Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Cat Fit For A Library, And A Library Fit For A Cat

By Nancy Mattoon

Toff Relaxes With Another Carleton College Treasure,
A Bust Of Poet Friedrich von Schiller.

(Image Courtesy of Carleton College.)

On March 9, 2011 students, faculty, and staff at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota mourned the loss of one of the school library's most popular visitors. Toff the Cat, who died of cancer at age 14, had been adopted by the entire campus, but was especially popular with the literary set. His April 1st birthday was celebrated with book displays in the Laurence McKinley Gould Library, and his recommended reading list was an annual feature both there and at the campus bookstore.

Toff Enjoying One Of His Favorite Books.
(Image Courtesy of Carleton College.)

Toff began his days as a house cat belonging to the daughter of two Carleton professors, but his thirst for knowledge took him beyond the narrow confines of his birthplace. He spent over a dozen years on the Carleton College campus, got elected to student senate as a write-in candidate, was featured in the alumni magazine and on the school's website, and even appeared on postcards sold at the student bookstore. Sadly, he never completed a degree, despite attending classes and turning up at the library at all hours.

Toff's Birthday,
Celebrated With A Book Display At The Gould Library.

(Image Courtesy of Carleton College.)

Toff's late-night study habits resulted in a run-in with campus security on at least one occasion. According to the campus crime blotter, officers responded to a motion detector alarm tripped at the school's library around 3 a.m. The commander's official report outlines the cold, hard facts,"I began a search of the Libe only to locate the suspect on the second floor. Looking into the uncaring, unfeeling eyes of the suspect, I realized that Toff really has an attitude towards Security." (Toff found the atmosphere more welcoming at his other after-hours haunt, Northfield's Contented Cow pub.)

Toff Was Forever In Clover At Carleton.
(Image Courtesy of Carleton College.)

News of Toff's passing was covered by newspapers throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin, and his Facebook page has been filled with condolences. "I'll miss you waiting at the library doors for someone to let you in," one message reads. Another student notes she'll miss "the sound of his bell as he strolls through the Libe." Economics professor Martha Paas, one of Toff's housemates, summed up his rebellious appeal: "Even though there's a rule that animals may not go into [campus] buildings, it didn't apply to him because he was who he was."

In honor of Carleton College's beloved campus cat, and others like him, Booktryst is highlighting the brilliant creation of Belgian industrial furniture designer Corentin Dombrecht. His modular stairway to feline heaven, The Cat Library, was inspired by a video of Pages, a former stray from Valley Center, Kansas, who found a home at the Public Library. This ingenious bookcase will be on show at the 2011 Stockholm Furniture Fair. It features customized, kitty-sized stairs leading to a built-in, top-shelf lounging basket. Dombrecht notes that the prototype was, "Approved by Mitsu. My mother-in-law's cat." We bet Toff would have loved it.


  1. This is just so amazing. :') I wish UF had someone like Toff, but I get the feeling this guy is one of a kind.

  2. Wonderful! I want the bookcase. Farewell, Toff. I wish I had a cat like you on my campus.

  3. Dear Nancy, what beautiful writing about a truly lovely creature who will be missed by many more than just his mere mortal acquaintances, but his admirers from afar as well. Sybil

  4. I think Toff should be awarded an honorary doctorate...

  5. I don't even have a cat and I want that cat library.

    This is a very nice tribute to Toff. I'm sure he will be missed, even by security.

  6. Reminds me of Stubbs the cat, the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska. One of a kind for sure!


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