Mar 22, 2011

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

READING: Countess Billie
MAKING ME SMILE: Europe next month!

I am a cat person. I love their independence of spirit, their indifference to the desires of their owners (owners? I hesitate to use the word), their aloof self-containment. Dogs are lovely but their devotion can seem excessive. I find it hard to gaze into adoring eyes. The weight of a loving head on the knee becomes burdensome after a while.

Yet I have to admit, when I think of animals in literature, dogs seem to have it over cats all the way. I can immediately think of famous fictitious dogs: Lassie, Toto, Marley, Santa’s Little Helper, Lady and the Tramp. Georgette Heyer often tucks a dog into her books as a barometer of the trustworthiness of her heroes.

Cats are not so easy. Garfield. Thomasina. Puss in Boots - especially with Antonio doing the voice. Help here, please. There have to be more!

Why is this? I refuse to think that dogs have more personality, but because they wear all their emotions on the outside, they are far easier to write about. A sphinx-like cat stare does become a bit repetitive to describe, however restful it is to live with.

Cats, alas, often end up in villainous roles. They are the familiars of witches (oh, add Salem to the mix), the arch baddie (Shere Khan) or the organised thugs (Truth about Cats and Dogs). New Zealand breeds particularly tough fictitious felines such as Scarface Claw and Horse. Dogs are always the dependable helpmeet, the h/H’s best friend. Often they rise to heroic roles and will even give their lives to save the ones they love. Cats would watch on unblinkingly. I know that.

But just as I feel there have to be good roles out there for actresses over fifty, I feel sure there much be heroic, self-sacrificing cats in fiction or real life. I’d be grateful to anyone who can supply me with examples.

What are your views on cats and dogs as characters? Who are your favourite animal characters?


  1. The Cat In The Hat!

    And one of my favourite books of all time, 'Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats', plus the musical made from the poems, 'Cats'.

    I have a beautiful set of little books by Nicola Bayley about cats who'd rather be something else: 'Panda Cat', 'Parrot Cat', 'Spider Cat', 'Crab Cat' and 'Elephant Cat'. Illustrations and story are both fabulous.

    And then there's Tracey O'Hara's cat shape-shifer Kitt in Death's Sweet Embrace. She's a snow leopard shifter. And Nalini Singh's cat shifters too. Very popular!

    Oh, and I have a cat with a small role in my October release, Return of the Secret Heir. Not a huge role, but fun for me to write. :)

  2. I started off my reading in 2011 with Homer's Odyssey ~ A Fearless Feline Tale or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat by Gwen Cooper. This is an American book so you may not have heard about it. It was a great book.
    I love cat stories and there are a few mystery writers Rita Mae Brown, Lillian Mae Braun and Caroline Burnes who have cats in their books. Again these are American writers but Caroline Burnes writes for Harlequin Intrigue.
    James Herriot, the vet from Yorkshire, often wrote about his cat patients and I think someone put all the stories together into a book.
    Cleveland Amory, another American, was a devout dog lover until he rescues a white cat he calls Snowball.
    I have another cat book called Dewey the Library Cat in my TBR.
    Then dear to my heart is the story of Mr. Got To Go, a children's story about a cat who lived in the Hotel Sylvia, in Vancouver BC, the province next door to Alberta where I live. I have stayed at the hotel but by the time I did the cat had passed away.

  3. Oops ~ That should read Lillian Jackson Braun.

  4. The cat in The Incredible Journey. Tao, I think? There were two dogs - an old bulldog, and a Labrador or similar, and the cat. I especially love the old Disney movie - there was a remake in the late 80s or thereabouts where the animals spoke, ie human voices, but I preferred the old movie which had a narrator. Wept buckets when they all arrived home - ah, the joy.

  5. I love cats in books -- and dogs too! Jenny Crusie always does great dogs in her books, and she had a cat in Bet Me.

    Did you notice the new Simon's Cat video up on the top right? He has some fabulous videos -- he captures the cat's mannerisms perfectly!

