It’s World Cat Day! The purr-fect opportunity (sorry – we couldn’t resist) to share 10 of our favourite writer-related facts about cats.
Ernest Hemingway had over 30 pet cats, with names including Alley Cat, Crazy Christian, Ecstasy, F. Puss, Fats, Furhouse, Skunk, Thruster, and Willy. Many of them had six toes; to this day, such cats are often known as ‘Hemingway cats’. (More Ernest Hemingway facts here.)
French writer Colette started her working day by picking the fleas off her cat.
One of Daniel Defoe’s early business ventures was the harvesting of musk which he extracted from the anal glands of cats. Perhaps unsurprisingly (and thankfully for the cats involved), this venture failed.
Samuel Pepys is credited with the first use of the word ‘catcall’, in a diary entry of 7 March 1660, not long after he’d started keeping his diary of the 1660s. He is also credited by the Oxford English Dictionary with the earliest use of the word ‘frighten’ (on 4 September 1666, in his account of the Great Fire of London) – which brings us nicely to our next feline fact…
Dorothy Parker is credited with inventing the phrase ‘scaredy-cat’, in a short story called ‘The Waltz’ from 1933 – the Oxford English Dictionary gives her use as the earliest known instance of this feline-themed term.
Names for Mark Twain’s many pet cats included Beelzebub, Blatherskite, Buffalo Bill, Satan, Sour Mash, and Zoroaster.
‘Baudrons’ is a Scottish name for the cat, like Reynard for the fox – it is found in medieval poet Robert Henryson’s translation of Aesop.
Gertrude Stein and her partner Alice B. Toklas had a cat named Hitler, because the fur above the cat’s mouth resembled Hitler’s moustache.
Dickens’s house at Gad’s Hill had a secret door in the form of a fake bookcase. The fake books included titles such as ‘The Life of a Cat’ in 9 volumes.
Images: © Oliver Tearle, 2014.