You probably think writer’s block is the biggest hurdle writer’s face. Maybe even the stress of editing and querying? WRONG! It’s your cat. And you know it.
You’re a writer. You probably drink coffee. You probably tut at the poor use of grammar in local billboard adverts. And you probably have a cat. Sorry, I don’t make the rules. If you don’t have a cat, you should get one so we can share in this misery together.
I can’t work in these conditions!
If, like me, you enjoy writing from home because you need a peaceful, quiet, calm environment to write in, then a cat was probably a poor choice for a pet. Consider a goldfish. Cats originally evolved from their predatory forms into a domesticated beast for the purpose of tormenting humans. They cannot be trained, and instead will use feline psychological tricks to manipulate you. On a daily basis, this sophisticated form of brainwashing goes unnoticed. But when you try to create that distraction-free environment needed to write in, the cats can sense it. They sense your fear and your weaknesses, and they go in for the kill.
How do they terrorise? Here are techniques in their furry arsenal:
- They will rub against your leg and purr. Is it cute? NO. It’s a distraction from your work. Be warned. Purring is relentless.
- They will jump on your desk and knock everything over. God help you if they knock over your coffee.
- They will play with whatever cables dangle from your desk. Maybe it’s a mouse, maybe it’s the power lead to your laptop during that crucial scene you haven’t saved.
- They will sit on your desk. On your keyboard. On your hands.
- They will plop themselves in front of your monitor and begin to clean themselves with no consideration for the view.
- They will beg and demand attention, and when granted, they will not be satisfied.
- They will leave dirty paw prints and cat hair. They will trudge from their litter box and quite merrily wipe their faeces on your manuscript.
I speak not from a place of love, but desperation. How can this foul creature be tamed and writing resumed? I present to you the following methods:
Nine times out of ten, a cat can be placated with food. Most of their war-cries and attention seeking behaviour comes from the need to eat. The “experts” may recommended you feed your cat at set times in a day and ignore their whines for more, in which case treats may suffice, but I say if that cat is going to screech and claw you and food is the only way to survive, then feed that damn cat.
This method isn’t fool-proof however. The majority of cats are foul-tempered and will laugh at your feeble offerings. Fussy cats are your biggest nightmare because not only do they suck your soul, but also your finite resources. If you have the strength of will, I would avoid the high-end market cat food. This will only give them a taste for the finer things in life and before you know it, you’ll be down at the butchers haggling for the finest cuts.
Don’t give into their demands, unless your writing is on a deadline.
Because cats are demons sent from Hell, they love heat. They need it to function as much as they need food. There are products on the markets which act as heat-pads for cats. You warm them up, put them down somewhere far from your computer, and it sticks to them like glue. The only downside is the heat wears off after a while, and human beings are the ultimate heat generator. As is your laptop.
Radiator beds can also attract cats and keep them occupied, but this method is only useful during the winter months. A nice romantic fireplace is also fantastic during this time and will render most cats comatose.
FIRE RAYS FROM THE SKY
If you can’t summon fire, then luckily we live on a planet with a constant source of warmth. Well, semi-constant. Sunlight, when concentrated and beamed directly into the house, can capture cats within its tractor beams and render them immobile. This natural power is just as effective as a heat-pad, radiator or fireplace and is especially potent during the summer season. If sun glare on your computer monitor is a distraction for your writing, however, this method may not be for you.
The only downside is sunlight is not a constant source. It tends to disappear at night, loses its effectiveness in the autumnal and winter months, and if you happen to be British you may as well skip this section.
THE FLOATING JUDGEMENT BOX
I don’t know who invented this, but bravo. Bravo.
Downside: DOES IT EVEN WORK???
PRISON BOX OF DEATH
For some reason that even scientists don’t understand, cat’s love cardboard boxes. Like a mouse caught in a trap, a cat can be caught by a simple cardboard box. I have heard reports of some cats who do not respond to this temptation, but try it. Place a cardboard box down in the middle of your room. Wait. Maybe throw some treats in their as an incentive. Sixty percent of the time it works every time.
How to obtain cardboard boxes? Step one: go to your Amazon wish list and order yourself about ten-fifteen books. Step two: ask for them to be delivered all at once. This should produce a neat cat-sized box for them to squeeze into. Can’t afford that many books? I’m sorry, but I thought you were a professional writer. This is the price you need to pay.
I’m talking about catnip of course. Don’t look at me like that. Catnip is a fun substance which can leave a cat completely stoned for a little while, enough to get that chapter written anyhow. But, like most drugs, even catnip can have risks. I would test a small amount on your cat first and observe its reactions. Does it flop around on the spot in perfect bliss? Great. Does it run around the room, bounce off the walls, and claw your face off? Not so great.
Oddly enough, my cat absolutely loves bleach. According to my research, some cats react to the cleaning power of bleach the same way as they do with catnip. I wouldn’t recommend actually feeding your cat bleach, not unless you’re a Disney villain in need of a new coat, but next time you clean your toilet, see if it has any noticeable effect. Better, uh, put the toilet lid down after.
These are my tried and tested methods for attempting to distract a cat and write. If you have any ideas for how to achieve this bliss, PLEASE DEAR GOD TELL ME*.
*My cat Valerie actually crawled all over my desk during the writing of this article and decided to lick my hand and sit on my mouse. Thanks cat.