  6. Hey Rachel
    What a comprehensive list. How could I forget The Cat in the Hat! That's just reminded me of one of my other favourites: My Cat likes to hide in boxes.

    The shape shifter books are fantastic - I'll have to get hold of Tracey's book as snow leopards are seriously cool. Doesn't Nalini do a fantastic job in making both cat and dog shifters very sexy and dangerous in the best possible way. Looking forward to reading your cat character, Rach.

    Kaelee, I don't know any of these books so what a joy to know so many great cat stories are out there. I'm going to have to start checking out the library shelves.

  7. Ah Jo,

    The Incredible Journey. I cried buckets too but that would have been the old version. I don't think I ever saw the 80s one. How interesting that changing the narrator for voices didn't work nearly so well.

  8. Great to hear from you, Em. I'd forgotten JC's animals. She does a great line in making the maggotty and moth-eaten absolutely loveable!

    Just caught the new Simon video today. Very cute. I especially loved the one with the cat waking his owner in the morning. I have a cat that gets the hungry grumps and he has a whole range of strategies to get me out of bed on a Sunday morning.

  9. I have a lot of the cat books mentioned, but I also have "The Cat and the Curmudgeon" and "The Cat Who Came for Christmas".

    A little off topic, but I have Life's Little Instructions Fur Cats - Meaningful Messages for Moggies... including such gems as 'don't lick your bottom in public', 'when your owners are out use their kitty litter tray' and 'never underestimate the importance of paw play'.

  10. Those are very cute tips, Anita! Paw play should nver be overlooked.

    Great title - The Cat and the Curmudgeon. I'm beginning to realise that I'm a rank amateur when it comes to being a proper cat person, given the amazing array of books you guys have all come up with.

  11. Favorite animal character ... my dh would shout out 'Babe!' Y'know, I really like Sidney the Sloth from Ice Age, and, come to think of it, Diago the saber tooth kitty is a bit of a hero (after he gets over his plan to kidnap and, ah - No. I won't go there).

    Rachel, Cat in the Hat was my all time fave book in Grade 1. Still love Dr. Zues.

  12. I just read a Regency Reads book called Lord and Master by Rosemary Stevens in which a cat called Mihos plays a role. At the beginning of the book a circus is billing him as the world's smallest tiger. The book is one of a series called The Cats of Mayfair.


  13. Thanks for reminding me of Babe, Robyn. Pigs have to be one of the most underated animals. I loved both Babe and Charlotte's Web and have always had a soft spot for warthogs, even before Pumba :)
    Laine, I haven't heard of this series at all but anything that combines two of my passions - regency and cats - has got to be investigated forthwith!

    Many thanks everyone with your fabulous suggestions. My TBR has just grown by about 20 books.

  14. Zana, my favourite animal characters were always horses -- Black Beauty, The Black Stallion. Frankly, any story with a horse in it was a winner as far as I was concerned.

    I loved dog and cat combinations too. Enid Blyton had a book called Bimbo and Topsy (Bimbo was the cat, Topsy the dog and for some reason I always thought the names should be the other way around).

    And I always had a soft spot for the Cheshire Cat. :-)

  15. Zana, I was a bit stumped for cat heroes when I read your blog, too - but then Rachel swung in straight away with the wonderful Cat in the Hat!

    And Jo's Incredible Journey with the two dogs and the cat.

    Then I remembered there's a film called That Darn Cat. The hero is a cat called DC.

    So feline heroes are out there - perhaps they're just quiet achievers!


  16. Hi Zana,
    coming in late here!
    I too loved the incredible journey, and though of course much of it was 'filling in the gaps' to the real story, I have a feeling the real story was much much better.
    LIke Michelle I loved my horse characters when I was younger - the silver brumby, the black stallion and black beauty...
    I started an ms a while ago that featured cats - in fact they were integral to the story. Hope to finish that ms mid year =)