Lately I found out that quite a few of the most famous authors in the world have or had cats. Some used them as companions, others as inspiration.
Among them was Ernest Hemingway, who said about cats: “A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”
Joyce Carol Oates, award-winning novelist and Pulitzer price nominee says about cats: “I write so much because my cat sits on my lap. She purrs so I don’t want to get up. She’s so much more calming than my husband.”
Mark Twain used to say about cats: “When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.” And “I simply can’t resist a cat, particularly a purring one. They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course.”
Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allan Poe as well as T. S. Eliot were all known as cat owners.
William S. Burroughs was a devout cat lover who called them his “psychic companions,” and described them as “natural enemies of the state.” He wrote a book, The Cat Inside, where he wrote lovingly of his companions such as Calico Jane, Fletch, Rooski, Wimpy, and Ed.
Many more famous authors like Jean Cocteau, Stephen King and Jean Paul Sartre were inspired by cats.
What I was wondering about is: What is it with writers and cats? Why seem authors and cats connect so easily? There are as many theories as writers, I would say. A few possible explanations might be:
Cats lower high blood pressure
A study shows that people with high blood pressure who adopted a cat had been significantly improving. There are lots of theories, but fact is, nobody ever could explain biologically or medically why cats lower blood pressure. It is suspected that having someone on your side, someone non-judgmental, creates a psychologically beneficial atmosphere.
Cats help dealing with loneliness and stress
On days when you feel depressed, hopeless, down, lonely, sad, discouraged, or just have the “blahs,” spending time with your cat can be a real pick-me-up.
Cats purrs can improve health
When a cat purrs within a range of 20-140 Hertz, nearby humans may be therapeutically benefiting from these vibrations. Purring has been linked to lowering stress, decreasing symptoms of Dyspnoea, lessening the chances of having a heart attack, and even strengthening bones. Besides: purrs have a calming effect on most humans.
As we authors know, quite often writing is a “lonely” business. While we might feel disturbed by permanent chatting, radio, TV sets, loud music and so on… very often we don’t mind a cat sitting on our desk and silently enjoying our company. In a situation like this cats don’t expect much attention. They just want to be with us, sharing the silence and once in a while carefully watching what we do. We all know they will have their few playful minutes, rolling across our papers or use their paws to throw our pens to the ground. But isn’t it just in moments like this time for a break?
To me these reasons might be as good or bad as any others. They might not even be particularly connected to authors. But it seems sometimes that an author’s cat is exceptionally deeply connected with the writer. The silent friendship they develop might be a reason for the strong mental connection between them. Maybe this is one of the secrets why the bond between an author and a cat becomes this deep and intense: the author’s gratefulness to the cat’s calming and naturally given presence.
I am quite convinced William S. Burroughs had it right when he said: “The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself.”
And that Helen Thomson too knew what she was talking about: “A cat does not want all the world to love her — only those she has chosen to love.”