“For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.”
—Christopher Smart (Shipbourne, England 1722-1771 London) poet, in “Jubilate Agno, Fragment B, 1763” as quoted in Caticons, 2017, page 76
March is said to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb. I love the feline reference and this year it certainly is coming in fierce, with snow again this morning to be followed by rain, to be followed by snow… Mud abounds. As I walk through my front door, I am reminded of some of the most practical items in the Caticons collection–cat boot scrapers.
Cats seem to me a very apt decoration for a boot scraper as they are known for their own cleanliness. Elevating his cat Jeoffry to the status of a servant of God, poet Christopher Smart quoted above, lists his cat’s very first daily ritual as washing his paws. (You can read more of the poem on page 76 in Caticons. The rather sad backstory is that Smart was incarcerated for insanity and confined to a cell when he wrote the poem with the sole source of companionship being his cat Jeoffry. It’s no wonder Smart praises Jeoffry, thereby immortalizing him in the canons of English literature.)
Back to the boot scrappers cleverly shaped as cats, these functional, yet decorative items were cheaply manufactured out of cast-iron and came into wide-spread use in the late 18th Century, as strolling around cities became fashionable in the upper classes. Boot scrapers were positioned near front doors to keep interiors clean and rules of etiquette developed regarding their use. Today, replaced by the ubiquitous doormat, they have been elevated to the status of folk art.
So, Welcome Spring! And please wipe your paws!