‘They would help me write, as cats do, by climbing on to the keyboard’: Margaret Atwood on her feline familiars

From the tragic disappearance of beloved first pet, Perky, to Blackie the con artist kitten, the writer recalls how cats have long crept into her work

I was a cat-deprived young child. I longed for a kitten, but was denied one: we spent two-thirds of every year in the north woods of Canada, so if we took the cat with us it would run away and get lost and be eaten by wolves; but if we did not take it with us, who would look after it?

These objections were unanswerable. I bided my time. Meanwhile I fantasised. My drawings as a six-year-old are festooned with flying cats, and my first book – a volume of poems put together with folded sheets and a construction-paper cover – was called Rhyming Cats, and had an illustration of a cat playing with a ball. This cat looked like a sausage with ears and whiskers, but it was early days in my design career.

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