Writing with Cats: A Joy and a Challenge

Patricia-Fry

Guest post by Patricia Fry

When I decided to add a new dimension to my writing repertoire—to pen a novel—I was pretty sure there would be cats involved.

I’d been writing for publication for over forty years by then—all nonfiction. I was one of those rare birds who figured out how to combine my passion for writing with my need to earn a living and I became a freelance magazine article writer. I also wrote a few books along the way—all nonfiction. While I wrote on a variety of topics, a favorite was cats, thus many of my articles appeared in the old Cats Magazine, Cat Fancy, ASPCA Animal Watch and other such publications. Being an admirer of and caretaker for many cats over the years, I researched and wrote articles responding to my own experiences, issues, concerns, questions, and curiosities about the feline species. Over time, I had also collected many true stories which remained unpublished until 2010.

That’s when I went out on a limb and wrote my first book about cats. Catscapades is a compilation of true cat stories featuring cats I’ve known and loved—the cat who obediently went into the cat carrier in response to mind-talk, happy endings for a couple of feral kittens, the male cat who babysat, the hateful cats who learned to love one another, the cat who swallowed a needle and lived to purr about it, and so forth. What a joyful project. The process of bringing cats to life on the pages of this book was a challenging exercise and a labor of love. But I wanted more.

I wanted to honor the cats that have inspired and delighted me over many years, from the kittens who distracted me from my work to the settled cats who kept me in my chair by curling up on my lap as I wrote. I wonder how many words would have gone unwritten, but for the cat on the author’s lap.

Klepto-Cat-mysteries

In 2012, as a birthday gift to myself, I decided to write a novel. Of course, my story would involve cats. After much thought and a few false starts, the Klepto Cats mystery series was created. People ask what’s my secret for bringing cats to life on the pages of these stories and how do I create the roles for these cats. I tell them that, along with constant research, I call upon what I know—my own experiences with cats. One of the most enjoyable methods I use for portraying cats in my stories is to watch our three cats as they interact with each other, when they are at rest or play—I pay attention to their attitudes, their movements, their stance, etc. and then I practice describing it.

Actually, Ragsdale (a.k.a Rags), the starring character in the Klepto Cat Mystery series, was patterned after my mother’s large, grey-and-white cat, Smokey. I chose him because he is curious, funny, confident, clever, and rather creative. He’s determined to have his way, whether it’s to go outside, dump his basket of toys over for the umpteenth time, or catch a lizard. He isn’t a kleptomaniac, however and he doesn’t carry things around in his mouth—but our kitty, Lily, does. So I’ve combined her habit of stealing things with Smokey’s personality, demeanor, and looks; and created Rags.

I’m not the first author to write with cats. Cats and writers go together and have for eons. What can a cat bring to the desk of a writer? Probably each writer can come up with something different. For me it is the calming effect. You’re not totally alone, yet the creature who is sprawled across your desk, lying in your in-basket, or curled up on your lap is quiet. She allows you—maybe inspires you—to focus on the project at hand. Her mere presence lightens your mood and fills your heart.

My cats have taught me a few things about my computer, when they inadvertently step on a key that takes me where I’ve never been before and I have to figure out how to fix it. They remind me to take breaks when they’re ready to play or it’s time to eat. They teach me patience when things aren’t going well with a project—they help me to see the humor in the moment. And they are my inspiration.

Mansions-of-Meow

Patricia Fry is the author of 49 books, and counting. She just published the 9th in the Klepto Cat Mystery series, Mansion of Meows. The Klepto Cat Mysteries are light, fun cozy mysteries full of adventure, intrigue, and a little romance. They feature Rags, an ordinary cat who just can’t keep his paws off other people’s things. Often, the treasures he finds are clues in a mystery. Follow Rags’s fascinating life path from when he and Savannah were single and he roamed the neighborhood stealing everything from toys belonging to large dogs to jewelry and bathing suits. Rags and Savannah don’t stay single long. After meeting Michael, a handsome veterinarian, Savannah settles down, but the cat doesn’t change his thieving ways. Even though his kleptomaniac habit is annoying and embarrassing to his family, he has earned the respect of the local sheriff’s department and he was even asked to star in a documentary. You can find all of Patricia’s books on Amazon.

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16 Comments on Writing with Cats: A Joy and a Challenge

  1. Patricia Fry
    March 16, 2015 at 8:06 am (5 years ago)

    Thank you for your interest in the Klepto Cat Mystery series. It’s been a fun blog tour. Thanks for participating.

    Reply
  2. Michele
    March 12, 2015 at 3:04 am (5 years ago)

    Just as an aside here on the subject of indoor out door cats. I adopted a cat who will not step outside my apartment door–from what I understand she was on the street asking for help when she was taken in by the shelter and ultimately by me. From the way she acts I have a feeling her original owner died and someone just put her on the street! All I know if I cough too much she is right there and I have to sleep on my mack so she can see me breathing!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      March 12, 2015 at 6:07 am (5 years ago)

      All of my rescued cats have been this way, Michele: they show no interest in going outside (not that I would allow them to.) I think after experiencing how hard life outside was, they’ve decided that they want nothing to do with it!

      Reply
      • When the cat is away
        March 12, 2015 at 7:20 am (5 years ago)

        That’s really interesting and surprising – I’m a newbie so I’ve so much to learn! I guess I’ll just wait and see; of course I won’t force any cat to go outside!

