Since the dawn of the internet, people around the world have become more aware of cat mannerisms. What can anyone say that hasn’t already been said about catitude?
Well, my cat turns 5 this month so I’m going to take a stab at it!
Because writers tend to keep to themselves, especially when they’re working, pets are a good alternative to human company. It’s all the perks of having a living body near you, but without the frustrating social graces that are expected of you. That’s not to say it doesn’t come with some drawbacks though.
Most animals say “hello” and other little quips with their butts. The stinky butt glands that put their butt pheromones on their new butt property.
Sometimes, Shark likes to tell me butt things when I’m in the middle of non-butt-related stuff. That’s actually, when she especially likes to have a chat with me. Once that laptop comes open, an entire day of napping gets postponed for the great duty of interrupting Mom. If I sit down at the desk, that’s when my lap looks the comfiest. Or the desk. Or the papers I’m reading from, on the desk.
Shark is a pretty quiet cat. She only really meows when she needs food or is angry that I’m not giving her my undivided attention. Otherwise she purrs a lot and just coos when she sees me come into the room. I’m always the best playmate in her eyes when I’m taken with the muses. And, of course, her favorite game is tag and we run through the apartment and boop each other. (Don’t worry, I live on the ground floor. My neighbors hate me for other reasons.)
Back to the notion of writers having happy lives with animals: cats are a fairly popular option in this crowd. Jean Cocteau, who filmed Beauty and the Beast and buddies with Pablo Picasso, was actually such a fan of kitties he assisted in founding the “Cat Friends Club” in Paris.
They had a pin, and everything! Very official! And not at all what one would call a “crazy cat person!”
Mark Twain had cats, and was quite fond of them, too. In fact, if he had lived in Paris in his earlier years, he might have even been part of the aforementioned club! He once lost a black cat, and offered $5 in the newspaper to find him. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot, but back then $5 was not easy to come by. According to the Consumer Price Index, $1 in 1850 is worth $28.45 in 2015. So, he wanted his kitty back pretty badly! Honestly, I’d offer anything short of soliciting my body for outright sex to have my kitty back if she went missing. Mark Twain was a sort of solemn guy, despite his humor in the novels he wrote. But the cats made him very happy, and he loved them dearly. I can relate. Mark Twain’s love of books and kitties is not lost on me!
Other authors of note who had pet cats are Stephen King, Ernest Hemingway, William S. Burroughs, Edgar Allen Poe, Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates, and Charles Bukowski (who I’ve also done some research on).
Neil Gaiman is a serious cat lover, one who is still loving them to this very day! He’s had up to seven cats in his house at one time, most of the time. Recently he’s gotten two dogs as well, but he still adamantly calls himself a cat person. I can relate to that, as well. My friends have all had dogs around me and trust me – dogs are great! I like taking them for walks or befriending the initially very grumpy or territorial ones. They lick and they play and they sit on your lap when they’re too big to, and I like them. But, I’ve just never had one or had much of a serious bond with them. I’ve been “aunt Beth” a few times, but with the kitties it’s always “Mommy.” Neil Gaiman kept tabs on his kitties and their ventures on his journal. I say “kept” because he hasn’t updated us about the felines in some time. I’m assuming it’s because he’s very busy keeping up his adult life, and because he has some other important projects.
There’s a similar trend I’ve noticed when authors are asked why they love their cats: it’s the catitude. Cats are emotionally open while maintaining their sense of mystery, and they’re elegant things that are particular with their love, unlike other animals, and very much like writers.
Cats are quiet. They have different ways of distracting us, but they spend a lot of time sleeping and watching which are silent activities. Other animals are quiet, too, or like birds the sounds they do make are pleasant ones.
They’re calming. It has been proven that cat purrs releases endorphines, as well as the act of stroking a cute little kitty baby. Cats are just pleasant, and if you disagree then get out of my face.
They’re independent creatures, much like writers. To be successful and creative you have to claim your own space. Cats do that, too. They are very territorial creatures, but, there are a lot of animals with feral ancestry that have that “problem.” Comes back to the butt thing and smells that I’m actually glad I can’t recognize.
Cats are clean. They poop in a box and they bathe often. Shark is scared of plumbing, though. She hates when I flush the toilet or leave the faucet on too long. Doesn’t stop her from following me into the bathroom, though, which is were 90% of the plumbing is in my apartment. But, I don’t judge.
Cats aren’t the only good pets for writers, though. Cocker Spaniels are good dogs, loved by their owners like Robert Pole and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Birds are good pets, too, and one of the most unusual was Charles Dickens’s raven, Grip. He was saddened by the bird’s death, but was sure to give him a comfortable final day. Well, comfortable for a bird at least (gruel doesn’t sound like a last meal I’d like). Pet reptiles like lizards and snakes are also good, I have found. I discovered this while getting to play with a gecko named Blaze at a friend’s house!
Rabbits are also not bad companions. When I was younger, my family kept two rabbits, named Rosedust and Pumpernickel. We moved, however, and weren’t able to bring them with us so they went to live with some other bunnies out in the country with a family who was very used to caring for the animals.
I’ve always had cats, though. They’re how I learned to express affection, aside from my loving human parents. They were my playmates, as I didn’t have any siblings until I was 8, and I had a tendency to throw shoes at my human friends when they angered me. Also, I’m invasive. Like a parasite. Or, like a cat who has chosen you and now wants to stick her but in your face while you work.
That’s how I got Shark, actually. She chose me. I was doing a sales call at a neighbor’s, and this little fluffball clumsily ran into me. Then she hissed, scampered away, and darted around the room, playing with all my sales stuff. It was love at first sight, and I got to take her home the next day.
The problem with having cats, though, is universal. The other writers I’ve mentioned surely went through the same ordeals as me.
Cats establish dominance by screwing up your stuff, or something like that I guess. They say “here I am and this is me” and next thing you know, your papers are everywhere. Or you have claws in your hand because the sound they make when typing is funny to them.
They like warm things, too. You know what gets warm as you use it? A laptop. It’s also fun for them to chase your cursor around on the screen if they’ve caught you using it. And of course they have to put their smell on your and your stuff. This isn’t always with butts, sometimes they use their faces too.
Your space is their space. You don’t ever get it back. It’s the cat’s home, you just pay the bills and don’t get to look nearly as adorable in the sunlight. It’s really not fair, if you think about it. I even have a little plaque on my wall that says “I work hard so my cat can have a better life.” This is basically my mantra, and whenever times are hard, I just look at my fat little ball of fluff who loves me no matter what, and get in some kitty time to feel better.
Because, no matter how infurating a cat may be, or how annoying, or obnoxious, or just plain trouble-making, there’s nothing that beats knowing they love you and having their undying affection. Even if they show it funny. I wouldn’t give up anything if it meant losing this:
As a bonus, have some cute video of my baby being adventurous and by default making me adventurous too.