On that very long Sunday, waiting for the call about the second tests, I started thinking about cats in books. Making a list of my favorites proved a nice distraction, and later I went trolling through the bookshelves, looking for them.
The first literary cats I met might have been in the Little House books, Black Susan in the Big Woods and then Kitty in the Dakota territory, plus the barn cats in Farmer Boy that Almanzo feeds with warm new milk. These aren't really pets, they are working animals on the farms. The Ingalls get Kitty after Pa wakes up in the middle of the night with a mouse chewing on his hair, and Susan is the best mouser in the Big Woods. But the cats also help make their homes cozy, as in the Big Woods:
The sunshine came streaming through the windows into the house, and everything was so neat and pretty . . . The pantry door stood wide open, giving the sight and smell of goodies on the shelves, and Black Susan came purring down the stairs from the attic, where she had been taking a nap.
I think Elizabeth Peters has more cats in her books than any author I've read. In the Amelia series, it begins with the matriarch Bastet, a large brindled Egyptian cat, who bonds with the young Ramses:
[John] followed Ramses' every step and scarcely took his eyes off the boy. He attended to the needs of Bastet, such as they were; the cat required far less attendance than a human child. (Which is one of the reasons why spinster ladies prefer felines to babies.) Ramses had not insisted on bringing the cat; he had simply taken it for granted that she would accompany him. The few occasions on which they had been parted had proved so horrendous for all concerned that I gave in with scarcely a struggle. (The Mummy Case)When Bastet dies years later, the family keeps pushing kittens on Ramses, but it takes him a long time to connect with another cat.
There is also the cat-filled mansion of Aunt Kate, in Devil-May-Care, one of my favorite of her books:
The room was enormous - thirty by fifty feet at the least . . . The furniture consisted mainly of chairs and tables; the flat surfaces of both types were covered with objects, many of them cats.I bet nobody called Aunt Kate a crazy cat lady! At least not more than once.
Henry had never seen so many cats. Fat cats and lean cats. Short-haired cats and cats that looked like animated mops. Blue cats, White cats, tabby cats, grey cats. Siamese cats, Persian cats, and cats of no determinate species. Kittens. Cats with long tails, cats with no tails at all.
Rumer Godden's Benedictine abbey, in In This House of Brede, has cats as well as nuns. The young postulant Sister Cecily wanted her convent to have box hedges. Me, I'd pick mine based on the cats. There is Wimple, "a Benedictine in her black and white, the white running under her chin, which explained her name."
Wimple too had the nuns on a string, as Sister Priscilla would say. There was a custom in the community for the nuns, on their way to breakfast after Prime, to stop at the statue of our Lady with the Holy Child in the long cloister, to say three Hail Mary's there. Wimple was impatient for her breakfast, and she would walk among the kneeling figures, giving them small pushings with her head; one hand after another would come out, not to push her away but to stroke her. Wimple was perverse; she would come into the refectory through the ever-opening service door and walk through the room to the other, demanding to be let out. Unlike Grock's, Wimple's miaow was piercing and could, at dinner and supper, interrupt the read, so that Sister Xaviera, who doted on Wimple, would get up and let her out. In a moment or two the little cat would walk in the service door again.Philippa Talbot says that in coming to the abbey, she gave up "a cat and a clock and some dear little sins." The cat is a Siamese called Griffon, and after leaving him in his new home, as she prepares to enter the community, "It was better, Philippa found in the the train, not to let herself think about Griffon."
Kerry Greenwood's mysteries featuring Corinna Chapman are also full of cats. Corinna herself has three: "Horatio, a tabby and white gentleman with impeccable manners and grooming," and the two in the Mouse Police who keep her bakery rodent-free at night. Her friend Meroe the witch has the night-black Belladona. When a litter of kittens turns up on the doorstep, their neighbors in the building adopt them all, and the mother as well too. One of the kittens was lost for days and discovered shut into an apartment. When the door is opened,
[A] very small, very thin black kitten tottered out, climbed the Professor as if every movement hurt, and nestled in his bosom as though she had been looking for him all her short life. He cradled her in his beautiful long hands.And then there is J.K. Rowling, who gives us the evil Mrs Norris, prowling the corridors of Hogwarts at night, just looking for students she can squeal on. But there is also Crookshanks, Hermione's big ginger cat, on whom she dotes. He's the only one to sense danger in Scabbers the rat. But my favorite cat in J.K. Rowling's world is the first one we meet, the tabby cat on the corner of Privet Drive, whom Mr Dursley sees reading a map. How perfect that Professor McGonagall's Animagus form is a cat, when "This animal form is not chosen by the wizard, but determined by their personality and inner traits."
'Hello,' he said to the kitten. She put out a little pink tongue and licked his thumb. Then she closed her eyes and gave a short purr.
From that point on, of course, the Professor was lost. He was one of the Chosen Ones. (Heavenly Pleasures)
I actually have a few more fictional cats on my list, but I think I'll stop here, and go sit with my real-life furball for a while, and just be grateful for the wonderful cats who've shared my life, especially my Cassie.