From Alley Cat to Galley Cat

by JT Ellison

Well Hi!

Yes, I am in the deep south. Sophie Littlefield and I are on our Stealing Souls tour – and let me see, what day is it? Friday? That means right about now we are just leaving Memphis heading back to Nashville, and will be doing our 5th event in 5 nights tonight at one of my fave stores, Reading Rock Books in Dickson (7-9 – y’all come!)

Sophie and I have had too much fun for words – working hard, playing harder, visiting with old friends, making new ones. I’ve been so incredibly impressed with every bookstore we’ve visited. Perhaps it’s an occupational hazard, but bookstore folk are terribly gracious and kind. We’ve been lovingly welcomed across the south this week, and we are forever grateful to everyone who’s worked so hard to make these events successful.

With that said, I’m going to share a different kind of blog today. I’m sure y’all have all heard me talk about my precious cat. There aren’t a lot of drawbacks to being on the road, but missing my hubby and my kitty are at the top of the list. That said, I have gotten a ton of work done. Once you read below, you’ll understand why. Sophie is a darling, but she and I may be drafted for the Valkyries, or the Amazons, and she’s not spending a lot of time curled in my lap.

So, without further ado, meet my alleycat, who has turned into a galleycat.


I’ve been having trouble working lately. It’s not what you’re thinking – I’m not blocked. I’ve got plenty of ideas. I’ve got lots of time, full days free of encumbrances, all waiting patiently for words to fill the moments. 

No, the reason I’m having so much trouble is my cat.

Jade is a tiger striped rescue who has never let me forget how much she appreciates the fact that I picked her. When I first saw her at the pound, she was five weeks old, suffering from a bad cold. So bad that they were going to put her down. They can’t afford to have sick kittens in the cages; disease spreads too quickly among unloved animals.

They’d named her Tori. She had the most inquisitive, if rheumy, green eyes. I knew immediately I had to take her. I couldn’t let this poor thing get put down because she’d been weaned too early and struck out on her own, a little stripedy runaway. She had gumption, I could see that. Desires, dreams. She wanted a bigger world than the one she’d been dealt. She was a renegade. Perfect.

She was also a five-week-old kitten who was terribly sick. The vet around the corner took her in, nursed her back to health, and she came home with us. A yowling little ball of fur who was the most fiercely independent cat I’ve ever had.

She took up residence on the pillow at the corner of the l-shaped couch and pretty much stayed there for the next several months. She was a sweet, lovely little thing who didn’t like people food, wanted her chin scritchies on her terms, and determinedly made a friend out on my husband, who wasn’t what we like to call a cat person.

I adore her, as you can tell.

We go to special lengths for this cat. When we travel, she has her own personal babysitter who comes over and stays with her, watching television and reading books to her. She absolutely can’t be boarded, she turns into a neurotic, shaking mess around other animals. She’s afraid, afraid! of other animals – so scared that she’s an only child. When my parents come to visit, she takes up residence under my bed, hissing and growling at everyone who dares come near. It’s hysterical, especially since she’s a regular hussy with anyone else who shows up on our doorstep. It’s only my parents, who arrive bearing their own cat and a little dog, that send her into paroxysms of kitty terror.

What must she have seen in those five weeks before we made her our own? What terrors haunted her days and nights? I’ll never know.

So Miss Jade, my fiercely independent, won’t allow herself to be picked up, I am my own cat, thank you very much, cat has suddenly turned into a lap cat.

This is a problem on numerous levels.

First, I use a laptop. Operative word – lap. I’ve been spreading a bit as I age, but I’m not to the point where I can accommodate a cat and a computer. And she doesn’t take no for an answer – she’s going to get in my lap whether I want her to or not.

We battle for several hours in the morning. She curls up while I’m going through my RSS Feeds, then jumps off. Rinse and repeat times about ten. The teakettle will be whistling, and I can’t get her off. Okay, okay. I should say I don’t have the heart to kick her off. It’s been a wintry winter in Nashville, with lots of snow and little sun, and she’s getting older, and her joints get cold. I debated getting her a heated blanket. But it’s nice to have a furball in your lap. She’s warm. She purrs. She gazes at me adoringly when I scratch her ears.

