Why My Mother Was Frightened of Cats (Written 1956, published in The Essential Rebecca West: Uncollected Prose, 2010)


by Rebecca West (1892 - 1983)

Despite her affinity with feline independence, intelligence and elegance, West owned a cat only late in life and this arch but tender piece is the result.

Full of gentle, anthropomorphic humour, it says as much about human as cat character. She spies on her cat’s more gruesome behaviour, yet pities ailurophobes (cat-phobics), like her mother or one Mr Gubbins, terrorised in his bathtub. The essay form thus rescues a subject too slight for a novel yet central to West’s happiness – comforting her through the Blitz and when ill – and capable of pulling our heartstrings, without excessive sentimentality, at the end.


Related recommendation: Addison’s ‘Spectator No.538’ (November 1712).

Origin: Britain

Themes: Superstition

Genres: Autobiographical, Humorous

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