Questions & Answers

Got questions about the cat statues around York? Hopefully, you’ll find answers here! You’ll find details about each cat in the Cat Directory. Otherwise, feel free to contact us.

Why are there cat statues dotted around York?

No one knows the origins of all the cat statues, some of which may have been put in place as far back as the early 19th Century. Some may have been intended to attract people to a shop or simply to amuse children. Others may be to scare pigeons. We do know that the more recent statuettes are the artistic signature of architect Tom Adams, who has worked on many buildings in this beautiful city. Another thing we do know: we’re very glad they are there! These cats liven up the city and delight visitors and locals alike. Some have even asked Tom Adams if they can buy their own cat statue! This website is a tribute to all the cat statues in York, and also a resource for others to find out as much about them as possible.

How old are the cats?

Some are believed to be from the early 19th Century. An article in the Evening Press on 13th April 1962 states that the two on Low Ousegate were originally put there in the 1920s. Other have been put in place by Tom Adams; his first was in 1982, and the most recent that we know of was installed in 2005. To find out the age of a particular cat, check out its page in the Cat Directory.

Who made the cats?

Cat number 15

It is not known who made the Low Ousegate cats, as they are a source of mystery, and there is conflicting information about them. All of Tom Adams’ cats have been sculpted by local artist and sculptor, Jonathan Newdick, who visited the RSPCA animal’s home in York and drew some sketches on which he based the statues. Most of Jonathan’s cats are cast using an indestructible polyester resin, while others are made of fibreglass, concrete, and plastic. For more information on each cat’s origins, visit the Cat Directory. Or you might like to get a cat of your own!

How many of these cats are there in York?

No one is entirely sure. We currently know of 22 decorative cats that adorn buildings around York. Unfortunately, three of the cats in our Cat Directory are currently missing from their locations. If you find any cats that are not in our directory, please let us know and we’ll update the tally!

Have there been other cats?

We believe so. It seems that, sadly, some may have been taken down or stolen, though we cannot confirm the locations of most of these. One such cat used to adorn a building on Fossgate, but when William Birch & Sons moved to Osbaldwick, the owner took the cat with him. It may make a reappearance at its new home, so we’ll keep you informed if we hear more about this one.

We also know of a few cat statues dotted around the country, including one climbing a building at Brighton’s Old Steine (for more information, read this article in the Brighton and Hove Leader).

Also, we have recently found several decorative cats from around the world using the Flickr photo sharing website. Take a look at our finds on the Cats in York Flickr group and our posts on Decorative cats around the world.

Who was Tom Adams?

A section of an architectural sketch by Tom Adams including cat

Tom Adams was a renowned architect who worked in York for 30 years. His obsession with cats started when he was a student, and he started putting a cat in all his drawings and perspectives to make them stand out. He told us that he chose to use a cat after someone told him that Leonardo Da Vinci used to draw a mouse on his sketches – this may be a myth, however.

Sadly, Tom passed away in January 2006. Please read our tribute to Tom Adams.

Where can I get my own cat statuette?

We get a lot of people asking where they can get their own faux feline friend! As mentioned, many of the cats around York were sculpted by Jonathan Newdick so we recommend getting in touch with him. There are contact details for Jonathan and some other sources that you may like to try in our blog entry, Getting your own cat statuette, or check out Jonathan’s website.

Who is behind the Cats in York site, and why?

Jon and Jo lived in York for six years, and became fascinated by the cat statuettes dotted around the city. There was very little information about the cats or their locations, so it became their mission to find out as much as possible and make it easily available to others. After researching the archives at York City Library (now Explore York) and locating as many cats as possible, they put everything together into this site. They no longer live in York, but they come back and visit the cats as often as they can!