Like many millennials, I gave up on the idea of having kids a long time ago. That could change—but in the meantime, I'm mothering a cat. I haven't lost any of my love for felines during my tenure as a cat mom, but as sweet they may be, there's still no denying that the cute little shits are absolutely capable of going from adorable to demonic in the swipe of a paw.
Whether the little monster in your life takes a devilish glee in pawing fragile valuables to a shattered demise on the floor, yowling at banshee-like decibels because you missed their feeding time by one minute, or committing some other kind of feline debauchery, you should know about Zack Davisson's story hour with Seattle Meowtropolitan and Atlas Obscura. At the very least, it will make you grateful that you don't have a kaibyō—a "strange cat," in a very forgiving translation—on your hands.
Davisson's latest book, Kaibyō: The Supernatural Cats of Japan, is the first in a series about Japan's mystical menagerie of paranormal critters. It's dedicated to this subset of demons with feline traits. Kaibyō are also a type of yōkai, a term that applies to the range of ghosts, ghouls, and spirits that occupy the paranormal world of Japanese mythology. While the book is thoroughly backed by Davisson's scholarship in Japanese folklore and culture, the plethora of colorful ukiyo-e illustrations and Davisson's conversational but informative writing style combine for a purr-fectly spooky read.
For a change of pace from the usual coziness of the Meowtropolitan cat lounge, on July 24, Davisson will be providing an evening of amusing, but potentially morbid, kaibyō stories—along with some true tales about the Iriomote Great Mountain Cat, which lives exclusively on the eponymous Iriomote Island in Japan. Fifteen to 20 kitties from the Meowtropolitan's partner shelter, Regional Animal Services of King County, will be around to ward off any kaibyō-affiliated chills (and they're available for adoption if you need a non-paranormal companion).
We all know at least one feline that is entirely comfortable with biting the hand that feeds it—but if a corpse-eating kasha is in the mood for a full meal, they'll chow down the whole body. If the twisted imagination of a bakeneko catches wind of a body available for their amusement, they might skip a meal to instead reanimate the corpse for a grotesque puppet show.
However, a kaibyō's idea of fun isn't always necessarily sinister—in traditional Japanese art, these fun-loving feline demons are often depicted partying the night away in kimonos and other human garb. That is, if they haven't already shape-shifted into people.
While there is a current waiting list for the 6 p.m. program on July 24, another round of storytelling with Davisson will begin at 7 p.m., due to paw-pular demand.