Guest post by Katrina Kittle
This post contains affiliate links*
Back in August, Ingrid was lovely to post a review of my newest novel, Morning in This Broken World. I’m incredibly grateful for her kindness, and she invited me to write a post about the inspiration for Ox, the cat character in that novel.
Every one of my novels has at least one non-human animal character who is just as important as the human cast. As you all already know, if you’re followers of Purrs of Wisdom, animals bring so, so many gifts to our lives and it’s always my goal to capture that.
In the novel, Ox is a big lug of a tuxedo cat who belongs to a man in an assisted living facility. His human, Dennis, has memory issues and Ox often leads Dennis back to his apartment when Dennis is wandering. Ox comes into the dining hall and sits on Dennis’ lap at meals, eats a lot of table scraps—but only from a spoon held by Dennis—and wanders the halls of the facility having long conversations with other residents. Ox’s life is upended when Dennis is taken to the hospital with COVID and never returns. My protagonist Vivian remembers the giant, friendly cat and when she learns that Dennis has died, she decides to bring Ox home with her. Vivian has lost someone, too, and she believes she and the cat can help each other…and they do.
Ox the character is a composite of three cats I knew in real life. His name comes from a hugely overweight cat who belonged to a neighbor of dear friends of mine. The real Ox was like a walking foot stool, which was horribly unhealthy, but he was the most laid back, friendly cat I’ve ever known. His size, though, was shocking.
The second real cat was Hootie, a mostly black cat, who belonged to a man who lived in my parents’ retirement community. Hootie’s owner often forgot to shut his apartment door, so Hootie would go wandering. It was always a joy for me to see him. He’d let me pick him up and would hang out and chatter to us. When my mother had dementia and was no longer verbal, she would always smile for Hootie—just another gift from our animal friends.
But Ox’s biggest influence was my own beloved Joey Cat. Joey was the feline love of my life. This cat was such a good, true friend to me for fourteen of his seventeen years. We shared a special connection, and friends often teased us that Joey and I spoke to—and understood—each other. Joey had perpetual resting bitch face, but was a big ol’ sweetie underneath.
Joey was the Christmas Ninja Cat—he removed ornaments from the tree and moved them to different spots in the house, which became a highly-anticipated tradition. He never broke a single ornament, and he had his favorites. I stacked the deck by putting only soft, felt ornaments without metal hooks near the bottom of the tree. He was masterful and sneaky about it and we only actually witnessed him doing it one time. This ridiculous quirk brought us and others much joy. I’d post his “Ninja Strikes” on social media. His record one year was 19.
He had sexy pinup poses and a ridiculously big personality. He sucked on blankets. He slept under the covers against my belly. He sometimes licked my eyelids in the wee hours, was a butter thief, and loved to chew on plastic—especially in the middle of the night while seemingly wearing a body mic. He welcomed us at the back door whenever we came home, and greeted guests at our parties as if he were the host.
But most importantly, he was my writing assistant. Truly. He’d drape his fifteen-pound self over my left arm whenever I sat at my desk to write. It didn’t matter if I wrote by hand or on the computer—he’d just stay put, softly purring, sometimes drooling a bit. His gentle snore became the soundtrack to my writing life.
Morning in This Broken World was the last book written with his comforting weight on my forearm. After his passing, I know I avoided going into my writing office because I didn’t want to be without him. At first, venturing into a brand new story felt wrong in his absence, but I persisted.
We now have a new tiny formerly-feral skittish little girl cat named Annie. She’s not interested in being my writing assistant, but she’ll sit across the office from me in the big, comfy reading chair while I write. And that’s fine. She’s her own being, and I don’t expect her to follow in Joey’s paw prints.
Losing Joey was so hard the missing him is still sharp. He had kidney disease that progressed quickly, and for four months he was on borrowed time. I knew each day was a gift and had been monitoring him closely when I knew it was the time we all dread. Thanks to the gentle veterinarian Dr. Amber of Lap of Love, Joey was able to be where we shared reading time every morning, with sunshine streaming in on us, drunk-purring on chin skritches and ear rubs, when he breathed his last. The “spicy” boy who hated to go to the vet with such fury he had to be doped, never growled or even registered he was anywhere but in his favorite spot with his pack all around him, even his beagle sister Serena who was quiet and still for his easy, peaceful passing. It was beautiful, just as he deserved.
He completely and utterly owned my heart. I was honored to be his human.
So honored, in fact, that he’s in the acknowledgments of Morning in This Broken World. He genuinely contributed to my writing life. I’m glad he gets to live on in the pages of that book, charming other humans and continuing to touch lives.
Morning in This Broken World is available from Amazon.
For more about Katrina Kittle, please visit her website. I encourage you to subscribe to her newsletter, Kat’s Pajamas, for updates on her own books as well as book recommendations, interviews with other authors, updates about her adorable Annie and Serena, and a list of reasons to be happy.
*Purrs of Wisdom is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.