100 years of Birthdays, Cakes and Cats


  • We’re in another heatwave and if you haven’t checked out our tips for keeping cats cool, please do right here We’ve added a video from our friends at Cole And Marmalade demonstrating how to make frozen treats for cats. Very cool!
  • We are happy to announce the winner of our Drinkwell 360 Pet Fountain Giveaway from Petsafe is Carolsue. Congratulations! Please look for an email from Cat Wisdom 101 requesting your shipping address.

As soon as photography caught on as the latest craze in the 1880s, it was inevitable that cats would be charming their way into our birthday wishes ever since.

antique cat birthday photo

By the ’30s cute poems and graphics were popular on cards with staged setting of real cats or colored illustrations.


mainzer- eugen hartung cat birthday

The illustrator king of kitty anthropomorphism was Eugen Hartung, a Swiss artist who worked for Alfred Mainzer, a printer from the ’40s to ’60s. He captured cats living the human experience with all the joys and pitfalls.

Post war America favored illustrations of cute kittenish cats for kid’s birthday cards and saucier versions for adults.

vintage cats birthday vintage birthday card cats







vintage cat birthday martini

This is one of my all time favorite cat illustrations by Ronald Searles. His book, Big Fat Cat is a classic.

Ronald Searles cat cakes

Nothing is more quintessentially late ’70s to ’80s than the Kliban cat by the prolific Bernard Kliban, an illustrator who died in 1990 at age 55. The instantly recognizable tabby is still a coveted collectible on Ebay but new products are available Pomegranate

Kliban cat birthday cake

By the year 2000, cats and anthropomorphism continued as colorfully as ever. Marie Antoinette is famous for the saying “Let them eat cake” but she never actually said that. Maybe it was a cat after all. It’s easy to imagine cats saying worse and demanding more.

Cat birthday fish cake

birthday cat cakeHappy birthday cats cake etsy

Contemporary cat art birthday cards abound on Etsy .i.e. this one from This Week in Cats I can safely say, there will be more cat birthday cards in my future. How about you? Which card is your favorite?

29 thoughts on “100 years of Birthdays, Cakes and Cats”

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  3. Happy belated Layla! Fun trip down cat memory lane – I have a Kliban book that I adore – the humor is absolutely timeless! Purrs from Deb and the Zee/Zoey Gang

  4. I have been a fan of the Kliban cats since the first time I saw them as a child during a visit to my uncle’s house in Seattle.

    Happy birthday week, Layla!

  5. Excellent cards!!! Mes is going to gets Mommy to does a cat card of mes for Daddy as he has a significant birthday in 18 days!

  6. A common practice in the Victorian era was to drown cats and kittens, stuff them, and dress them up in “anthropomorphic” domestic scenes like in your first Black and white photo. A few people used live cats, and I like to think that is what I am looking at. I used to think they were cute pictures and purchased them, until I found out the truth. When I see those type of photographs in antique shops, I am generally horrified, and will not purchase them, no matter how “cute” they look! I never post them, though I thought about it one Halloween. I was in a macabre mood. Common Victorian themes are a family of cats dressed like humans sitting at a dinner table. There is more to those kind of photographs than meets the eye.

    On the lighter side, if there is one, I do enjoy the antique cat artwork.

  7. Concats to Carolsue!!! We hope her kitties enjoy the fountain!!!
    We love all of the art work, each one speaks to a totally different style and era.
    A birthday card with a cat on it can sure make it a bit easier to celebrate another one…MOL!!!!
    Lets face it everything is better with a cat!!!!!!!
    Skeeter and Izzy and the Feral Gang + Twig & Peanut & Romeo >^..^^..^<~

  8. Cats are so cute, they decorate not only our lives but everything around us including greeting cards! If Caren is right and today is your birthday – have a fabulous one Layla……if she’s wrong and it’s not your birthday, celebrate anyway because we WANT you to!!!!!!

    Love, Pam

  9. guys…we like de furst five de best; one for each oh de trouterz !! N yez…gram paw dude waz az old az de B/W card 🙂

    conga ratz two carolsue on winnin de drinkwell !!! awesum ~ ♥♥♥

  10. the cat has much better table manners than Mr. Teddy bear :o) I saw a lot of cats on our new years greeting cards… that’s probably the proof that cats are a sign of good luck :o)
    Concats to Carolsue!

  11. Hmmmm…methinks that TODAY is your birthday?????????????? I know you are a Leo, I KNOW you said you weren’t going to say the date, but I think this is your way of saying it…….sooooooooooooooo HAPPY HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! xoxo

  12. My favorite has always been Kliban Cats! My relatives and friends always have sent me cat cards since I was little and I am now 74. That’s a lot of kitty kards!

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