26 June 2008

cat town

France has its dogs, Iceland has its cats. People aren't dressing them up in little jackets and bringing them to cafés here, but walk down any side street and you'll see them shadowing into cracked-open windows, crouching under cars, curled on windowsills inside, and skulking through the gardens on nearly every street. At night the yowls of their battles drift through the windows.

On sunny days like the past week, their expansive mood can make for slow going, since I always have to stop and greet them all, and like Icelandic people, they get foolish and slightly sun-drunk when the weather's benevolent. In some of the older neighborhoods, they will lie in wait on the wide concrete walls, and follow your progress down the street, Give them one scratch on the cheek and they will follow you along the wall for blocks, hopping between fences and yards, looking hopeful.

Some are more aloof and will only watch warily from beneath cars or up in trees, but there's always one somewhere. Each stretch of sidewalk I have lived along in the past 2 years has had its own particular cat staking out the territory- the sprightly orange tabby that did the midnight rounds last year, the enormous black and white one that hefted its bulk through the fence to inspect your ankles this spring, and now my new place is loaded with them. There's the small white one that suns on the stump in the back yard, the tuxedo cat that lurks in the grass in the front yard, and all of them seem to be more than willing to twine around my legs and welcome me to their little corner of summertime Iceland.

8 comments:

tsduff said...

Our cousin in Seltjarnarness has a window cat ever present in the popout garden window overlooking the ocean - across the street from the walking path. You have captured the essence of the Icelandic feline presence well.

Jon said...

Guess I missed out on that when I was there. Too bad, as I have eleven of the little darlings.

SOe said...

I´m always wondering, how so many birds can still be in Reykjavik. No high trees (most of the birds are breeding on the ground), more than enough cats... By the way: Great pictures!

Food, she thought. said...

I love it. My life an an Icelandic pet!

Sir said...

Rosaleg krútt :)
You know, I think one reason why there may be more cats than dogs is because dogs were banned for years....sorry decades. Then you had to have a special permit which you could only obtain in neighbouring towns such as Seltjarnarnes, Hafnarfjörður or Kópavogur as dogs were banned in Reykjavík. And then they allowed dogs, in Reykjavik only with permits though, which don´t come cheap. And for the longest time dogs were banned from main streets such as Laugavegur. Some of these rules may have changed again.
And I think 99% of cats in Iceland are outside cats, and the idea of indoor cats is extremely foreign to the Icelander :)
Ég er að hugsa um að skilja eftir skilaboð á íslensku hér í blogginu þínu :) Ég þarf að æfa íslenskuna hjá mér.
Aldrei að hætta að blogga. Takk fyrir alla póstana

Anonymous said...

We came across a solid black cat in Hafnarfjordur which we thought was appropriate given the spirit of the area. Philip became its best friend when he gave it the slightest of attention. Too cute!

-Sarah :O)

Lisa said...

I loved this entry - our living room is graced with a framed print of a photo I took of the Icelandic cat we routinely passed on our way to and from the hotel. (Always perched on a cemetery wall.)

ECS said...

tsduff: I love all the cats everywhere since I'm a cat fan but currently don't have the kind of life that allows a pet of my own. This way I get to borrow dozens of them!

jon: my friend A came to visit and is a huge cat fan so I told her all about how friendly the cats were here, but not a one came out to say hello while she was in Iceland. I guess just like the good weather in Iceland, the cats are capricious.

soe: I was wondering that too, one sunday morning when I woke up while everyone was still sleeping off their hangovers. It's quite chirpy when it's quiet out!

food: it's great if you're a fan of cats but I wonder how the people who are allergic or scared of them feel :)

sir: that's some interesting stuff about the dog restrictions- I bet you're right that it's part of why it's all about the cats in RVK. Carry on with the Icelandic comments but I'll keep writing in English for the sake of the foreign contingency!

sarah: it seems that when you get them on a good (sunny) day they are unstoppable! I've had cats climb into my lap and simply refuse to understand when I pour them out of my lap over and over again. They WILL be my friend and they WILL share the love of the sunshine with me. I love it!

lisa: the walls here do seem to be tailor-made for cats to sit upon them and follow you. It definitely adds to the friendly neighborhood feelings in the town!