Saturday, July 21, 2012

In Praise of Cats

Last week, an item from "Animal Planet" about what were called "Cats from Hell" hit the internet, with stories about violent cats who can break up relationships. Bad news always gets the headlines.

Just days before I received an email from an amazing cat who blogs; he is named Nikita, and his writing is clear and well edited--better, in fact, than that of some of my past students. Not at all violent, he was writing to thank me for my book, Writing with Cats, which his "owner" had bought on Amazon. I wrote back to say that, although his was the first feline email I ever received, I knew that two cats in Kent, England serve as editors of the Mewsletter (, published by a talented author named Pauline Dewberry. Like Nikita, I know that Sam and Ollie, the assistant editors, forge relationships; they don't break them up.

As my book indicates,nothing about cats surprises me. Although they serve writers, I believe, chiefly as sources of inspiration, setting just the right contemplative mood, they are also active in many good ways, ways that the mainstream media ignores. A few write, and many do good deeds.

Did you know that a cat has served for the past 15 years as major of Talkeetha, Alaska (pop. 900)? His name is Stubbs and he is said by the citizenry to be the best mayor they have had. (What this says about politics is open to discussion.) In 2006, Fred became a famous feline by assisting the NYPD and Brooklyn District Attorney's office. Tama is the name of the feline station master at Kinokawa, Japan. And what about Faith, the London cat who received a silver medal for bravery during the blitz?

A quick look at Wikipedia turned up a lot of information new to me since my research ten years ago, such as another literary cat, Sockington, who is known for his posts on Twitter. And the late Dewey, the library cat of Spencer, Iowa, the subject of a best-seller.

In England, the cat Brutus visits the Morrisons supermarket every day near Chester and has nearly a thousand followers on Facebook. Oscar, the hospice cat, is noted for is uncanny ability to predict which patients will die.

Prominent cats have lived in the White House, at No. 10 Downing St., even in the Vatican. Several have inherited millions of dollars. Several have been international travelers. You can read Christopher Wren's book about Henrietta, The Cat Who Covered the World or books by Cleveland Amory, among many others. Mathilda, a beautiful white Persian, always presides over the Algonquin Hotel in New York, the famous literary haunt.

Many, of course, many have been inspirational companions to writers as diverse as T. S. Eliot, Hemingway, Dickens, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Jack Kerouac, Samuel Johnson, Raymond Chandler, H. G. Wells, Winston Churchill, Victor Hugo, D. H. Lawrence and Colette, who once said: "Time spent with a cat is never wasted."

Let the wisdom of that memorable statement silence the cat-haters out there, always a minority in the population, people like Napoleon, who hated anything he could not control; and let's put an end to the unfortunate news stories of bad cats. If you are a cat person--and who would read all this if they were not?--check out for more on the amazing world of felines.

1 comment:

Pauline said...

A very interesting piece Gerald - and thank you for the plug for the website - much appreciated.

You've obviously done a lot of research with regard to the other cats mentioned in your blog - and it proves a massive point: cats can live without Man but Man cannot live without cats.

Years ago I had a tee shirt with the succinct but admirably correct message: 'Behind every successful woman lies a loving cat.'

Pauline Dewberry (UK) devoted slave and willing Food Bowl Attendant and Lap Provider to Sam and Ollie - who give far more in return and they help edit