Don’t Kill the Cat

Yeah, I know I'm great.

Yeah, I know I’m great.? But you’re chopped liver.

Let me state that, although I’m not really a “cat person,” I do get along rather well with those domesticated tigers.? In fact, when we saved one from certain death at our business, it adopted me.? Yonke Gato (Junk Cat) would crawl up my arm and go to sleep across my shoulders as I did paperwork at my desk.? He would also bite and claw about anyone else.? Maybe it wasn’t so much love, but mutual respect and honesty about how we felt about each other that formed our relationship.? I didn’t pretend to love cats and he didn’t pretend to love people.

Pet me, pet me.

Pet me, pet me.

I did own a cat for several years.? Her mother abandoned her and her siblings in our garage in Lake Arrowhead, CA.? We named her Fosbury after Dick Fosbury, developer of the Fosbury Flop.? Like Dick, she was a high jumper, even though she was the runt.? All of her litter mates died (sorry cat lovers, but it’s the truth).? She became the proverbial “Cat from Hell.”? She would rub up against your leg, but when you reached down to pet her, she would? grab your hand with her front claws and bite it.? Hard.? She also would leave us “gifts” on the front doormat.? Heads of gophers, skinned grey squirrels, blue jay feathers and body parts.? They made for pleasant surprises when you opened the front door.? When we moved overseas, a couple we knew offered to take her and we gladly accepted.? They were afraid, however, that their big tom might pick on her.? Vain fear.? She tormented him so badly that he kept throwing up when he ate.? They finally gave her a private room in the house so tom could keep his dinner down.? Amazingly, the couple still corresponded with us and sent occasional photos as Fosbury morphed in Jabba the Hutt.

Maybe that’s why I found it interesting that when author Alan Beechey recently gave a talk on mystery writing at the Unicorn Writers’ Conference in Portland, Connecticut, he cited the first rule of writing a mystery as being “Never kill a cat.”? It gave me pause.? No, not paws, pause.? He said that it wasn’t good to kill a dog in your book and that it was rarely good to kill a child, but you should never kill a cat in your story.? It’s better to kill off an innocent child than a cat?? Why is it that cat lovers make them sacrosanct?bast

In ancient Egypt, cats held a special place.? They were near and dear to the goddess Bast.? In fact, killing a cat got you the death penalty.? That, I must say, is a fate even worse than having your book be a flop because you have a killer knock off kitty in your mystery.? However, it just goes to show you that love of felines is a long-standing tradition.? It seems that mystery readers walk like an Egyptian, at least in their pet preferences.

Being a dog lover, I don’t really understand the puss aficionados.? Dogs will mourn their masters (or mistresses), even loyally tending their graves. (click here).? Cats are more inclined to view late owners as a source of protein.? (click here)? This is not to disparage Tabby.? If anything, it makes the feline more pragmatic than? the canine.? After all, will starving yourself help bring back a loved one?? You just want to make sure kitty knows you’re taking a catnap rather than having a coronary.

Back to the first rule of mystery writing, perhaps it has to do with many mystery readers being cat owners.? I’ve never seen the pet demographics on whodunit readers, but it could be.? Perhaps many mystery readers are ancient Egyptians with long life spans.? That sounds like the basis for a new series to rival Twilight.? Whatever the case, I am wise enough to heed the warning.? I can assure any potential readers of my books that no cats will be killed in any of them.? In fact, no cats will be harmed in the making of them or in their plots.? I pledge that I will respect the rights of all cats.? So if you’re a cat lover, you can indulge in reading my books without any guilt.? Sort of like having a Diet Coke that tastes like a hot fudge sundae.? Enjoy.