Jan 31 2011

Creative Companion: Cat vs. Dog

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I grew up with both dogs and cats. And while I am a true animal lover at heart – embracing all animals, including pocket gophers and collared peccaries – I confess that I have always felt a certain kinship with felines. It should be noted, though, that I also am known to rescue and rehome the countless stray dogs that seem to wander in front of our windows, staring helplessly back at me.

Unlike my typical posts that focus on the outdoor animals I see, this post highlights the two indoor critters within my line of sight all day: my Bengal cats Macho (red) and Niña (gray). Scroll for more photos and dog rescue shots.

As writers, which animal do you feel is the better writing companion? Cat or dog? I think you might be able to safely guess my answer, but I do have a theory, flawed as it may be.

Rescue no. 1: Mazie, who now lives with our wonderful ex-neighbors in Phoenix. She is now one spoiled pooch! Click to enlarge.

My completely unscientific postulate is that cats are the preferred writing pet – perhaps because of their independence and self-reliance (they’re not sitting at your feet, panting and expecting you to play; they don’t require you to stop mid-paragraph and take them for a walk … or to poo; hell – half the time, they could care less if you’re in the room). You can write away while they nap the 15 to 20-hours a day that most of them sleep, but you can also sneak in a quick behind-the-ear scratch or a tummy rub while you’re pondering creative thoughts. Usually they’ll sleep through it … tolerate it … or turn on their purr machines. Then it’s back to business for you.

Personally, I rather enjoy the independent-but-sometimes-needy companionship that the cat offers to my creative endeavors. However, maybe my “cats are better creative companions” theory is flawed and influenced mostly by what I’ve seen on Twitter: lots and lots of writers who appear to be primarily cat owners. My reasoning may also be faulty since a good percentage of these writers are women. It’s a well-known fact that women, much more than men, prefer cats as pets (I think this trend is slowly changing, isn’t it?). Is that the connection that’s led me to my conclusion? Or am I completely wrong?

Are dogs just as inspirational and helpful to the creative process – whether it’s writing, painting, creating music, carving or rock polishing? If you think my theory needs some fine tuning, let me know. Or feel free to share stories below about how your canine or feline enriches your writing or your creative life in general. And most importantly, vote now. (More photos below).

Who's the better creative companion?

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Macho (front) and Niña (loveseat) help me as I work on my novel at my giant whiteboard. Click to enlarge.

Rescue No. 2 & 3: These little Chihuahuas showed up one day, while being eyed by a giant hawk in a palo verde tree. They ended up in loving homes in the Tucson area. Click to enlarge.


33 Responses to “Creative Companion: Cat vs. Dog”

  • avatar Brenda Kezar Says:

    I had to vote dog. My cat actually interferes with my writing by curling hopping up on the back of my chair, curling up around my neck, and purring. Ten to fifteen minutes later, we are both nodding off.

    Thanks goodness my dog (German Shepard) doesn’t try that! But at least then I wouldn’t fall asleep.

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  • avatar M. McGriff Says:

    Your cats are adorable!

    I’ve always been a dog person and though the family dog doesn’t live with me (he’s at my Mom’s house)I think he would be an awesome writing companion. Though he’s a big dog (part rotweiller, part chow) he can be super playful when he wants to be, giving me the perfect break I need sometimes from my writing. He’s not a yappy dog either and like me, enjoys his quiet time too!

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  • avatar Lisette Brodey Says:

    I’m going to have to vote cat only because I’ve only had cats since adulthood. I really do love dogs every bit as much, but clearly cats are much easier to own. My real answer is that the better writing companion would depend on the specific animal.

    Cats do provide great inspiration, though. There are two cat characters in one of my novels, and a cat character in my upcoming novel. =^..=

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    Melissa Reply:

    Agreed. There are pain-the-butt cats as well as mellow dogs. But you’re so right that pets – no matter what kind – do provide inspiration.

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  • avatar Cathryn Grant Says:

    I had to vote cats because I have two (yours are adorable, btw!). However, my cats occasionally interfere with my writing by trying to write for me.

    Someone mentioned the other day that the Muse is like a cat, chase her down and she runs, sit quietly or focus on something else, and there she is.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I LOVE the analogy of cat as muse. With your permission, I may have to retweet that! Mine sometimes walk on the keyboard as well, but most often end up behind my rump in the seat. Not all that comfy sometimes, but worth every minute of affection, though.

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    Cathryn Grant Reply:

    The characterization of the Muse as a cat came from a comment by N.M. Martinez on my blog: http://suburbannoir.com/my-muse-likes-it-when-i-sweat/

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  • avatar Lori Dyan Says:

    Hmmm…this is tough because my first inclination would be a cat for the reasons you stated. But I remember reading an interview with Jennifer Weiner and she thinks all writers should have a dog because it forces you to go on long walks, where you can think through your story (going over plotting, etc.). We’re currently pet-sitting a fish and that also seems to be conducive to letting me write 🙂

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  • avatar K Says:

    We have had both dogs and cats, I enjoy them both. Although dogs have the reputation of loving you always, no matter how neglectful a person may feel, it does depend on the specific animal, as Lisette mentions above, concerning which is more cooperative to writing. I can take dogs for walks and have it turn into a treasure hunt looking for them if they manage to squirm out of their leash. My downfall with cats is that if you get one that cuddles it is so hard to resist the love they offer, which sometimes turns into hours. For me this is the focus of this topic. Animals can be such a wonderful addition to your life. To over-love or spoil them is healing for both animal and human. If you have the space and time I recommend making room for the complications!

