Patrick’s Territorial Cat

Where do writers get their ideas? If you’ve read Secrets and Lies, you met Patrick’s cat. (Although, as he says, it’s hard to think of something that independent as his.)

The cat appears in chapter 6. Carol and Patrick are in his living room. It’s her first time there, and she chose to sit in the rocking chair:

As Patrick pulled his cell from his pocket, a slender Siamese cat paraded into the room and positioned itself in front of the rocking chair like a guard. Its stare turned Carol’s admiration to unease.

“Patrick?”

He looked up, and the question on his face turned to resignation as he saw the cat. He set the phone on the table in front of him. “I know, Isis. It’s all right. Go find something else to do.”

Carol risked another glance. The cat’s blue eyes glowed, irises narrowed in the equivalent of a scowl. A low rumble vibrated its throat. Carol shivered. “Patrick?”

Muttering a curse, he pushed up from his chair. The cat swivelled one ear in his direction and crouched to spring. The unblinking blue eyes targeted Carol’s face. The rumbling growl deepened to a snarl.

Carol bolted from the rocker. She caught at the door frame to steady herself, her feet sliding on the hardwood floor. She checked for pursuit, but the cat was sitting straight and tall in the rocking chair, staring at her.

[Later, in the safety of another room, Patrick explains:]

“Isis considers humans to be lower life forms, with the exception of my wife. She and Rita had a special bond, and she is somewhat… protective. That rocker was Rita’s favourite chair. I usually put it away before I have guests.” [Excerpt from chapter 6 of Secrets and Lies, by Janet Sketchley]

I’ve been accused of being a “dog person” because of this cat, and let me say I love cats and I don’t intend this one to represent the greater feline population. On the other hand, I have a hearty respect for the attitude with which a self-respecting and indignant cat can fill a room…

Why would I name the cat Isis? That’s an Egyptian goddess, as well as a violent Islamic organization. I knew the cat’s name before I knew about the terrorists, and although they made me think a bit, I decided to keep it.

Patrick’s wife, Rita, likely named the cat after the Egyptian goddess, but for me the name was prompted by an episode of the original Star Trek series. “Assignment, Earth” featured a human raised on another planet, and a beautiful alien woman who shape-shifted into a black cat (named Isis). Attitude and territory were two traits she radiated.

My fictional Isis is Siamese, because of the elegance and nobility they possess. (In fairness, the only two Siamese cats I’ve met have been very affectionate.)

Her territorial aggression? It’s a nod to my childhood pet, a black cat named Willie, who was nowhere that hostile — but he did claim ownership of one of the living room chairs, and if a visitor sat in it, Willie would sit in the middle of the room and stare hard enough to make the visitor uncomfortable.

Photo of a black cat

Willie (Yes, we lived in black and white in those days)

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