Authors and Their Pets

Written by Leah, staff member, Keshen Goodman Public Library

When I think of authors, I picture someone writing on a typewriter at a big oak desk, with a cozy elbow-patched sweater, a cup of tea, and a cat (or dog) curled up at their feet. While most of what I envision is probably wrong, there is a vast history of authors and much-loved pets, some of whom have even made appearances in great literary works.

Here are ten famous authors and the pets that they loved.

1. Mark Twain and his cat, Bambino

It has long been suggested that Mark Twain liked cats even better than people (smithsonianmag.com). He once wrote, “If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man, but deteriorate the cat.” No cat was more special to Twain, perhaps, than Bambino. An ad posted by Twain after Bambino went missing in 1905 described him as “Large and intensely black; thick, velvety fur; has a faint fringe of white hair across his chest; not easy to find in ordinary light.”

2. Charles Dickens and his raven, Grip

Charles Dickens’ pet raven, Grip, has the auspicious honour of being featured in the stories of two of the greatest literary figures of all time. Yes, one was Charles Dickens (the work is the lesser-known story Barnaby Ridge) and the other? Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven.

After Grip’s death, Dickens had him embalmed, and he is now on view at The Free Library of Philadelphia.

3. Gertrude Stein and her poodle(s), Basket

When Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’ beloved poodle, Basket, died in 1937, they acquired another standard poodle and named her… Basket. This second Basket became a constant companion while Stein was writing and, as Toklas stated, “listening to the rhythm of his water drinking made her recognize the difference between sentences and paragraphs, that paragraphs are emotional and sentences are not.”

4. George R.R. Martin and his turtles

Growing up in New Jersey, the only pets Martin was allowed to have were turtles. It was these turtles, and their deaths, that led the way for Martin’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones. As he told one fan, he wondered why the turtles were dying, and ultimately decided “'well, they are killing each other in sinister plots.'I started writing this fantasy about who was killing who, and the wars for succession. So Game of Thrones originally began with turtles, I think.”

5. Haruki Murakami and his cats

Haruki Murakami’s love of cats has found its way into numerous areas of his life. Not only do cats play a significant role in his books, including in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and in Kafka on the Shore, but Murakami, an enthusiast of jazz music, also named his jazz club, Peter Cat, after one of his pets.

6. Stephen King and his dog, Molly, AKA the Thing of Evil

Molly, AKA the Thing of Evil, is a relatively new addition to the King household but has quickly become a key member of the family. The adorable corgi is clearly up to no good, stories and photos of which King happily shares with fans on Facebook and Twitter.

7. Beatrix Potter and all her pets

Beatrix Potter was a long time animal lover, and welcomed a wide array of pets into her home—rabbits, dogs, sheep, hedgehogs, and more. Many of these pets make appearances in some of her most famous stories, including two rabbits from childhood named Peter, who had a knack for performing, and Benjamin, whose favourite snack was buttered toast.

8. J.K. Rowling and her dog, Bronte

There’s some discussion in the Rowling family as to who exactly their West Highland Terrier, Bronte, was named for. According to the author, the adorable dog is named after another legendary writer, Anne Bronte, but Rowling states that one of her children was only agreeable to the name after the suggestion that Bronte was short for "Brontosaurus."

9. E.B. White and his dog, Minnie

In 1951, E.B. White was met with accusations from local authorities that his beloved dachshund, Minnie, was unlicensed. White responded to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Towards Animals’ allegations in his own, humorous fashion, writing a letter that, in part, stated “I have your letter, undated, saying that I am harboring an unlicensed dog in violation of the law. If by “harboring” you mean getting up two or three times every night to pull Minnie’s blanket up over her, I am harboring a dog all right. The blanket keeps slipping off.” It is clear that, whether licensed or not, Minnie was a much-loved (and pampered) pooch.

10. Neil Gaiman and his cats

One doesn’t have to venture far into the internet to discover Neil Gaiman’s love of cats. For much of his life, Gaiman has welcomed seven cats into his home, including Zoe, Coconut, Princess, Pod, and Hermione. About Princess, who joined the family in 1994, Gaiman writes “She's feisty and grumpy and likes making people do their trick for her, which is turning on the tap so a trickle of water comes out, and then waiting while she drinks a little. She glares at you if you turn the tap off before she's done.” Adorable.


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