Monday, June 21, 2010

Writers and Cats

Authors like cats because they are such quiet, loveable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons. – Robertson Davies

Writers seem to have a penchant for cats. Hemingway’s six toed cats are still a tourist attraction in Key West, Florida, and are protected by the terms of his will. Snowball, the first of these cats, he received as a gift from a sea captain.

The story is that Edward Lear was so devoted to his tabby cat, Foss, he had his architect build a replica of his old home in England so the cat wouldn’t be distressed by his move to Italy.

Sir Walter Scott’s tabby, Hinx, was included in a portrait that shows the author at work and the cat lying nearby. Scott once said, “Cats are a mysterious kind of folk. There is more passing in their minds than we are aware of.”

I’ve read that Edgar Allen Poe took his cat, Catarina, with him everywhere he went and she often sat on his shoulder as he wrote. The Master’s Cat (yes that was his name) would put out the reading candle belonging to Charles Dickens in order to get his attention. Supposedly Lord Byron travelled with his five cats. Ray Bradbury, Mark Twain and F. Scott Fitzgerald are also said to be lovers of cats, just to name a few more rather well-known authors.

Many popular pieces written by these illustrious writers were about cats such as Poe’s The Black Cat or Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat.

Were these pets their masters’ muses? Or do cats give off inspirational vibes?

Through the years, I’ve owned (or should I say, I’ve been owned by cats). At this stage of my life, however, I subscribe to the philosophy that if it needs dusting, feeding or watering, I don’t want it in my house. But if a cat is the secret to success as a writer, I may have to reconsider my stance and replace my imaginary fairy type creature of a muse (who seems to be off duty more than she’s on) with a cat.

While authors have their favorite cats, it seems that cats also have their favorite authors according to the article “Library Cats and Their Favorite Books.”

For instance, Judge Kitty from the Fairplay, Colorado library prefers Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Patrick, known as Paddy from Pacelli High School Library, Stevens Point, Wisconsin likes Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, and T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and the mysteries penned by Elizabeth Peters. It seems “he simply can’t get enough of the Egyptian cats who pop up in all of her stories.” Hannah from the William A. Clark Memorial Library, UCLA, Los Angeles, California, enjoys Bird songs = Aves ambrosiana: A Poetical Ornithology, by Miller Hageman, circa 1905.

You can read the entire article here to find out the reason behind the selections, although I think Paddy’s and Hannah’s choices are fairly obvious. Of course, there are also cute photos of each cat.

Do you write with a cat or another pet by your side? If so, do you feel they act as your muse?

If you have the opportunity, I hope you’ll visit on Thursday when Katie Hines, author of The Guardian, will be my guest.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Tags: Robertson Davies, cats, authors and cats, library cats, muse, Tags: Hemingway, Edward Lear, Sir Walter Scott, Edgar Allen Poe,


Rayna M. Iyer said...

What is it about bloggers and cats? Everyone here seems to be a cat person. I like them too, but only if they are of the big cat kind!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I confess - I am a cat person! We've always had cats. Currently, we have two black kitties, Rocko & Spunky. The house would feel so dead without them, too. Maybe that's why writers need cats - to keep them grounded in reality. (Otherwise we might write for days without realizing time has passed.)

Anonymous said...

We have a Yorkie but he doesn't offer much in the way of inspiration. Used to have two small parrots but I think if I had them now they would be a distraction. Maybe I need to get a goldfish.

Stephen Tremp

Karen Walker said...

Nope,no cat, but our beloved dog, Buddy, stays with me while I write. I don't think he's my Muse, though.

Jenny S. said...

I'm a dog person (partly due to cat allergies), but I agree that animals are wiser than we sometimes give them credit for. It's such a great thing to have a patient, non-judgmental writing companion who is paid in affection and the occasional treat.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If I ever go down to the Keys, I will look for Hemingway's six toed cats.

Mason Canyon said...

I'd say I'm a cat and dog person. Maybe most writers prefer cats because they are quieter than dogs.

Thoughts in Progress

Joanne said...

My cat sometimes sits beside my desktop screen and watches the cursor, swiping at it as though it is her prey. She's a cherished distraction in my day.

Cats rule ...

Jan Morrison said...

I've had plenty of cats but not right now. My last one, Bully-Boy, was too mean and finally we gave up and sent him to live as a barn cat. He was, last we heard, much nicer! For the last nine years I have had my faithful companion, Hoagy, by my side. He is a sharpei/lab and I am mad for him. He is lying right by my feet because he peeked at my to do list and knows that walking the pooch is up next. He doesn't really care for my writing life but he is so good at grounding me in what's important that he influences it anyway!

