Much like the great Neil Gaiman, I have a thing for cats. And that has become a big part of my writing: In my first book The Road Not Taken, I wrote in a pair of cats—a bodega cat and another who escapes the zoo—who are in love and live together with my protagonist. In my next, the not-yet-released 44 Horatio Street, I featured a bookstore cat who is snobby about the books people buy. And finally, in the new book I’m working on—currently on chapter three!—I already threw in a black kitten as a character.
I don’t see this as one of my acts of protest. Yet, during April, I’ve been thinking about those furry acts of fiction—because during this, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month, and today, on National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day, giving a voice to animals who struggle alongside us to find shelter and friendships seems meaningful.
Those characters are derived, too, from my real-life companions. I don’t put down people who buy pets in stores, but I will say: 4,000 cats and kittens are done away with every day. I am happy to save whoever I can. As a kid, I even tried to share a bowl of milk with a young tabby. (It wasn’t my last time.) And though I rarely get to a shelter somebody always shows me a kitten and magically, it ends up in our house.
Willyrubin was from the alley behind Bootleg Theatre. Miles was put in my hand by a woman who said she was going to the bathroom at the vet’s as I bought cat food, but she never came back for the guy the size of a cotton ball, so I took him home where Miles grew to be 30 lbs and got offers from the NFL. Binkie came from a rescue foster home; Sante D’or, or Sal Parmesan, from a shelter.
There is no excuse for animal abuse. End of discussion. New research, and old souls, show that animals have feelings.
If you have room in your life for a pet, you will be the beneficiary of a kind of love that is irreplaceable. That’s why the cats become characters… because no human could offer the unique perspective and affection that they can. And if you have to give away a pet, make sure you are giving it to a No Kill Shelter!