What Is It With Authors and Their Pets?

Many authors have pets. I thought I’d speculate why that’s so.

File:Cat August 2010-4.jpg by Alvesgaspar
by Alvesgaspar
dog
by Habj

 

 

 

 

 

I did a little online research and came up with the following table of authors, their pet type and breed, and the pet name or names, if known. For the data in the table, I’m grateful to the bloggers here, here, and here.

Author Pet Type-Breed Pet Name(s)
Michel de Montaigne Cat
Samuel Johnson Cat Hodge
Elizabeth Barrett Browning Dog – Cocker Spaniel Flush
Edgar Allan Poe Cat Catterina
Charles Dickens Bird – Raven

Raven
By Quinn Dombrowski
Grip
Jules Verne Dog Follet
Mark Twain Cat Bambino
Edith Wharton Dogs Mouton, Sprite, Mitou, Miza, Nicette, Mimi
Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette Cat
Gertrude Stein Dog – Poodle Basket
Hermann Hesse Cat
Virginia Woolf Dog Pinka
William Carlos Williams Cats
Raymond Chandler Cat Taki
T. S. Eliot Cat
Edith Södergran Cats Totti (favorite)
Dorothy Parker Dog Misty
Aldous Huxley Cat
William Faulkner Dogs
Jean Cocteau Cat
E.B. White Dog – Dachshund Minnie
Ernest Hemingway Cats (23) Snowball, Uncle Willie
Jorge Luis Borges Cat
John Steinbeck Dog – Poodle Charley
Jean Paul Sartre Cat
Wystan Hugh Auden Cat Rudimace
Tennessee Williams Cat Sabbath
William S. Burroughs Cats Fletch, Spooner, Ginger, Calico Jane, Rooski, Wimpy, Ed
Tove Jansson Cat
Julio Cortázar Cat Theodor W. Adorno
Doris May Lessing Cats El Magnifico
Charles Bukowski Cat
Ray Bradbury Cat
Patricia Highsmith Cats and snails

Grapevinesnail_01
By Jürgen Schoner
Jack Kerouac Cat Tyke
Kurt Vonnegut Dog Pumpkin
Truman Capote Cat
Edward Gorey Cats
Mary Flannery O’Connor Peacocks (~40)

Peacock_Plumage
By Jatin Sindhu
Manley Pointer, Joy/Hulga, Mary Grace
George Plimpton Cat Mr. Puss
Peter Matthiessen Cat
Maurice Sendak Dog Herman
Philip K. Dick Cat Magnificat
Jacques Derrida Cat
E.L. Doctorow Dog Becky
Joyce Carol Oates Cat
Stephen King Cats and Dogs Clovis (one of the cats)
Neil Gaiman Cats Coconut, Hermione, Pod, Zoe, Princess

Obviously, the most common pets on the list are cats and dogs. However it’s notable that Charles Dickens had a raven; Patricia Highsmith kept snails; and Mary Flannery O’Connor make peacocks her pets.

Before conducting my research, I assumed authors would have clever or literary names for their pets. After all, they know how to choose words carefully. That’s why, in my table, I included pet names where known. However, for the most part, authors name their pets the same things most people do. Maurice Sendak named his dog for Herman Melville, but that’s the exception.

There are websites now for today’s authors to post entries about themselves and their pets—notably here, here, and here.

Why do authors keep pets? Likely for the same reason other people keep pets—companionship. Pets can serve other functions, of course. Dogs can protect a home or assist the blind. Cats can rid a home of mice.

Still, I think certain aspects of pet companionship appeal to authors in particular.

  • Writers spend considerable time away from others, and prefer silence or soft instrumental music while writing. Human voices (even singing) can be a distraction. Pets will lie or sit quietly for long periods.
  • A pet will provide a relaxing break from writing. Often the pet determines these intervals. But it’s thought animals may sense human emotions, and sometimes the pet might detect that the writer needs a break.
  • A writer can use a pet as an unbiased and uncritical sounding board. A pet will listen patiently while being read to, and provide no feedback. The writer has the benefit of an audience, with no need to feel self-conscious about the poor quality of a first draft.
  • A pet can serve as inspiration for a writer who is writing a story about a similar animal. The writer can observe a pet’s movements, habits, and general personality, and incorporate these in the story.

There must be other reasons as well, and I urge you to comment and offer some.

As for me, I do not have a pet. Some years ago, I kept several fish in a nice aquarium, but I gave that up. I’m allergic to animal hair, but some dogs and cats are hairless, so that’s not a real barrier. Who knows, someday a pet might offer its own special companionship to—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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Are You Fictional or Real?

Fictional characters differ from real people in interesting and important ways. Thinking you’re one when you’re really the other could have significant and disturbing consequences. Therefore, it’s vital to know which one you are. That’s why, as a public service, I offer the following easy quiz you can take to determine the answer.

Fictional or RealIf you think you’re fictional, but your answers to some of these questions tend to show you’re real, or vice versa, don’t despair. Fictional characters and real people share many characteristics. There’s a large amount of overlap because authors try to depict realistic characters, to some extent. I’ll show you how to score your answers at the end.

And now, the quiz:

1. True or False:  You never say “hello” or “goodbye” when talking on the phone.

2. T or F:  You’ve never said “um” or “er” in conversation.

3. T or F:  You drive either a flashy sports car or an old jalopy.

4. T or F:  You may have been inside bathrooms, but you’ve never actually, shall we say, done a Number 1 or Number 2.

5. T or F:  For you, things seem to go from bad to worse, then suddenly everything turns out okay.

6. T or F:  You have a friend who’s constantly with you and to whom you must explain everything. Either that, or you are a sidekick for someone else.

7. T or F:  Your full name is melodic and memorable, and ether your first name or last name is unusual.

8. T or F:  You are either purely good, or purely evil.

9. T or F:  Your dull, uneventful hours rush by in a blur, but your busy, intense hours pass slowly and meaningfully.

10. T or F:  You’ve long felt a sense of being watched all the time. You’ve had that sense so long you no longer think much about it.

If you answered True to less than six questions, you are a real person. Sorry about that. Real people tend to lead more boring lives than fictional characters. If you thought you were fictional and are just now discovering you are real, I suggest you accept it, get over your disappointment, and learn to fit in.

If you answered True to six or seven questions, this quiz can’t tell you the answer. Observe the people around you and see which behaviors they exhibit. Whichever they are—fictional characters or real people—you are too. The two types don’t seem to mix much.

If you answered True to eight or more questions, you’re a fictional character. If you thought all along you were real and are just now discovering you’re fictional, I’ll offer my congratulations. Your life will rarely be boring. Thousands and maybe millions of real people will thrill to your escapades. Even if your life ends up being short, you’ll be reborn innumerable times and may live forever.

It’s my hope this quiz has been informative and hasn’t caused you any life-changing distress. If it did alter your understanding of reality, I still think it’s better to know than to keep living in ignorance. And, really, where else on the web are you going to get this kind of service? Who else offers this sort of helpful quiz? No one else, but—

Poseidon’s Scribe

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