It seemed a good idea to have a pet of some kind, as a writing companion. My dog Fionn, a lurcher/collie cross, turned out to be a little too mad, especially with young children in the house, he needed set walks of great length that left me exhausted, and had no interest in literature! Thankfully my cousin has given him a loving home for many years now.
I was always allergic to cats, but after a chance encounter with a stray, and much testing with friend’s cats, I discovered that this was no longer the case. Tentatively I collected a tabby kitten from the local rescue centre, she was named Anoushka.
Less than a year later she was joined by two more kittens, Tortoiseshells, that became Tallulah Belle and Wanita One Sock.
So what is it about cats that make great writing companions?
After all they leave muddy footprints across newly printed pages, they drink your tea if you leave it to cool down too much, they get hairs in your laptop, and they like to sleep on the exact page of a book your researching from.
In their favour though, they remind you that other considerations are just as important as word count:
- Many a time have I sat hunched over my work, only to glance at Tally stretching out luxuriously next to me – perhaps it’s time for a walk, to help consolidate these notes into a workable plan.
- The insistent meow from Wani when it’s an hour past dinner time – oh is that my stomach rumbling too?
- Noushi’s sudden leap onto the window sill – hmm maybe I need to go out and explore the world today, to feed my creativity.
- When cats are deeply asleep they look half dead – my writing always benefits from a deep relaxed sleep – sometimes it’s good to empty out every thought, relax every muscle and wake refreshed and keen to write again.
I like to have ‘thinking walks’ regularly, without being pulled on a lead, and definitely without collecting faeces in a bag! I don’t want to walk every day, or in the pouring rain – it suits me to have pets who do their own walking.
I use a tool known as The Artist’s Date (Julia Cameron: The Artist’s Way 2002 Penguin Putnam Books) http://juliacameronlive.com/ It’s useful to be able to set the timer on the cat feeders and head out into the world whenever I get that stuck feeling creeping into my writing.
Cats are independent and often aloof, they don’t crave society or acceptance. I write because I feel the need, and because I hope others will be able to resonate with my work. Being solely in my own company for long periods of time is essential to my mental well-being and also to my writing process. Some people find this strange, they think I have lots of spare time, but I have finally learned to use my cat-like instincts and say ‘no’ quite often.
Does your writing benefit from the company of cats?
Or are you a dog lover?
Do you have more unusual pets that assist in your writing life?
Or do you find that animals creep into your stories?