Writers Who Love Their Cats

Writers from mystery novelist P.D. James to science-fiction icon Ray Bradbury and numerous others have at least one thing in common: They all love cats. Why is it that so many literary types gravitate toward felines? Here are a few possible reasons:

1. Cats inspire us.

Recently I met SARK, aka Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, the best-selling author of A Creative Companion and other books. We were at an NPR radio show taping, and she had just finished telling a story about her now-deceased -- yet never forgotten -- cat, Jupiter.

In 1989, SARK wrote down some inspirational thoughts about “How to Be an Artist.” They included lines like, “Stay loose” and “Invite someone dangerous to tea.” She put them on a scrap of paper and placed it on a wall in her home. Every morning, Jupiter would paw at the list, until one day it fell down. SARK paid attention and created a poster using the list. It sold more than 1,000 copies in a week and led to a lucrative publishing company contract.

2. Cats and authors admire each other.

Canadian novelist and playwright Robertson Davies famously once wrote, “Authors like cats because they are such quiet, loveable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons.”

Publisher Janet Mills named her Amber-Allen Publishing company after one of her beloved cats, Amber, and her good friend Marc Allen. Mills published all of don Miguel Ruiz’s best sellers, books by Deepak Chopra, and has also written popular books, such as The Power of a Woman: Timeless Thoughts on a Woman’s Inner Strengths. “Cats represent the most beautiful qualities. They exude wisdom, calm, grace and pride,” said Mills.

3. Cats give us permission to play and laugh.

Mills joked that her cat Anjali “silently lets me know that the house needs cleaning when she squeezes under furniture and comes out looking like a dust mop. She makes me laugh.”

Such pleasures appear to be timeless. During the Renaissance period, French author Michel de Montaigne used to take breaks to spend time with his cat. He later wrote, “When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is not amusing herself with me more than I with her?” When poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott constructed a house in Italy, he made it an exact replica of his original home to avoid upsetting the comforting routine he and his cat shared.

4. Cats help us to confront challenges.

Routines, however, can be upset by unwanted happenings, such as illness. Nancy Carleton, editor of famous works by Dan Millman, Lynn Andrews, John Robbins, Sanaya Roman, Terry Lynn Taylor and many other well-known authors, is also a talented writer who has contributed to Taylor’s Angel books. In recent years, Carleton has been fighting a serious illness, but has gained strength from cats and other pets.

Carleton specifically talked about Luna, a cat that came into the hearts of her and healthmate Susan Hunter one dark and stormy night. She also recalled Sheba, a “beautiful black, long-haired cat” who was with her and Hunter during the last year or two of Sheba’s life. The cat was very elderly when she chose to live in Carleton’s home.

Carleton was present when Sheba had to be euthanized, something she’d experienced before with another cat named Tappy. “It was a very moving experience being with both of them and giving them love and blessings as they left their bodies,” she said. The moments helped her to “never doubt that the spirit goes on after death.”

The author/cat connection therefore runs very deep. Many of your favorite books were probably written and published by individuals who had a cat nearby for inspiration, companionship, comfort and so much more. Don’t discount the cat contribution either. As poet Dilys Laing once wrote, “I put down my book, The Meaning of Zen, and see the cat smiling into her fur as she delicately combs it with her rough pink tongue. ‘Cat, I would lend you this book to study but it appears you have already read it.’ She looks up and gives me her full gaze. ‘Don't be ridiculous,’ she purrs, ‘I wrote it.’”

7 Ways to Pamper Your Cat

If you’re being completely honest, those reindeer antlers you made Oscar wear during the holidays were probably more for your benefit than his. And while there’s no doubt he looked adorable, it might be time to think of some ways to gain back favor with your favorite feline.

Have no fear; we found seven ways to spoil your cat that he’s sure to love.

1.    Keep your cat active by engaging in fun activities every day. Play fetch with small crumpled up pieces of tin foil or paper, or have him chase a toy, a string or a piece of yarn. Remember, even our most docile house pets actually come from a long line of wild cats, and it’s in their DNA to want to hunt, chase and pounce.

2.    While it may make us squirm, giving your cat a piece of raw meat (poultry or beef that has been deboned) will improve his teeth and gum health, and he’ll really enjoy it. Just be sure to always check with your vet before you add to or change your cat’s diet.

3.    Brushing and petting your cat is good for her coat and helps to cut down on hairballs. Additionally, most cats love it. Try petting your cat behind the ear, under the chin and on her back above her tail. She’ll let you know you’re doing a good job by purring and/or nudging you for more.

