A Post on Cats, Tenuously Connected to Fantasy Writing

Zula, doing her impression of a quiet, sweet pet instead of a wild cat-demon who terrorizes the dog.

Zula, doing her impression of a quiet, sweet pet instead of a wild cat-demon who terrorizes the dog.

Instead of waking up and writing a really thoughtful analysis of race politics in the 1970s and The Earthsea Cycle, I decided to write about cats. We just got a kitten, who we’ve named Zula (although we were sorely tempted by workingclassskin’s recommendation of Hillary Rodham Clawton). In her honor, here’s a collection of my favorite quotes from fantasy and science fiction about cats.  There are lots of little clever asides about cats, I realize, in the fantasy genre (is it just the connection between writers and animals that are cool with sitting in front of a computer all day?  Is it the black cat-witch connection?  Is it the magical way cats dematerialize when you get out the pet carrier?).“Cats were often familiars to workers of magic because anyone used to wrestling with self-willed, wayward, devious magic—which was what all magic was—it was rather soothing to have all the same qualities wrapped up in a bundle that looked more or less the same from day to day and might, if it were in a good mood, sit on your knee and purr.” Robin McKinley, Spindle’s End

“Katriona’s theory was that cats were one of the few members of the animal kingdom who had a strong artistic sense, and that aggravated chaos was the chief feline art form, but she had never coaxed a straight enough answer out of a cat to be sure. It was the sort of thing a cat would like a human to think, particularly if it weren’t true.” Robin McKinley, Spindle’s End

“‘Such nonsense!” declared Dr Greysteel. ‘Whoever heard of cats doing anything useful!’ ‘Except for staring at one in a supercilious manner,’ said Strange. ‘That has a sort of moral usefulness, I suppose, in making one feel uncomfortable and encouraging sober reflection upon one’s imperfections.’ Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

“‘I have a variety of names,’ replied the cat. It had a strange voice, half-mew, half-purr, with hissing on the vowels. ‘You may call me Mogget. As to what I am, I was once many things, but now I am only several.’” Garth Nix, Sabriel

“Anyone who believes what a cat tells him deserves all he gets.” Neil Gaiman, Stardust

“‘I meant,’ said Ipslore bitterly, ‘What is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?’ Death thought about it. CATS, he said eventually. CATS ARE NICE.” Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

“The cats of course steadfastly denied ever having had any name other than those self-given, unspoken, ineffably personal names which, as the poet Eliot said, they spend long hours daily contemplating–though none of the contemplators has ever admitted that what they contemplate is in fact their name, and some onlookers have wondered if the object of that meditative gaze might not in fact be the Perfect, or Platonic Mouse.” Ursula LeGuin, “She Unnames Them”

“There is a particular disdain with which Siamese cats regard you. Anyone who has walked in on the Queen cleaning her teeth will be familiar with the feeling.” Douglas Adams, Salmon of Doubt

“‘Name the different kinds of people,’ said Miss Lupescu. ‘Now.’ Bod thought for a moment. ‘The living,’ he said. ‘Er. The dead.’ He stopped. Then, ‘… Cats?’ he offered, uncertainly.” Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book



  1. I love that you all got a kitten! Now I really need to come and visit. So tell me, have you been collecting all these quotes about cats or did you somehow just remember that you had read cat references in all these places? If so, that’s some kind of photographic memory.

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