Where Have all the Cats Gone?

The cat, Nini, Caffè dei Frari, Venice
"Venice is one of the world's supreme cat-cities", wrote Jan Morris in her influential book on Venice, adding, "It is a metropolis of cats." It may have been in 1960 when Morris wrote the book, it certainly isn't today. There are dogs aplenty, but the cats seem to have left town. 

One of Venice's most famous cats was Nini, a white tom, who lived in the Caffe di Frari, in the 1890s. The owner of the cafe promoted Nini to such an extent that the cat became an international celebrity. The great and the good would call on him and sign his visitors' book. The names of Pope Leo XIII, Tsar Alexander III and Giuseppe Verdi were all entered in the book. 

The cafe is situated opposite the state archives and the English historian Horatio Brown (1854-1926), who frequented both places, penned an ode to Nini, when the tom finally passed through the great cat flap in the sky. Morris quotes the final stanza: 

Yours was indeed a happy plight,
For down the Frari corridors,
The ghosts of ancient senators,
Conversed with you the livelong night. 


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