1 March 2024 Susannah

Cats in Books

A cat in a book

Are you a felinophile or an ailurophile? If so, you have probably been allowed to share your home with a cat. I love cats and have had several grace my life with their elegant presences, so it’s not surprising that I love cats in books as well.

Have you read Paul Gallico’s novel Jennie? (It was published in the US as The Abandoned.) It’s the story of a lonely boy called Peter, who longs for the company of a cat, but his parents don’t like felines and say ‘No’. Peter suffers an accident and, soon after that trauma, finds himself transformed into a cat in London. To his terror, he finds that finding food, dodging traffic and ferocious dogs, and simply surviving, are skills that are beyond him, but he is aided by a tabby named Jennie, who teaches him survival skills. Together they even travel to Glasgow.

Paul Gallico is today best remembered for his war novel The Snow Goose and the charming Mrs Harris Goes to Paris (1958), but Jennie, published in 1950 is a much-loved and heart-warming novel, sure to find favour with cat-lovers.

I’d love to share some exciting news with you. I have written a book about famous writers and their cats (one chapter of the book is about Paul Gallico, who at one time shared his home with 23 cats). My book is to be published this year by the Bodleian Library Publishing Company in Oxford. I’m so excited! Seventeen chapters cover different authors, from Dr Johnson and his beloved cat Hodge, to Lynley Dodd of Slinky Malinki fame, from Hemingway and Lear to Margaret Mitchell, all writers who were ‘owned’ by cats. Each chapter focuses on one author and a particular cat with whom there was a special bond. The authors included are English, Scottish, American, Canadian, French and Kiwi, and I include some gorgeous stories about how each cat inspired, comforted, spurred and won over the writer they condescended to live with.

I do not yet have a publication date, and even the book’s title has not yet been confirmed, but this newsletter will keep you posted, and I’ll certainly let you know when there are book launches and special offers on my new book.

In the meantime, do read Jennie as it is a moving and delightful book. I know that Cheryl, who does so much to help bring you this newsletter, will agree – she’s the ultimate cat tragic!

Do you have a favourite book about cats? Let me know by leaving a comment.

From Cheryl …
Oh, I do hope you read “Jennie”! My grandmother gave me her 1965 edition when I was a teenager and I’ve held it dear ever since. I can’t imagine how anyone could not be enchanted by this captivating story with the bittersweet ending that moves me to tears every time. This is my warm cuddly blanket of a book, filled with memories of reading with my grandma, and one I’ll treasure forever.

Comments (31)

  1. Amanda

    Talking about children’s books, I too remember and enjoyed “It’s like this cat”. I also enjoyed “Bimbo and Topsy” when I first learnt to read, which is the story of Enid Blyton’s two cats, Bimbo and Cosy as well as her days Topsy and Bobs.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I don’t know either of those children’s books, so thanks for telling me about them. I didn’t know Enid Blyton was a cat lover!

  2. Melody Lord

    A few years ago I edited a book about cats, The Divine Feline, by novelist Belinda Alexandra (The White Gardenia and many others). It includes a chapter on literary cats, but I look forward to reading your more in-depth coverage of the subject.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      How interesting – I must look for the book. Thanks for letting me know and also for your kind words about my book.

  3. Trudie Barry

    No one noticed the Cat by Anne McCaffrey is a fantasy. After the death of wise old Regent of Esphania, Mangan, many of the regent’s skills and qualities seem to transferr to his beautiful and intelligent cat, Niffy, who at once herself to the new ruler, Prince Jamas.
    Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander is a book about a boy who always thought his cat could speak.
    Heaps of fun to be enjoyed with both books.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks so much for suggesting what sounds like two excellent books.

  4. Fiona Shaw

    Thanks for this – my reading list just grew even longer! Sansa and Bear won’t mind, though, as it means a warm body on the couch for them to sleep on.

  5. Marjorie June

    I first read ‘Jennie’ when I was 11 years when I started High School and I loved it. It was in our school library where I used to help out some lunchtimes. I recently bought myself a copy to reread and enjoyed it all over again.
    I also have The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa very sad book. The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide A beautiful book.
    My other very favourite cat book which was a gift is “The Dalai Lama’s Cat’ a novel by David Michie. So I purchased the next two ‘The Power of Meow’ and ‘The Art of Purring’ I love these books even though I am not a mad Cat lover.

    • Cheryl

      Oh thank you, Marjorie. More cat books I haven’t read. I’ll add them to my list.

  6. Jill Lord

    A favourite feline book is ‘Trim’ by Matthew Flinders, about the first cat to circumnavigate Australia.
    I have the 2003 reprint of the essay, found in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich UK, and first published in 1973.
    Purchased from the State Library,it is charmingly written as a biography by a famous navigator who was a true cat lover.

