Let’s accept it: everybody loves cats. Whoever doesn’t love cats is a weirdo, in the most negative sense of the word. From Lolcats to Burroughs, from Shrek’s Puss in Boots to Eliot, cats are and have been source of inspiration for many intellectuals, creatives and artists. They have the power to make people lose their minds and their respectability, often providing at the same time relief and happiness; their fascination powers can make brains melt and start everybody giggle uncontrollably. Cats are the rulers of the world and when we’ll start accepting it, we’ll indubitably be more at ease with ourselves and with whatever surrounds us.
Reykjavík is a cat city. Many other cities in the world are cat cities. Rome, a city I can say to know a bit, is also a cat city. In Rome cats are everywhere. They inhabit every corner and are considered a symbol of romanità. Those of Rome are stray cats, nameless critters living in the urban spaces as tigers in the jungle. They belong to nobody and nobody can truly get acquainted with them. Occasionally, they end on calendars and postcards to get tucked in tourists’ bags. The infamous gattare (homely old ladies, usually not very well-off, feeding stray cats) are one of the most explanatory examples of Rome’s relationship with its feline offspring. I once dreamt about becoming a gattara myself, because I like cats more than anything else.
Cats cities are not so extraordinary. Some other cities are dog cities, some are monkey cities. There are probably sloth cities and kangaroo cities as well out there, but we don’t know much about them yet, because sloths and kangaroos are still regarded as freaks of nature and they’re not so very fashionable. Sloths calendars are not even best-sellers, as far as I know.
What makes Reykjavík and its cats special is how cats are revered, pampered and treated almost like human citizens. They are not like Rome’s stray cats, scavengers occupying urban spaces of their own accord, creatures living in their own wilderness among ruins and heaps of rubbish, anonymous presences existing in extents parallel to those we inhabit ourselves. Reykjavík’s cats are family members: they are the crazy brothers or sisters that like climbing trees or rolling on floors. They have names and with those names, identities. They carry their personality around like we do. We greet them by name and know their idiosyncrasies one by one. Hello Felisha, good day to you Ýsa, good night Móri. They have circles of friends and acquaintances like us; they visit the same courtyards and houses, they sunbathe on the same garden walls. Their life is safe and well conceived, only adventurous enough to grant a little excitement and diversion now and then. They enter and exit through the many cat passages installed everywhere in buildings freely; they spend the afternoon on the beach, trying to catch birds or just resting on a rock or on the fresh grass; then they go somewhere to have dinner – maybe your house, if you leave a door opened for them at the right hours. Reykjavík cats are self-sufficient, but just as much as it is possible to well-educated and civilized individuals; they’re not wild beasts living on their own, everyday’s survivors: they need support from society all the time. But when they obtain what they need to satisfy their basic needs, they’re as good as anybody else, like you and me, to carry on. What I like about them is what I couldn’t find in stray cats, the intimacy and the sense of safety and well-being they suggest when you look at them. But of course they lack a little of the untamed mystery of the strays, so difficult to approach and to understand, at times.
Since our arrival in Iceland, we’ve been crossing paths with so many cats it would be almost impossible to count them all. Some of those cats are recurring encounters: we pass their spots each day or rather frequently and we got to know their ways and their habits. We call them by name and know which other cats they like or dislike. As I said, everybody, more or less, likes cats. Cats are a worldwide popular subject in websites. Since we are tired of writing about things nobody really wants to know, like how much the grumpy Owl dislikes this and that, we are going to remain on the conventional side for a change. This monthly space is going to be about Reykjavík cats. So stay tuned for feline updates. Meow!