Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

Writing With Cats

Written By: Tracy - Mar• 08•12

sorry that this blog is late, the move has taken up quite a bit more time than I thought it would.

Today’s guest post is by Justine Graykin. Justine is a writer and free-lance philosopher sustained by her deep, abiding faith in Science and Humanity — well, Science, anyway – and the belief that humor is the best anti-gravity device. Find her work and bloggings at justinegraykin.com.

Writing with Cats

by Justine Graykin

It is simply not a problem you have with dogs. Dogs don’t try to nap on your keyboard. Dogs don’t insist on sprawling across your lap with their chin on your forearm while you are trying to type. Dogs don’t lurk on the edge of your desk waiting for the opportunity to add “asdfcdxzzzzzzz” to your carefully crafted essay. These are exclusively the problems of writers who are owned by cats.

I have six at the present time. This population has shifted over the years, going from as few as one to as many as nine. I have never gone into double digits; I think this constitutes a legitimate pathology.

Any serious cat person will tell you, each one is unique. They have their own quirks, their own peculiarities, just like people. Out of all my cats, no two have ever been exactly the same. But there are certain traits they all have in common. They know their place: Solidly at the top of the pecking order. They were once worshipped as gods, and they have not forgotten.

Among the more famous writers who were owned by cats are Philip K. Dick, Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Andre Norton, but the complete list is very, very long. Perhaps part of the appeal of cat ownership to a writer is that fewer demands are made. A cat will reside contentedly on one’s shoulder, manuscript, or pile of rejection letters for hours without need for maintenance. And as long as the cat box is attended to, the kibble dish full and water available, a writer can disappear into the den with creative implements, bottle and sandwich, and the cat can take care of herself. No urgent barking at the door with a desperate need for walkies. And should the writer become deeply and extensively absorbed in work, the cat will simply help herself. No, don’t bother to get up; the contents of the butter dish will do nicely, thank you.

The silence of cats is appealing to the writer. There is nothing more upsetting then being rudely startled out of creative reverie by the sharp report of an idiot dog who has spotted a squirrel through the window. A cat will watch prey quietly, tail twitching into open and close quotes, without bothering anyone else about it, perhaps mewing under its breath at most.

We writers are a notoriously insecure lot, constantly in need of reassurance. Cats are good at that, providing a soft, warm surface to stroke absently in moments of melancholy. Their purring, not unlike that of a tribble, is curiously soothing. They can gaze with adoration (which is praise from Caesar) and rub against a leg or hand as if in sheer ecstasy at the mere presence of the chosen human.

Dogs, of course, are good at worshiping humans, too, but one always feels the need to wash one’s hands afterwards. Their adoration lacks a certain substance, rather like being fawned over by a soiled and somewhat dubious groupie, as opposed to being paid a compliment by a gracious member of the peerage.

I know there are many of you reading this who will fly to the defense of the poor dog, but you need not bother. My cats and I aren’t listening. We who share our homes, our furniture, our glass of milk or tuna sandwich with a cat know the truth. We gladly put up with the gakked-up hairballs in the slipper, the shredded curtains, the broken vases, as one tolerates the indiscretions of a deity. “There is no such thing as ‘just a cat’,” Robert A. Heinlein is supposed to have said, “Cats, like butterflies, need no excuse.”

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5 Comments

  1. I have a cat and a dog. Elbereth, so named because she has the ears and attitude of an elf queen, loves to sit on my lap and rest on my arm as I write on the laptop. When I’m at my desk, she used to sit on the back of my chair. However, I recently bought a new chair, which is ergonomically better for me, but not her. I made her a pillow which sits on the desk and she rests there while supervising my work. She’s also very good at reminding me at ten o’clock each night that it’s time to get off the computer and come to bed, where she (and the dog) can conspire to have me sleep in as awkward a position as possible.

  2. Ken Parms says:

    I woke up today slightly hung over from the allergy medicine I’m taking.
    Thankfully it wasn’t powerful enough to obliterate the dream I had. The Dream: I was in a sort of animal shelter, there were of course the obligartory people with no face’s, and yet we spoke. My reason for being there was to adopt two cats. I saw the two that I wanted sitting side by side, eyes closed and barely breathing. The woman told me “no you can’t have those, they’re sick!” I insisted blah blah blah and got them. They were magical in the rabbit out of the hat way and I was happy and last image of my dream was of one of them stretching in the window sill, probably from a nap. I love cats

  3. Terri Bruce says:

    One of my favorite scenes of any movie is in “The Good Fairy” where the mother is typing away on a typewriter, finishes a page, pulls it out, picks up the kitten acting as a paper weight, adds the page to the stack, and then continues working.

  4. Great post, and totally true–especially the part about the 13-pound cat weighing down your arm as you try to type something he may or may not approve of. Oh, you didn’t mention how much the cat weighed… Kinda gave myself away there, didn’t I? 😉

  5. Phoebe Wray says:

    I had two magnificent BIG cats (Max weighed 17 lbs and stood 14″ at the shoulder). He liked to sit behind me as I worked. His funniest (and most disconcerting trick) was to grab the back of my bra in his teeth and snap it! reminded me of my junior high days. Sinjin, my poodle, was a quiet companion, but, if I had been writing for what he apparently considered Too Long, he would gently nudge my knee. Get up! Take a break. Usually, that was good advice. Jenny, the current surviving cat, just sits and stares.