H.P. Lovecraft, born in 1890, is one of the most popular horror authors to have ever lived. Although only marginally successful during his lifetime, today, his work is widely referenced in everything from World of Warcraft to Steven King books, to university academics. His depth of understanding concerning the human fear of the unknown made his work nearly universally appealing to those who love to be frightened in a more cerebral way.
He also loved cats.
In what is one of the most defining quotes about cats from any source, Lovecraft writes, “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.”
Take that, dog lovers.
Mark Twain, as many of us know, was one of the most famous authors of the late 1800s, and his works, “The Adventures of Huckeberry Finn,” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” were a large part of the foundation of American literature.
A humorist at heart, Twain was incredibly insightful when it came to the human heart, and his satire cut to the bone of many of his era’s problems. His insight wasn’t limited to humans, however. Twain’s sharp sense of observation also extended to cats.
Twain writes that, "If animals could speak the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow, but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much."
Dogs may be sweet and loyal, but also try too hard, giving affection to everyone in sight. The cat is a creature of subtlety, and a master understatement. Every moment of attention they give is deliberate—if a cat grants you affections, then you know you deserve it.
James Herriot, born in 1916, was a British veterinary surgeon who used his life experience to write a series of books about animals and their owners, which have since been adapted to television in the form of “All Creatures Great and Small,” “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” and “All Things Wise and Wonderful”. His insightful observations about the relationship between pets and their humans continue to delight readers to this day.
In his long experience with animals, Herriot has seen the best and the worst, the weird and the mundane, and came away with the impression that the love of a cat is something to be treasured.
Herriot writes that “I have felt cats rubbing their faces against mine and touching my cheek with claws carefully sheathed. These things, to me, are expressions of love.”
Indeed, when treated well, cats are incredibly affectionate creatures, able to put us at ease with a single look, rub, or touch of the paw.
Edgar Allan Poe, author, master of the mysterious, and the very inventor of the detective novel is often attributed as saying, “I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat”.
While it can’t quite be officially verified that Poe said this, the quote certainly fits the author, and is often attributed to him. Poe, like Lovecraft, was a master of horror. His work veered more toward the psychological and the grotesque, filled with unreliable narrators and examples of insanity.
He also famously adored animals, and owned a cat, which he named Catterina.
Cats, it seems, appeal to the sensitive among us, to those who are attuned to the subtle details in life. Far from being the mere aloof troublemakers they’re often portrayed as, a relationship with a pet cat simply takes a little more effort on the part of the human in order to work. There is something to be said for that which we must work to obtain and understand, and the affection of a cat is just that. Cats are mysterious creatures whose minds work in ways unknown to us, and that, as Poe might say, that is exactly why their adoration is so lovely.
Jim Davis, American cartoonist and creator of the beloved character, Garfield the cat, says this about cats: “Way down deep, we’re all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them.”
Davis’s insight concerning kitties led him to create one of the most popular feline characters of all time. Garfield the cat does, indeed, live out his urges, sleeping when he likes, eating as much as he pleases, and demanding the attention he feels that he deserves.
There’s something admirable in this. True—we all have these urges, and we cannot realistically give into them because of things like, say, responsibility and morality, but sometimes it helps to take a cue from the cat, and go after what drives you. Rather than restraining yourself the next time you want to indulge in something you’re passionate about, make time for it. Be like a cat, and do what pleases you.
Within reason, of course. We can’t have you tearing up the drapes every time you're upset.
Ernest Hemingway, American novelist and short story writer is famous for two things: his prodigious, skill as a writer of short, muscular prose, and his six-toed cat named Snowball, whose descendants—over 50 of them— populate the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum today. You can visit the museum, located in Key West, Florida, and greet each one of them.
In the same vein as Jim Davis’s thoughts, Hemmingway once wrote that “A cat has absolute emotional honesty; human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.”
It’s true. Where humans often hide their feelings behind niceties and manners, cats are open. When they dislike you, they leave. When they love you, they rub and purr. It’s a simpler kind of life, and one not altogether unpleasant—at least with a cat, you know where you stand. This is something that Hemingway greatly appreciated, and that you can, too.
Jean Cocteau, born 1889, was a French writer, filmmaker, and playwright, best known for his novel, “Les Enfants Terribles,” and 1946 film, “Beauty and the Beast”. His list of artistic accomplishments is long, and his list of friends included popular figures such as Pablo Picasso.
Best of all, he loved cats!
Of felines, Cocteau writes “I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”
And how true this is! A cat, when it is firmly ensconced in the home, becomes a visible representation of its inner being. If the home is not well kept, the cat will reflect this in sadness and lethargy. If it is well-tended, the cat will be happy and bright.
A home with a happy, healthy cat is a home with a good soul, one that will be sure to make its owner—and any guests—quite happy and prosperous.
Robertson Davies, a Canadian novelist, playwright, and professor, is author to a substantial body of work. He received many awards for his work, including the Governor-General’s Literary Award in the English language fiction category, so it’s safe to say that he knows the writing profession well.
As an experienced author, he says, of cats, that “Authors like cats because they are such quiet, lovable, wise creatures, and cats like authors for the same reasons.”
Anyone who has looked into the eyes of a cat perched comfortably upon the hearth, contemplating its kitty life, knows that cats are wise. Their every step is a deliberately chosen path to their goal, and they always know exactly what they want. Their eyes gaze at you with purpose—even if that purpose is simply to solicit rubs or food, as is often the case.
So remember, especially if you are quiet, lovable, and wise, choose the creature that most suits you—choose the cat.
Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami, describes holding a cat in one of his novels, writing that, “Holding this soft, small living creature in my lap this way, though, and seeing how it slept with complete trust in me, I felt a warm rush in my chest. I put my hand on the cat's chest and felt his heart beating. The pulse was faint and fast, but his heart, like mine, was ticking off the time allotted to his small body with all the restless earnestness of my own.”
There is a connection between people and their cats that transcends the connection we feel with many other animals. There is something about the smallness of the cat, choosiness, that brings us great joy when they choose to trust us, to lay down upon us, or even near us, and sleep without a care in the world.
Terry Pratchett, one of the UK’s most popular writers of the 1990s and author of the comical Discworld novels, writes that “In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.”
Yes—a cat demands more admiration and attention than a dog might, but then again, they deserve it! Cats were once worshiped as gods for a reason—they’re mysterious, beautiful little creatures which entertain and perplex us, seeming almost human in their fickle behavior. We see ourselves in them, which gives felines an otherworldly quality.
Cats expect to be waited on and given offerings, as any self-respecting deity would, and bestow ample rewards upon their subjects in the form of purring, leg rubs, and kneading. The occasional cat treat may even be rewarded with a snuggle or two—you never know.
Appreciate your little furball deity, and you will find that the rewards far outweigh the costs.