Cats and writers have a special bond. Their connection runs deep. Maybe it’s a meditative thing, maybe it’s inspirational or spiritual. Whatever it is, for many authors cats are an essential part of their lives.
There’s a sense of tranquility, of inner peace that cats possess, as well as a rebellious streak. Cats are contradictions. They are mysterious, loving, independent, and yet gentle. They are emotionally free and open unlike people, especially writers who can be distant, cold, getting lost in their own creative world. There is a wide selection authors that could have been picked for inclusion here, but I limited it to the following six.
If one author could be said to be the “King of Cat Lovers,” it would be Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway was a contradiction. He was well known as a hunter, and adventurer, a macho man who had a fascination with bullfighting. Yet, underneath the macho veneer there was an animal lover. He had dogs, and especially cats in his life, lots of cats! When Hemingway lived in Cuba, he had well over 50 cats. He had cats by his side when he wrote, when he went through hard times, and when he died. Want to know more about Hemingway and his lifetime love of cats? Check out Hemingway’s Cats by Carlene Brennen.
Edgar Allan Poe
The Black Cat is one of Poe’s most famous tales. It was first published in The Saturday Evening Post back in 1843. Despite the cat’s horrific demise in Poe’s story, the author loved animals and had a cat himself called Catterina. The black cat was always by Poe’s side observing his every word he put down on paper, purring in approval. Catterina also spent time keeping Poe’s tuberculosis ridden wife Virginia company in bed.
William S. Burroughs
The rebellious outlaw writer, a member of The Beat Generation, was known best for works like Naked Lunch and his hard core, semi-autobiographical book Junkie. His notoriety included the accidental shooting his second wife, writer Joan Vollmer (it was a common-law marriage) during a drunken party when he decided they should do their “William Tell Act.” Burroughs shot was low. The bullet hit her in the head. She died shortly thereafter. Burroughs did have a softer side. He loved cats. He revealed this secret love in his book, The Cat Inside. He called cats, psychic companions and natural enemies of the state. Burroughs apparently was also a subscriber to Cat Fancy magazine for many years. In one of his last journal entries, he wrote, What I feel for my cats present and past. Love? What is it? Most natural painkiller there is. LOVE.
From Burroughs we go to pure Americana with Mark Twain. Animals were an integral part of Mark Twain’s life, but cats were special. Twain was never shy about expressing his love for cats. In one journal entry he wrote Of all God’s creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat. Like Hemingway, Twain had cats in his life from childhood until his death. Wherever he lived, there were cats. Many of his books, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Puddn’head Wilson, Life on the Mississippi and The Innocents Aboard, among many others, make reference to cats. He had over thirty cats in his life. Mark Dawidziak’s Mark Twain for Cat Lovers is worth checking out.
Eliot loved cats and wrote a book of verse containing 15 works called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats which he dedicated to his godchildren. The book became the inspiration for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s forever running musical Cats. The poems depicted the various personalities and eccentricities of cats who had names like Rum Tum Tugger, Grizabella, McCavity and Old Deuteronomy. Later editions contained illustrations by Nicolas Bentley, writer/artist, Edward Gorey, a cat lover himself, and most recently by Axel Scheffler. Eliot’s idiosyncratic cat names extended to his real life cats who had names like, Xerxes, Wiscus, and George Pushdragon.
Capote, most famously, wrote about a cat in his novella, Breakfast at Tiffany’s published in 1958, and turned into a film in 1961 with Audrey Hepburn and cinema’s most famous feline Orangey as Cat. Capote also made illusions to cats in his brilliant In Cold Blood comparing the two lowlife killers to stray cats sneaking around, hiding in the shadows.
Below is a list of a few other cat loving authors
William Butler Yeats
Willim Carlos Williams