I read this perplexing article, which prompted me to respond.
I do not particularly like cats, despite the fact one has made a home out of my room. It is not so much that I own the cat, but rather, we co-inhabit the same area, a fact she too is not at all fond of. She forces her way in each night and perches on the windowsill, unblinkingly watching me sleep. Whenever I wake up in the dead of night, she stares at me intently as if daring me to close my eyes again, to let my guard down. Most nights, I suspect she is plotting her revenge for times when I have locked her outside in a rain storm. I try to exclude her, to leave her in some other, empty room, but she has claimed my bed as hers, my desk as hers, my clothes as her personal, extra-comfy throne.
However “cat people” came into being is still a mystery to me. I understand why someone might love a dog, who shows owners endless, unwarranted affection. Cats, however, disdain their owners. They are lazy and as tedious as taxes. They live to spite your efforts with a critical, demon eye. There can’t be much dignity in owning a pet who, in her eyes, owns you.
But there has been talk from Petrarch to modern day spinners that poets prefer the company of cats, as if we share their prickly self-obsession, their self-preening, egotistical ways. They do not demand respect either, but they expect it. I would certainly not allow Blake’s Tyger to lounge in my windowsill nor would I tolerate any of Poe’s black cats worming their way across my path. If one crossed the road, I would speed up to kill it before its bad luck infected me. And if I were Alice, utterly loss in the fantastical dreamland of my own adolescence, I would never act so kindly to the Cheshire Cat who seems to take great delight in confusion and disappearance.
Cats are not muses, cannot properly inspire anything but mutual distrust, especially when they swat your feet with sharp claws or when you kick them sharply in the gut. So I simply do not see why writing and cats should mix. I do not keep company with Crookshanks or Fritz or even Garfield. Jerry the Mouse might as well drop anvils on all their heads as well.
There is not much left to say on the subject, and I’m quite unsure why I brought it up in the first place. There is a common phrase, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” And if you don’t know why someone would want to skin a cat, you obviously have never owned one.