“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.