Known perhaps best for Narnia, a world of talking animals, C. S. Lewis wrote rather frequently about pets. They crop up in The Problem of Pain, where he discusses animal pain and the human-and-animal relationship, but I was also delighted to find that he refers to them (and especially to cats) in his correspondence, Letters to an American Lady. Here are a few of the best passages.
“We were talking about cats and dogs the other day and decided that both have consciences but the dog, being an honest, humble person, always has a bad one, but the cat is a Pharisee and always has a good one. When he sits and stares you out of countenance he is thanking God that he is not as these dogs, or these humans, or even as these other cats!”
“We also have a Siamese cat. In my heart of hearts I really prefer the great, grey bullet-headed native cat, but the Siamese are delicate and fascinating creatures. Ours adores me because I lift her up by her tail–an operation which I can’t imagine I should like if I were a cat, but she comes back for more and more, purring all the time.”
“I hope your vet is not a charlatan? Psychological diagnoses even about human patients seem to me pretty phoney. They must be even phonier when applied to animals. You can’t put a cat on a couch and make it tell you its dreams or produce words by ‘free association’. Also–I have a great respect for cats–they are very shrewd people and would probably see through the analyst a good deal better than he’d see through them.”
“We are also both ruled by cats. Joy’s Siamese–my ‘stepcat’ as I call her–is the most terribly conversational animal I ever knew. She talks all the time and wants doors and windows to be opened for her 1000 times an hour.”
“Yes, it is strange that anyone should dislike cats. But cats themselves are the worst offenders in this respect. They very seldom seem to like one another.”
“I am glad to hear you have rehabilitated a displaced cat. I can’t understand the people who say cats are not affectionate. Our Siamese (my ‘step-cat’) is almost suffocatingly so. True, our ginger Tom (a great Don Juan and a mighty hunter before the Lord) will take no notice of me, but he will of others. He thinks I’m not quite socially up to his standards, and makes this clear. No creature can give such a crushing ‘snub’ as a cat! He sometimes looks at the dog–a big Boxer puppy, very anxious to be friendly–in a way that makes it want to sink into the floor.”
And, not about pets, but a fun quote all the same (and perhaps related, if pet food came in cans then, as it does now?).
“And what is a ‘wall can opener’? It suggest either opening a tin by means of a wall or opening a wall by means of a tin, and both sound very strange operations.”
Photo by Arielle Jay, Creative Commons