Tao of Meow

Meet the Man Using Data Sets to Map Portland’s Feline Friends

Want to see the city’s finest cats? Follow computer programmer Max Ogden on Instagram.

By Amy Martin November 14, 2016 Published in the December 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

Pomo 1216 catmapper xh6cug

Max Ogden photographs Queen Walter.

Image: Michael Novak

"There’s a really nice one named Noodle on this street. Down that way is a snaggletooth I like.” 

Max Ogden adjusts the camera bag on his shoulder, scanning the rain-damp Southeast sidewalk with an eagle eye for a very specific fauna. “Black cats are tougher to photograph; it’s hard to really capture the emotion.” He motions toward a bungalow: “There are four cats who live here, but they all have separate schedules.”

Ogden runs an Instagram account called Catmapper, which marries his love of photography with his bent for quantitative data. “The #catmapper hashtag was an idea I had back in 2010 when Mayor Sam Adams started releasing open data sets from the City of Portland,” the 27-year-old computer programmer says. “There were data sets like the locations of all the bicycle racks, stop lights, building footprints, restaurants, et cetera. I’m a data geek, so I thought it would be fun to create a data set of cat sightings. It eventually turned into a daily photo project where I try and meet all the cats hanging out on sidewalks and porches within walking distance of my house in Southeast Portland.

“Turns out, there are hundreds.”

Want to join his project? Ogden offers some tips: “One, take a walk around your neighborhood and try to find outdoor cats on sidewalks, porches, or in yards—just like Pokémon Go. Two, put your phone or camera down at the level of the cat’s face. Three, respect cat privacy. Don’t post the exact location—just put the neighborhood.”

Does Ogden have cats at home? He shrugs wistfully: “I’m allergic.” 

Filed under
Show Comments