Did Rudyard Kipling love cats and live with them?

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was a famous English novelist, poet and artist. For cat lovers (and even non-cat lovers) his best-known book is ‘The Cat That Walked by Himself’. The illustrations are memorable and remarkably by him. A talented man.

Rudyard Kipling and his famous book 'The Cat that Walked by Himself'
Rudyard Kipling and his famous book ‘The Cat that Walked by Himself’. Image: MikeB from images believed to be in the public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Dr Desmond Morris, in his book Cat World describes Kipling as a cat lover (ailurophile). He is listed as one of many authors who loved cats. They do make great companions for authors. Unassumingly keeping them company.

“He will kill mice and he will be kind to babies…but when the moon gets up and the night comes, he is the Cat that Walks by Himself’. A reference to the fact that domestic cats are barely domesticated and essentially solitary like their wild cat ancestor. When the go out at night they become the wild cat within. A Jekyll and Hyde character almost.

Just reading the quote above indicates to me that he lived with cats. He had an intimate knowledge of cat behaviour at a time when it was fairly unusual.

The Kipling Society has a page on The Cat that Walked by Himself. Mr Kipling was married. Mrs Kipling’s ‘Wolcott cousins’ gave her a present of a ‘fine Persian cat’ in late 1901 a few months before writing that famous book.

And before that date Mr Kipling gave his wife a Persian cat on December 1st, 1894. That makes at least two Persian cats in the Kipling family home in Sussex, England provided the first one survived to 1901 which is what I expect happened.

Clearly Mrs Kipling loved domestic cats and particularly the Persian. At that time, at the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the next century, the cat fancy was in its very early years in Britain and the Persian was one of a relatively small number of purebred cats. It being perhaps the best known in the UK other than the blue British Shorthair at the time.

Buying a Perian was a natural choice at that time if you wanted a fancy cat. The Persians of that era were normal looking longhaired cats. No flat-faced, peke-faced Persians moulded by years of selective breeding. They weren’t even dreamt of at that time. The Persians were natural looking and so much better for it.

It is not clear to me other than from Dr Desmond Morris’s book that Mr Kipling loved cats but it is highly likely that he did. He lived with cats and understood them as did his wife.

His was a cat family and they lived in a glorious 17th century house, Bateman’s, that cost them £9,300 in 1902. In 1900, Kipling was the most famous author in England. He was earning £5,000 (£786,278.00 in 2022) per year making Bateman’s very affordable. He lived there until his death in 1936. He loved it. Unsurprising.

Bateman’s. Image: Wikipedia.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

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