There’s something appealingly romantic about the image of the writer hunched over a desk late at night, with frazzled hair, six empty coffee mugs…and a cat curled up next to him.
Maybe it’s because writing is solitary work. A cat, being a mostly solitary creature, fits in well with the overall theme. Maybe it’s because cats are nocturnal–they can stay up into the wee hours while their masters clatter away at the keyboard. Maybe it’s because they sleep all the time, and therefore aren’t too much of a distraction from the creative process. Maybe it’s because their purring soothes the anxious nerves that come from trying to get that one piece of prose just right.
While I’m sure all of these are contributing factors, I’ve noticed another element in the cat-writer relationship. Working as a writer, or in any kind of self-employment, for that matter, requires a certain amount of discipline. There are no supervisors to remind you to stay on task, no assistants to help you keep track of what you should be doing, and no coworkers to commiserate with you when work is too hard. Cats fill many of these roles in writers’ lives, allowing us to feel like we are actually working in an office, instead of in our living rooms. By playing stereotypical office roles, cats help encourage productivity and promote consistency in the home office.
Boss Cat is the first type of feline business associate. (My cat, Sable, is a Boss Cat.) Boss Cat sees you as her employee, and she takes steps to make sure you are working appropriately. She may also know that your work is what pays for the food and catnip, so she has extra motivation to get you to do your job. Boss Cat lets you work on your own for the most part, but will stop by to check on you from time to time. If she notices that you are distracted, perhaps by Facebook, she will strategically position herself on the computer and give you a disapproving glance. This indicates that Boss Cat would like you to resume working, after giving her a brief pet to thank her for her excellent supervisory skills. Boss Cat likes to sit in high places, such as the tops of bookshelves, in order to better view her employees. She will often wake you up in the morning to make sure you go to work on time. Boss Cat may also enjoy taking naps in your office chair when you are not using it. This helps her to better understand her employees’ working environment. She dislikes closed doors, which cut off the lines of communication and decrease synergy.
Personal Assistant Cat
Personal Assistant Cat is there to serve. If you are typing, Personal Assistant Cat will sit on your lap and tap the keys with you. If you are brainstorming, he will sit behind your head and hit you with his tail to give you ideas. If you take a snack break, he follows you to the kitchen to ensure that you adhere to proper nutrition guidelines…and also to see if you will share. Personal Assistant Cat wants to help you with everything you do. He will jump into the recycling bin to make room for more papers. He will try to assist with taking out the garbage. He will sit with you in your chair and watch you write. He may even answer the phone for you, if he feels like talking. He dislikes closed doors, which dampen his ability to help you with every aspect of your day.
Coworker Cat understands your pain. She is the cat who cuddles up on your lap and purrs when you are stressed. She kneads her paws to give you massages to help relieve the tension. She may sit on your shoulder to encourage you as you work. She listens sympathetically, and may try to offer helpful advice, though the language barrier makes this particular trait less than effective.
There is another side to Coworker Cat. Because she is your friend and ally, she sometimes feels entitled to borrow your belongings without asking. You may sit down to work one day and discover that your pencils are missing. There is a good chance that Coworker Cat has them. Coworker Cat dislikes closed doors, which make it difficult for her to socialize with you.
These three kinds of office cats provide different benefits to the writer (or other self-employed individual), but they all bring an element of furry companionship to brighten your day when you need it most. If you already have a cat, I hope this blog brought you two closer together. If you are considering getting a pet, I encourage you to visit your local animal shelter and provide a home to a kitty who needs one. Whatever the case, I wish you many happy and productive years with your feline friend!
Does your cat fit into one or more of these types? What role does your cat fulfill in your work life?