Yes, yes, I know. She’s playing into my ego. I’m enamored of the idea that this cat, who I chose, has also chosen me.

But wow, it’s hurting my word counts.

Jade is also the reason I got published. I worked for the vet who patched her up for three days (I thought I’d be working the desk, but he wanted me as a tech in the back. Bad. Bad. Bad. After my first neutering, I was done.) I was quitting on Friday, and on Wednesday I picked up a large golden and herniated a disc in my back. That led to surgery, and recovery time, and library books, where I discovered John Sandford. The rest, as they say, is history.

Tell me about your critters today! I’ll send one of you a copy of my new book, SO CLOSE THE HAND OF DEATH, which definitely isn’t about sweet, soft kittens, and make a donation to your local animal shelter.

Wine of the Week: a gem from Atlanta, and so apropos for our tour —Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise

30 thoughts on “From Alley Cat to Galley Cat

  1. Chuck

    Fun idea JT! Glad you and Sophie are having a good time. I hope it has been highly successful.

    We grew up with cats. Being country folk, we typically had five or eight cats outside our back door, lounging, fighting, and…well…you can guess. My mother loved cats, but not in the house. Alas, sometime during my late teens I developed an allergy to cats. I still enjoy them, but my allergy is pretty severe.

    Flash forward to today, sitting six inches from my feet as I type is Ginger, a seven year-old chocolate lab who was born while my wife and I were on our honeymoon. She's still as hyper as a two year-old, but a great dog. She is sweet to the kids and a part of the family.

    Like you, she battles for my attention as I write, occasionally plowing her snout into my right hand as I peck away.

    Pets are wonderful companions. She's the only one in the house who never gets "in a mood."

    Have fun!

  2. heyjude

    I love your story of Miss Jade and I'm so glad you found each other. 🙂 I have rescues of my own, one of whom was a sickly five-week-old cat determined to make it on his own (sound familiar?). I picked him up off the street. He's 15 now and we're battling diabetes and arthritis, but I treasure every minute he's in my lap preventing me from writing. 🙂

  3. Mikaela

    I am sorry to say, that I don't have any pets. I can barely take care of myself, so a cat is out of the question. Also, my apartment is too small.

  4. PK the Bookeemonster

    Pets are family and always will be. Miss Jade sounds lovely.
    I have Tug who is a lab/malamute mix at 150 pounds. We got him an the animals shelter at 5 months old and 40 pounds and big feet. He's now 8 and with big dogs they age more quickly, more like 8 to 9 years instead of 7, per the vet.
    A couple months ago on our daily walk he fence raced on some ice and long story short ruptured a ligament in his back left "knee". And now my baby is an old man, walking very slowly usually with a limp and is whiny and I don't know how to help him. He lives for his walks but can only go around the block right now. There is a "dog gym" in town I mean to check out — lets dogs swim and do an underwater treadmill, etc. — but financially it would be tough.
    I've always been around dogs but Tug is the first one that was "mine." But they are family and will always have my heart.

  5. J.D. Rhoades

    That's one regal-looking cat you got there.

    As for "suddenly a lap cat": try going through the same syndrome with a 50 pound mutt who doesn't realize he's not a puppy any more.

  6. Eika

    *carefully gives your kitty a chin-scritch*

    Tonky was the first family pet, but I named her: a wiggly German Shepherd/White Lab mix whose mother got kicked off a police squad for friendliness. (I was three. My parents made a good choice. I miss her.) Right now, I'm only allowed fish in the college dorms, but at home there's Skittles the beagle who will wait to run away until your arms are full of groceries, looks both ways before crossing the street, and has lots of graying fur; and Cooper the 108-pound-healthy golden retriever who still tries to get in my lap when I'm home (he can't. But he tries).

    Oh, I miss my puppies, though.

