Amber reading Buckley's Story

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

Cats and writers just seem to go together. According to Barbara Holland, author of Secrets of the Cat: Its Lore, Legend and Lives, “a catless writer is almost inconceivable. It’s a perverse taste, really, since it would be easier to write with a herd of buffalo in the room than even one cat.” I think she’s right.

I certainly get inspired by my two feline mewses, Allegra and Ruby. I couldn’t write The Conscious Cat without their inspurr-ation. But the best piece of writing I ever saw about how cats inspire writers comes from Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry From Kensington:

“If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work … the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp. The light from a desk lamp … gives a cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.”

This paragraph covers just exactly how cats help writers be the best they can be: in the way they model complete concentration for us, and by their simple quiet presence.

And of course, there’s also editing (walking across the keyboard and rearranging passages with a well-placed paw or two), and reminding us to take breaks by sitting in front of the monitor. On occasion, cats may also be our harshest critics, forcing us to start over from scratch. Whoever designed a keyboard should have known better than to place the “delete” key next to a smooth, empty area that makes such a purr-fect landing spot for feline paws. But then, whatever our cats erased “by accident” probably wasn’t meant for public consumption anyway.

I couldn’t imagine being a catless writer anymore than I could imagine a world without cats.

How do cats inspire your writing – or your other work, for that matter?

Picture of Amber reading Buckley’s Story ©Ingrid King.

18 Comments on Conscious Cat Sunday: Cats and Writers

  1. Muriel Spark is so, so right… their wonderful serene presence is what I call Cat-Zen-Effect.. it helps me at any time, writing, cooking, reading, watching tv, cleaning, listening to music, their company is always a plus. I’m very lucky, when I sit at the computer, one by one the three boys arrive, take their places around me and share their magic.

  2. Oh yes, a cat leg can do amazing things across a keyboard! I have one I call tech support kitty who can turn the screen up, down, and all around with one leg. She’s also shown me auto response to email.

  3. I am inspired every single day by my kitties.
    Their personalities are what brings the humor to my favorite photos, captions and posts. I especially love writing what I perceive the conversations to be between the two of them. …that is, what’s fit for print! haha

  4. This certainly rings true for me. I had always wanted to write a mystery but I’m sure that I never would have if I hadn’t met my wife’s cats. They’ve provided me with characters, situations and they seem to draw creativity out of me that I didn’t know existed. Also I think that they knock my laptop off of the desk if I write something that they don’t like so they provide editing services as well.

  5. Oh, this is SO true! My beloved cat, Star, spent the last year sitting under my desk lamp, sprawled among the sticky notes that would become chapters in my current book. No matter how many times I organized those notes, Star always felt it her job to rearrange them. Many a time she walked away with a bright orange sticky note clinging to her leg.

    When we learned of her cancer, she told me she’d stay as long as she possibly could. I lost Star eleven days ago. Thankfully, the chapters are all written now, and the notes are no longer needed, because I don’t think I could bear a desk top covered in perfectfully arranged sticky notes.

  6. I completely LOVED your take on this ” Whoever designed a keyboard should have known better than to place the “delete” key next to a smooth, empty area that makes such a purr-fect landing spot for feline paws.”

    Never thought about it before but you are exactly right!

  7. Ingrid, I totally agree.
    I’m not a writer but while I type this, I have one cat laying beside me and another one on the arm of my chair hugging me with his body.
    That is one of the reasons I love reading the Midnight Louie books. In his chapters, he is telling us exactly how he helps Temple Barr and all his friends. Both human and animal!

  8. When I first began writing novels, one aim I had was to include animal companions in the background. Nobody in the novels I read had a pet around. So my resolve came from wanting realism in my fiction, but I soon learned you don’t put “characters” in a novel unless they have something to do in the story. So the Irish Wolfhound in my first novel knocked the one who’d murdered his master off an Irish seaside cliff, and the King Charles Spaniel in my second novel represented the Cavalier cause during the English 17th-century Civil War.

    The I wrote a high fantasy and met Felabba, a white cat with 99 lives who talked to her human companions. Since cats are my primary must-have (I do love dogs too, and all creatures), it was inevitable that I’d give one voice in a contemporary-set novel, and so Midnight Louie, “Sam Spade with hairballs” and his own chapters to write, was born. He was inspired by a street cat I wrote about as a newspaper reporter and we’ve been constant “collaborators” since 1985.

    And cats like to be with me when I’m writing. Summer, gotten as a kitten (we mostly acquire older, homeless rescue cats), used to ssleep on my lap with her head resting on my thumb, gently nodding up and down every time I hit the space bar,

    Muriel Spark has hit the nail on the head, or on the desk lamp, rather. Cats are drawn to sit by my computer because of the artificial sun of the desk lamp, but I think their main motive is to provide quiet, contemplative company, which is just what the writer needs when writing. Of course, we egocentric humans like to believe we are the drawing cards, and we are.

    Cats don’t do anything unless they want to. Now that’s an inspiration on the way to live we should all follow.

    • You are so right, Carole – cats don’t do anything unless they want to, and we should take our cues from them. We writers are just fortunate that they do seem to enjoy being our inspurr-ation…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.