrea Meyer Ludowisy said:

“Cats and humans have been interacting for tens of thousands of years, and the relationship has been mostly symbiotic. Humans are rewarded by cats keeping our homes and food stores free of rodents, and on occasion receiving a little affection; cats by being provided with food, warmth and occasionally a soft lap (strictly on their terms, of course).

“However, the relationship between our species has also been important for other reasons, the protection of ancient manuscripts being one of them. Cats have been revered, worshipped, fetishized, and feared throughout human history, so we are very excited about this conference and would invite anyone with an interest in cats to visit the library in person or online to find out more.”

How to register

In person registration £25 - deadline 18 May 2023

For in-person attendees the fee covers refreshments and lunch.

Online registration £10 - deadline 24 May 2023

The online fee contributes to event costs. Any surplus will be donated to a cat charity.

Please sign up for two days even if you are attending only some of the conference.