Monday, September 20, 2010

Of Cats and Dogs

RHYS: We at Jungle Red are having an ongoing debate about what attracts readers to a blog--whether they like to be informed, entertained, learn about us,or.....

One fact that stuck with me was that whenever we post a picture of a cat, we draw lots of people to our site. Clearly cats and books go together. How many bookstores have a store cat? I suppose it's the cozy image of an armchair, a fire, a good book and a cat curled up at our feet that signifies contentment. (Oh, and maybe some chocolate to finish the picture)

But on this book tour I've had time to think and I've decided that all humans can be divided into cat people and dog people. I don't just mean which animal they prefer in their lives, I mean in temperament.

Cat people are essentially independent loners. They make their own decisions. They see themselves as at the center of their universe and turn to others when they want love, help, information etc. (As our cats do). When they don't have urgent needs, they choose to be alone. They don't need others to make their lives complete.

Dog people are the pack animals. They are not happy unless they're with people. They like to bounce ideas off others before making up their minds. Their ideal happiness is a big table with all the family around it. They need praise to reassure them.

So--are more cat people than dog people necessarily book readers? Mystery readers? I realize as I write this that I'm an absolute dog person--need people, love noisy gatherings, certainly need praise and reassurance.

So which are you?

HANK: Oh, cat. I fear. We had lovely dogs growning up--Rusty, Penny and Roderick St. John, all Irish Setters. (Were we clever namers, or what?) A Puli named Maggie. And two English cockers, Bailey and Barkley. (We also had a white cat, Rosemary, and her babies, F. Scott and Zelda. We were older then, and thought of cooler names.)

But as an adult, I have never had a dog--oh, wait, yes, in the 80's when I lived in Atlanta, I had an adorable beagle named McGee. (Arooo!) When I broke up with Jim, I got the house and Jim got McGee.

When I lived by myself, I had my wonderful cats Lola (who died at age 20) and Leon (at 14). They lived together for 14 years, and never acknowledged each others' existence. Proving Rhys' point. They were dear dear pets, and I still think about Lola, who talks to me in my dreams. Yes, she does.

Put me down for cats. Why does that feel un-cool?

ROBERTA: Hank, you are not capable of being uncool! I think I have a split pet personality. We had both cats and dogs growing up. Completely untrained German shepherds named Schatzie (sweetheart in German) and Wolf. Not not not a good idea to have an animal that large who answers to no one. I could tell you a million stories that were not funny at the time but are now hysterical. Just one involved a neighbor trying to break up a dog fight with a two by four and hitting my sister's arm instead--she was getting married later that day. Oh, then there was the time my father and I had to go to court (another neighbor) because Wolfie grabbed a little yapper by the throat and shook him until he was dizzy for weeks. In fairness, the little dog was annoying him to death.

Our cats never caused much trouble. Oh wait, what about the time Tigger fell into a vat of oil and showed up outside my parents' window howling. They tried to chase him away, thinking he was a black stray. We also had Puddy Tat (I know, save me), and then later Gabriel, Jack, Suitcase the Terrible, Chuck, and Tipper.

We have both a dog and a cat now, but you are right Rhys--the dog is completely social (ask Hallie)--he wants to be with me every minute. The cat appears at mealtimes, though I do insist he watch the news with the family. I have a little bit of both in me....

(this is a picture of Tonka and Yoda--Roberta's pets)

JAN: The thing about dogs is the unconditional love. More people should be like dogs. But I'm afraid I'm not one of them., I don't achieve the selflessness of a dog. Blind devotion isn't my thing. But since I'm allergic to cats I'm afraid I don't know them very well. I know I'm not a bird though. I had a bird for nine years and it was a spiteful animal. And loud. Very, very loud.

HALLIE: I'm not a pet person, though I feel some fond aunt-ship of Roberta's wonderful dog and cat. Never had a pet myself, unless you count short-lived turtles and goldfish and a memorable baby duck -- except for 2 years when my husband and I lived in Manhattan and acquired one, then two, and finally up to four cats. It's easy to acquire them in Manhattan when you do your laundry in the basement. Then I ended up hospitalized with bronchial pneumonia and the cats were sadly give away.

If I WERE a pet person, I'd definitely be a cat person. They purr in your ear and are otherwise low maintenance. I would hope that's how my husband would describe me.

