"When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction." -Mark Twain
Writing, as everybody knows, is a solitary occupation. An individual sits alone in a room frowning intently at a blank screen while waiting for inspiration to strike. It stands to reason that if you can make your surroundings do the heavy lifting of inspiring you, it will cut down dramatically on the length of time you have to spend staring vacantly into space and muttering to yourself.
An inspiring work area is very much a matter of individual taste. Since I, myself, enjoy nature, I try to work in a room with a spectacular view. Eight months out of the year, I toil away in my sunroom which happily faces onto a woodsy paradise of cedar groves and cherry orchards. The other four months, when I’m forced to flee the arctic tundra that I call home, I rent a beach house on the Gulf of Mexico. My deck overlooks the ocean. As I once told a friend, “If a person can’t get inspired to write in an atmosphere like this, then that person can’t write period!”
However, I should add that these natural settings, stimulating as they are, still lack the one essential decorative element to beckon a writer’s inner muse. This decorative element is quite cheap (the cost of a can of tuna), portable (can be stuffed inside a carrier and taken anywhere) and tends to ground the imagination in a way that nothing else can. I refer, of course, to Felis Catus or the not-so-humble house cat.
The affinity between cats and writers has been noted so often that it has become a cliché. I’ll rattle off a short list of authors, all of whom were uncommonly attached to their felines: Edward Gorey, T. S. Eliot, Jack Kerouac, Jean Cocteau, H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Raymond Chandler, Joyce Carol Oates, Doris Lessing, Patricia Highsmith, Ray Bradbury and, of course, Ernest Hemingway. The descendants of Hemingway’s six-toed cat lounge about the grounds of his museum in Key West to this day.
Lest any dog fanciers reading this post take umbrage, don’t get me wrong. I love animals on principle and dogs make wonderful companions. However, I feel about dogs the way most grandparents feel about their grandchildren. It’s great to play with them, pet them and spoil them all day long but, come night fall, I feel compelled to hand them back to their primary caregivers and say, “Take them home. I’m exhausted.”
Cats do not drain one’s energy with their hyperactivity because they have spent millennia learning how to sleep twenty hours a day without excuse or apology. In contrast, most writers with any talent suffer from fevered brains. It’s a blessing to be able to spin a story out of nothing at all but it’s also a curse when imagination kicks into hyperdrive and the inside of one’s head feels like the large Hadron collider at Cern. That’s where cats make their contribution to the creative process. It can be highly therapeutic for a mentally overstimulated author simply to watch a cat sleep. As I write this, I raise my head from the keyboard long enough to regard my feline companions draped languidly over their favorite pieces of furniture. One of them blinks at me in lazy self-possession as if to say, “Chill. It’s all good.” That single gaze imparts an immediate sense of calm. He’s right. It is.
My sympathies to any writers out there who are allergic to pet dander. You simply can’t be any good as an author without a cat decorating your work space.