At this very minute, there must be thousands of writers pondering what to write next with a cat companion at their side. A lot of them will be in bed. It is a comfortable place for both of them. Comfort promotes enlightened thought. Or they will both be at a desk facing a window. The window will look out over a serene and wild landscape. Both will be thinking but they will have different thoughts.
Perhaps the domestic cat is the perfect companion for a writer. The cat is often silently present, undemanding. When a writer needs respite from racking his brains while looking at a blank page of Microsoft Word or whatever software he prefers, he can talk to his cat for a moment while stroking her. His cat will be there on cue. The cat is a better animal companion for a writer than a dog.
The Canadian novelist, Robertson Davies (1913-1995) probably sums up the relationship between cat and author:
“Authors like cats because they are such quiet lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reason”.
The cat is recognised by authors as being wise. Wiser than the dog. Another well known writer, the poet and novelist Jean Cocteau said the cat companion was more than a companion to him:
“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”
Authors spend a lot of time at home. The relatively undemanding cat is there at all times. All you have to do is reach out and stroke her briefly to reaffirm the companionship. Then back to the book.
A well known novelist and cat-lover was Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (1873-1954), known as “Colette”. She wrote the novel Gigi. Gigi was made into a very successful film musical of the same name starring Leslie Caron as Gigi. A charming film that is still popular. Colette says
“By associating with a cat, one only risks becoming richer”
She must have meant both spiritually and financially. Colette kept several cats one of which was a purebred Russian Blue she named La Chatte (the cat!). She wrote a novel La Chatte. The story is about a man who prefers his cat Saha, a Russian Blue, to his wife and eventually leaves her to live with his cat and his mother after his wife tries to kill his cat. Apparently this tale is not dissimilar to Colette’s personal experiences.
One of the all-time great “combination cat-lover and writers” is Mark Twain, real name Samuel Langhorne Clemens. This great American writer was devoted to his cats. He cared for several. He is well quoted on the subject of the domestic cat. Here is one:
“By what right has the dog come to be regarded as a “noble” animal? The more brutal and cruel and unjust you are to him the more your fawning and adoring slave he becomes; whereas, if you shamefully misuse a cat once she will always maintain a dignified reserve toward you afterward — you will never get her full confidence again.”
Mark Twain gave his cats fancy names such as Apollinaris and Blatherskite. In explaining why, he said that it helped his children, Langdon, Susy, Clara, Jean, to learn to pronounce difficult words.
The famous author and cat lover T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) says this about naming your cat:
“The naming of cats is a difficult matter. It isn’t just one of your holiday games. You may think at first I’m mad as a hatter. When I tell you a cat must have three different names”
I agree. I have actually added to my cat’s list of names over the course of my relationship with them. T.S. Eliot based his collection of cat poems Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats on his cats. He gave his cats human traits and feline characters.
Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) an American novelist who wrote psychological thrillers amongst other genres liked feline company in the seductive shape of the super sharp Siamese!
The Siamese cat was made famous in the film Bell Book and Candle starring James Stewart and Kim Novak (note: this film has no connection with Patricia except for the breed of cat).
Patricia Highsmith’s novels were also often made into films. For instance her first novel Strangers on a Train was made into the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same title.
Cats and authors go together like tuna and milk. I suspect that a lot of authors are difficult to get along with, if you’re a human. The loyal domestic cat has no such problem.
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