Amsterdam bar cats are an institution, adored by the clientele, with certain felines so celebrated they even have their own website. Some put it down to the mouse problem. A problem that may well have something to do with there being a cheese shop on virtually every corner, which must seem like manna to the little critters. And as a dish of cubed cheese is often the accompaniment of choice to a beer or genever one certainly doesn’t want to be sharing it with a miniature companion. To be honest the majority of cats I’ve come across over the years have seemed far too lazy to be bothered to chase mice, but that could simply be because they’ve been up all night doing their job.
The first bar cat I remember becoming intimately acquainted with was Bowie. A slightly grubby white thing he had, as his name suggests, one blue and one green eye*. He belonged, or at least deigned to frequent, De Drie Fleschjes, situated on a narrow little street behind The Dam Square. Long since deceased he was briefly succeeded by a kitten who loved to pose on the seats of scooters parked outside as adoring visitors took photos. Clearly bar life didn’t suit the newcomer though as a few months later he decamped to a new home.
De Admiraal had Booky who loved to shed tortoiseshell hairs on my lap as I sipped genever and nibbled on herring. A rare example of a truly sociable bar cat she is sorely missed. The huge ginger tom who frequented Café de Doelen had a glare so evil you knew you would be foolish to try and shift him from his place on your table, even if it meant having to eat or drink around him. He has since been replaced by a slightly more docile creature. So docile in fact, that I have yet to see him awake.
Although less of a feature in the Belgian capital, there have been some notable exceptions. Josepina reigned supreme for many years in La Mort Subite. Generally aloof in her basket in the far left hand corner, she would occasionally venture out on to a lap. Much loved by the waiting staff, one of whom gave memorably short shrift to a customer who drunkenly tried to move her basket on to his table, she has never been replaced. The esteem in which she was held is indicated by the photograph of her which rests above her favourite seat. The only other regular considered important enough for that honour is Jaques Brel .
Le Cirio has had a number of cats over the years. There was a brief interlude with a dog, but as it had the unfortunate habit of chewing the fingers of anyone foolish enough to try and stroke it they saw sense and returned to cats. The latest, another ginger tom, is already mightily indifferent to the attentions of customers but at least keeps his claws, and teeth, to himself.
Their furry faces may come and go but are always remembered fondly. In this section we celebrate the finest felines the lowlands have to offer.
*For all the uber Bowie fans out there, I know he doesn’t actually have one green eye and one blue eye (the permanently dilated pupil in his eye just makes them look different colours)but everybody thinks he does, including, obviously, the owners of De Drie Fleschjes. And, hey, it suited the cat.