I believe that the affinity that cats and writers have for each other is because we are both introspective, sensitive to nuances, and can sometimes be loners. You have all heard about Ernest Hemingway and his famous cats, but did you know that T.S. Elliot had cats and wrote a poem called The Naming of Cats about them? You can listen to him read it here. According to MentalFloss, his book of light verse Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats was the inspiration for the musical Cats. Patricia Highsmith, Philip K Dick, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, and Joyce Carol Oates, to name just a few of my favorite writers, all have (or had) cats.
I love most animals, and have had dogs, birds, fish and hamsters as pets, but cats suit my temperament better. I got my first cat when I was twelve, just after my dad died. My mom said he didn’t like cats, something to do with the war (but he was too young to have been in the war so I know there is a story in there somewhere). I should have known something was off with my first husband when I found out that he didn’t like cats, but I didn’t figure it out until it was almost too late (and that is probably the reason why I write murder mysteries).
Peaches (short for Peaches and Cream) entered my life the year I moved to Wisconsin and eased my transition into the new environment and life as a single parent. My second husband loves cats and his Saki (a Siamese) and my Peaches got along like siblings from the moment they met. Saki died in 2008 and my Peaches developed lymphatic cancer in 2009 and died a short few months later. It may seem fanciful but I think she took my place – I had just been diagnosed with melanoma and I’m still here while she is gone. I still miss her, the way she used to snuggle in my armpit, the softness of her fur, her quiet meow.
We adopted two kittens from the Humane Society at the end of 2009. We thought they would fall through the holes in our hearts left by our longtime feline companions, but we’ve grown to love them despite, or perhaps because of, their very strange personalities. Cats seem to inhabit my stories just as they inhabit my life – they are an integral part of my characters lives, they reveal who my characters are, react to the environment and sometimes provide insight, can cause distraction or misdirection, but always bring out the best in the people in my fictional world.
Molly, so named because she was sweet and shy when we brought her home, is scared of people, very vocal when she’s hungry, and the dominant cat in our household despite being the smallest. She used to play fetch with her mousie but has grown out of that playful phase. Last week I picked her off my chair and put her on my lap, expecting her to bolt and leave deep gouges in my legs like she has done countless times before. But this time she settled down and went back to sleep. This trend has continued and she sometimes even comes to sit on my lap, which is great because a warm and sleeping cat is so relaxing, isn’t it? The only downside to this is that I cannot comfortably use my laptop when she’s on my lap.
Sheena, so named because of the incredible shine of her silky black fur, is larger, friendlier and very dog-like. She comes when called, greets people at the door, chases her tail, sleeps on her back (or in the laundry basket), and likes to roll around in an empty bathtub. She also stands up and puts her claws into your leg when she wants attention. Sheena weighs a lot, which is very evident when she’s standing on your stomach trying to decide whether or not to lie down. She has to have her paws – and her claws – on your skin, and often lies on my hand, wrist, arm or ankle. Which would be fine except that she tends to “hold on” with those wickedly sharp claws, and the fact that she is so heavy means you aren’t moving that appendage anytime soon. She also likes to lie on plastic and paper, especially my notebook when I’m at my desk. Come to think of it, that’s the only time she’ll come and lie by me – if I’m at my desk. She never comes to sit on me when I’m in my comfy chair. Perhaps she and Molly have an unspoken agreement about whom I belong to, depending on where I’m sitting.
Do one or more cats perhaps own you? Do you have canine companions, feathered, finned or furred friends? What roles do they play in your stories?