How a Cat in Costume is Bringing Attention to a Local Library

Horatio has garnered over 10,000 followers for the Centre County Library thanks to his fun and creative costumes.

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Posted in , Apr 25, 2022

Horatio the Cat channeling Van Gogh

At the Centre County Library in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, Saturdays are now known as “Caturdays.” In 2014, Bibliographic & Patron Services Manager Lisa Shaffer wanted to boost the library’s online presence and promote their services to the public. Every Saturday, she snapped a photo of one of her cats sitting next to a book and posted it to the library’s Twitter account @centrecolibrary and later to their Instagram account @centrecountylibrary. Her #Caturday posts garnered some encouraging attention.

One Caturday, Lisa chose to feature a book because the author’s birthday was that week. For the photo, she put a birthday hat on Horatio, her ginger tabby. To her surprise, he seemed to enjoy it. “Horatio is very laid-back, and he took wearing the hat in stride,” Lisa says. A few weeks later, she made other hats for Horatio, and he happily wore those too.

Lisa wondered what would happen if she created simple costumes for the cats and used some props in the photos. She started with a post featuring Shakespeare’s works where the cats wore straws (later swapped for coffee filters) around their necks to look like Elizabethan ruffs. People loved it. Lisa took it up a notch, crafting wigs out of yarn and clothes out of felt.

She makes sure that the kitties are comfortable posing. Two of her five other cats—Marmalade and Jojo—tolerate wearing the costumes, but Horatio revels in it. “It’s his special thing,” Lisa says. “He’s so photogenic. He’s just a ham!”

Lisa particularly likes to re-create the covers of children’s books. Her cats have dressed up as characters from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and A.A. Milne’s The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh. Other representations include The Princess Bride and Hocus Pocus.

Not all of Lisa’s posts feature a book or a movie. Sometimes they celebrate a current event. When Prince Harry married Meghan Markle, Marmalade and Horatio dressed up as a bride and groom to commemorate the occasion.

To date, Lisa’s most labor-intensive Caturday post featured the Iron Throne from George R.R. Martin’s novel series, Game of Thrones. Lisa spent seven-and-a-half hours making the throne out of cardboard. “I’ve used it three times now, so it was worth it,” she says.

While social media has been the main place for folks to get their Horatio fix, the library also publishes a Caturday Calendar, featuring the best photos from the previous year. It’s sold as a fundraiser, and people all over the country have ordered. There’s also a Dog Days calendar, featuring the library’s tail-wagging tutors who listen to children read.

Unlike these canine volunteers, Lisa’s cats don’t actually come into the library. But Horatio does have his own life-size cardboard cutout amongst the books. “Everyone loves seeing him,” Lisa says.

Now, half of Lisa’s closet is filled with cat costumes. Thirteen-year-old Horatio is a real clotheshorse and loves a fashion show. “Somehow, he knows when I’m working on a new costume for him, and he comes in my room to watch,” she says. 

Caturdays have bumped the library’s Instagram account to nearly 10,000 followers. Lisa is thrilled but puts the focus back where it should be. “I want to promote the library as a place to connect with others and learn. So many wonderful services in libraries get overlooked, and we want to change that.”

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