Telling the story through the love that the great powers of yesterday and today have had for their cats. This is the adventure in which the journalist-writer Carola Vai has ventured with her book 'Gatti di Stato', Rubettino publisher (216 pages).
Through pleasant writing and respectable documentation, you can learn curious and funny anecdotes about great historical figures, such as those concerning, for example, Winston Churchill who, for his Nelson, nourished a real passion coming to reserve him a chair, at 10 Downing Street, on which it is said that no human being has ever been allowed to sit, at least in his presence. And this, despite the most famous of the felines loved by the then prime minister remains, probably, 'Jock' who spent hours snuggled up on the statesman's lap to the point of being portrayed in the official photo taken in Churchill on the occasion of his nephew's wedding.
But there are many "famous cats" described by Carola Vai: from Charles De Gaulle, who had in his Carthusian 'Gris Gris' a true life partner, to Queen Victoria who considered her white shutter 'White Heather' (white Heather) a precious lucky charm, to George W. Bush who lived in the White House, as well as with two Scottish Terriers, even with a black cat of American shorthair, called 'India', whose name triggered a quasi-diplomatic crisis with the Asian country. Many Indians, in fact, in reaction to what they considered "an insult", called their dog 'Bush'. The US president took the blow and although officially did not respond to criticism, slowly began to call his beloved 'India' 'Kitty' ...
Among the 'first cats' of the White House, the most famous seems to be destined to remain 'Socks': the Tuxedo chosen by the Clinton family. Its success was such that the administration had to set up a special office to dispose of all the correspondence that was addressed to it. His cute little face appeared on Christmas cards of those years and inspired various children's books. The first to bring a cat to the White House, however, was Abraham Lincoln. His 'Tabby', it is said that he was the only one to soothe the moments of great sadness of the American president.
The description of the 'state cats' is actually an opportunity for Carola Vai to make a light portrait, often deepened, of the various characters who loved them: from that of Popes such as Benedict XVI, Pius VII, Leo XII to those of Camillo Benso count of Cavour and Catherine of Russia who attributed to cats the official status of "Guardians of the art galleries" for their ability to eliminate mice. Not to mention Francesco Saverio Nitti whose existence was accompanied by various specimens with curious names such as the Siamese 'Fritellino'. But sad stories are also told, such as that of "Felicette", the first cat that was launched into orbit in 1963 in the space program of France under the presidency of De Gaulle. She did not overcome the experience of being launched 161 km away from the earth, but, in her memory, a statue was dedicated to her at the Strasbourg Space University inaugurated by Macron in 2019.
Going further in time, the book also talks about the Roman Empress Livia and the pharaoh Tutankhamun in whose tomb the mummies of numerous cats considered sacred by the Egyptians were found. Famous is the confession of Octavian Augustus who publicly admitted in 10 BC how his cat "with long hair and yellow eyes" was the "closest friend" of his "old age".
Carola Vai also reports on research by the English University of Warwick according to which "people with big responsibilities are also great cat lovers" and "cat enthusiasts are often successful in life".
Returning to today, the author dedicates an entire chapter to the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, described as a lover of these intelligent pets. With him at the Quirinale live his 3 Persians: Cimabue, Boccaccio and Dante from whom he never seems to have wanted to separate.
In short, this by Carola Vai is a book that could be appreciated by fans of domestic felines that in our country are really many. Suffice it to say that in the homes of Italians, according to a 2021 statistic, there is "a presence of 7 million and 900 thousand cats".