Articles in Featuring Felines are written by
Patrick Roberts

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Library Cats from Australasia

New Zealand and Australia

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Library cat Tessa Brown - late of the Kelburn Campus Library, Victoria University, Wellington, NZ
Library cat Sandy Rankine - formerly of the Kelburn Campus Library, Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
Library cat Sandy Rankine - formerly of the Kelburn Campus Library, Victoria University, Wellington, NZ
Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand

In early 2003 Victoria University in Wellington — New Zealand's capital city, situated at the southern tip of the country's North Island — took on two cats at the library of Kelburn campus, Sandy Rankine (lower) and Tessa Brown (top). Their names derived partly from the Rankine Brown building in which the library is situated. Tessa preferred to hang out more behind the scenes, in the workroom, while Sandy enjoyed spending most of his time lounging around 'out front' and meeting students. Like many library cats, he loved riding on the book trolleys, and he would greet staff as they arrived each morning. The two cats were good friends, but Tessa passed away in 2008, having suffered from hyperthyroidism and urinary tract disease.

Sandy, too, was ill late in 2009, with pancreatitis and diabetes, and needed ongoing medication. His treatment was expensive and some events were held to raise funds for it. One very successful one organised by library staff was a Cat Fest at one of the city's bars. After this, and partly because a lot of noisy construction work was due to be carried out around the library, in February 2010 he retired to a quiet home in the Newtown district. His vet thought the move would be better for him, and it meant he was sure to receive his medication regularly and was nearer the veterinary hospital if needed — after all, he was thought to be about 17 years old at retirement. Anyway, while he didn't get as much attention as he did at the library, he was said to be relaxed and enjoying life, especially being able to go out in the fresh air and sunshine instead of being kept indoors.

Sandy didn't have very long to enjoy his retirement, but he did love getting special treats and his first experiences of the outdoors in years — he particularly liked rolling in the dirt and sniffing the fresh air! Sadly his illness caught up with him in July 2010 and he passed away. The library held a memorial service for him later in the month; he was much missed by staff and students alike.

(with acknowledgements to the student magazine Salient).

Willie, late library cat of Te Kuiti District Library, New Zealand    TE KUITI PUBLIC LIBRARY
Waitomo District, New Zealand

Jean Hitchen of the library writes:
Willie came to town in late 1997 under the bonnet of a car, got locked inside a vehicle testing station for 4 days over Christmas and then was found by the SPCA, who rang the girls at the library (including me) to house Willie for a short time until we sorted out his future. That was the start of a beautiful friendship! Willie grew and grew and eventually tipped the scales at 9.5 kilos (over 20 lbs). He was always trying out new diets, but still remained big enough to play lock in the All-Blacks rugby team. He was so big that he couldn't fit through a normal cat flap, so a group of children from the Waitomo School raised money so the library could install a bigger-model cat-flap door. Willie was described in the NZ Listener magazine as 'being as big as a hog' — one of his many claims to fame. He was featured frequently in the Te Kuiti newspaper, not just for being the library cat but once for being a cat burglar. He got locked in the hardware shop across the road and the alarms went off. Police, fire and guards arrived, and on investigation — there was Willie! The library made postcards featuring Willie with the message, 'When you have a book and a cat, every day is purr-fect.' These cards were sent nationally and internationally by our patrons.

In 2003 Willie went global and featured on an international website for library cats (the Iron Frog site –Ed.) He was an icon, not just for his monster size but because he also had the personality to go with it. He was the centre of attention in the library, with the catch call from everybody that came in: 'Where's Willie?' He was putty in the hands of his women admirers, and could cope with most of the children who came to visit him. He had a favourite chair in the workroom where he spent a considerable amount of time sleeping (when allowed). At night he would be out jay-walking and visiting his cat friends, both boys and girls. Sadly, that was the downfall of our beloved cat; he was found one morning in May 2005 close to the library, mauled to death by dogs. It was a sad and tragic end to the cat who had become a town celebrity; library staff and patrons alike mourned his passing. Willie touched the lives of many people. He now rests in my garden under an olive tree where he can smell the flowers, listen to the birds and dream beautiful cat dreams.

Moggie, library cat at the Carmelite Library, Middle Park, Victoria, Australia    CARMELITE LIBRARY
Middle Park, Victoria, Australia

The Carmelites are members of an international Catholic order of friars with a continuous spiritual tradition spanning over eight centuries and cultures of both East and West. When they first arrived in Australia in 1881 they brought the nucleus of today's Carmelite Library with them; it has developed over the years and today concentrates on everything to do with the Carmelite Order, on works on spirituality, and on Mariology, the theological study of the Virgin Mary. Their website showed a handsome tabby library cat called Moggie (see archived page), who was resident at the library for some years from we think about 2003, when she replaced former resident Maggie. However, when the librarian and Moggie's chief carer left to study in Rome, there was no one able to care for her at weekends and holidays. She therefore went to a fine home in an 'upmarket' part of Melbourne to live out her life in luxury.

Henry, late library cat of MG Lay Library, ARRB Research Group, Vermont South, Victoria, Australia    M.G. LAY LIBRARY, ARRB Research Group
Vermont South, Victoria, Australia

This library was home to library cat Henry from 1981 until 1995. Since then there have been no plans to take on another cat.

See also

Library Cats in America
and in

Library Cats - history, society, job description, and rules

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Do you know of any other library cats in Australia or New Zealand?
Please contact me,

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Our featured feline at the head of the page is Socks, pictured in 2003 surveying his 'estate' in the early morning sunshine. Affectionately known as Soxy, he blossomed from a thin and hungry stray into a substantial and handsome cat who loved life and company, and his gentle ways endeared him to many friends. He's no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.

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