Pussy Meow: The Autobiography of a Cat

From Appendix E  of Beautiful Joe: Chapter 3 of Pussy Meow: The Autobiography of a Cat by Louise S. Patteson (Philadelphia: George W. Jacobs, 1901)

To recognize World Animal Day, we thought we would share an excerpt from the appendices of our Beautiful Joe, which sheds light on cat autobiographies and the reasons they were less popular.  This did not, however, stop Louis S. Patteson from publishing a book about a cat.

[Patteson was one of the many American writers who, in the wake of Beautiful Joe, took up pens to write animal autobiographies. Cat autobiographies were much less common than those of dogs. As the American Baptist Publication Society explained to Saunders, in rejecting her proposal for a companion novel to Beautiful Joe featuring a cat’s narrative, “[i]t is difficult to understand why this should be the case but the dog and the horse excite very much more interest than the cat” (Rowland, letter dated 15 March 1905). Yet the publisher need not have looked too deeply for a reason: for centuries, the cat had been vilified on both sides of the Atlantic as a hypocritical, unfaithful ingrate who would pretend an attachment to a human master only for food and shelter. The cat, in short, was as evil as the dog was saintly, and thus, was of less interest as a protagonist. (The cat, predictably, was associated with women and girls.) In 1913, Saunders did eventually publish a cat autobiography, Pussy Black-Face: The Story of a Kitten and Her Friends.]

[From Chapter 3, “My Reasons for Writing This Story”]

After Guy had finished reading the story of Black Beauty, he read one written by a dog, “Beautiful Joe.” I saw his picture in the book, but I did not think him half as beautiful as my friend Dennis that visits me every day. But Joe had a beautiful spirit, and that counts far more than a beautiful body. Who could read of the cruel blows and kicks and all the other insults which he suffered so patiently at the hands and feet of old Jenkins, without feeling in his inmost soul that henceforth he would defend and protect all helpless and harmless creatures? In this way Joe conferred a lasting benefit upon his fellow-dogs, and even I, who am only a cat, with no natural fondness for dogs, must say that I learned many things from Joe that made me have more respect for dogs. I also became filled with a desire to be as good and useful a cat as Joe was a dog, and it was during those long, lonesome days when I was without any companions that the thought came to me about writing this story. May be you think a cat does not even have thoughts. How dreadful! Well, I thought if dogs and horses can write stories, why can’t I? And so I concluded to try.

I had often heard mistress read stories about cats, cat shows and cat clubs, but it was always about Persian cats and Angoras, and I made up my mind that my story should be about tigers and Maltese and black cats, because they are considered to be of so very little importance. […]

Oh, if with this story I start all the world to think for awhile about cats—Maltese and tigers and black cats, that are so much exposed to suffering because within the reach of everybody, I shall feel that I have done some real good. And even if I do not write as good a story as did Black Beauty, or Beautiful Joe, you will at least know that I tried to do what I could to help my fellow-cats. And who knows but some cats, older and wiser than myself, may be encouraged by my effort to do more?

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