Famous Writers Inspired by Their Cats

There are 10.8 million cats living in homes in the UK, according to a 2021 census. A rare few of these felines share their lives with famous writers who credit them with providing companionship, inspiration, shenanigans, and stress relief.

At Kitty Bingo, most of us love our bingo games and we’re proud ailurophiles (that’s writer-speak for cat lovers). We also know there’s nothing better than curling up with your cat, a good book and a hot mug of something. So round up the kitties, pour yourself a cuppa, and get comfy as we uncover some famous writers who simply can’t (or couldn’t) live without their felines (we reckon your cat will be interested in them, too).

Stephen King

The king of spine-chilling horror also happens to be a cat lover. As many of you will know, his literary works often feature cats, and whether they’re in the role of hero or returning from the grave ready to attack, they’re every bit as memorable as some of his more colourful and well-drawn human characters. The American author has been inspired by his own cat companions, one of which was “a rather crazed Siamese cat” called Pear.

Our favourite King quote: “A cat won’t curry favour even if it’s in their best interests to do so. A cat can’t be a hypocrite.”

Neil Gaiman

Award-winning English author Neil Gaiman’s literary works are a feast of incredibly versatile talent that spans novels, comic book series, theatre and films. But that’s not all, kitty fans! Gaiman is also an admirer of cats and a devoted caregiver. Over the years, his household has included a collection of cats that have inspired such works as Coraline, which features a slinky black cat that is at first sarcastic and unhelpful, but soon becomes a mentor and ally to the book’s eponymous main character.

Our favourite Gaiman quote: “All cats can see futures, and see echoes of the past. We can watch the passage of creatures from the infinity of now, from all the worlds like ours, only fractionally different. And we follow them with our eyes, ghost things, and the humans see nothing.”

Alice Walker

Alice Walker has been a prolific writer over the years, but she’s probably best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Color Purple, which was adapted into a film starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. The beauty of Walker’s work is sometimes hidden in her ability to see the most extraordinary characters and situations in what, to many other people, would seem boring or mundane. Her keen eye seems to extend to felines. She explored her relationship with cats as an author who often travels in Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer’s Activism.

Walker once told journalists that her “snaggletoothed” cat had arrived in her life with broken and crooked teeth: evidence of a rough life. She thought a stranger would look at the cat and see the imperfections, but not her. She saw “absolute perfection — the charming perfection — of her imperfection”.

Our favourite Walker quote (about her cat): “It gives me so much information about the kind of life she has had, and the kind of soul she has probably fashioned.”

Joyce Carol Oates

This prolific American writer has, since 1963, published more than 60 novels, plays, and novellas, and many volumes of short stories, poetry, and non-fiction. Among these works are several that pay homage to felines. Joyce Carol Oates has also edited the collection, The Sophisticated Cat: A Gathering of Stories, Poems, and Miscellaneous Writings About Cats. She is also known to make jokes on Twitter from the perspective of her cat, Zanche.

Our favourite Oates quote: “I write so much because my cat sits on my lap. She purrs so I don’t want to get up. She’s so much more calming than my husband.”

Doris Lessing

British-Zimbabwean author Doris Lessing’s fascination with cats started when she would watch all the dramas of a colony of semi-feral cats on her family’s farm in Africa. Once grown up, she always had a cat, or several, in her life, including the “awkwardly majestic El Magnifico”. The oldest person to ever receive the Nobel Prize in Literature at age 88, she wrote a number of fiction and non-fiction books that focused on cats, including Particularly Cats, Particularly Cats and Rufus the Survivor, The Old Age of El Magnifico and On Cats.

Our favourite Lessing quote: “If a fish is the movement of water embodied, given shape, then cat is a diagram and pattern of subtle air.”

Charles Dickens

One of the most famous cat lovers in history, Charles Dickens’ literary works need no introduction. He always had at least one moggie to keep him company as he wrote in his study, and while there was no keyboard to sprawl across, his cat was known to regularly extinguish the candle on his desk. The author also featured cats in his works, two excellent examples being Bleak House and The Uncommercial Traveller.

When his beloved cat, Bob, died in 1862, Dickens had his paw stuffed and attached to a letter opener. On it was written, “C.D. In Memory of Bob 1862.”

Our favourite Dickens quote: ‘What greater gift than the love of a cat?”

Jean Cocteau

The French poet, playwright, novelist, designer, filmmaker, visual artist and critic, Jean Cocteau, is generally believed to be one of the most influential figures in the early 20th-century art scene. He was so devoted to cats that he started the “Cat Friends Club” in Paris for people who truly prized their feline friends. He designed a beautiful emblem for the membership pin and contributed art to the club throughout his life.

Interestingly, Cocteau’s neighbour, early on in his career, was the writer Colette, who was well-known for being a huge fan of cats. Some suggest Cocteau developed his own feline obsession from her.

Our favourite Cocteau quote: “I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”

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/ 18 February 2022