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Bookshop Cats

The bookshop was without a cat for a few years until one practically knocked on the back door. Within a few days, we decided Willa Cather would have been pleased to have this cat named after her. It took only two weeks for her to become Willa Catter.

Willa is finally learning her bookshop duties and even appears to be enjoying some of them. It has, however, been a long struggle – some would say a contest of wills. “I’m not going to go to all this expense and housekeeping for a cat who’s not here!” declared the real boss. Willa disappeared during daylight hours, apparently exhausted from her nighttime frolics. (She did catch one mouse.) We made a few changes in Willa’s feeding schedule, as suggested in one of our cat books, and it worked. If she happened to be downstairs when a customer appeared, she would bolt up the stairs to her private quarters. We purchased a mess of toys and encouraged the customers to play with her. Willa was pregnant at a young age. She kept choosing to use a corner of the romance section in lieu of her litter box (an expression of distain?) which elicited “You’re going to end up back on the street!” With endless opportunity to do so, Willa has never expressed interest in using the shop exits.

The intelligence of her namesake finally prevailed. Willa Catter now spends her daytime hours in the retail space – an acceptable amount of it in laps or arms of customer. She also sits on the pile of books we’re trying to clean, sprawls on the checkout counter while we work around her, chews or bats at the tops of pens we’re attempting to use, and strolls across our computer keyboards. We wanted her active during the day, and she certainly has accommodated us!

Willa impressively redeemed herself. The Washington Post Weekend of June 24, 2005, featured an article by Christina Talcott detailing a two-day, unscheduled road trip with her friend. “Our first stop was Front Royal, Va., and a used bookstore Kate had spotted a sign for on the highway. We headed south onto U.S. 340 (aka South Royal Avenue) to check it out. Royal Oak Bookshop was a nice surprise: a labyrinth of rooms filled with new and used tomes, audio books, children’s lit, guides to nearby Shenandoah National Park and volumes on local Civil War history. Lounging on the counter was the resident feline, all fur and purrs, named Willa Catter, after the great novelist Willa Cather, who I later discovered, was born about 25 miles north near Winchester. Meeting Willa felt like a good omen for these two westward travelers."

Willa has far to go to reach Huxley’s perfection; however, helping the bookshop appear in a publication read by millions gave her a giant leap forward.


Huxley held the post of Bookshop Cat for 18 of his 21 years. He learned to do his job perfectly and was admired, pampered, adored, indulged, or appreciated by hundreds of customers. He had only two flaws, neither related to doing his bookshop tasks. Despite months of trying, we could not convince Hux to stay indoors, and he took delight in rearranging window displays. So Huxley used up a lot more than nine lives avoiding outside dangers and the wrath of the window crew for so many years.


Garfield's story:
He arrived about a month ago and demanded attention and food. He was wearing a leather collar with a phone number ( that was disconnected when we called) and his name. He was very thin and you could tell he had been on his own for a while. Evidently, he had to fight for what little food he ate. We have been feeding him very well and he looks much healthier. We have also discovered that he has quite a personality. He loves to be rubbed and held and made over in general. His face really has character, though he is not the most beautiful cat in the world. We would love to find a home for him before the weather turns cold.

Please call us at 540-635-7070 if you have a place in your heart and home for this lost soul.

UPDATE: Garfield has been adopted, spayed and happy at his new home!
Thank you to our loyal customer Ann!!!



207 South Royal Avenue, Front Royal, Virginia 22630
Phone: (540) 635-7070   |  E-mail:

  Last Updated 01/07/07