4.    If you’ve ever found furry friend lounging in your suitcase before a trip, you know that cats love to explore and snuggle in small spaces. Give your kitty hours or play by providing her with an old shoebox, packing box or paper grocery bag.

5.    The flowering herb known as catnip is in the mint family, and it provides seventy percent of cats with a blissed-out 10 to 15 minutes of fun. When presented with catnip or a catnip-filled toy, many cats will purr, drool, roll around and/or meow. Some cats get a little sillier after catnip, while others get very mellow. Once the initial reaction is through, the cat won’t have a similar reaction to catnip again for about an hour or so.

6.    Allow them a safe spot to perch and look out windows. Cats love to observe, and this is never more true than when they get to watch birds and butterflies outside. If there’s a chair or couch in front of your window that you’re worried will get dirty or full of fur, put down an easy-to-wash blanket where the cat can sit and be occupied for hours.

7.    Cats love to scratch, so be sure you have a designated scratching post or surface for them to use. Not only does scratching help them maintain their claws, but it’s also a way that they mark their territory. Cats actually have scent glands in their paws, and by scratching they leave behind their odor for other cats to pick up. Also, it feels good! Scratching gives cats a full-body stretch, which you’ll often see them do after they get up from a nap.

ID Your Relationship With Your Cat

Cats are thought of as family members by 89 percent of feline owners, according to a Harris Poll from December 2007. Gone are the days when kitty had to sleep in the barn and is expected to earn a daily ration by chasing mice. When you're a feline family member, such status affords you the right to sleep in the master bed (78 percent), receive gifts during the holidays (63 percent), and even for some, get a mini vacation at the owner’s place of work (10 percent).

"Cats are quietly becoming our allies and pals," says Arden Moore, author of Happy Cat, Happy You (Storey 2008) and editor of Catnip magazine. "They're no longer being regarded as furry pieces of furniture. We don't need them to be mousers anymore. Quietly and with dignity, cats have won us over. We know they can give us real affection."

The type of relationship you have with your feline can vary, however, between parenting your cat as if it was a coddled babe-in-arms to cherishing your purebred as if it were the Queen of Siam to confiding in your mixed breed as you would a best friend. How you see your relationship with your cat can be a function of several factors, including your cat's temperament, your expectations in the relationship and your understanding of cat behavior.

See if any of these relationship types matches the bond you have with your furry friend:

Pampering Parent 
You regard your cat as the child you never had, as a replacement for the child that flew the coop or simply as yet another babe to care for. The sure signs include talking baby talk to kitty, co-sleeping, throwing birthday parties to mark each of your pet's new years and scheduling your cat for all different types of enrichment -- from grooming to training to feline dance classes.

Benefits The relationship can be rewarding and comforting to both cat and pet owner. The unconditional love that a parent has for a human child -- and vice versa -- can be brought to this parent-cat relationship. All pets need to be nurtured. Every pet owner wants to be needed.

Pitfalls There is the potential for the “soccer mom syndrome” -- over-scheduling your little one. Sometimes, for example, a parent's exuberance can get out of hand, according to Marilyn Krieger, a certified cat behavior consultant in Northern California. Krieger recalls hearing about a cat owner who bathed her pet every few days and then applied perfume. "This was not healthy for the cat," Krieger says. "The cat developed over-grooming problems as a result."

Feline's Best Friend
Move over, Rover. Let Fluffy take over. You see your cat as man's (or woman's) best friend. Your cat is your true companion that you can tell all your troubles to -- and it'll still purr and rub around your legs as long as you treat it kindly. Some cat owners swear that their pet, like a true buddy, is the perfect barometers for whether a new boyfriend or girlfriend is a keeper -- or whether he or she is "hisss-tory." Your cat doesn’t care if you gained weight or if you made a mistake at work.

Benefits Feline friendship may bring health benefits. University of Minnesota researchers recently found that over a 20-year-period, people who never owned a cat were 40 percent more likely to die of heart attacks than people who owned cats or who did so in the past. "A lot of people are lonely out there," Krieger says. "Instead of coming home to an empty house, they come home to a pet. Cats are affectionate. They talk and listen and respond."

Pitfalls Unrealistic expectations may lead to friendship fallouts. You may want your cat to be like your long-lost human friend -- or maybe more like your last cat -- but the truth is that you have to accept them for what they are.

Proud Collector
You are a cat lover because the species is so regal, so mysterious, and so exotic. You may have a beautiful cat -- maybe an expensive purebred -- that you treat like a trophy pet. You put that cat on a pedestal. You make sure it’s brushed, well fed and has all the right toys. You may not ask for anything in return -- except that your meower looks good.

