Stretch. Run Around. Repeat: How a Writer’s Cat Takes Care of Her Human

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Guest post by Clea Simon
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Stretch. Run around. Repeat.

Conscious Cat readers will undoubtedly recognize a pattern here. You could call it a cat’s morning regimen. But as we enter the darkest days of winter – as well as the second year of a pandemic that has us more shut in than ever before – I’m trying to make this my routine as well.

As a writer, I tend to fall into bad habits. I spend too long at my computer, and with each hour my posture suffers. I hunch over the keyboard, which leaves me with back and shoulder strain. I stare too long at the cursor in front of me, willing the words to appear. All the while, Thisbe waits – more or less patiently, in her basket beside me or on a chair nearby. Until, that is, she doesn’t.

Although I often take pictures of her asleep, curled in the basket she appropriated early on, Thisbe – my tortoiseshell companion – is a dynamo. No matter that she turns three this winter,* she remains extremely kitten-ish, full of energy and able to leap several feet in the air, if a toy is thrown properly or a moth or fly gets in. Perhaps that’s because she’s a tortie, with more energy and smarts than any other cat I have had the honor to cohabit with. Maybe it’s just because she’s Thisbe, Slayer of the Catnip Bird and Possessor of Every Box.

It’s this spirit – her focus and drive – as well as the special warmth of feline bonding that I am trying to put on the page. Yes, the three cats in my Witch Cats of Cambridge series have magical powers. Clara, a calico (and the most Thisbe-like), can shade herself into invisibility, a skill that allows her to follow her human, Becca, out into the world without Becca’s knowledge. (Just as well, because Becca would worry – as would I.) Laurel, whose chocolate-pointed coat reflects the Siamese in her heritage, is a bit vain, but she also has a more sophisticated sense of human relations than her youngest sibling – and the power to “suggest” thoughts to people, while Harriet, the fluffy firstborn and thus dominant of the litter, can summon objects from the ether, which complicates life for their person as often as it helps. These three bicker like sisters do in my new A Cat on the Case, even as they use their powers to help Becca unravel a tale of murder and a musician’s missing violin. But woven into the magic and the mystery, I aim to  capture some of the simple catitude – that special feline character – that we all love.

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I consider this a worthwhile use of my time and my talents – and I hope, with the release of this, my third “witch cat” mystery, that readers will agree. But even as I labor to depict realistic cat behavior in my books, I often forget its importance to my own life. I sit too long and in too uncomfortable a position, even as Thisbe gets up and stretches. Steals a pen from my desk and chases it, thundering down the stairs. And then, ultimately, comes back – reaching one claw delicately up to get my attention. To draw me into her world, and make me conscious not only of her needs but my own.

She reminds me to take a break. To pull back from the fictional world I’m creating and focus on the real one. Throw a catnip mouse. Run around dragging that long ribbon that needs to be chased and pulled and chased some more. To move and breathe, in other words. Stretch, run around, and repeat. And, yes, when we’re all tired out to look for the sunny spot.  Maybe even to nap. Thisbe would approve, reminding me, as she does, that this is the true magic of cats.

* Yes, Thisbe was born in January – a fact that brought her to me, as the kind woman doing trap, neuter, return realized that the litter she had found was unlikely to survive the bitter cold.

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A former journalist, Clea Simon is the Boston Globe-bestselling author of three nonfiction books and nearly 30 mysteries. These alternate between cozies, like her new A Cat on the Case, the third witch cat of Cambridge mystery (out January 26 from Polis Books), and the darker psychological suspense of World Enough (Severn House), a Massachusetts Book Awards “must read,” and her upcoming Hold Me Down (coming Oct. 5, 2021, from Polis Books). She can be reached at http://www.cleasimon.com

12 Comments on Stretch. Run Around. Repeat: How a Writer’s Cat Takes Care of Her Human

  1. Maria T
    January 28, 2021 at 2:39 am (5 months ago)

    Such a fun post to read, thank you so much Ingrid.
    We used to call Signe, a cat we had before our beloved tortie Kajsa, “The Queen of every cardboard box” : )
    Thisbe is sooooo cute!

    Reply
    • Clea Simon
      January 28, 2021 at 7:39 pm (5 months ago)

      Thank you! She knows it too 🙂
      Purrs to you and Kajsa!

      Reply
  2. Glen
    January 27, 2021 at 7:36 pm (5 months ago)

    That “upside down” picture reminds me of our Freyja; another longhair, dark tortie that lies on her back.

    Freyja just turned 4. Like Thisbe, she was born in January, not good in southern Ontario, Canada. Her cat family was brought in to the local shelter and we adopted her at around 8 weeks old.

    She is also quite a “character” 🙂

    Reply
    • Clea Simon
      January 28, 2021 at 7:38 pm (5 months ago)

      It sounds like Freyja could be Thisbe’s sister from another mother! She sounds charming (as a goddess should be)!

      Reply
      • Glen
        January 29, 2021 at 8:14 pm (5 months ago)

        Well, Freyja looks like a Norwegian Forest cat, but I know she isn’t one.

        She weighs 15 pounds and in her fall 2020 vet visit, they said she was not over weight, just big.

        If she can grab something in her mouth that she shouldn’t have, she will run and be tough to catch. Your best hope is she drops it before taking it to some hiding place.

        Reply
  3. Timmy Tomcat
    January 27, 2021 at 12:39 pm (5 months ago)

    Our cats know whats best when we may not

    Reply
    • Clea. Simon
      January 27, 2021 at 7:10 pm (5 months ago)

      Too true! I constantly need to remind myself to observe and learn.

      Reply
  4. Clea Simon
    January 27, 2021 at 10:38 am (5 months ago)

    Thanks so much for having me, Ingrid! And for showcasing Thisbe, of course!

    Reply
    • Ingrid
      January 27, 2021 at 5:12 pm (5 months ago)

      Always a pleasure, Clea!

      Reply
  5. janine
    January 27, 2021 at 7:23 am (5 months ago)

    Cats seem to have it all figured out. We really should take lessons from them. Except for Kiki. She doesn’t chew her food and just inhales it, often ending up sick. I had a big mess to clean up this morning.

    Reply
    • Clea Simon
      January 27, 2021 at 10:37 am (5 months ago)

      My Cyrus was like that. We figured he didn’t care if he vomited – it just meant he could eat more after (and we were around to clean it up). But otherwise, yup, they are perfect!

      Reply
      • janine
        January 28, 2021 at 6:44 am (5 months ago)

        That’s how Kiki acts. She doesn’t care. It just means she gets to taste the food again. She also has to go to everyone’s bowl to sample what they got too. It’s all the same!

        Reply

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