“What greater gift than the love of a cat?”
So wrote acclaimed Victorian novelist and animal lover Charles Dickens, author of classic tomes such as David Copperfield, Bleak House and Great Expectations. Writing about her father, his daughter Mamie recalled a deaf white cat, known by servants as ‘the master’s cat,’ who was: “always with him, and used to follow him about the garden like a dog, and sit with him while he wrote.” When this devoted feline wanted attention, there was a particular trick he employed, as Mamie reveals in her book My Father as I Recall Him:
“’The master’ was reading at a small table, on which a lighted candle was placed. Suddenly the candle went out. My father, who was much interested in his book, relighted the candle, stroked the cat, who was looking at him pathetically he noticed, and continued his reading. A few minutes later, as the light became dim, he looked up just in time to see puss deliberately put out the candle with his paw, and then look appealingly towards him. This second and unmistakable hint was not disregarded, and puss was given the petting he craved.”
“I have felt cats rubbing their faces against mine and touching my cheeks with claws carefully sheathed. These things to me are expressions of love.”
James Herriot, veterinary surgeon and author of All Creatures Great and Small
While the days of reading by candlelight are long gone, every cat guardian will have a story or two to tell about what lengths their feline companion will go to when they want attention from their human – from crashing through a newspaper or knocking ornaments off a shelf to leaping onto a laptop or simply meowing in a mournful tone.
“I love my cats, and I guess they think I’m okay. But I do sometimes get a very strong sense that they are purring at me, not with me.”
Tom Cox, author of Talk to the Tail
And it seems that many other famous faces throughout history have been bewitched by felines.
Pioneer of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, really loved her cats. Over her lifetime, she is said to have had around 60 cats, and their inky little paw prints are all over her writings.
Sir Isaac Newton is best known for his ground-breaking discoveries about the laws of gravity – but he’s also thought to have invented the cat flap – kind of. The story goes that when he studied at Cambridge, he had some holes cut in a door so his cats could come and go as they pleased without him having to get up from his work to let them in.
“Time spent with cats is never wasted.”
Sigmund Freud, neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis
Literary sisters Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte (Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall) adored felines. Emily penned an essay lovingly praising cats, writing: “I can say with sincerity that I like cats; also I can give very good reasons why those who despise them are wrong. A cat is an animal who has more human feelings than almost any other being.”
Ernest Hemingway, author of gripping yarns such as For Whom the Bell Tolls was also famous for being a passionate cat person. During his travels, he was given a six-toed (or polydactyl) cat he named Snowball. Hemingway liked him so much that, in 1931, when he moved into his now-famous Key West home, he let Snowball run wild, creating a small colony of felines that populated the grounds. Today, there are around 50 six-toed cats roaming around the Hemingway House in Florida, all descendants of Snowball. Polydactyl felines are also known as ‘Hemingway Cats’.
“I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.”
Jean Cocteau, French writer and filmmaker
When a cat belonging to American wit and author Mark Twain (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn) went missing, the writer took out an advertisement in the New York American offering a reward for his furry friend’s safe return to his house in New York City. The ad described Bambino as: “Large and intensely black; thick, velvety fur; has a faint fringe of white hair across his chest; not easy to find in ordinary light.”
“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”
Leonardo da Vinci, Italian Renaissance painter and polymath
Be part of the #HappyCat movement
International Cat Day – Promoting happiness through understanding – takes place on 8 August every year. For 2020, custodianship has been passed to International Cat Care – a not-for profit organisation which, since 1958, has sought to improve the health and wellbeing of cats everywhere, working towards a world where each cat’s life experience is as good as it can be.
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Sources: mentalfloss.com, brainyquote.com, openculture.com. cheatsheet.com