Benefits You make sure your cat is brushed, well fed, and owns all the right toys. Your cat just has to look good and proudly revel in the admiration.

Pitfalls "We still see people adopt a cat strictly on looks, and they don't necessarily pay attention to personality," Moore points out. Some of the exotic breeds may match your sofa, but they're cats -- and they're going to exhibit very cat-like behaviors such as scratching up that sofa if you don't provide them with a better scratching post.

Pet Savior
You are the antithesis of the pet owner who views his or her cat as a piece of property. You're looking for a companion -- or two or three or more -- to save. You can't turn down a stray. You may start by putting some cat food out on your doorstep. The next thing you know, another cat is sharing the litter box.

Benefits You try to tame even feral cats with your heart of gold because you love feline companionship. You're doing a good deed by rescuing cats from the streets or the shelter and making sure they're neutered after you adopt them. They'll shower you with affection -- each cat in its own way.

Pitfalls Picking up strays can pose some problems. If you have more than one cat in a house, you need to set up -- and continuously clean -- more than one litter box, more than one food bowl, and so on. Cats also need vertical territory to establish the hierarchy, Krieger says, so make sure you have enough places to climb. Trying to be a cat savior can cost you in terms of human relationships. You may have to choose between your feline companions and a spouse.

When developing your relationship with your cat, it's important to realize that each cat likes to socialize in different ways. Some may give you head butts and purrs. Other cats need to have all four feet on the floor and are uncomfortable sitting on anyone's lap. "You have to read the cat's cues," Moore says. "It can be like the difference between the relative that gives you the bear hug and another that will freeze if you touch them."

 

Photographing Your Elusive Feline

Linda Formichelli of Concord, N.H., would love to have a photograph that does justice to her 11-year-old cat, Sasha. However, the black-and-tan feline apparently does not share Formichelli’s desire.

When Sasha sees the camera, “she won’t stay still for even a second,” says Formichelli. “It seems that if she’s not lying down, she’s in motion. We tried to get a photo of her on a bench with my other two cats to create a birthday card for a cat-loving friend, and she kept jumping down.”

Plenty of cats share Sasha’s dislike of being photographed. Some fear the camera and disappear, while others simply saunter off or otherwise refuse to cooperate. And even if your kitty is willing, your photography skills may be inadequate, resulting in blurry, off-center photos that make your cat look as though red is its natural eye color.

Don’t despair, though, since professional photographers face similar challenges. “Some cats are very shy and may want to go and hide,” acknowledges Robin Burkett, owner of PawPrints Photography in Annandale, Va. “And most cats are very independent; they only do what they want to do.”

That said, you can still try and capture your pet’s Cheshire cat smile with these seven tricks:

Let the cat rule Trying to force your cat to cooperate is a recipe for disaster, according to Shawn Green, co-owner of Animal Images Photography in Michigan City, Ind. “The worst thing you can do with cats is to try to force your agenda on them,” she says. “That is when a battle of wills begins. Make them think it was their idea to sit on the velvet chair on the forbidden side of the room and that this time you approve.” 

Burkett agrees. “The cat runs the session,” she says. “If we can’t get them to go where we want them to go, we go where they want us to go.”

Create distractions If your cat isn’t cooperating, try diverting its attention away from the camera and toward something novel. Burkett coaxes shy cats into coming out of hiding by offering up interesting toys, catnip or food. “We bring lots of interesting-smelling things to a photo shoot, and cats usually like to explore the new stuff,” says Burkett. “The key is to use something they don’t usually get.” Just having another person in the room can provide a welcome distraction, too.

Don’t flash To combat red eyes in cat photos, put away your camera’s flash attachment. “Unless you have a professional lighting arrangement, the easiest way to prevent red eye is to rely on natural light,” says Green. “Do not use a flash.”

Work the angles Sometimes you may have no choice but to use a flash.  According to Green, you can still avoid red eye if you “try to shoot from an angle where the cat is not looking directly at the flash. Have someone distract them so that their gaze is at about a 30-degree angle from the camera.”

Keep your cool If the photography session is not going well, don’t give in to frustration. “Animals have their own ideas, issues, fears and agendas,” says Green. “The more frustration you show, the worse the situation will get. So stay calm. And if it doesn’t happen, tomorrow is another day.”

Be patient Sometimes a great shot will materialize if you’re just willing to wait for it. For a photo of a kitten peeking from behind a curtain, “I just waited until she went behind the curtain, which is her favorite bird-watching post,” Green recalls. “It was perfect and the kitten never knew she was being stalked.”

