The Centre County Library & Historical Museum is a public library with the main branch and historical museum in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, two branches in Centre Hall and Philipsburg, and a county-wide Bookmobile. The said libraries have much to offer, including monthly book and film discussion groups, cookbook club, genealogical and local history resources, an online digital library and resources, LEGO club, children's storytimes, and a Tail Waggin' Tutor program with certified therapy dogs Faolin and Conner, along with the thousands of materials available for checkout. However, what separates this library from all the others is the fact that it has a very special employee: a cat named Horatio. Every week, Horatio stars in the hashtag #caturday on the establishment's Instagram, contributing some really wholesome pictures.
To attract the public and increase the number of readers and consumption of art in general (even if it is those nostalgic films like The Princess Diaries, Star Wars, and so on), social worker and Horatio’s owner Lisa Shaffer turns her cat into iconic Hollywood, historic and pop-culture figures, be it real or fictional characters.
The library is also preparing to have their 2022 Caturday and Dog Days calendar fundraiser. And this is the 4th year they'll be selling a calendar featuring their Caturday photos and the 3rd year with their Tail Waggin' Tutors. The calendars should be on sale on their website starting in October.
Bored Panda reached out to Lisa Shaffer (Horatio's owner) to find out a little bit more.
“Horatio lives with me but his cardboard cutout is at our main branch in Bellefonte. He is a sweet and docile cat and he always knows and is interested when I'm crafting a costume for him.
He gets treats when we do a 'photoshoot' and is quite patient when dressed and sits for the photo. We worked our way up from hats and bowties to shirts to wigs and more elaborate costumes, all of which Horatio wears easily.”
First, we asked Lisa about the initial idea of dressing up Horatio as different literary icons.
"The idea behind the 'Caturday' posts was to highlight the library by combining two things people love: cats and books. The posts began in February 2014 as simple photos of my cats (mostly Horatio) sitting next to books, often with a cat-themed pun as the caption. Horatio was always the cat who most enjoyed sitting for photos and later, I added props and hats to embellish the photos, which slowly evolved into wigs, costumes, and backdrops. I often themed the posts to coincide with a birthday, anniversary, or event and feature library materials about that subject."
We noticed that all of Horatio's costumes are handmade. Therefore, we were curious to find out how long it takes for Lisa to make one full costume.
"Most of the costumes are hand-crafted, though some are actual costumes created specifically for pets to wear (e.g. Chewbacca and the postal carrier). I often use toddler-sized shirts as a base for the outfit or create one using felt and a pattern. I repurpose outfits, so some costumes can take less than 30 minutes to add additional elements while others can take an hour or more to create from scratch, so to speak, wig included."
Of course, Horatio being the special cat that he is, we also wanted to know what his personality was like.
"Horatio is a 13-year-old tabby who is gentle and sweet with a loud purr. Whenever I craft a costume, he's inquisitive and knows it's for him. He also has a sixth sense for when I'm ready to take a photo and often appears right before I was about to call for him. Horatio is very amiable and while he is rather shy around strangers, he is a ham for the camera. He always seems to know the subject he's emulating and has the 'purrfect' expression."
We also wanted to find out what Lisa’s favorite thing about Horatio is.
"My favorite thing about Horatio is that he is more than a cat, he's my best friend. He knows when I'm down and need cheering up. Just having him by my side and his companionship means a lot."
We noticed that Horatio isn’t the only cat in the household, so we asked Lisa to tell us a bit more about the other cats!
"Horatio is one of seven cats in the house that range in age from 14 months to going on 17. All of my cats are strays or the kittens of strays who were taken in and given a home. Horatio is the middle cat out of River, Tiger, Betty, Marmie, Loki, and Jojo. A few of the others have been part of the Caturday photos, but Horatio is the one who really likes posing and wearing costumes."
The tabby furball sure is special, so we asked his owner if she had any fun facts or stories to share with us.
"Horatio rolls over for food. He gets treats whenever we do a 'photoshoot' but he is particularly adorable when he wants extra treats and flops on the floor, looks up at you with these wide eyes that lure you in, and then rolls over before you can look away. Of course, he has to be rewarded and he knows it."
Horatio’s costume story was seen by a lot of people around the world, but we think it's important to see the main message behind the act.
"While Horatio does not live at the library, his Caturday photos are all about advocating for libraries, literacy, and learning. Public libraries are more than just warehouses of books; they are community centers filled with free information and resources and they welcome everyone. I hope people who see Centre County Library & Historical Museum's Caturday posts with Horatio enjoy them and are intrigued to learn more and visit their local library."