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  • avatar Maria McDonald Says:

    While a cat might be the obvious writerly choice, I think I’m going to side with dog people on this one. I grew up with dogs, but am now the staff to three cats. My tortie (Mary Piper) has four states: irritating, inscrutable, psychotic, and asleep. The other two? Two-wee and Mina sleep, eat, and…well, that’s it.

    I imagine a dog would get my butt out of the chair every once in a while for a walk or a bit of play; with cats, their independence means I barely have to lift a finger. Cats, with all their mysterious ways, will drive you bonkers while you try to appease them; with dogs, it’s easy (i.e. food, walk, belly rub), and you’re back at the keyboard quickly. The way I see it, a dog is a companion and partner to the isolated writer. A cat is an mirror of a writer’s solitude.

    But I love my crazy cats, and can’t imagine spending any expanse of time at my computer without Mary Piper “making biscuits” on my lap. So I’ll stick with my scratched-up furniture and stinky litterboxes for now. Perhaps I’ll get a dog in another life.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I LOVE your way of looking at it: “The way I see it, a dog is a companion and partner to the isolated writer. A cat is an mirror of a writer’s solitude.” Thanks for the insight. Both critters have their virtues!

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  • avatar Julie Mangano Says:

    Although I love my dog to pieces and find him very inspiring, he’s only a better creative companion when he’s not jumping on me, begging for treats, asking to go outside, or barking at strangers down the street but within his line of sight. I’m looking at him right now, bless his heart, and he’s sleeping and quiet and so cute… I hardly ever see the cat and she’s not quite as annoying when she’s active, so I had to go with cat.

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  • avatar Beth Hoffman Says:

    Love the photographs!

    It’s impossible for me to choose! I love dogs and kitties equally. Like you, I’m involved in animal rescue, and it’s just too hard to say which I love more or which is a better creative companion! I will have to really think about this.

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  • avatar Heidi Turner Says:

    First, those photos are beautiful. I look forward to checking out more of your blog and enjoying your posts and your photos.

    I am female and I have cats. BUT, I have cats because I lived in an apartment where dogs weren’t allowed (before I moved two months ago). On the one hand, cats are so independent that they don’t bother you to play with them or take them outside. On the other hand, as I type this, my cat is lying next to the computer with his head resting on my hand, making typing incredibly difficult.

    I think it comes down to what inspires you. When I need calm, cool and collected, my cats inspire me. But I bet I’d also get inspiration from taking a dog for a walk or playing fetch with it.

    Good for you for being involved in animal rescue. I’ve been involved in a few so far, but they haven’t ended all that happily, unfortunately. I love meeting fellow animal lovers.

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  • avatar Hallie Says:

    I’m a dog lover. They have such personality and they show affection when we seem to need it most. Yes, that can be a distraction but I love how they interact with me. Like little people. Cats are “eh” for me. My husband has rubbed off on me as he is VERY allergic to them. My mom caved when I was in Jr. High and we got a couple of cats because they were easier than dogs. At that time I would take whatever I could get. But somehow we got the two most inbred ding-a-lings ever conceived. One more reason for adopting strays. One was full of hate and the other had a brain the size of a pea. She would only put her two front paws in the litter box and then defecate. PEA BRAIN. My dogs are my buddies. They follow me around and give me the unconditional love I need. They also think my writing is wonderful. 🙂

    Fun post, Melissa!

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  • avatar Therese Walsh Says:

    I’m with Beth: I can’t choose. I have a dog I love dearly, and who has shared my lap through much of book #2. And we have two kittens in the house who have also had lots of lap time. They all inspire in their own way.

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  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    Oh, my goodness, Melissa! Your cats are gorgeous! I believe I like both cats and dogs for writing, but in different ways. Cats are great when we’re actually sitting at the computer and writing (because of their independence, like you said), but when we’ve put the computer away for the day, I think dogs are wonderful for helping us forget the stress of it and to refocus on the reality that’s around us; for when they’re drooling all over us and grinning like that, we really have no other choice! Great post, Melissa! Thanks for sharing Macho and Nina with us!

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  • avatar Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Hi Melissa….I just Love the animal pictures. Each and every animal is cuddle worthy and looks absolutely adorable. Though I have never had a pet, your post and pictures make me yearn for one. 🙂

    Great post. I voted for the dog.

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  • avatar Heather Says:

    I’m no writer so I can’t say how they influence writing, but I voted dogs. Having dogs my whole life I might be bias, but we had a few cats interspersed in there too. I just can’t get past the loyalty the dogs give their owners. Even when punished they are right there to make it up to you. I know a few men who should take a lesson from dogs. Men are not like dogs, dogs are better!