Darcia Helle said...

I had no idea that so many famous writers were cat people. I have two cats and two dogs and, until now, I never considered any of them as my muse. They are often a distraction, interrupting me with barking, purring, and general demands for attention. However, I can't imagine my house without them in it. They make me laugh and offer comfort and unconditional love. So, in that sense, perhaps they are muses.

Carol Kilgore said...

Love cats but my body doesn't and shows me with quite an allergic reaction. So I have two dogs to take the place of one cat. I love them just as much.

Anonymous said...

We have a cat and he sometimes likes to sit on the desk in front of the computer screen. He thinks he is helping me with my writing, LOL.

Watery Tart said...

I think there may be some common features that draw people to both writing and cats. I like dogs, but dogs are interactive and need quite a lot of attention, which doesn't go all that well with long spells of sitting at a computer or with pen and paper.

Cats are companionable--sometimes cuddly, sometimes playful, but USUALLY they don't require you get up to attend to them. I did once have a cat who laid across anything I was trying to read or write on, but she was the exception--most like my lap or the chair next to me. The perfect companion because you feel less alone without having to actually interact. You can bounce ideas off them and they blink at you like you're either smart or insane, depending on the cat... the things just go well together.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Rayna, the big kind of cats are certainly beautiful but they don’t make such good house pets!

Diane, I enjoy the cat pictures you post on your blog. Sounds like you may have hit on the reason there is such a connection between cats and writers – to stay grounded in reality.

Stephen, a goldfish may be the least demanding pet of them all.

Karen and Jenny, maybe it’s just having non-judgmental company in the room that makes cats and other pets so popular with authors.

Alex, you’ll see them at his house in the Keys. I recommend the tour.

Mason, I agree that cats are quieter than dogs and usually less hyper, too.

Joanne, that’s cute as long as she knows to stay clear of that pesky delete button.

Jan, sounds like Bully-Boy is now living the life he wanted. And Hoagy must be really smart to be able to read your to-do list!

Darcia, I’d love to have a muse that makes me laugh.

Carol, I’m sure you couldn’t get much writing done if you had to spend the day sneezing and itching.

Susanne, maybe he’s trying to give you a few moments to brainstorm ideas!)

Watery Tart, good point. In fact my protagonist in my not yet released book uses her cat as a sounding board.

DazyDayWriter said...

Ha, Ha, Jane! This was a fun post, and yes, I have a Sunny Room Studio page devoted to my pets: Lola (cat), Noah (dog). In fact,they were the inspiration for naming the blogsite sunny room, as they both love to lounge in the sun! They even have their very own page on the site. They assist with my writing projects nearly every day, providing love and inspiration and sunny dispositions!

Clarissa Draper said...

Yeah, I'm an author and I love cats. I would own one except for the fact I'm allergic. So, I have a dog.


Crafty Green Poet said...

I love cats but have never had one as a pet. We did have a pet rabbit and I would read my poetry to her, i like to think she enjoyed it, I found it useful to have someone to read aloud to who couldn't criticise but the act of reading aloud helped me to refine the poetry

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Writers are frequently introverts and cats usually are, too! I've got a couple of cats who like to eat printed manuscripts. :) Critics are everywhere...

Helen Ginger said...

I had a miniature Schnauzer who was always by my side. I don't think she was my muse, but by having her I took breaks from the computer and actually went outside from time to time.

Paul C said...

An endearing post which helps to place our two cats in perspective. One is sleeping on a padded study chair next to me as I type.

A. K. said...

I am an animal lover but i prefer Dogs over cats.. But my girl is a sucker for cats..

The Old Silly said...

I don't have any pets cuz the wife is allergic to them. But I just love dogs and cats. My new novel, Beware the Devil's Hug, has a cat in it, too.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I've been reading so many pet stories from writers/bloggers today. I think the universe is trying to tell me something (or I'm desperately trying to come up with a good reason to adopt a cat). I think you've given me just the nudge I need.

arlee bird said...

No animals in my house please. My mother instilled a deep dislike of cats in me when I was growing up. Several years ago when my daughters were young I let them talk me into getting a cat. The result was a litter of kittens and infestation by fleas. I gave the kittens to a pet shop, the cat to a friend, and the apartment got fumigated for fleas.

If I ever have pets again it will be if I live in a rural area and they all live outside. I don't like animals in my living space.

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