Bartleby

1988 – 2006


Known by the many visitors to his website as “the smartest cat on the Internet”, Bartleby died peacefully at home on 30 July 2006 at the age of 17 years and 10 months.

Born in California in 1988, he experienced the effects of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake firsthand. He lived in Colorado from 1991 to 1997, and resided in Georgia thereafter.

His first interests were in sports. He invented a number of games that required a minimum of equipment, including several using nothing more than a red rubber hose washer. He also enjoyed climbing, jumping, and moth hunting.

Surrounded by books from an early age, Bartleby was a careful student of human language and behavior. He mastered over a dozen English words and phrases; some of his favorites were “out”, “treat”, and “play”. He was also comfortable being addressed in French or German. His best-known intellectual achievement came in 1993, when his IQ was estimated to be 151 on a mail-in test.

In the 1990s, Bartleby traveled extensively, eventually visiting forty-two states and making three visits to Canada. On 23 April 1995, he set the unsurpassed record of standing in four states at once, with one foot in each. In his later years he seldom left home, but made a final trip in January 2006 to visit friends in Ohio and Indiana before attending a mathematics conference in Texas.

Bartleby often astonished his acquaintances with his ability to “disappear” from an apparently closed room. He frequently practiced a favorite trick of vanishing from a motel room by pulling open a dresser drawer and jumping in with sufficient momentum to cause the drawer to slide closed. He also managed remarkable feats of escape—some never explained—in homes, apartments, Big Bend National Park, and a Zen monastery.

Bartleby relaxing on the sidewalk on an autumn day
Bartleby at home, October 2005

Donations in his memory may be made to the Palo Alto Humane Society or Peninsula CatWorks.


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