Ten William S. Burroughs Quotes About Cats


Though most people know William Burroughs as a junkie, literary icon, and countercultural hero/sage, few know him as simply an old man who loved cats, which is what he became toward the end of his life. Burroughs loved cats more than he loved people, so much so, he ascribed mystical significance to their behavior (also: the number 3, recurring events, and dreams). When asked about the prospect of a nuclear holocaust, he only expressed fear for his cats’ welfare. And his home was littered with cats, not unlike the Hemingway house, a reflection both of his addictive personality and his inability to connect with humans.

Even his last diary entry, his last recorded thought on earth, concerned his love of cats: “Only thing can resolve conflict is love, like I felt for Fletch and Ruski, Spooner, and Calico. Pure love. What I feel for my cats present and past. Love? What is it? Most natural painkiller what there is. LOVE.”

In his prose poetry book, The Cat Inside, Burroughs provides some of the most eloquent and illuminating ruminations on cats. Here are ten of the best quotes from it:

1. “My relationship with cats has saved me from a deadly, pervasive ignorance.”

2. “What went so hideously wrong with the domestic dog? Man molded the domestic dog in his own worst image…self-righteous as a lynch mob, servile and vicious, replete with the vilest coprophagic perversions…and what other animal tries to fuck your leg? Canine claims to our affection reek of contrived and fraudulent sentimentality.”

3. “And there are my cats, engaged in a ritual that goes back thousands of years, tranquilly licking themselves after the meal. Practical animals, they prefer to have others provide the food … some of them do. There must have been a split between the cats who accepted domestication and those who did not.”

4. “His whole being radiates a pure, wild sweetness, flitting through night woods with little melodious cries, on some cryptic errand. There is also an aura of doom and sadness about this trusting little creature. He has been abandoned many times over the centuries, left to die in cold city alleys, in hot noon vacant lots, pottery shards, nettles, crumbled mud walls. Many times he has cried for help in vain.”

5. “Cat hate reflects an ugly, stupid, loutish, bigoted spirit.”

6. “Cats didn’t start as mousers. Weasels and snakes and dogs are more efficient as rodent-control agents. I postulate that cats started as psychic companions, as Familiars, and have never deviated from this function.”

7. “Like most qualities, cuteness is delineated by what it isn’t. Most people aren’t cute at all, or if so they quickly outgrow their cuteness…Elegance, grace, delicacy, beauty, and a lack of self-consciousness: a creature who knows he is cute soon isn’t.”

8. “A cat’s rage is beautiful, burning with pure cat flame, all its hair standing up and crackling blue sparks, eyes blazing and sputtering.”

9. “Like all pure creatures, cats are practical.”

10. “The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself.”

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