A Conversation with Clea Simon

On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats

What is the connection between women and cats?
Some people say its our sense of independence, others say its our innate grace and beauty. The truth, I believe is even more complicated, involving our particular sensitivities, and the fact that outsiders have long feared and desired us!

How long have women and cats been linked?
Some people may hear the jokes about single women and cats and think the connection is modern. But women and cats have been associated since prehistoric times D a Paleolithic sculpture was discovered in Anatolia showing a woman on a lion throne! We share a sensuality and a mystery: at times we've even shared a reputation for magic, much to the discomfort of the so-called witches of Salem and Old Europe in the 17th century. Many men love cats, too, but throughout history men and cats have been linked through violence and domination, while women and cats have tended to work together. Hercules kills the Nemean lion, for example, but the goddess Durga rides a tiger into battle! Our natures have always been seen as complementary.

What about the contemporary connection?
These days we're either desired (and, perhaps, feared) as Catwoman or laughed at as the stereotypical "single woman with cats," so the connection continues. All the women featured in my book show the range of relationships - from a breeder of purebred Russian blues to a feral cat rescuer, from a tiger trainer who knows how to use her sexuality on stage to a shelter worker who knows the heartbreak of dealing with feline overpopulation.

Can women with cats have other relationships, too?
Those are always the big questions: Can your boyfriend or partner love your cat? And do you just have a cat because you really want a baby? Through my interviews, I found out that having a cat can actually can actually make your relationships better. You can learn a lot about a potential romantic partner, for example, by how that person responds to your cat! And a lot of us learn how to value ourselves by watching our cats. Is a cat like a baby? Well, I talked with mothers who have cats and cat breeders about children, and the answers are more complex than you would imagine.

What about your own feline connection?
The Feline Mystique chronicles my own 17-year relationship with Cyrus, a long-haired gray mixed breed. He taught me about life and responsibility, and he helped me grow up. This book is full of stories about him, and is dedicated to him.

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