  7. Rae

    Great post, JT, sounds like you’re having a blast on tour (and ‘hi’ to Sophie 😉

    I’m definitely a cat person, and completely understand your lap issue. My cat Sam, who is a bulldog in feline form – and behavior – likes to plant himself on my keyboard. But there’s strategy involved. When I move him off the keyboard, he gets to sit in my lap. Devious.

    Until recently, we were a household of three. Sam, his mother Missy, and me. Missy, unfortunately, died recently and I miss her a lot. She was a dainty little diva, cute as a button, and quirky in all sorts of sweet ways. She was definitely the alpha mammal in our trio, so now that she’s gone, Sam is feeling pretty spunky. It’s sort of funny to watch.

    Sam’s a Himalayan (Missy too, of course), a Persian with Siamese markings. Beautiful, affectionate, and OMG the projectile shedding and the hair balls. You can’t imagine – I literally have to stand on my front porch every morning with a lint remover (did I mention my wardrobe is primarily black?) to get myself to the point where I can go out in public. I’d always had short-haired cats until I inherited Sam and Missy. It’ll be short-haired cats again for sure when Sam goes to the Great Scratching Post in the Sky.

  8. Alafair Burke

    Jade is beautiful and obviously deserves all the love and care you give her. You all have heard plenty about our babe, The Duffer. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with some neurological issues a couple of weeks ago and is on strict crate rest for a herniated disc. It's awful to see his perfect little life disrupted but he is coming along pretty well and hopefully won't need surgery or anything.

    You and Sophie have fun!!

  9. Gayle Carline

    I've always had something four-legged and fuzzy around, so I understand your devotion to your kitty. We currently have an older cat and a young pup, which means they must be separated most of the time because the Duffy the puppy forgets he's supposed to be nice to Katy the kitty and wants to play with her like a squeak toy. She does not care for this, but she is a lover, not a fighter, so she wails in protest, instead of smacking his nose.

    Katy's favorite thing is to sleep at the foot of our bed, on my side, where my feet have to avoid her all night. As a matter of fact, just this morning I became aware, around 6:30, that she'd been kneading my legs for about half-an-hour and it was so annoying why wasn't I stopping it? Duffy the puppy is a Corgi who is easily bored, so we play lots of ThrowTheBallThrowTheBallThrowItNNOW in the family room while I'm trying to write.

