10 Classic Women Authors and Their Cats

Colette and her cat

In this site’s overview of classic women authors and their dogs and cats, it seems like dogs have the clear edge as writers’ preferred furry friends. But digging deeper, I’m no longer so sure of that! As it turns out, women authors and their cats are just as companionable, which this roundup will amply demonstrate.

I got to thinking about this when I heard that my friend and colleague Bob Eckstein had produced The Complete Book of Cat Names (That Your Cat Won’t Answer to, Anyway). Bob is a New Yorker cartoonist and a wonderful watercolorist. You may also enjoy this excerpt from his book, Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores.

On the subject of naming cats, Bob observes:

Online studies from respected cat blogs have shown that 80% of cat owners regret the name they gave their kitten. Number one reason? “It became too popular.” (Number two reason given was “Too stupid to say in front of company.”)

It’s hard to say how much thought our classic women authors gave to naming their cats, or whether they would have gone with some of Bob’s often hilarious suggestions (Catsy Cline, Mick Jaguar, Purradise Lost). I was unable to find out what most of the following authors named their cats, but here’s hoping they came up with something more creative than “boots” and “fluffy.”

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The complete book of cat names by Bob Eckstein

The Complete Book of Cat Names is available wherever books are sold
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Colette

French author Colette with her cats

French author Colette, best known for Gigi and the Claudine stories, was a noted cat lover. Her 1936 novella, La Chatte, is about a love triangle of sorts — between a woman, her husband, and the cat that he seems to favor over her. She famously wrote, “Time spent with a cat is never wasted.”

 

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Margaret Mitchell

margaret mitchell and cat

In this photo of the young and beautiful Margaret Mitchell, (author of Gone With the Wind) it’s not clear whether this is actually her cat, but it’s one of those photos you see everywhere.

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Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary, around 1955

Anyone who has an office or studio that their cat has access to knows that he or she just can’t wait to walk all over your papers. Here’s prolific children’s book author Beverly Cleary(known for the Ramona Quimby series and many others) and her feline companion, around 1955.

 

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Barbara Pym

Barbara Pym with her cat

Barbara Pym became known for her novels about the small comforts of mid-twentieth-century Englishwomen’s daily lives (Excellent Women and many others). In her real life she apparently found comfort in a cat.

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Patricia Highsmith

Patricia Highsmith and her cat.jpg

Patricia Highsmith, who broke into print with the classic thriller Strangers on a Train (and later The Talented Mr. Ripley, among many others), was famously a people-hater. But she loved animals, especially cats. A biographer wrote that her relationship with cats “often counted as her longest and most successful emotional connection.”

 

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Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing and her cat

Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing may have been known for the feminist classic, The Golden Notebook (and later, complex novels in the science fiction realm), but she was so enamored of her feline companions that she produced a little-known memoir, On Cats (2008).*

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L.M.  Montgomery

lucy Maud and the Cavendish Cat

L.M. Montgomery, Canadian author of the beloved Anne of Green Gables series was a cat lover and a great observer of both human and cat nature. Drawn from her journals, Lucy Maud and the Cavendish Cat* tells of the constancy of her feline companion as she struggled to produce her first writings. In Anne of the Island, a character says of cats: “I love them, they are so nice and selfish. Dogs are TOO good and unselfish. They make me feel uncomfortable. But cats are gloriously human.”

 

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Elizabeth Bishop

Poems by Elizabeth Bishop

Esteemed poet Elizabeth Bishop was a lifelong cat lover, starting with her childhood cat, Minnow. Here’s an early poem, “Lullaby for the Cat,” with the odd line, “Not a kitten shall be drowned / In the Marxist State.”

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Ursula K. Le Guin

Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin

When the brilliant fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin was alive, she wrote an online journal from the perspective of her black-and-white cat, Pard. Here are some of them. Le Guin expressed her love for felines in her children’s series, Catwings.

 

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Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch

Iris Murdoch, the Irish-born British novelist and philosopher is evidently quite cozy with this cat, but details about her feline friend are hard to come by.

 

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