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The Internet is full of things that are on people’s minds. If the amount of a certain thing on the internet is representative of the amount of head-space that particular thing takes up in the average person’s head then the minds of people are chock-full of cats.

Even my niece, who has been on this Earth for less than three years, has already been infected with the Internet cat bug. I was visiting there some time ago, and my brother started his computer. In a flash, she’s there, all bright eyed and excited, asking to “watch kitty” – meaning “Can we please watch one (or twelve) of those funny cat compilations, Daddy?!”

She is certainly not the first person in history fascinated with cats. Some of the great thinkers, artists, or just eloquent random people have also been infatuated with this shiny, self-determined, so-fluffy-i’m-gonna-die animal.

Here’s what they said.

 

Robert A. Heinlein has often included cats in his books. The Door into Summer, for example, starts out with a cat, and even though he didn’t have to (because it was a fictional cat), Heinlein made sure the cat was taken good care of throughout the book. I like that he did that. Anyway, he had no illusions about cats’ (or women’s) motives:

Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.

 

Maybe he liked cats so much because he understood them well, as evidenced in this quote from Time Enough For Love:

Never try to outstubborn a cat.

 

 

Garrison Keillor on cats’ purpose on Earth – like they need one, other than simply being there, purring the day away.

Cats are intended to teach us that not everything in nature has a purpose.

 

Jean Cocteau:

I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.

 

 

Alex Flinn is convinced that, even if it might come at a price, spending time in the company of cats would make for a desirable goal in life:

Of course, maybe I’d end up like one of those crazy old people with, like, sixty cats. And one day, the neighbors would complain about the smell, and it would turn out I’d died and the cats had eaten me.

Still, it might be nice to have a cat.

 

I think Colette got it right when she said

There are no ordinary cats.

Cats seem to possess an unfailing ability to provide you with just the right amount of clownery and affection you need when you come home feeling tired and depleted and bored or disappointed with the whole world!

 

Much of the aforementioned clownery, for me, stems from this fact that Mason Cooley has uncovered:

Cats are inquisitive, but hate to admit it.

If you have a cat, you know what I mean.

 

 

Terry Pratchett is another author who frequently references cats in his books. (I have a sneaking suspicion that writers like cats because they are a great remedy for writer’s block – when you can’t think of anything to write, watch your cat for five minutes, make a note of what you see, and you’re all set. Robertson Davies has a different explanation, though:

Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons.)

I can’t really argue with that, either.)

But we were talking about Terry Pratchett. If you’re familiar with his work, you know that Death plays a recurring role. Death is not a metaphor for all living things’ finiteness, but an actual, plot-advancing character in his books. And Death likes cats (maybe that’s why he gives them nine lives?). This one is from Sourcery:

“I meant,” said Ipslore bitterly, “what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?”
Death thought about it.
CATS, he said eventually. CATS ARE NICE.

 

Albert Schweitzer agrees with him on that:

The only escape from the miseries of life are music and cats.

 

You know, before posting this, I spent some time thinking about whether I dared outing myself as a cat-person. It sometimes feels as though calling oneself a cat-person – as opposed to a dog-person – is like choosing sides in a silly trench war. There are acrimonious feuds being fought between cat-lovers and dog-lovers, and, eloquent as they may be, some authors can become rather cruel when comparing cats and dogs, or – like H. P. Lovecraft, for example – their respective owners:

Throw a stick, and the servile dog wheezes and pants and stumbles to bring it to you. Do the same before a cat, and he will eye you with coolly polite and somewhat bored amusement. And just as inferior people prefer the inferior animal which scampers excitedly because someone else wants something, so do superior people respect the superior animal which lives its own life and knows that the puerile stick-throwings of alien bipeds are none of its business and beneath its notice. The dog barks and begs and tumbles to amuse you when you crack the whip. That pleases a meekness-loving peasant who relishes a stimulus to his self importance. The cat, on the other hand, charms you into playing for its benefit when it wishes to be amused; making you rush about the room with a paper on a string when it feels like exercise, but refusing all your attempts to make it play when it is not in the humour. That is personality and individuality and self-respect — the calm mastery of a being whose life is its own and not yours — and the superior person recognises and appreciates this because he too is a free soul whose position is assured, and whose only law is his own heritage and aesthetic sense.

 

In closing, I would like to pour some oil on the troubled water in the moat between the cat-castle and the dog-park by saying that I do confess to being a cat-person, but I also like dogs! *gasp*

And I don’t just pretend say this because I am also a sucker for peace, love, and harmony, but I actually do like dogs as well! I mean, how could you not?

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