    And don't get me started on my two horses. One of them has his own blog,

  10. kit

    Hi JT,
    until we aquired our menangerie, I never understood how people could become so attached to their pets or tell stories about them..they are pets'for cripes' sake! boy, was I WRONG!!!
    we have 5 pets..2 dogs and 3 cats or they have us….it switched in there somehow.Katie our youngest begged to have a Lucy is her dog…this was really brought home when we flooded here ….they closed the school, so we enrolled her in a school 40 miles away and she stayed with her brother and went to school there for a couple months….we didn't realize the effect it would have on Lucy when they were seperated, at first..Lucy stopped eating, and got sick, she was so lonesome.we thought it was the best thing in a bad situation at the time. Our home was out of the bad part ..but the school wasn't.
    Dusty, a himalayan cross was given to us as a kitten…when she had her first batch of kitten she showed us where she was gonna have them…she had a habit of reaching up with a paw and swatting us when she wanted our attention, if we ignored her, then she would give a bit of claw, but not much…she led us to our bedroom closet. On the day she had her kittens..she swatted me a good one and headed upstairs…sure enough, she was in the closet…we kept one of her kittens which was Roo(called her that as she was always on her back haunches and fighting the other kittens like a boxing kangaroo)Beautiful cat, but ornerier than hell..we learned to leave her be.
    she had a batch of kittens and one was Jake..big monster of a male cat…pure black.
    we had them all neutered and spayed..Jake, for being a huge monster, is mellow, even before he was neutered.He's also the guardian of all the pets and scratch him and he becomes fluid and boneless…but protective and feirce when he's defending any one of the others.
    the animals go outside and if they are out too long, he goes out and looks for them, in the rain, in the snow and herds them back. It's kinda humorious to me, it's almost like he takes a head count and makes sure everyone is here..otherwise he stands by the door and wants out and herds everyone home.
    then there's Maddie, the last pet ..a scottish terror, I got for my hubby for Valentine's day 2 yrs ago. She's a little black, hairy superball..up until we got her..Roo was pretty much left alone…Maddie refused to recognise Roo's personality…she wanted to be friends. Lucy, Dusty and Jake would just go up on the furniture…Roo still tried to be a DIVA…She had an attitude of *I AM A CAt AND I GO WHEREVER AND WHENEVER ,I PLEASE..she tried bitch-slapping Maddie upside the head a few times..Maddie would roll away and come back for more..finally..Roo ran into the bathtub…looked over the top and then up at me like "what the hell is THAT??!!!"
    but the best( and if I hadn't seen this..I would've never believed it posible) the other pets had a cross between an intervention and a *come to Jesus* meeting with Roo over Maddie..Peace has reigned in our house ever since. Jake became Maddie's protector…at the time he was bigger….but now they mess with mess with Jake, they are buds…now Maddie is a bit bigger..but they still wrestle around together.
    And if they are outside all together and an interloper comes into our yard…they take the intruder out as a pack.
    .My hubby and I go for a walk…the cats come along..all three of them..we look like a parade.
    Animals are amazing , they teach us so much…when one of us get sick (like in the bed 'flu) they gather around like sentinels guarding the door.
    So JT, I can believe it..that you miss your 4-legged companion….does she *talk* to you also? My husband laughs at me….when I talk to the animals or scold them…
    I sew costumes..the cats hafta be right there…so I started putting a small stamp on the things I make.. a paw print for kitkat's a colloberative effort….for those people that don't believe me…I have pictures on my site of the cats being with me making stuff.

  11. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Great blog you got there, JT! I wish I could wriggle in between you and Sophie on that tour. Like a feline.

    Your cat sounds enchanting, with her fiery personality and flashing claws. I've got the Labradoodle, which is the frumpiest most adorable animal I've ever in my life befriended. She is pure chaos. A Disney-Dog. Looks like a giant muppet. When we comb her hair straight on her head she looks like a Bird of Paradise. When she wants you to play with the ball she stretches her head out a mile and lays it on the table like a seal. She is pure black and, when photographed, has no definable features. Like a giant dust-bunny. Filled with crazy love.

    Thanks for the fun read this morning. Say hi to the Sophs for me.

  12. Jean | Delightful Repast

    Now I'm in love with your cat! Jade is adorable. Wish I lived near her and could babysit her when you're away. I always give cats the attention they deserve. Don't care for dogs at all. They just don't speak my language!

  13. Murderati fan

    If you're going to have fun, you two are certainly the right combination. I can picture both of you chuckling.

    I had my daughter's cat – Whiner – with us for years. Completely independent, long hair imitating baggy drawers on his back end who adored driving in a car. Now we have Fe (Feona, Fiddle de dee, Fe-FI-Fo-Fum, Fee-do-bee) the origination of the phrase fraidee cat. They are wonderful creatures. Hi to Sophie! Judy Wirz

  14. Jake Nantz

    Despite being a Dog person myself, I can honestly say that Jade is an absolutely beautiful cat. I will, however, caution against the heating pad you mentioned. My wife and I go to the local shelter all the time (even linked them on my blog) just to play with and help socialize the animals, and there was an adorable dalmation there a few years ago who had to have 3 or 4 surgeries and one leg amputated because she fell asleep on one of those special "puppy-warmer" pads as a little one, and it caught fire. From what I understand she was adopted by a loving family and is well cared-for, but it still makes me hurt to see an animal, who has no more idea what's going on than a child at that stage, get either abused or have a tragedy like that happen to him or her.