    Even though I’m a dog lover at heart I have to admit that after meeting your two babies last year, they had me wanting two of my own!

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    Heather Reply:

    I should probably rephrase my comment about men and dogs before I get a lot of heated replies.

    Not all men are below dogs. My wonderful husband being one of them! Most men are great; it’s just the few rotten ones that give the rest of you a bad name.

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    Melissa Reply:

    You are so funny. So glad you’re still reading my musings. Any if ANYone had a legitimate gripe, it would be you, given the actions of your ex-husband. Let me make that clear. But you’ve definitely got a real winner now! And I’m happy for you.

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  • avatar Tracy Straus Says:

    This is a really interesting question to consider! Because I don’t have a dog, I don’t think I can be fair in my voting “cat” here, but, in my case, my cat is the inspiration for my book. On the other hand, my two cats tend to suddenly want my attention when I am in the thick of concentrating on a scene – then it’s off to the coffeeshop I go! 🙂

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  • avatar Russell Brooks Says:

    I voted for a cat. Clinton (my cat) will spend most of his time lying down beside my laptop (as he’s doing now) while I type away. He’ll sleep most of the time, and other times he’ll watch what I’m doing. When he’s had enough sleep then he’ll let me know when he wants to play, in which case I’ll take a short break.

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  • avatar Taqiyyah Shakirah Dawud Says:

    Melissa, those are two absolutely beautiful cats. I voted cat because I have a 19-year-old calico (I’ve had her all 19 years). I… can’t imagine not having her, or her being a dog.

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  • avatar Sharon Bially Says:

    Ok, I confess. I don’t have a particular affinity for pets. Especially not cats or dogs. Living for 10 years with a dysfunctional dalmation put me over the edge. But recently, to keep the peace with me kids, I buckled and bought them a gerbil. And lo and behold, I can’t get enough of the little guy! It’s really relaxing to let him treadmill over my hands and scamper up my arms. Good for calming, focusing and creative thinking, too! Go gerbils!

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    Melissa Reply:

    I should have added gerbils to the voting mix! : -) My parents had a problem Dalmation once and probably agree with you…

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  • avatar Faye Rapoport DesPres Says:

    My cats demand that I play, sit on my keyboard, and meow at my feet while I try to write (especially if it’s mealtime). But I still couldn’t live without them. I’m not sure I could write without them, either :-).

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  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    Wow, your cats are gorgeous!

    I voted dogs because as much as I love cats, I’m allergic to them (so there goes that 🙁

    The more I think of it though, I think it really depends on the dog or cat. My Boston Terrier Maggie is the perfect writing companion for me, and I think a large part of that is due to her cat-like qualities. She’s very independent and sleeps the majority of the day. But I love that when I need to get away from the desk, she’s ready to play and always up for a belly rub.

    One thing that’s great about dogs is that they give you a great excuse to stretch your legs and go outdoors. Some of my best ideas have come to me while walking Maggie in the park, and for that she’ll always be my muse!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Maggie sounds like a wonderful writing companion. Thanks for weighing in!

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  • avatar Peggy Says:

    I voted dog since I have two and we’re about to bring in another rescue (10-12 years old with hearing & vision problems and not wanted). Cats are wonderful as well, I’ve had two who made it into their 20’s – & I’ve had dogs and cats at the same time. But, the love that just seems to ooze from the dogs when they’re sprawled around my study in puddles of sunshine, just being companionable while I write is remarkable. Cats are loving as well, but frequently want to stomp across the keyboard. So, while I love both, dogs got the edge in that particular area.

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  • avatar Linda Faulkner Says:

    I couldn’t decide. Honestly.

    I have 3 cats and 2 dogs and they’re all terrific inspiration.

    Dogs require more time and attention but they get so darned excited when you give them attention. No human, or feline, ever went nuts the way my dogs do when I look at them. speak to them, or offer them a walk or some food.

    Cats are more physical and cuddly, demanding and allowing touches and scratches and rubs. They also talk: which is important.

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  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    I love this post! I am more of a dog person (although I have had and love cats)…. that said, your arguments for why cats make a better writer’s companion makes so much sense! However, I also think dogs are great because they force you to get up and out of the house from time to time AND they are incredibly entertaining in terms of material to write about: sniffing, greeting/attacking (depending on the dog, yikes), digging things up, finding weird stuff, rolling in things, helping you meet people. So, for me I’d have to say it’s a tie. (Still, I’ll tell you, MEH is NOT a cat fan, but he was way impressed by how beautiful Macho and Nina are!) p.s. that is so sweet that you rescue dogs!

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    Melissa Reply:

    MEH would fall head over heels in love with our cats, who act more like dogs than anything! Macho carries bowls around in his mouth; they both love water, and they both follow me around every room in the house. Sound like a dog?

    Agree – dogs are definitely entertaining and do force you to get up and move around! I like dogs, too – just partial to the felines.

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