Ernest Hemingway Was a Cat Man

Reprinted from OF CATS AND MEN Copyright © 2017 by Sam Kalda. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Dogs get all the attention in literature. There’s John Steinbeck’s Charley (Travels with Charley) Buck in Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, and, of course, Old Yeller. 

But not all of the great male writers were dog loyalists. Charles Dickens once said, “what greater gift than the love of a cat?” Mark Twain preferred felines to dogs — and people. Even Hemingway — yes, Papa himself — kept the company of (many) cats. 


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In the new book Of Cats and Men (out April 18), illustrator Sam Kalda aims to set the historical record straight, telling the story of great men who were unabashed cat-lovers. Kalda says that his inspiration for the work originally came from photos of Marlon Brando and Jean Cocteau with their cats.

“For Brando, here is this macho, eccentric guy cuddling his cat — it softened and complicated him. Then you have [Jean] Cocteau, whose love of cats seemed to enhance his refined, poetic nature.” says Kalda. “From there, I started looking for more ‘Catmen’ in history, and eventually assembled a kind of quirky gentlemen’s club.”

All 30 of the book’s subjects have their relationship with cats profiled on a short one-page summary, but the real draw of this book comes from its accompanying illustrations.

Each profile is joined by a full-page illustration of its subject interacting with his feline counterpart. Kalda’s process for putting these illustrations together involved researching each subject before beginning to sketch, then using both hand drawings and digital work. 

The works are poster-worthy statements that serve their purpose — to lift up the name of the cat as a companion every bit as worthy their part in history as the dog.

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