Have you ever noticed that writers frequently have cats? I have an opinion (or maybe just an observation) that I’d like to share on the subject:
Of course there are the obvious perks: Cats don’t require us to stop what we’re doing to care for them. When we’re lucky, they might decide to curl up on our lap or our desk, and they may make their presence known once in a while by walking across the keyboard as we type. But they eventually fall asleep and let us become absorbed into our “other life” which we’re writing about.
When we proofread, sometimes we like to hear out loud how the words flow. If we tell people we’re talking to our cat, we don’t sound as crazy as we do if we’re observed sitting home alone, reading out loud to no one in particular.
Cats are good critics. If we read to our cat and the dialog flows well, they may just stick around if we’re lucky. (If you read to a dog, they tend to take that as a sign that you want to play, and they proceed in attempting to convince you to get out of your chair and follow them.)
While dogs are nice, they require a great deal more attention and upkeep than a cat. They’re carefree and laid back. Dogs are like, “Hey! It’s me! Look at me! Touch me! I’m over here! Love me! Hey, let’s throw the ball! Do ya wanna go outside? Do ya? Do ya? Huh?”
Cats are more reserved. They are formal and high-brow. They’re more like, “Hello. I thought I might grace you with my presence for a few minutes. Won’t that be a treat for you? If you’re lucky, I’ll allow you to give me a good chin scratch. Just don’t touch my belly. Otherwise, I might have to scratch the bejeebers out of you.”
As such, dogs tend to interrupt the creative flow when they need to go out or just want some love. But cats are self-sufficient. They hide out until they’re ready to acknowledge us, then they give us a few minutes of their time before they curl up and fall back asleep. We adopt dogs; cats adopt us.
A lot of well-known authors throughout history have had an affinity for cats. I think the most notable is Ernest Hemingway and his famous multi-toed cats. If you ever get a chance to go to Key West, you have got to stop by the Hemingway house and take the tour. Not only is it quite interesting to walk through and see things like his original typewriter and desk, but you’ll also see dozens of offspring of his original cats.
Other famed authors that were (or are) known for keeping company with felines include Stephen King, Truman Capote, Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, and T.S. Eliot, to name but a few. Also, let’s not forget that Dr. Seuss loved cats so much that he wrote about one who went on to be famous in The Cat in the Hat. (I made that part up about Dr. Seuss. I have no idea if that’s really true or not.)
I personally have four indoor cats who help me write (as well as an outdoor feral cat who adopted me). So on my desk next to my computer, I always have a bottle of water and a bag of sunflower seeds for me, and I keep a jar of cat treats for my feline friends. At any given point during my time writing, when things get too intense, I can count on Zsa Zsa, Cleo, Snow, or Dakota stopping by for a little visit to break up my monotony. And when my rabbit, Sir Wiggly Higgins, is out of his cage, he plays with his cat sisters and brother and thinks he’s one of them as well. (These are my cats and bunny below… I apologize that Cleo couldn’t be bothered to get in the picture with everyone else. As you can see, she was busy napping.)
While dogs have a low threshold of what it takes for them to attach themselves to someone, cats tend to set the bar high. Cats, like writers, are wise, sensitive creatures who need to be understood to be fully appreciated.