Writers are often considered solitary creatures, typing away in self-imposed isolation as they strive to finish their next great poem or novel. But that image softens when you consider who might be sitting by their feet, lying on their lap, or perched on their shoulder as they go about their work.
Pets — be they cats, dogs, chickens, or any number of animals — have been loyal companions to many writers, sometimes inspiring or appearing in the works created by their human caretakers. Even Ernest Hemingway, that towering figure of macho 20th-century prose, was a big softie who loved his cats as much as anything else. Here are 16 heartfelt quotes from famous writers about their beloved pets, without whom life just wouldn’t be the same.
What greater gift than the love of a cat?
— Charles Dickens, who had, among other things, a Havana spaniel named Timber Doodle and a pet raven called Grip
Flush is my constant companion, my friend, my amusement, lying with his head on one page of my folios while I read the other. (Not your folios — I respect your books, be sure.) Oh, I dare say, if the truth were known. Flush understands Greek excellently well.
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning on her cocker spaniel, Flush
When I play with my cat, who knows whether I do not make her more sport than she makes me? We mutually divert one another with our play. If I have my hour to begin or to refuse, she also has hers.
— Michel de Montaigne, who occasionally mentioned his cat in his philosophical essays
When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.
— Mark Twain, a known lover of cats
My setter pup, left alone one night, made confetti of about half of my [manuscript] book. Two months work to do over again. It sets me back. There was no other draft. I was pretty mad but the poor little fellow may have been acting critically.
— John Steinbeck on his mischievous Irish setter, Toby, who ate half of the first manuscript of “Of Mice and Men”
I went to collect the few personal belongings which, at that time, I held to be invaluable: my cat, my resolve to travel, and my solitude.
— Colette, who wrote a number of books about her pets
One cat just leads to another.
— Ernest Hemingway, who owned many, many cats, including a six-toed cat called Snow White
If you want to be a psychological novelist and write about human beings, the best thing you can do is to keep a pair of cats.
— Aldous Huxley, who had a cat called Limbo
When we have company she looks them over and decides almost instantly if she likes them. If she does she strolls over and plops down on the floor far enough away to make it a chore to pet her. If she doesn’t like them, she sits in the middle of the living room, casts a contemptuous glance around, and proceeds to wash her backside.
— Raymond Chandler on his temperamental cat, Taki
Having a bunch of cats around is good. If you’re feeling bad, you just look at the cats, you’ll feel better, because they know that everything is, just as it is. There’s nothing to get excited about. They just know. They’re saviors.
— Charles Bukowski, who had a one-eared tomcat called Butch Van Gogh Artaud Bukowski
After a succession of sadly-missed Shepherds and Ridgebacks, I never imagined that I would lose my heart to so tiny a canine person.
— Arthur C. Clarke on his chihuahua, Pepsi
Only thing can resolve conflict is love, like I felt for Fletch and Ruski, Spooner and Calico. Pure love. What I feel for my cats present and past. Love? What is It? Most natural painkiller what there is. LOVE.
— William S. Burroughs on his beloved cats, in one of his final journal entries
I cannot distinguish between the love I have for people and the love I have for dogs. When a child, and not watching comedians on film or listening to comedians on the radio, I used to spend a lot of time rolling around on rugs with uncritically affectionate dogs we had. And I still do a lot of that. The dogs become tired and confused and embarrassed long before I do. I could go on forever.
— Kurt Vonnegut, who as an adult had a dog named Pumpkin
Who knew what would happen next? Who could guess? That I would fall headlong into a mystery. That I would find myself pulled into the parallel universe all the other animals exist in, simultaneous with us. In other words, before a couple of days had passed, watering and feeding the chickens, I had fallen in love with them.
— Alice Walker on her chickens
Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are god.
— Christopher Hitchens on the eternal debate: cats or dogs?
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.
— Joyce Carol Oates, who loved her felines so much, she wrote an ode to cats