Readers and cats

20:42, Jul 15 2013

I had a long, ranty blog post planned, but lost my writing mojo after returning home from a hard day's work to find the gift of a lovely, cold, dead rat right inside the front door. If cats could beam, mine would be positively Cheshire. I think I could even detect a note of deep satisfaction in her loud and persistent meowing - which in itself should have been a clue.

But the whole episode has got me thinking. What is it about cats and reading that make the two go hand in hand? Nearly every reader I know is also a cat person.

Oh sure, there are readers who are dog people, rabbit people, pony people, or who shun animals altogether in favour of a life bereft of pets.

Overwhelmingly, though, anecdotal evidence suggests that most readers (and writers) have a deep passion for cats. There are countless articles on the internet about Papa Hemingway's love of felines, odes to library cats around the world, and many, many YouTube videos and Facebook photos dedicated to the literary love of meows. 

I have a few theories about this. First, a cat is the perfect reading companion. They purr, don't weigh much, and are not opposed to curling up and going to sleep while keeping your lap warm. In winter, the season for readers, a living, breathing, natural hot water bottle is nothing to be sneezed at.

Dogs demand attention in a different way from cats. Not that they need more, because goodness knows cats can be attention sluts too, but they often have more immediate and pressing needs. Going to the bathroom and requiring walks, for example. Cats, meanwhile, are happy to be let out or potter out the cat flap and back again after doing their business. Thus, there are fewer interruptions to your reading flow.


There is also something quite inspiring about the feline species, a certain insouciance that befits the literary crowd. Even in today's hipster-cool world, when it's suddenly awesome to be a geek, as evidenced by legions of Mark Zuckerberg wannabes, reading still doesn't have any street cred.

So readers over the years and decades have had to cultivate a persona much like a cat's. Perhaps this is why we anthropomorphise them so, bestowing upon them all the qualities we'd like to see reflected in ourselves. The air of mystery, the haughtiness, the majesty, the independence, the ability to command respect. Which self-respecting reader wouldn't wish to have some of the perceived stateliness of a cat?

I know that when I'm reading a particularly good book, it is a special kind of comfort to have my cat nearby. Like the good little reading companion that she is, she completes the literary experience by the sheer joy brought by her presence. I cannot imagine reading without a cat. It would be like a feast without cheese (or some other food item you consider essential).

I think the true nature of the reader-cat relationship is probably quite simple. It's the collision of two awkward and geekish natures, because readers are all solitary souls on some level - and cats connect with them on that same wavelength.

What do you think is the connection between readers and cats?

Follow me on Facebook or Twitter