I have a little book, called 100 Cats Who Changed Civilization. I consider that a nice title, a real hook for someone who finds felines fascinating – that’s me. I got the book at Christmas, and liked it also because it perfectly fits the narrowest shelf of my favourite bookcase, and since I was midway through reading some other books, that’s where it’s rested for the last few months.
That top shelf is tricky to fill, let me tell you. In the past, I’ve layered comatose paperbacks on it, which is just not pleasing. It’s perfect for audio tapes, but my cassette player is in my car – yes, it’s that old – so I keep my half-dozen boxes in the glove-box. But I digress.
Returning to my compact gem: Sam Stall has trawled through history to create a collection that is, at times, a little stretched. A cat is named as co-author of a research paper, because it had been written with an authorial ‘we’, at a time before word-processors, which meant the whole thing would have needed to be retyped to replace the ‘we’ with ‘I’.
I’m not worried if there is a little exaggeration involved. This, I think, is one of those pass-along books that are heaped on the bookshop counter at Christmas time. It’s a stocking filler: it’s a story filler, too.
There are plenty of snippets of information I like. For instance, did you know Sir Isaac Newton invented the cat flap? His feline companion kept distracting him with demands to be let in and out of the house, so he developed a solution.
This, I think could be part of a new story. It could be that the fit will be thematic rather than the story centre, and I’ve no immediate suggestion on how or where that might happen. It will though. Trust me.
Let the idea sink in slowly. Don’t necessarily try to picture Newton. Writing about Regency Britain could be a little demanding. Think about cat flaps. Maybe sleep on it.
Have you heard the story about the woman who returned home from shopping to find her Rottweiler dog choking? She took it to the vet, who rushed the dog off for an operation.
As the woman drove home the vet called her mobile, and told her to wait in her car. She pulled up, the police arrived, rushed into her house, and arrested a man they found hiding there. His left hand was wrapped in a bloody towel. The vet had extracted two severed fingers from the dog’s throat, then phoned the police.
It turned out that the burglar had crawled through the dog-flap, somehow not suspecting why there was such a large access point.
This isn’t a story either, it’s an anecdote. It could be more, though.
Add in that Carl Kahler picture, at the top of the post, and I think I’m beginning to see a way with this.