On the Naming – & Reading – of Cats

You can call me what you like, it doesn't mean I'll show up.

You can call me what you like, it doesn’t mean I’ll show up.

The naming of cats is a difficult matter …” – TS Eliot

This is Al, aka The Cat Who Came to Dinner. So inevitably, today’s song is this one. No cat references, but lots of Al ones. I love most of Paul Simon’s work, and whilst I’m not a big Chevy Chase fan, I think he’s fab in this video.

Around a dozen cats have padded and slept through my life so far: I’m hoping many more will mew, purr, and yes, occasionally barf in my home, and garden. (1) That’s not counting friends’ cats, or the cat who lives near my work, and likes to say hello whenever I pop to the shop, or the pillar box.

The black and white cat pictured below is the late, great Jake, from whom the name Sgt Jake Cat comes from. Jake’s original name evolved considerably from a ridiculously long and indeed ridiculous name, to Jake, though his Sunday name was Jacob.

Big cat, big heart, big personality

Big cat, big heart, big personality

Thomas the cat: Brave, and sunny natured, if a bit thick.

Thomas the cat: Brave, and sunny natured, if a bit thick.

Speaking of names, at a recent writers’ group, I read a bit from my current work in progress, “A Yorkshireman in Ohio”. In it, I referred to the fictional Jake as “Sgt Cat”. This resulted in a somewhat surreal discussion about cat surnames.

Talking of cats, here are my top five favourite cat books:

  • Close Encounters of the Furred Kind” – Tom Cox (non fiction / humour) More than just a cat book, this, and Tom Cox’s previous book, “The Good, the Bad, and the Furry” are funny, beautifully written, and touching. The final section of “Close Encounters of the Furred Kind”, about a homeless cat named George, contains some of the most moving writing I have ever read. Highly recommended. I interviewed Tom on “Book It!” earlier this year. It was such a pleasure, as was going to see him in Sheffield this summer. I can go a bit fangirl when discussing his books, so I’ll move on to the next book.

    Tom Cox at Sheffield, August 2016

    Tom Cox, August 2016

  • The Door Into Summer” – Robert A Heinlein (sci fi) This is a lovely book for cat and science fiction fans alike. Published in 1957, I first came across it as a teenager, and loved it. It’s about time travel, cats, and love, in almost equal measures. Heinlein went a bit strange later on (2), but when he was good, he was very, very good.
  • The Silent Miaow” – Paul Gallico (non fiction) Beautifully written, with beautiful photographs by Suzanne Szasz. Sadly I don’t own a copy, perhaps I need to correct this. By the author who wrote the touching, and evocative, “Snow Goose“.
  • It’s Like This, Cat” – Emily Cheney Neville (children’s lit) I have fond, if hazy, memories of this one. I have a feeling it’s one of those books I borrowed time after time from my local library. This was a Newbery Medal winner in 1963. I suspect it would be classified as Young Adult (YA) if it was published today.
  • Why Cats Paint” – Heather Busch & Burton Silver (humour) One of the strangest books I’ve ever owned, read, and loved. I think my copy was a gift from Mum. Subtitled “A Theory of Feline Aesthetics”, it features beautiful photographs of cats, er, painting, as well as commentary on how and why the cats approach their artistic works. Includes cat tray art.Happy reading! Remember, winter is coming: it’s an ideal to curl up with a book, and, if you’re fortunate, a cat on your knee, or lap
    Bookless at bedtime: Al

    Bookless at bedtime: Al

    (1) I’m not a fan of barf, but sick and hairballs are part of the price you pay if you share close quarters with a cat.
    (2) “Number of the Beast”, anyone?

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About Sheila North

I am an author and ex-journalist, who has written novels, short stories, and poems. I also help facilitate a writers' group. Check me out on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sheila-North/
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2 Responses to On the Naming – & Reading – of Cats

  1. Suzanne Stevens says:

    Personally, “Number of the Beast” is possibly one of the worst books I’ve ever read. A favorite cat book for me is “The Many Lives of Thomasina” by Paul Gallico (first spelled ‘hallucination’ by auto correct).

  2. Sheila North says:

    “Number” is awful: possibly the only Heinlein novel I’ve never finished. I don’t think I’ve ever read Gallico’s “Many Lives of Thomasina”. Given what a great book “Snow Goose” is, and of course “The Silent Miaow”, I need to put “Thomasina” on my to be read (TBR) list.

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