Well, the cat loves my book

I’m reading one of my books out loud. If you’re a writer, it’s a vital step because often we hear with our ears what we gloss with our brains. Rhythm becomes more obvious when spoken aloud; rhyming words stand out so you can change them (or at least rearrange them so your novel doesn’t sound as if it was co-written by Dr. Seuss); repeated words become apparent.

A friend of mine told me she had all her novels on tape (for you young’uns, this was back in the dark ages, when we used cassette recorders) because she liked to listen to them while she did housework. She’d sit with her recorder and read the whole thing, and she added, “With a cat on my lap. She knows it’s prime petting-time.”

This week, Kiddo4 started preschool, and because I’m alone in the house for two hours, I get my coffee and sit somewhere unusual and read aloud. I’m not recording myself because I’m editing while reading. I don’t need to re-hear myself saying, “Oh! Stupid, stupid, stupid…” and the momentary silence while I alter the text and then re-read the sentence.

Plus, I know from CricketB that I normally read about three times too fast, and I’m doing this even faster.

The first time I started reading aloud, I did it in one of the Kiddos’ bedrooms because the light was best there, and it wasn’t my desk (so I’d stay focused longer) and within minutes, the cat joined me. She didn’t get on my lap, since the computer was there, but she stayed near the whole time.

During my second read-aloud session, I had seized the Comfy Chair I normally can’t get to because the Kiddos want it, and five minutes later, the cat had come downstairs and taken a position on the arm of the sofa, about six feet from me. She never sits there. It’s just not someplace she hangs out.

Last night was my third read-aloud session. The cat joined me up on the bed.

So now I’m wondering: my friend said the cat wanted to be petted, but my cat isn’t getting any petting. She’s coming in response to my voice (normally she doesn’t come when I’m on the computer) and I wonder if cats aren’t just attracted to our story-telling voice, the rising and falling, the changes in pitch which maybe we don’t use on a regular basis.

A study a few years ago proved that cats can modulate their purr to imitate a baby’s sounds. I wonder if they’re not keyed into the emotions we’re expressing when we tell stories.

Anyone out there want to try? If you own a cat and you have half an hour alone, would you mind reading from a book (it doesn’t have to be your own) in an otherwise-still house? It’s for the benefit of science. Really.


  1. loriendil

    I don’t own a cat (allergies), but am fascinated. I’d love to hear any responses. 🙂

  2. Ana

    My 5 cats (yes, 5) have been with me for over 10 years, and I believe they know my mood based on my tone of voice. I have one particular cat, Plato, who is very strong personality, demanding of attention in creative ways. For a long time, I have spoken to him with much frustration in my tone. Recently I have made a point to be more patient, and when he starts annoying the other cats or does things he knows he’s not supposed to do, I now speak to him with a patient and loving tone: he initially looks at me in complete surprise, being I am “out of character”, and then his heart softens, and listens to me. Its not book reading, but the voice inflection thing is very true. Hope this helps.

    1. philangelus

      So it’s not just my cats, and that’s good to know. That makes sense, that they’re hearing the emotion in the voice when we’re reading aloud and they’re coming in to figure out what’s going on.

      I’ve been told by members of my previous writing group that when I read my own stories, I don’t just read it — that I’m to some extent acting it out with my voice. And that connects with what you said.

      Thanks for telling me about Plato! 🙂

  3. philangelus

    Okay, this is too funny. I just started reading it again while Kiddo4 was in another room, and before I’d finished a page, the cat came into the kitchen near me.

  4. Ana

    Just for kicks, try singing. My cats would run the OPPOSITE direction. 🙂

    1. philangelus

      I used to do that! They’d get right in my face and howl back at me.

      I remember one time when my stepdad and stepbrother were fighting at VERY loud volume on the stairway, and one of the cats got between them and began meowing at them very insistently. You could tell she was scolding them.

  5. MyBrokenFiat

    Honestly, anytime I read a book at least two of my three cats find me and attempt to chew on the corner of the book. After shoo-ing them a few times, they simply curl up beside / on / near me and go to sleep.

    I’ve never tried aloud, though.

  6. virginiaripple

    Usually my cat is locked downstairs and won’t venture into the upper rooms unless she’s certain Tiny Tot is nowhere around. She does like to be nearby when I’m reading, but I don’t usually read out loud. I’ll have to try it out sometime.

  7. Sara Ann Denson

    I’m convinced my dog lays under my chair — whichever chair I go to with the laptop etc — just to wait for those moments when I start to read out loud.

    My cat passed away last year, but she used to love my writing until I switched from an old fashioned monitor to one of these thin things she couldn’t lay on top of.

  8. Marie

    I read aloud to the kids every school day at lunch for an hour or so and the cat doesn’t appear. But the cat doesn’t like boys and I have four.

    Pre-kids, when we were down South in grad school, we would get Palmetto bugs (large, carnivorous, flying cockroaches) and other large insects in the house. Whenever I saw one I would call the cat and he would come running to play with it (and eventually kill or disable it). At no other time in his long life has he ever come when he was called. When I wondered about that one time, my husband said that my tone of voice upon spotting a bug was clearly different (urgent would be polite, distraught is probably more accurate) than at other times.

  9. Nikole Hahn

    I don’t know about reading aloud, but my cat likes to sit on the desk next to me and watch me social network.