Where I live, I’m known as the cat lady.
Not because I own any cats. Well, that’s not true. My beloved cat Gizmo had to be left behind because I moved across the country and because my lease didn’t allow another cat on the premises.
(Don’t worry. Gizmo is in the loving hands of my amazing mom. And I get to share my room with the dog-cat we called Elsa years before Frozen was filmed.)
I’m called the cat lady because I’m constantly babysitting all my friends’ cats. It’s a strange phenomenon called cat-sitting.
No one says dog-sitting. When I watch a friend’s dog, I say, “I get to play with [insert dog name]!”
It’s called cat-sitting for one reason: You sit with the cats.
A cat’s play attention span with a human lasts for ten minutes tops. Trust me, I’ve tried.
So when my friends asked me to watch their three cats for two weeks while they went gallivanting in Europe, that’s exactly what I did each day: Spun every toy they owned across the floor as they watched dully, then sat down defeated with a cat as the kitten chased a random feather across the landing.
If I’m going to be (cat) sitting, I might as well write. But what should I write about?
Rain the cat looked up at me from my lap. Write about cats she said telepathically. Stupid.
Most writers I know have a cat. They may not be able to afford their rent next month, but they scrounge up enough cash for cat food and catnip.
Every famous writer seemed to own a cat. It’s like it’s a book publisher’s requirement for a to-be literary genius to own a cat.
Don’t believe me? Check this out.
So why are writers drawn to cats?
Cats are a bundle of private inspiration. You can’t parade a cat on a leash into a bookstore or bar like you can a dog.
Just as writers don’t want to share their in-progress novel, they don’t want to drag their cat from their home and into everyone’s lap.
And the cat appreciates not doing that.
Cats are secret friends with purring powers. A writer can tell a cat their problems without the cat feigning compassion or interest. In fact, a writer can ramble on and on, and the cat won’t roll his eyes or talk over you.
Unless you talk to Rain. She’ll interrupt your every syllable.
Most importantly, cats resemble the true self. (Most) cats don’t bother with “sit” and “roll over.” This pisses off a lot of people who uphold obedience as a deity.
But the writer enjoys this lack of respect. Cats don’t cave to peer pressure. Cats don’t care if they impress or rattle you. If you yell or hit a cat, he will poop on your bed.
The cat just is.
This being of the true self resonates with writers. It takes a lot of courage in this society to be a writer, to not kowtow to social norms or bribes. A writer must know and celebrate oneself in order for the writing to be authentic and, well, genius.
Cats are a reminder of the pursuit of the true self. In a world of self-help guides, the cat didn’t need a manual to be himself. He made a decision and stuck with it.
And sometimes we writers need a paw to nudge us in the right direction.
Why do you think writers are drawn to cats? Share your story below.