Writers, as a general rule, are the types of people who tend to gather strange connections. We make friends in odd places, but there is no denying we can be difficult to love. At any moment, conversation can go from on topic to a complicated plot twist, and not all people can handle our commitment to our work. Flexible hours are great for productivity, but not all that great for friendships.
That’s why animals are so darn fantastic. They love their human caretakers unconditionally, and they don’t mind a rant about the latest plot twist. They’re there for the long haul. I have owned every pet on this list, and this is my opinion of how each of them stand up to the life of a writer.
Depending on the tank setup you choose, fish can be extremely time consuming or worry free friends. There is a huge assortment of colors and varieties. In my experience, though, a lot of people don’t see these creatures as friends.
Let me tell you something, buddy. I had a Halfmoon Beta once that we named Remus Lupin. We hardly ever called him by name, though. To us, he was Mr. Angry-Jazz-Hands or Our Beloved Asshole. That fish would flap his bitter little fins at everything that moved. The front door? FLAP FLAP FLAP. The dog? FLAP FLAP FLAP. His reflection? FLAPFLAPFLAPFLAPFLAP.
That vicious little beta fish lived quite a while in his little ten gallon tank. I found watching him swim around to be relaxing, and the noises of his filter made for a good background to write with. Fish are the perfect pet for people constantly on the go.
That said, fish can’t be cuddled. They’re not good at wiping away tears after a tough scene. They’re not able to go out of the house with you. I love fish, and while they can absolutely be good companions, they come in at number 5 in this list.
Many people I know are terrified of rodents. My aunt, for instance, hates bats because they look like flying rats. My mother won’t willingly go within ten feet of a mouse. However, I find most rodents are incredibly good pets.
I had guinea pigs for several years. They loved to sit on my shoulder or to climb around me while I wrote. They were very sweet animals, and low maintenance. For many writers, maintenance is of the utmost importance.
Guinea pigs need their cage spot cleaned daily, deep cleaned once a week, with fresh food and water every single day. Ultimately, taking care of my guinea pigs took less than half an hour a day. Their excited squeaks at the sound of the refrigerator (because the fridge means fresh spinach), their cuddling, and their ease of care make them fantastic pets for those who aren’t bothered by small mammals, putting them at number 4.
This one might be surprising. Horses are incredibly high maintenance and their price tag is no joke. I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit up to my knees in mud, water, and muck for these soulful creatures. One wrong step and they could kill me. All said and done, though, I love them. Horses are gentle giants.
Cleaning stalls is quiet work. During high school, when I leased a gorgeous Thoroughbred, I spent my hours working lost in my mind, weaving plots and building characters with the help of another stable hand. We’d discuss story lines and work on building our worlds. When I was on my horse’s back, I felt limitless. Trail rides let me see a lot more of the world than I could see on foot. There’s no doubt travel helps improve writing. Seeing more of the world is good. I’ve known riders who’ve worked on memorizing poetry on horseback, listened to books on tape on horseback, and even used speech-to-text programs on their phones to write while in the saddle. Something about being with horses makes people feel closer to nature or closer to God.
There are definitely negatives, though. Horses are powerful creatures, and it takes a long time and a lot of commitment to learn how to work with them safely. They are expensive. Horses eat nearly 10 pounds of hay at each meal, and they can’t be fed just once a day. Their vet bills tend to be higher, and their equipment isn’t cheap. For the amount of companionship and inspiration they can provide, though, I place them at number 3.
Yes, I knocked the stereotypical writer’s animal to number 2. Cats are fantastic animals. They’re calculating little assholes made of spite, fuzz, and teeth. Cats evolved from enormous predators to tiny containers of hatred. I love them.
Cats are stereotypical writer pets because of their independent nature. They don’t need a lot of attention to survive (unless they’re that rare creature that feels more like a dog than a cat). They have a habit of laying on warm things, like keyboards, and making sure you stop to stretch your wrists once in a while. The best thing about them is getting to watch their antics. Cats are creative, proud, and not the type of creature to take anyone’s shit.
The down side for these furry monsters is actually their fur. Cats naturally hold in a lot of static electricity. When they seem to suddenly come unglued and attack their humans for petting them, it is often because the static has built up enough to cause them severe discomfort. For someone like me, a person who pets animals absentmindedly, that’s a major drawback. I don’t want to be bit, and no cat wants to be shocked.
Okay, anyone who knows me should have seen this one coming.
Pictured is Pippin, my service dog and best friend. Dogs are literal angels. They’re brilliant creatures that evolved alongside us to become exactly the kind of partners we needed. No other animal is so attuned to humans.
Dogs are watchful and loyal animals. Countless emergencies have been handled and avoided by dogs. They’re more social than a lot of pets. Their pack mentality has bled over into their interactions with humans to the point that now, humans are the pack. We are their family. We make sure they have their basic necessities handled and they make sure we have a break away from the computer and go outside for a while. Dogs are amazing partners.
Obviously, no animal is perfect, but dogs’ biggest downfall is that they are so dependent on us. Ultimately, I don’t see this as a negative. They remind us there is a real world. Dogs make us take a moment away from our created worlds to be with them.
Love is synonymous with dogs.