Writing (vs. Fighting) Like Cats and Dogs

I have oft written of dog poems because I am a dog guy. That’s why I disapprove of such crazy commandments as the 11th, “Thou shalt not write a poem about dogs.”

But what about cats? As I have little patience for their kind, I feel more sympathetic toward “no cat” rules. After all, cat pics clutter Internet feeds cholesterol clogged King Henry VIII’s arteries. Said pics can be found in the dictionary under “clichĂ©s” as opposed to “cute.”

Still, I’d be foolish and inconsistent to rule in dogs’ favor while wishing cats their tenth lives. And so it is that I advise writers who love one or the other or both to go forth and multiply your creative efforts (the 12th Commandment).

No less a poet than Marge Piercy did so (see below and meet me at the bend):


A Republic of Cats
Marge Piercy

Nobody rules. They all
take turns. I can never
tell who will chase who
playing war over the couch

and chairs, round and
round again until suddenly
they stop as if a whistle
blew in their heads.

Five of them, aged fifteen
to two. Who will curl
together making one cushion
of patchwork fur? Who

will painstakingly lick
a friend, washing and
cuddling. Who will growl
at their friend of last hour?

The one rule is where each
sleeps at night, their spot
in the bed and with whom.
It is written in bone.


Writing about pets starts with scientific observation. With that data, the writer turns to more creatively figurative ideas and goes for it. The writer must! Dogs and cats are too well known not to.

For me, all credit in this poem goes to the start (“Nobody rules.”) and the end (“It is written in bone.”). Hook the reader from the start, less you lose that impatient-as-all-get-out customer (and think of it—no two words better capture “cat-dom” than those).

Then comes the end. Your poem depends on a final flourish. Something memorable. Something with panache. If sleeping spots are as important to cats as lunchroom table spots are to middle schoolers, then say it in style: The rule “is written in bone.”

Now go watch your cats and dogs with a notebook, why don’t you. Take notes. Then make like clumsy Moses and break some commandments.