Cats: Companions in a lonely calling.

The proposed prompt for this blog was to share something spontaneous and excellent from my day. Alas, I am writing from inside my home while the omicron coronavirus spikes, recovering from my booster shot. There aren't many surprises when you stay indoors. However, my cat did kindly offer me his paw to hold, a small ritual between the two of us, and that was enough.



In an MFA course that encouraged me to think about my writing career, my professor told me in so many words that people who don't write just aren't going to get the time it takes to do this work. From the outside, writing can appear to be an indulgence, and all around us will be family, managers, students, really anyone who needs your time that will ask you to put off your writing for something more immediately pressing.


I'm grateful my partner respects my writing time, but there are moments when he looks over my shoulder to peek at what I'm working on. I can't stand it. My drafts are drafts for a reason. They should not see the light of day, until I have winnowed away anything obviously bad. He means well, but also, as my professor said, he just doesn't get it. I work best when I think I am somewhat alone, or at least the people around me don't care enough to look. In the days when we could sit in cafes, I took comfort in how little anyone around me cared about what I was working on.

A black cat looks at the viewer as a hand scratches his head. Behind him is key board and printed manuscript with editor's notes.
My most diligent editor. Photo: Paige Welsh. Ask before reuse.

The only companion I would want to have close to me while writing is my cat, Merlin, who steadfastly purs and then sleeps in my lap as I write. If I'm jostling around too much, he sits on a shelf by the window, and we quietly enjoy each other's presence. To my knowledge, he can't read, so I am free to experiment.


I like both cats and dogs, but there is something that feels more equitable with cats. My cats will not suffer more attention than they want. I set them down or open a door if they ask me to. It just seems respectful. I've observed that when people say they don't like cats, they often have no sense of cat etiquette. For instance, to greet a cat, you should hold out the tip of your finger and look away. If they don't want to approach you, so be it, but often the cat will trot up and nuzzle you after a proper hello. One must believe a cat has an interior life of its own to cultivate a relationship.


I have a low threshold for sensory overload, and I think my cats are the same. Too much touching, bad textures, and noise can make outings or chores like vacuuming unpleasant for the both of us. We have a mutual understanding of what a peaceful afternoon is. My cat only calls me away from writing if it's time for a meal or he's stuck in a cabinet.



Description: A small black kitten sits in the lap woman and purrs as he looks at the viewer.


We've come so far from when my mom found him hypothermic and covered in flies in a storm drain when he was a kitten. The vet called him the miracle kitten when they found a pulse and warmed him up. I remember holding him for the first time and loving him immediately. I feel the same pang of warmth when he hops on the bed to sleep in my armpit or the crook of my neck. So thank you, Merlin. I've never fallen with so little reservation, and I hope you sleep beside me until you are a very old man.

A black cat nuzzles a young woman with red hair in bed.
Me five years ago, waking up with Merlin holding me. Photo: Paige Welsh, ask before reuse.

Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Paige Welsh's creative work has been published in Narrative Magazine, Bear Review, and Gigantic Sequins. You can find her book reviews in The Los Angeles Review of Books and Tinderbox Poetry Journal. When she's not writing, she likes to garden with her partner Chris, and their cat, Biscuits. You can follow her on Twitter at @MarkthatPaige.




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