How to teach your cat to write


Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. Portrait attrib. to John de Critz (c. 1551–1642).

The Earl of Southampton’s cat is one of my favourite blogs. It was, you understand, written by a cat in the 16th century. A cat, moreover, suspected of having written at least some of the works of Shakespeare. These strange circumstances are plausibly explained by the editor of his works, who has deciphered Gib’s writings and has been publishing them in bite sized pieces, complete with scholarly annotations, on a WordPress blog.

In today’s chapter, the now elderly Gib is pestered by his niece. She wants to learn how to write. OK… where to start? I love this chapter because it unpicks the massive phenomenon of writing. What is it? What’s it for? Before Gib ever figures how to teach a kitten how to write, he must find ways of explaining the purpose, the tools, the very definition of writing.

“Now see,” sayt I, “these black marks?  Like to a host of little worms?  They are sounds imprinted.”

Of Reading, Writing, and My Greatness

Blog post No 71 of The Earl of Southampton’s Cat is compulsory reading for all who write. Be amazed yet again at your miraculous skills, the toys at your fingertips, the knowledge and wisdom and understanding that you possess once you embark on the adventure of writing!

No wonder Gib writes of His Greatness. You too, you who write: ponder today on your own Greatness. You can read those black marks, like to a host of little worms! You can write those little worms! Oh Great One, I salute you. And I am one of you.

But Gib is the Great of Greats, because he is about to impart the skills of reading and writing to a kitten. Inspired by Gib I have been trying for months to teach my cat Ursula to read, which Gib has shown is possible, but in the end I don’t have the patience. Let me know if you succeed.


Of Reading, Writing, and My Greatness

The blog’s top menu has more about the discovery of Gib’s writings and the historical background





14 thoughts on “How to teach your cat to write

  1. Bonsai says:

    Say what?

  2. Bonsai says:

    Ok. This is officially my favorite blog at this moment. Style and sense of humor are killer!

    1. And this is my favourite comment!

  3. Great fun! I thank you both.

  4. Oh thank you for sharing. I once had a cat who I’m quite sure completed a tertiary course in computing. She sat with me every night while I read to her and sitting on text books was her way of absorbing the information contained within. My next cat used to sleep on my desk as I worked even tried to ‘fix’ the printer once. Ended up with a claw caught in the print head and with her paw going back and forth.

    1. What a timely reminder that we must allow our cats to become their best selves — not the selves we wish to impose on them. Perhaps Ursula has a non-literate career in mind, for example as a teacher of mindfulness. Or she may be just a loser, who knows? Her honoured predecessor, Takanohana, was an excellent supervisor of my work, and sometimes acted as proofreader.

  5. Monica Graff says:

    I love Gib’s adventures. Written with such wit and insight!

  6. Val says:

    Oh it is indeed a wonderful blog and I wish I had discovered it sooner – I believe I found it for the first time a few weeks go. I think your own blog is pretty wonderful too. 🙂

    1. Aha, and The Earl of Southampton’s Cat is like a TV box set: best seen in the correct sequence from the start. It is an annotated novel, essentially, but works brilliantly as a blog nonetheless.

  7. Robyn Haynes says:

    Yes! One of my favourite blogs too! I loved the latest post about Gib’s niece learning to read. The idea that printed words were ‘sounds imprinted’ – brilliant!
    These days I only read the blogs that make me feel good/ teach me something. Yours is also a favourite Rachel.

  8. Thank you Robyn! I’m in very good company here…

  9. I too love Gib and His blog. Either none of the four cats I live with (note that I did NOT call them MINE) do not write, or else they keep their work well-hidden. Which I wish they would do a better job of with some of their other products!

    1. Thanks for the smile!

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