In Writing

As with most things feminized, cats are underrated. Too long the presumed purview of lonely, crazy cat ladies, cats are seen as the pet of the isolated and maladjusted, of the kooky and the strange.

Well, okay. Guilty as charged. Turns out, I’m in good company.

I don’t understand the false dichotomy that so many people pose, “Are you a cat person or a dog person?” I, myself, am a both person. I also have a strong fondness for all the birds that flutter outside my window, I am enthralled by the graceful arcs of squirrels, and I am delighted at the knowledge that my backyard is frequented by a groundhog, a skunk, deer, turkeys, and a family of raccoons on a daily basis. I like living things, you see. That they are alive is more interesting than their genome, although I will confess a certain affinity to my own kingdom, phyllum and class of mammalia (birds make the cut because flying is bad-ass). No, I can’t get quite as warm and fuzzy about a gecko, and for this speciesist failing I am profoundly sorry. Except not that sorry. I tend to like things that can regulate their body temperature.

Of the mammals I like, cats make the best companions. Yes, dogs will give you more overt love, complete with adoring facial expressions, romping happily when you walk in the door. But cats will give you a glimpse into something that’s wild and not quite tame, something that still hears the faraway call. Plus, in terms of maintenance, you just can’t beat cats. There is something about the fastidiousness of their self care that makes me happy, this knowledge that they’d probably be just fine without me.

Today, a friend posted a surprising picture on Facebook, of three famous (male) writers with their cats. When I think of Hemingway, I think of running with bulls and turned over bottles of bourbon, not kitty cats. But it turns out he loved his cats madly. He is known to have said, “One cat just leads to another.” Of feline companions, Mark Twain once said, “When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade without further introduction.” Aldous Huxley wrote, in his collected essays, “If you want to be a psychological novelist and write about human beings, the best thing you can do is to keep a pair of cats.” In fact, it was easier to find pictures of male writers with their cats than of female ones, presumably because female writers are busy trying to keep from seeming like crazy, lonely cat ladies. But it seems there is some correlation between the urge to write and the desire to have cats underfoot. Maybe something about chasing the impossible that makes writing and cats both so alluring.

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