Literature

13 of the Best Literary Quotes about Cats

Previously, we offered some of our favourite funny quotations about books from writers past and present. Now, it’s the turn of cats. Many authors have owned cats, and many authors have written whole books about cats, so it’s of little surprise to learn that there are many wise, witty, funny, and true quotations about cats to be found in the world of literature. Here are 13 of the very best literary quotations about cats.

Michel de Montaigne: ‘When I play with my cat, who knows if I am not more of a pastime to her than she is to me?’ Montaigne, the Renaissance pioneer of the essay form, liked to observe his pets and to try to inhabit their point of view. Here, he ponders his cat’s perspective, in Book II, Chapter 12 of his Essais (1595).

Douglas Adams: ‘I think all cats are wild. They only act tame if there’s a saucer of milk in it for them.’ As well as writing The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Adams (1952-2001) also wrote Last Chance to See (1991), an entertaining non-fiction book about endangered species. In this cat quotation – one of a number of classic cat quotations from Adams – he ponders feral cats but then considers all cats, even domestic ones, as potentially wild.

Robert Heinlein: ‘How we behave toward cats here below determines our status in heaven.’ This is one of the most popular cat quotations found in numerous books of quotations and online lists. It’s taken from Heinlein’s 1987 science-fiction novel To Sail beyond the Sunset.

Emily Brontë: ‘I can say with sincerity that I love cats; furthermore I am going to give very good reasons why those who hate them are wrong.’ Who knew that, as well as writing one of the most remarkable novels of the Victorian era, Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë (1818-48) also wrote an essay titled ‘The Cat’? It is from this essay that the above quotation about cats is taken.

Mark Twain: ‘Of all god’s creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.’ Twain, who was photographed numerous times with cats, clearly adored and respected them. This comment is found in his 1894 notebooks.

Hippolyte Taine: ‘I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior.’ In the original French, this quotation reads: ‘J’ai beaucoup étudié les philosophes et les chats. La sagesse des chats est infiniment supérieure.’ Taine (1828-93) was a French critic, historian, and philosopher; this quotation is from his 1858 book, Vie et opinions philosophiques d’un chat.

Ernest Hemingway: ‘A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.’ Hemingway said this to his brother Leicester, and it’s well-known that Hemingway had many cats (with a certain breed of six-toed cat even being named the ‘Hemingway cat’ after the author’s association with them).

William Burroughs: ‘The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself.’ This is a number of wise and true quotations about cats by William Burroughs, the author of Naked Lunch among much else. The above quotation, like many of Burroughs’ other classic cat quotations, is taken from his prose poem The Cat Inside.

Margaret Benson: ‘The cat is, above all things, a dramatist.’ This quotation is taken from The Soul of a Cat and Other Stories, a 1901 collection by Benson. She goes on to explain, ‘its life is lived in an endless romance though the drama is played out on quite another stage than our own, and we only enter into it as subordinate characters, as stage managers, or rather stage carpenters.’

T. S. Eliot: ‘When a Cat adopts you, and I am not superstitious at all I don’t mean only Black cats there is nothing to be done about it except to put up with it and wait until the wind changes.’ In a letter of December 1936, Eliot – the author of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, featuring Macavity, Bustopher Jones, and a whole host of other felines – wrote to Polly Tandy with this piece of wisdom. Anyone who has been adopted by a cat that lives elsewhere will know how true this is!

Jerome K. Jerome: ‘A cat, she’s got her own opinion about human beings. She don’t say much, but you can tell enough to make you anxious not to hear the whole of it.’ Jerome is best-remembered for his 1889 comic novel Three Men in a Boat, subtitled ‘To Say Nothing of the Dog’. But he also offered this witty quotation about cats, found in his Novel Notes. The quotation sums up cats’ enigmatic and rather haughty attitude towards their human ‘masters’ (really servants?).

Anne Enright: ‘Cats, I always think, only jump into your lap to check if you are cold enough, yet, to eat.’ Enright (b. 1962) is best-known for her 2007 novel The Gathering, and it is from that novel that this quotation is taken.

Terry Pratchett: ‘Cats will amusingly tolerate humans only until someone comes up with a tin opener that can be operated with a paw.’ The late Sir Terry Pratchett was not only a fine fantasy author but one of the most popular comic authors writing in English since P. G. Wodehouse. He was also a great cat-lover, although he could clearly see past their cute faces and see them for the superior and contemptuous creatures they often are, as this quotation from his novel Men at Arms demonstrates.

3 Comments

  1. I already know most of these quotations but did see a few new ones. As an ailurophile, I have to correct you when you said “cat owners”. If you know anything about cats, you will know that no one owns a cat.

  2. Mark Twain knew felines well. Another favorite of his, “Dogs look up to us, cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.” – Mark Twain He was known to have upwards of 19 cats at one time.

  3. Judy Engels - Spadoni

    Time spent with cats is never wasted. – Sigmund Freud