        Reply
  3. When the cat is away
    March 11, 2015 at 5:27 pm (5 years ago)

    @ Ingrid

    I can’t reply to your reply, so that’s why I’m leaving a new comment. Thank you for your thoughts! I agree – indoor cats can be very happy, but for some cats (and that’s one of those I’ll adopt) inside-outdoor is a better solution. 🙂

    Reply
  4. Ellen Pilch
    March 11, 2015 at 3:04 pm (5 years ago)

    I love this series! I am happy to hear there is a new one out 🙂

    Reply
  5. Keely F
    March 11, 2015 at 8:49 am (5 years ago)

    A fantastic blog post! I’m writing an MG series called ‘Cat Island’ with cats as the main characters and I find myself using these same methods to write the behaviors and attitudes of the characters. It’s always helpful to hear more from other authors who use cats as characters or who play roles in the stories. Thanks for the great post!

    Reply
  6. Janine
    March 11, 2015 at 8:03 am (5 years ago)

    I love books with cats in them. Thanks for the recommendations.

    Reply
  7. Patricia Fry
    March 11, 2015 at 7:24 am (5 years ago)

    I invite you to start with Catnapped–the first in the series. If you like light mysteries and cats–a little romance and humor, you should enjoy the Klepto Cat Mysteries.
    Patricia

    Reply
  8. When the cat is away
    March 11, 2015 at 6:28 am (5 years ago)

    I was just wondering if you could read my mind. 🙂

    I’ve been writing all my life, but I recently started two new projects: a) to get cats and b) to blog about my life as a cat newbie. Well, I’m still writing without a cat, because I yet haven’t found my new feline flatmates 🙁 Hope that this will change soon! I’m curious how it will be alike to write with and about cats.

    Reply
    • Patricia Fry
      March 11, 2015 at 7:23 am (5 years ago)

      Good luck with finding just the right cat–is there such a thing as a wrong cat? I think you’ll find a lot to write about once you have one. They do inspire.
      Patricia

      Reply
      • When the cat is away
        March 11, 2015 at 9:10 am (5 years ago)

        Thank you! I guess there is not such a thing as “a wrong cat” – but there are some criteria I’m searching for. I’d like to get two grown-up cats who have been already living together. That way, I’ll know that they get along and I don’t need to introduce them to each other. Since I’m living rather rural, they will be allowed to go out.

        These two criteria have been quite problematic. The local animal shelter requires that their cats are to be held as indoor cats. That’s why I’ve been searching online for cats in my area. Many (former) cat owners don’t want their cats to become outdoor cats. Apart from that, most announcements are single cats. Later on, I’d love to adopt a single cat, but I’m such a newbie; that’s why I try to make it as easy as possible.

        But I’m sure I’ll find sooner or later two wonderful feline friends 🙂

        Reply
        • Patricia Fry
          March 11, 2015 at 11:20 am (5 years ago)

          There’s a reason why animal shelter operators and many owners do not want their cats outside unsupervised. I read just the other day that an inside outside or total outside cat have an average lifespan of 7 years. Their typical lifespan of 15 to 18 years is short enough.
          A cat who has never been free to roam does not know what he or she is missing and they do beautifully inside with all of the appropriate stimulation and caring people.
          Do some research before adopting and I think you’ll change your mind about wanting cats that roam free. Coyotes and free-roaming dogs are just two of the dangers. There’s also gopher poison, cars, large birds of prey…
          If you won’t change your mind, consider safety measures to keep cats safer–covered enclosures for cats, harness and leash and supervision at all times when outside–however, I know someone who sat on her deck with her small dog when a coyote stepped up on the deck, snatched the sleeping pup and ran off with it.
          Please reconsider.
          Patricia

          Reply
          • When the cat is away
            March 11, 2015 at 5:01 pm (5 years ago)

            Hi

            Thank you for your long and thoughtful reply. You’re of course right. Indoor cats will live longer and if they’ve never been outside, they won’t know what they’re missing.

            I’ve been thinking about that a lot. First of all, I won’t get kittens (for several reasons), so the cats will already know what they’re missing.

            The second reason is quite personal: I can’t imagine living in a golden cage myself. Ok, I know, indoor cats can have a great life and “golden cage” is an exaggeration. I know that inside/outdoor cats may die earlier and I’ll be very sad. I still believe though that cats are much happier when they can go outsite; otherwise they’d voluntarily stay inside.

            I’ll see where this cat journey will end. It’s not only me who is searching. There’s some cat somewhere who is searching for a home like mine. I think that’s what I also meant with “the wrong cat”.

            Thank you for your thoughts though.

          • Ingrid
            March 11, 2015 at 5:12 pm (5 years ago)

            Keeping cats indoors can be a controversial topic. While I’m a firm believer that cats should be kept indoors for all the reasons Patricia listed, I also think it’s a decision every cat guardian needs to make for his or her individual situation. I will offer the following: indoor cats can be perfectly happy as long as cat guardians provide a stimulating environment for them. http://consciouscat.net/2014/11/12/keep-indoor-cat-happy/

            I know you’ll make the right choice for your future cats and for yourself and I agree with you that the right cat will find you when the time is right!

  9. Fur Everywhere
    March 11, 2015 at 5:37 am (5 years ago)

    I haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of Patricia Fry’s books, but they all sound very interesting and fun!

    Reply

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