ROSEMARY: Well...who knew that Rosemary was a cool name. Continuing the feeling that Hank and I are kindred spirits, I also had a cat named Leon. And another that my mother named Tommy because he was deaf and also pretty dumb. Mercifully he wasn't blind.
I cat-sat for a friend's cat for two years when she went away to school...then she came home and wanted her cat back. I couldn't believe it. That was the unfortunately named Running Fox (which I shortened to Foxy, since I was not an Indian princess and couldn't say the name with a straight face.) He went back to her as if I didn't even exist. He was my last cat.
Once I stopped working full-time I thought, yippee, I can get a dog. My current pooch is named Max and no child could be more adored in the Harris household. BTW...we got him from Yankee Golden Retriever rescue in Hudson, MA and they do a wonderful job finding homes for their charges. We even had an in-home interview.

RHYS: We are (alas) petless now as we travel so much, but I get my dog fix with Sonny and Oscar, my daughters' dogs. We had a fabulous cat called Marmalade while the kids were growing up. Plus a completely hopeless English setter called St. John (pronounced Sinjun) I called the dog that to preemp my husband from naming one of our kids that--yes, I know, awful.
But as to people, I rather suspect that most writers are cat-people--loners, observers.
What do you think? More cat people than dog people out there?


  1. I read,voraciously,and while (due to allergies)I cannot have any indoor animals, I would prefer dogs to cats any day of the week! They are so much friendlier and loyal and don't seem to have a sinister streak, that I would prefer to see in the villains of my books than the hero/heroine's home. Funny enough, I was just complaining to my daughter about how almost every novel series I read lately has just that situation! How about a cuddly rabbit? ;-)

  2. I have been both a cat person and a dog person throughout my life. I grew up raised with dogs, but when I moved out on my own, I became a cat person and he was a perfect match for my mood and temperment. When I got married, we became a dog family (currently have 3, but cats still hold a place in my heart. Maybe because cats represent a quieter side to life and we are seeking their peace and languorous solace.

  3. For me it's both. Right now we have two dogs, but until last year we also had two cats. Both are great company and we couldn't do without them.

  4. What a beautiful picture of that blue-eyed cat!

    I think writers have cats because we need the practice wooing them to pay attention to us or actually show us some affection. Maybe we should be naming our cats for agents or editors?

    In the interest of full disclosure, I have three cats. Never had a dog, although my mother raised Shih Tzus for a time.

  5. I had both dogs and cats growing up. Right now, I only have a dog, Max (Hi, Rosemary, good name), and we, too, got him at a shelter. Angel was his soulmate, but she passed on.

    I'm a dog and a cat person. I like my group times and I truly enjoy my alone time. I like to roughhouse and I like to curl up with a good book, a glass of wine and (wait for it) a piece of cheese. :)

    I love the simplicity of a cat, but I adore walking my dog and rubbing his belly and cooing to him.


  6. I am an animal lover, period. Growing up, I would have had a zoo at my house if my parents let me. I especially wanted a ferret named Zucchini. I blame a book for that one! My parents had other ideas. One dog and one dog only!

    Now I have two Australian Shepherds and one cat. Aussie dogs are also known as Velcro dogs. They HAVE to be in the same room with the rest of us or they go crazy. I'm not that bad, but I like hanging out with friends and family. Plus, I have four kids. I am NEVER alone, even in the bathroom whether I like it or not!

    Our cat, Smokey, however, is not a typical cat. He has been around dogs too long that he acts like a dog. Smokey even sits for a treat!

  7. Oh, Publishers Weekly has a piece today on the popularity of books with cats and dogs!

  8. It does seem that there are more cat people among mystery readers and writers. A dog doesn't fit as well on your laptop, for one thing, while a cat will find a way.

    I was an all-animal person growing up, but have turned into more of a cat person. I think I could only have a very mellow dog, now, but I love the big ones.

  9. When I was young, I was a dog person - both in personality and pet preferance. Now I'm clearly in the cat camp on both counts. I have two horribly spoiled cats named B and Raffi. B is docile and sweet and lays at my feet under the desk while I write. Raffi is jealous of the computer and has torn up the back of my desk chair filing his complaints. When he's not being a pain, he sleeps in a chair next to my chair.

