I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Greg Bryant’s creative writing class at Highland Community College. I don’t recall why, but I mentioned that writers and cats seem to be a common pairing.
Monica Wood, in her The Pocket Muse: Ideas & Inspirations for Writing, has this list of writers who loved cats: T.S. Eliot, William Butler Yeats, Christina Rossetti, John Keats, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mark Twain, Christopher Smart, Marianne Moore, Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, Doris Lessing, Rita Mae Brown, Carolyn Chute, and Nuala O’Faolain.
Then she asks: “Isn’t it time you got a cat?”
At her blog, Jessica Schneider adds these writers: Charles Bukowski, Sylvia Plath, Jack Kerouac, Ray Bradbury, and Weldon Kees. Vickie Britton, writing at Suite 101, chips in with Raymond Chandler, Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edgar Allan Poe, William S. Burroughs, Samuel Johnston, and Alexandre Dumas, père.
CatQuotes.com has a couple of pages of famous ailurophiles. The writers on the list who have not been mentioned so far: Paul Gallico, H.H. Munro (Saki), Walter de la Mare, Thomas Hardy, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, Beatrix Potter, Horace Walpole, Sir Walter Scott, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, the Brontes, Samuel Butler, Anatole France, Michel de Montaigne, and Henry James.
I’ll put James Herriot (Alf Wight) on the list, even though he was a veterinarian; there’s no rule that says vets have to have pets. And a cat was waiting for me at home after I was born and one still graces my life and my home.
So what’s the connection? There are certain qualities that may draw the writer and the cat together. A cat can generally entertain itself for long periods, usually by sleeping. Dogs tend to be needier, which can interfere with a writer’s concentration or ability to meet a deadline. Cats are said to be aloof; the same is often said about writers, so like finds like. Cats often stare out of windows or into the middle distance for long periods; a writer, trying to come up with his next idea, may frequently be found doing likewise. Most cats have long tails; a writer may write a long tale…
OK, I’m reaching now. There may not be a true correlation, of course; Maureen Adams has written a book about women writers and their dogs, and I haven’t gone searching for writers who love monkeys or parrots or goldfish. This could simply be a case of confirmation bias. Still, if your writer’s block is hanging on, maybe you should at least visit someone with a cat and be able to walk out with a little fur on your trousers.