“What greater gift than the love of a cat?“
~ Charles Dickens
I love cats. And according to very reliable sources… my daemon and Patronus are both felines. My beloved cat Megan, died (aged 18) a couple of years ago and I miss her every day. In a normal year, Mr P and I travel a lot for business (and pleasure), so until we settle down a bit, it’s not the right time to welcome a little kitty into our home. I’m hopeful that when we move again, we’ll adopt one. Their presence is so comforting when you’re working from home and they’re not quite as needy as dogs (I’m not a morning person and I hate rain, so let’s face it – dog walking isn’t for me)!
My grandma’s funeral was a year ago this week, so naturally I was thinking about her. She also loved cats. And reading. So this blog post is dedicated to my Grandma Tinkerbell (named after her cat).
How many adults fought back the teas in Goodbye, Mog? I know I did… so it was lovely to see Mog up to mischief in the Sainsbury’s advert a few years ago. Mog was a constant when I was a little girl and I even have a little toy kitten that looks just like her.
Mog was nice but not very clever… She was a very forgetful cat….Mog the Forgetful Cat ~ Judith Kerr
Once she forgot that cats can’t fly.
Mog is an endearing character and her death showed children how to grieve – not just for pets, but for anyone. Even though I was a teenager when Goodbye, Mog came out I (and many friends) were quite affected by it, because we’d grown up reading about her escapades. This just shows the power that well-written characters can have.
As someone who lived in jeans and hoodies during her teenage years, I was super jealous of Alanna in The Song of the Lioness Quartet. As she does not want to become a lady, she disguises herself as a boy (pretending to be her twin brother – again, this fraternal twin issue) and goes off to learn how to be a knight. I wanted to do the same, but I also wanted her Gift and her purple eyes. And her cat, Faithful, who appears to her one night in the forest (book 2). The cat also has purple eyes, which is taken as a sign that he’s also slightly magical.
A chill went through the innkeeper as he watched them go. Only now had he seen that the cat’s eyes were not a proper shade of amber, green, or gray; they were as purple as Alanna’s. Instinctively he made the Sign against Evil.Lioness Rampant ~ Tamora Pierce
When (spoiler) he’s killed in the fourth book, I was devastated and actually had to stop reading to pull myself together. The series is full of action, romance and magic, but Faithful is the perfect example of a loyal cat.
The Magic Apostrophe is the first book in another series from my teenage years, full of magic and mystery. On her 13th birthday, Tanith finds out that she’s actually a witch, as are her mother and six aunts. Luckily her big sister isn’t one, but suddenly finding you’re a witch is a lot of responsibility! This series of books is delightful and (again) I was jealous of her magic and of the snow white kitten she’s given as a birthday present.
Inside, curled on a red blanket, was a pure white kitten, fast asleep.The Magic Apostrophe ~ Jenny Sullivan
“Gwydion is not an ordinary cat. Are you Gwydion?”
At the sound of its name, the cat awoke, opening eyes green as the emerald in my pendant.
Of course, Gwydion is actually a boy, turned into a cat by Merlin as a punishment. Over the years, the two become friends (he’s a shapeshifter so doesn’t always remain a cat) and have some magical adventures in Wales, fighting off evil witches, druids and even giants! I actually wrote to Jenny Sullivan when I was 13, asking her when the next books were coming out and I got a lovely response. The final book only came out a few years ago, but I still devoured it with glee.
Possibly the most imaginative pet name there is… but Holly Golightly can get away with anything! This lack of a name reminds us that she and the cat are not pet and owner; they just exist together. Holly doesn’t belong anywhere and neither does the cat. Yet she does care for it in some way, asking the narrator to feed it while she’s in prison.
If I could find a real-life place that made me feel like Tiffany’s, then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name.Breakfast at Tiffany’s ~ Truman Capote
In the book, Holly abandons the cat on the kerb; she later regrets it, but it’s too late and she heads to the airport. I felt really sorry for the poor animal, so the fact that the film reunites them cheered me up no end! The narrator searches for him and after four weeks finds him sitting in someone else’s apartment. He muses that the cat may now have a name and he wishes he could tell Holly. The cat now has somewhere he belongs, but does Holly?
I have to include Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. I may be a theatre critic, but my family are not into musicals at all! The only exception was CATS. I saw it three times with my mum and grandma (before they changed it) and grew up singing along to the soundtrack on my grandma’s record player.
I still know all of the words, having spent many nights reciting the poems (and later the songs) to my very lucky family. It’s so creative and random, but I love it and I’m glad I have happy memories of sharing it with my grandma.
Mungojerrie and RumpelteazerMungojerry & Rumpelteaser ~ T.S. Eliot
were a very notorious couple of cats.
As knockabout clown, quick-change comedians,
tight-rope walkers and acrobats…
My grandma’s absolute favourite cat-related series was The Cat Who… by Lilian Jackson Braun, about Siamese Cats Koko and Yum-Yum who helped their owner solve crimes. I’ve only read one of them, but now I’ve remembered them, I’ll be adding them to my list!
Do you have a pet cat? Did you name them after any of your favourite literary felines? Who’s your favourite cat character?
If you wish to buy any of the cat books listed, please support your local bookshop: https://uk.bookshop.org/shop/Paradise_Library
After the blog post on Christmas Books for Children, one reader recommended The Christmas Cat by Tasha Tudor; once it arrives, I’ll update both lists!