About Writers, Isolation and Cat Companions

September 7, 2011 § 18 Comments

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that owning at least one cat seems to be a basic requirement for authorship.

So many of those three-or-four-sentence author bios at the backs of books make a point of mentioning the author’s ownership of both spouse and cats. I thought about this when I was writing my own brief blurb recently and I instinctively added that in too. I suppose it’s a matter of ingrained expectation about author bios, because really – pick up a few books from your bookshelf and probably one of those bios will talk about their cats.

Or maybe this is mostly a fantasy author thing. My findings are unscientific to say the least. But let’s discuss it anyway.

My theory? Writers spend so much time sitting by themselves staring at a screen – or a piece of paper – that we could, over a matter of years, come to feel seriously isolated and out of touch with the real world. Loneliness can be an occupational hazard, and the more you concentrate on building your career as an author – the more hours a day you spend pounding out the words – the greater the danger of suffering from a lack of companionship.

When I moved to the Netherlands in July, my partner ever so gloriously presented me with two kittens as a welcome gift, and there’s no doubt they transform the daily writing grind. Just having Emma sleeping on the windowsill behind my computer makes me feel that I have company. But unlike dogs it’s not intrusive company. Usually. (Don’t get me wrong about dogs: I love them. I used to own a beagle and he was seriously the cutest creature in existence. But they need a lot more attention than cats do).

There are exceptions, of course. Just now my kittens are sleeping, so I get the feeling of companionship without being interrupted while I write. But they are kittens. Once in a while I’m thrown out of my writing trance by a resounding crash as something is knocked off a shelf or a windowsill, and I’m still trying – repeatedly though unsuccessfully – to discourage them from destroying my plants.

But at least they take themselves to the loo when they need to go.

Am I right about cats? How many of my writer friends either own, or wish they owned, a cat or two? Or other animal companions? And do you ever start feeling isolated when you’ve been writing long hours for months at a time?

I hear that Kage Baker is pretty good...

Can you get me the third book in the Isavalta Series while you're up there?

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§ 18 Responses to About Writers, Isolation and Cat Companions

  • Sally says:

    Two cats here. Full grown and rather lazy. The crashes don’t stop and they will eventually leave the plants alone One small, demanding ShihTzu that thinks he’s a cat. I’ve named them ‘the herd’ and they’re best friends. You’re right about the companionship. I suspect I talk to the herd more than humans on an average day and we all are happy to have each other. Course, if they learn how to get their own meals from the refrigerator and pantry, that could all change.

    • Charlotte says:

      I love the idea of a dog masquerading as a cat. Is it really true that animals only love us because we feed them? I hope not, but there’s no doubt they get at their most enthusiastically affectionate when it’s dinner time.

  • DDW says:

    Cats less intrusive than dogs? I’ve never had a dog try to sit on the keyboard while I was typing.

  • A cat – or cats – definitely makes a good writing companion. And, yes, Sir Tristan often tries to type a couple of sentences for me, or decides to take over my books while I’m studying (that means it’s time for a break). But he also doesn’t mind me telling him about plot ideas, reading something out loud a couple of times to hear how it sounds or tell him why I had to kill a character… and now feel guilty about it and need something sweet.

  • Like most things regarding cats, truth is often found to be vice-versa. Writers are good companions for cats. They are mostly quiet, introspective and patient people, whose unobtrusive nature makes them near-perfect servant material. Writers pride themselves with empathy, so they are quite responsive toward cat’s needs, their conditio sine qua non imagination often anthropomorphise them into furry, playful children, so they tend to be lenient toward their mischief. Soft typing is quiet and rhythmic enough not to disturb napping, yet fingers provide enough frantic movement for hunting practice. That is why so many smart cats choose writers.

  • Darcknyt says:

    I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a cat person. Having owned dogs for most of my life, I found it easier to do things, such as writing, without interruptions. My children excepted, since they don’t disturb me anyway.

    But I can see this for young people without children. And the relative ease of care with cats is a definite draw. So it makes sense.

    But I still prefer freedom. 😉

  • Most certainly sharing the same sentiment. It gets mighty lonely at the computer, and I feel disconnected a lot of the time when I stay too long at the screen. I suppose that’s why I like my cats. They’re not fussy and yet provide the touch of life in my room.

  • Oh I often include a photo of my cat Lucy in my blogs, just for the hell of it. Writing=Cats.

  • Lissa says:

    I don’t own any cats but I used to babysit twice a year for a lovely elderly couple who bred champion ocicats. They had a mother and son pair and he was the cutest little thing ever! And when I was house-sitting I’d often be swamped with essays for Uni, so it was so great to be left alone in a big old house to work quietly with no one bothering me and then I could play with the kitten whenever I wanted! And they were so quiet, only meowing at dinner time. It was great.
    When I move back to Australia I am getting some kittens. We only don’t have any now because there’s like a six month quarantine and we don’t want to do that to our pets.

  • Lissa says:

    My author bio says “obsessed with kittens despite not owning any.”

  • DarcsFalcon says:

    Cats rule, that’s why. 😉

    Honestly, what you say makes a lot of sense. Cats can fill a void without being too demanding – like going out for that walk thing – that would fit a single writer’s lifestyle.

    Congrats on your new kittens! They’re awfully cute. 🙂 And it looks like they already like to read. 😀

  • What would be your subsequent topic a few weeks on the blog site. nqatrcksu;, -~

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