    As for our girls, we have and will always have 'pound puppies. Our first came about when my wife and I had spent a week or two researching online foster agencies to find the right pup for my allergies. We had "the one" in mind when my mother-in-law said, "Why don't you guys go by the local pound on your way home and just see what they have?" I rolled my eyes, dutifully nodded false agreement, and told my wife the moment we got in the car that we were not getting a puppy that day. Then we get there, and there is an 11-week Pointer-mix who was in a cage by herself and barked and cried so much it was like she wasn't going to let me wife get away from her. We found out she was scheduled to be destroyed two weeks prior, but they had lost their disposal contract, so she was next up once it was renewed. I got the eyes from the wife, so the staff people let them play for a minute, and the pup walked over to where my wife sat cross-legged, pointed perfectly, then turned and sat in my wife's lap and just looked up at me.

    She's 6 now.

    Oh, and if anyone ever says so much as a cross word to her or her 5-yr old adopted sister, I bristle more than some fathers do over their children. Those are our girls, and I wish they could live happy and healthy to be as old as we do. My heart breaks and I tear up every time I even think about one getting too old, so I totally get your love and affection for the new lapcat. And I say your books are good enough that we the readers will wait the extra time it takes to get a new one on the shelves if it means you get more I-love-you-time with the four-legged members of your family.

  15. Steve in Germany

    We have balcony visitors here in the little hamlet in Bavaria. I suppose they started coming by many years ago due to the Hazel tree next to the balcony. Some years ago I started setting out nuts after the hazels were long gone. I tried peanuts, but only the birds would eat them. Now I set out walnuts, pecans, and hazels. It helps the little four legged critters make it through winter. We usually get at least one a day, but have had as many as four. If you'd like a peak at our visitors, you can see them here.

  16. Reine

    JT, I love this! These are my babies: . Two kitties Buffalo and She-She and my assistance dog, Kendall.

    I still have former med students emailing me about how afraid they were of Buffalo – can't figure that out. I got him for them, for the office, like to give them something warm and fluffy to relax with… right.

    Kendall is the most brilliant service dog ever. He's readying his back pack for the Tucson festival of Books. Wants to look good to meet Zoë, you know.

    She-She is our kitty adoptee. She was a feral baby that our vet took in and nursed. She is the sweetest kitty ever.

  17. JT Ellison

    Hi guys! Just home to Nashville in time to shower and get back on the road for Reading Rock Books event in Dickson tonight. Thanks so much for your comments! I'm in love with all your babies.

    Check back later tonight for our winner!

  18. Debbie

    McDuff is Dudley's not so little, 20lbs cat and Gizmo, his 10lbs dog. Gizmo, aptly named is a Papillon who likes to play ball when Dudley is trying to write. I miss the hell out of Dudley and his comedic comments, and JT, if my name is drawn, I will ask his wife or daughter for the address for you to send along your novel, which I know, will be a pick me up.

    My own two cats are both rescue cats: Boo and Brontё. Boo is one of those odd cats that likes water and even jumped in the bath while it drained. He has sat in the laundry tub sticking his head under the tap while it ran too.

  19. kit

    those are some real *funky* squirrels!!! my college advisor/professor used to feed the squirrels that would come on the fire escape peanuts…then during one spring break, he happened ot leave his window open a bit…over break..when he came back, his office was trashed, they wre looking for the peanuts he woud feed them. The squirrels on our campus are so prevelant ..they have become the unofficial/official mascot of the campus here…the art department even went so far as to make a tee-shirt design in their honor.

  20. Steve in Germany

    Kit, I'll leave the balcony door open when the weather allows. Some will come in and steal nuts from a little green bowl where I keep them. They're used to me, but still play it safe. One thing they don't like and that's the neighbor's dog when it's out in his yard. They'll either leave or sit quietly on a branch and watch him. Quite some characters.

  21. Sandy

    My golden, my Rose. We had a standing date at 10:30 a.m. for a treat. Towards the end of her life, she would arrive at 9:45 to remind me and to be with me. I knew that time was special then. I know now that it was more special than I knew.

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