    • Cheryl

      It is an interesting story, isn’t it, Jill. I love knowing that Matthew Flinders adored his cat. I always give the statue of Trim a pat whenever I’m passing the State Library of NSW.

  7. Jenny Hefford

    I also have this book. My edition is published in the USA by the New York Review under the title The Abandoned, for anyone else reading your notes today and feeling confused. It’s a great book.

  8. Jo

    When I was about 12 I read a delightful children’s book about a cat that could talk. Unfortunately, I cannot remember who the author was or the title, so I have been unable to find a copy. Perhaps someone can help with the author’s name and/or book title?

  9. Grace Rektsinis

    Yes, a children’s book, “The Aristocats” that I bought many years ago for my children. My mother had a Chinchilla cat she called ‘Duchess’ and when she had 4 kittens, my 3 sisters and I all got one each. We always had a cat in the family as long as I can remember.

  10. Malvina Yock

    I fondly remember Thomasina (and the film) from my childhood. I love books featuring all kinds of animals. I still have my copy of Dewey by Vicki Myron, and what a sorry story that was in the beginning; people are cruel sometimes. Fortunately Dewey became beloved by all. I’m very excited about your forthcoming book featuring cats. I do tend to love books – and cats.

  11. Jennifer Crivelli

    Susannah, I know you would be familiar with those of Beverley Nichols, but do you also know the numerous books on cats by Derek Tangye ?

    Kind regards,


    • Susannah Fullerton

      No, I don’t, so many thanks for recommending Derek Tangye.

    • Christine Bradfield

      Two of my favourites! I visited Beverley Nichols’ cottage, scene of the ‘Down the Garden Path’ trilogy; and sat on the Ambrose Rock in Cornwall. Magic!

  12. Gaby Meares

    Thomasina, again by Paul Gallico. Disney made a film adaptation in the early 60s which I loved as a child. I still have my battered copy of Thomasina, together with The Snow Goose. Gallico’s books nearly always make me cry (apart from The Poseidon Adventure which gave me a life-long fear of the ocean, and The Zoo Gang, which was just lots of fun!) What a talented writer, to be able to turn his hand to such a variety of genres.

    Does your new book about cats and writers include Barbara Pym?

  13. Glennis Clark

    One of my favourite ‘cat’ books is The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa.
    Very sad but absolutely beautiful.

  14. Lyn Collingridge

    Dewey, by Vicki Myron. On the coldest morning of the year, Vicki found a tiny, bedraggled kitten almost frozen to death in the night drop box of the library where she worked. Her life and the town of Spencer, Iowa, would never be the same.
    Dewey, as the townspeople named the kitten, quickly grew into a strutting, adorable library cat whose antics kept patrons in stitches, and whose sixth sense about those in need created hundreds of deep and loving friendships. As his fame grew, fans drove hundreds of miles to meet Dewey, and people all over the world fell in love with him.
    A non fiction book first published in 2008.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      It’s such a heartwarming story, isn’t it. How one little cat made such a difference.

  15. Peter Windeyer

    Hi Susannah
    I am amazed! Cats are a pox on our environment. The bird kill and native animal kill that is perpetrated by cats is horrendous. Cats are an introduced species to Australia and our native birds and animals are not equipped to counteract their predatory behaviour.
    Maybe next month an article on our native birds or animals to counter this sad admission of yours about cats would be a good balancing act.

    • Gara

      You’re right, but it’s the owners who are at fault for not keeping their cats inside. As with most animals, including humans, their natural instincts are to hunt for food.

      • Susannah Fullerton

        As with so many introduced species, it’s easy to have the benefit of hindsight and say they should never have been introduced. But I still adore cats. I agree it is vital to be a responsible owner.

  16. Sabine

    Our cat loves it when we read because it means that we don’t go out and he has company. I love Japanese fiction and highly recommend The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa and A Cat, a man, and two women by Junichiro Tanizaki.

    • Cheryl

      I really enjoyed The Travelling Cat Chronicles too, such a touching story. My treasured copy is one I bought on my only visit to Paris where I had it stamped by Shakespeare & Co when I bought it. I haven’t read your other recommendation, so I’ve added it to my list. Aren’t cats great reading company!

  17. Margi Abraham

    I love cats too! I grew up with a beautiful silver tabby named Velvet and at one time lived with three cats.
    A book that I loved as an early teenager is It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Cheney Neville. Set in New York in the 1960s, it’s about 14 year old Dave, his elderly neighbour Kate and a stray cat that brings joy and adventure into his troubled life. Both his cat and mine were great listeners.

    • Cheryl

      I haven’t heard of It’s Like This, Cat, Margi, so it’s now on my to read list. Thanks for the recommendation. My cats are my best reading companions, they cuddle up and listen quietly.

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