  10. I love all animals and I've owned a fair share -- dogs, cats, birds, rats, rabbits, gerbils and fish -- but dogs are my favorite. I love the bond I've had with my dogs. My Dobermans were like velcro, everywhere I was was where they wanted to be. Truth is, I've felt closer to my first Dobe, Slik, that to most people and I miss him a lot more.

  11. Although I enjoy cats, especially friendly kitties like the one in the office of the pet shelter where I volunteer, I'm personally more of a dog person. But I love writing about all animals--dogs, cats, iguanas, ball pythons, and even werewolves!

  12. We had dogs and cats growing up. A black cat named--wait for it!--Blackie who my folks gave away when it turned out I was allergic. It took him three weeks to find his way the 17 miles home and we didn't have the heart to give him away again after that display of devotion, so I just took allergy shots and sniffled a lot. We had a gray cat named--you guessed it--Smoky, who got run over (although my folks said he was just lost). An Airedale, Nellie, who was truly my mom's dog and attacked anyone she saw as a threat (including us kids trying to hug our mother). I still have the scar under my eye. As an adult, I have had a chocolate Lab, Hawk, who died at 13, and our current Wire-haired Pointing Griffon, Marco, who may be too big to trample on the keyboard as I write, but he's curled up beside me in my office all day. (We also, courtesy of my daughters, have two gerbils and miscellaneous fish, but I have drawn the line at hermit crabs, reptiles, African frogs, more rodents and other forms of livestock.)

  13. Alexandra, you don't know my daughter's Boxers. I kid you not they both are lapdogs and trust me they'd find a way to get on the keyboard. LOL

    I grew up with dogs, Mom would never let us have a cat. She was afraid of them.

    Hubby and I had a dog, half Samoyed and half German Sheppard when we were first married. Buffy lived to be 14. We didn’t have pets for a long time after that because Hubby had a difficult time dealing with the loss.

    But then the cats started to arrive. Yes, we attract strays. First there was Frisbee, who at 9 became a diabetic. We had him for 11 years. Six months after we got Friz, we got Snowflake. She was with us for 14 years. Hubby said, “No more pets. I can’t stand losing them.” But we already had a feral cat that we caught years before and had spayed who lived in our garage. Hubby sat outside with her every night from 7 til 7:30, rain, sleet, snow and warm weather for 13 years. When we lost Snowflake, Lady Leo moved right in the house and lived with us until she was 18. But knowing she was sick, she sent us Jakette who also turned out to be Hubby’s cat.

    I really missed Snowflake, my cat, who’d been gone for over five years, so Cross-Eyed Joe (don’t ask) the latest outside feral cat Hubby feeds brought me a tiny black kitten. I rescued Smoki from the raccoons and although feral, she lives in the house. I can pet and play with her but I can’t pick her up.

    As for me, I’m split personality too. I enjoy crowds of people for short periods of time but then I want to go home to my quiet house. Hubby and I are both quiet, content, independent people.

  14. Yes, Lola used to pretend she didn't care about was just that she HAPPENED to be in the same room I was--all the time. And she needed to read the newspaper--and by that I mean, sit on it--exactly when I was trying to read it.

    Rosemary! My cat was named Leon because I found him as a stray on Ponce de Leon Avenue in Atlanta. Where did your Leon come from?

    Linda--a pet werewolf. Now there's an idea..!

  15. I'm bilingual... I speak both cat and dog... I'm an independent loner, who's not happy unless she's in a mini pack... LOL

  16. Some of us cannot abide either, or understand why anyone would saddle him/her self with one. I feel snookered when I discover a hypothetically lovable pet in any book. If I had to insert one or not get the books I write published, it would be a huge, horrible choice to make.

  17. I like both cats and dogs. Cats can be ignored and left for a weekend with extra food. Dogs never let you ignore them and, in my experience, they'd eat all the food the first day and bark for the next two.

    Right now, I have two small dogs, eight and five pounds, so I feel I have the best of both worlds. They like to sit on my lap and I can take them for walks. I wish they'd purr instead of barking so loud. They are both neurotic and hig-strung, unlike their owner.

  18. Oh, Hank, our cats have always read the paper. Didn't matter if hubby read it on the floor or the table, they plopped down on the page. One use to try to crawl under it.

    With me, I hold the paper up to read it, they peek underneath.

    One of my critique partners in not a pet way. We laugh when she puts a pet in her writing and it happens a lot more than you'd expect.

  19. Ah, Pat, that brings back a lot of nice memories...