Student Parker Winkel collected more than 2000 cat drawings during his time in Nijmegen

06 jun 2024

Every student makes some memories during their time at university. But when it comes to international student Parker Winkel, those memories take a peculiar form: over the past three years, the Psychology student collected more than 2000 cat drawings from people all over campus.

Parker Winkel has collected more than 2000 cat drawings in his notebooks over the past three years. Photo: Vox.

‘Statistically speaking, one out of ten people you see sitting down at the Refter did a cat drawing for me,’ Parker Winkel says when we meet for a coffee. In front of him lie some of the notebooks featuring the more than 2000 cat drawings from Radboud students and employees he has gathered over the last three years.

But before we can get into the why and how of this collection, he asks me to add one more cat to it. ‘I will give you an A+ for following the prompt,’ he says, looking at my five-minute cat sketch. ‘And a B- for aesthetic value.’

Winkel started collecting cat drawings from friends and strangers when he was still living in the U.S. Photo: Vox.

Winkel doesn’t have a clear-cut favourite cat in the collection. ‘I think it’s a tie,’ he says, leafing through the notebooks. ‘But I got one of my favourite ones during a lecture on Alzheimer’s. I just passed the book to a girl who wasn’t paying attention to the lecture, which showed because the painting was really, really good.’

‘Statistically speaking, one out of ten people you see sitting down at the Refter did a cat drawing for me.’ Photo: Vox.

The joy of drawing cats

So, how did this collection start exactly? ‘I remember reading an article in this old French newspaper – from before the First World War – by a lady who shared this idea that it would bring so much joy in life if you just ask someone for a cat drawing and see what they give you. And that just seemed so fundamentally correct.’ Several years later, he asked some of his friends for some cat drawings, still back home in the U.S. And once he moved to Nijmegen to study, the project took over.

‘Most people’s initial reaction is mild confusion that leads to a form of pleased acceptance’

‘At the beginning, I was collecting cat drawings every day. I would challenge myself to get drawings from ten new people every time.’ He has collected drawings on campus, during a camping weekend with his study association – and while clubbing. ‘Drunk people are usually very enthusiastic when you ask them to draw a cat, but they are also most likely to categorically fail at the task,’ he says and points out one example. ‘This one is almost like a Jackson Pollock painting.’

‘This one almost looks like a Jackson Pollock’. Photo: Vox.

According to Winkel, it’s rare that someone doesn’t embrace the request to draw a cat. ‘Most people’s initial reaction is: ‘What? Did you say cat?’ It’s usually just mild confusion that leads to a form of pleased acceptance. Almost no one says no, but most people preface it by saying that they can’t draw.’ But once they do, it can be a great icebreaker, says Winkel.


‘I personally find that when you’re just sitting across from another person and your only task is getting to know each other, that can be pretty awkward,’ he explains. ‘But if you give someone this task that they can pour all their energy into, for one, this can result in a really cool cat drawing, and two, it can genuinely make any conversation a lot less tense.’

‘Almost no one says no, but most people preface it by saying that they can’t draw’

More than 2000 drawings and three years later, Winkel can hardly cross the campus without getting waved at. ‘People just remember me because, in their mind, I’m probably connected to this one weird request of drawing a cat. And just looking at the notebooks and the names of the people, I can trace my entire network through the past years.’

And even after all this time, it’s impossible to guess what cat someone will draw. ‘Especially when it’s strangers, you can never tell. Friends sometimes positively surprise me. Like, I didn’t know you could draw like that. But I have found that the amount of detail on the page is almost directly proportional to how close someone is to me.’

According to Winkel, one of the great things about collecting cat drawings… Photo: Vox.
… is that you never know what cat you will get. Photo: Vox.

Keep collecting

By the end of this year, Winkel is leaving the university. Before then, there are some more cat drawings to be collected. Including drawings from the members of the student council, where Winkel has been a member for the past year. Of course, he also asked people to draw cats while campaigning.

So, was the French magazine article correct? Is his life more joyful? Winkel laughs. ‘I think this project influenced my life in more ways than I could begin to wrap my head around. My time here would have been drastically different if not for those six ridiculous notebooks. This was the beginning of so many friendships.’ For Winkel, one thing is clear: he will keep collecting cat drawings – if not in Nijmegen, then somewhere else.

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1 reactie

  1. Giovanni schreef op 6 juni 2024 om 23:44

    Should also ask the CvB for their drawings

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