Cats in the 20th Century (Cats in Literature-Jack Kerouac)

Jack Kerouac and cat, cats and writersJack Kerouac (1922-1969) author of On the Road (1957) wrote about the death of one of his favorite cats, Tyke, in his memoir Big Sur (1962). Tyke was Kerouac’s calico Persian whose death he strangely equated with his little brother Gerard’s.  Jack writes that it was Gerard “who’d taught me to love cats when I was 3 and 4 and we used to lie on the floor on our bellies and watch them lap up milk.”  Knowing how important the cat was to Jack, his mother made sure that Tyke had a proper burial, “under the Honeysuckle vines, the corner, of the fence”. She told Jack that the black birds in the garden must have realized what was going on. “There was lots and lots of ‘em flying over my head and chirping, and settling on the fence, for a whole hour after Tyke was laid to rest — that’s something I’ll never forget — I wish I had a camera at the time but God and Me knows it and saw it,” she told Kerouac. (Kerouac, 1992)


Jack Kerouac and cat, cats and writers

            “When we’re alone he says, ‘Your mother wrote and said your cat is dead.’ Ordinarily the death of a cat means little to most men, a lot to fewer men, but to me, and that cat, it was exactly and no lie and sincerely like the death of my little brother—I loved Tyke with all my heart, he was my baby who as a kitten just slept in the palm of my hand and with his little head hanging down, or just purring for hours, just as long as I held him that way, walking or sitting—He was like a floppy fur wrap around my wrist, I just twist him around my wrist or drape him and he just purred and purred and even when he got big I still held him that way, I could even hold that big cat in both hands with  my arms outstretched right over my head and he’d just purr, he had complete confidence in me—and when I’d left New York to come to my retreat in the woods I’d carefully kissed him and instructed him to wait for me ‘Attends pour mue kitigingoo’—But my mother said in the letter he had died the NIGHT AFTER I HAD LEFT.” (Kerouac, 1992 p. 11)



Jack Kerouac and Cat, cats and writers

“Holding up my

Purring cat to the moon

I sighed.”

(American Haiku, 1959)


Want to know more about the cat in literature, art and history? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 


Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats

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  1. Gerald Schafer says

    Jack Kerouac said it best.

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