'Why cats?' someone asked me recently after I'd been describing my new book 'Oliver, the Cat Who Saved Christmas'. I could only presume he wasn't a cat lover. I mean, why would you not want to write a story about cats? Anyone who has shared their life with a cat or two, or more, will know what I mean when I say you can quite easily idle away an afternoon or evening just watching them. As Sigmund Freud said, 'Time spent with cats is never wasted.'! They're clever, funny, interesting and absorbing - all the things we authors want our books to be!
Some people think everyone is either a cat person or a dog person - but I've had both, and loved both. However I do appreciate the huge difference between owning a dog and being owned by a cat! A dog will love you slavishly; a cat will make you his slave. I know some dog lovers say that this independent, aloof reputation of cats puts them off. You know where you are with a dog - his devotion is unquestioning. Our Springer spaniel used to wag her tail and smile at us lovingly even when we were telling her off.
But to dismiss cats as being standoffish Prima Donnas who make use of us for food and shelter, and then go about their separate lives without giving anything back, is to completely misunderstand them. Our three cats all had different personalities, but they all gave us lots of affection. Rather like children, they were sometimes rude, noisy or difficult, stayed out late, took us for granted and indulged in sulking sessions in their beds rather than play nicely with the family. But as with kids, all those things are forgiven when they jump on your lap for a cuddle and tell you they love you.
Tell you? I can hear the cat detractors laughing now. But if you haven't experienced the soft, gentle purring in your ear of a contented cat who nuzzles your face, licks your hands with his little rough tongue and blinks kisses at you, it's hard for me to explain and I'll probably never be able to convert you. Cats and humans make perfect companions. They don't expect our exclusive, undivided attention, to be 'the one and only', or for us to give everything up for them. That's an immature version of love, isn't it? We live our lives, they live theirs; but like humans who are happy living together because they give each other space, we're able to take huge pleasure and comfort from each other's company when we're together. The rattle of the cat-flap is like the key in the door when your partner/child/parent comes home. You put the kettle on (or dish up the Whiskas), settle down together and talk about your day. No-one is the boss; you choose to be together. That's grown-up love!
And of course - as we all know - cats can understand Human language. As Oliver says in my book, it's just such a shame that we humans have never learned to speak Cat!
Oliver, the Cat Who Saved Christmas is published by Ebury and on sale from 22 October in hardback and ebook editions. You can see it on Amazon or buy from bookshops. And if by any strange chance you're not a cat lover, I'm sure you know someone who is, who'd like a Christmas present from you!