The artist Salvador Dalí, who was on born on this day, May 11, in 1904, didn’t just create surrealist art—in some ways, his life was plenty surreal too. Take, for example, Babou.
Instead of a normal domestic cat, Dalí kept the Colombian ocelot as his furry companion. Not that he would always admit it: as related in the new book Artists and Their Cats, by Alison Nastasi (Chronicle Books), Dalí once brought Babou out to dinner and then had to convince a frightened woman that the animal’s markings were painted on and that Babou was just your run-of-the-mill tame house cat. Ceci, as Dalí’s contemporary René Magritte might have said, n’est pas un ocelot.
In honor of what would have been Dalí’s birthday, here he is with his feline friend — along with nine other artists and their meowing muses.
All images are from Artists and Their Cats by Alison Nastasi.
Read TIME’s 1981 cover story about the latest feline fad: Crazy Over Cats