Hire a pro To get a truly artistic or high-quality portrait of your cat, consider hiring a professional photographer -- but not just any photographer. “You want someone who knows, loves and understands cats,” says Burkett. “And you want someone who has an incredible amount of patience, is flexible and understands photography so that when the cat moves to a different room, the photographer can adjust and still get great images. And you want someone who brings their own cat toys.” Find an animal-loving photographer by looking at local trainer, or other animal expert, Web sites. Note who is credited with the photos on the sites, or if the credit is not available, ask the site owner where he or she obtained the photos.  

No one would say that photographing a cat is easy. But if you’re patient and flexible -- or willing to pay for a pro with those characteristics -- you’ll stand a good chance of getting some pictures that really do justice to your feline friend.

Unconditional Love: ‘My Cat Forgives Me Every Day’

Welcome to the Unconditional Love series, where we bring you heartfelt stories from bloggers around the Web about all of the ways their animals have shown them unconditional love through the years. Be sure to check back each week for a different post -- and share your own story for a chance to win $50 worth of pet food.

This week, we talked to blogger Roslyn Ayers from Petsafe. Here’s what she said about her pet:

 

What does your pet’s unconditional love look like?

Forgiveness. After I take my cat, Lily, to the vet, she still lets me pet her. When I forget to give her dinner on time, she meows to remind me, then purrs to let me know it’s OK. When I brought home Doc, a bumbling, hairy, drooling beast of a dog (in her mind), she was terrified at first. She didn’t know what a dog was! But after a few weeks, she overcame her fear to jump in my lap even though the dog was nearby. I would watch her staring at the dog, creeping closer to my lap, hoping the dog wouldn’t move. Now she sits in my lap even if she’s touching the dog, and it doesn’t bother her. She forgave me for changing her life because she loves me.

When did you realize you loved your pet unconditionally?

It was 2 a.m., and I woke up to my husband saying, “Did you hear that? It sounds like fighting. Where are the cats?” We went downstairs to find the window screen had been popped open. After a frantic search through the house, we could only find three out of our four cats. My cat Lily was nowhere to be found.

I’d seen Lily attack the window when stray cats get near the house, so we concluded that she had tried to get to a stray and actually succeeded this time. We split up and walked through the neighborhood, shining our flashlights under bushes, shaking food cans and calling “Lily!” After two hours, we only found a skunk and the stray cat I suspect she went after.

We decided to do one last circle and start again in the morning, with the hope that she would come out of her hiding place and head home for breakfast. As we were heading back out, my husband heard rustling in the tree next to our house. Lily had been hiding not 20 feet from the house.

She was a little startled at the noise as he walked toward her, but he spoke to her in calming tones and approached her slowly. She seemed hesitant to get near him, until he pointed the laser pointer at the ground. Her fears forgotten, she stalked toward the toy. When she recognized him as one of her humans, she came up to him happily, and he whisked her back into the house.

Lily got a clean bill of health from the vet, and we learned not to trust window screens to keep cats inside. I see her little escapade as her way of defending us and protecting our house. This incident made me realize how much I loved her and how much I would miss her if she was gone.

Why is the bond between a person and her/his pet so special?

My pets bring out the best in me. For example, with my dog, I have to exercise even when I don’t feel like it. And when Doc wants to play, it’s hard to say no. I often give in -- his playful attitude makes me want to play too.

Pets also make you feel special. When it comes to cats, you have to pay attention to body language to get them to like you. You have to be quiet and patient, and it feels like an accomplishment when a cat jumps in your lap. You have to win cats over, and when you do, it feels like they have chosen you. That makes you feel special, and that feeling’s especially nice when you’ve had a tough day or just had a disappointment.

 

Do you have a favorite pet from your childhood? What made it so special to you?

My first cat was a tortoiseshell kitten named Skittles. All of her littermates who had remained at the shelter died of FIP shortly after we rescued her, so I believed that fate had led me to rescue her.

She liked to cuddle on my lap when I did homework, and she slept next to me most nights. We got her a kitty harness to take walks outside together, and later we had an in-ground fence installed so she could safely explore the backyard too. During college, one of my favorite things about coming home was getting to spend time with my kitty.

She passed away due to kidney failure when she was 10, but she wouldn’t have had those 10 years if I hadn’t adopted her, and I wouldn’t have gotten to spend 10 years with such an awesome cat.

Have a pet that loves you? Tweet us your story now for a chance to win $50 in Iams pet food!