The Guardian Book Blog recently had an entry on authors and animals, specifically their pets. In Authors’ mews: writers and their cats, David Barnett wonders why authors seem to favour cats. From Alexander McCall Smith to Ray Bradbury, with rare exceptions authors seem to prefer cats to dogs.
Robertson Davies said “Authors like cats because they are such quiet, loveable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons.” Barnett scoffs at this and counters with the suggestion that cat people are bonkers, authors bonkers squared.
I have an alternative explanation. You open the tin of cat food, you put it out, you make sure it has a way in and out of the house. Voila. You’re looking after the cat. Writers are useless creatures. Sometimes, when I get really into writing, I can look up at the clock and realise that it’s 11pm, and I forgot to eat. Again. Anything more demanding than a cat would be in danger of wasting away. Seriously.
Cats are solitary. As the joke goes, they don’t have owners, they have staff. The cat will get up, and leave – specifically they will leave you alone. And a writer definitely needs that. Can you imagine trying to sit down and write with a hyperactive puppy at your feet? Every five minutes interrupted by the “ohboyletsplayI’mhungryohboyaballohboyastickfeedmefeedmehungryoooooh newspaper” of a gregarious dog? You’d get nothing done.
No, I think cats have to be the ideal pets for authors. Solitary, low maintenance and slightly surly – authors are difficult so need something patient like a cat!
So does this mean I should be getting one? I think I’d have to prove I can keep a plant alive for longer than three months. The graveyard of bonsai would have something to say about that. And I suspect that if I did get a cat, it would wind up as something like this…