Cats in space?

Cats in space?

By G. S. Norwood

Will there be cats in space? And how, exactly, will that happen?

Here at Weird Sisters, we have given dogs a lot of love. There are the extremely brilliant XK9s in Jan S. Gephardt’s novels, What’s Bred in the Bone, the upcoming A Bone to Pick, and her new novella, The Other Side of Fear. Ms. Eddy Weekes has a run-in with Hell Hounds in Deep Ellum Pawn. You’ve even met my own Texas Pack—as scruffy (and lovable) a bunch of canine miscreants as I’ve ever shared my home with.

All four of the Texas Pack
All four members of The Texas Pack. Photo courtesy of G. S. Norwood

But what about our feline friends? Cat lovers are a devoted and persistent bunch. They even insist on posting pictures of their cats on blogs about dogs.

Miz Eddy has her two dumpster rescues, Tidbit and Morsel, who are modeled on my own late, beloved cats, Scrap and Noah. Tidbit’s curly tail on Chaz Kemp’s excellent cover for Deep Ellum Pawn was taken directly from this picture of Scrap’s.

Scrap and Noah, Tidbit, and Scrap.
L-R: Siblings Scrap and Noah; Tidbit, as envisioned by Chaz Kemp; Scrap and her curly tail. Photos courtesy of G. S. Norwood. Artwork © 2019 by Chaz Kemp.

Real cats in real space environments?

Cats are easy to imagine in a fringe neighborhood like Dallas’ Deep Ellum. It’s a little bit harder to imagine cats in space, although robot cats, alien cats, and fantasy cats, like the ones in Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass, have crept into speculative fiction for decades. Rex and Shady even pick up the scent of one at the end of What’s Bred in the Bone.

Real cats, however, cannot thrive on a diet based on plant proteins. Unlike people, real cats need real meat. Will humans in a limited-resource environment like a space station really devote food production space and energy to a protein only their pets require?

While you can say cats might be useful in vermin control on space habitats, the truth is less practical. They’re far more likely to prey on songbirds, snakes, and lizards—the useful and beautiful creatures in the ecosystem. Rats and mice? Not so much, according to studies cited by Abigail Tucker in her delightful book, The Lion in the Living Room.

Gigi's cat Conrad sits among star designs in her quilting.
Perhaps not in space, but certainly among the stars: Norwood household cat Conrad makes himself comfortable on G. S. Norwood’s quilting table. Photo courtesy of G. S. Norwood.

Of course there will be cats in space

But cats will make it into space. I have no doubt about that. Cats have spread from their African origins to every place that humans have gone, all around the world. Not because they’re great hunters. Not because they contribute to the human economy. Because we like them. That’s it. They are not faithful and adaptable companions, as dogs are. We like them anyway.

Gigi's cat Gift yawns adorably.
We’ll take them to space with us because they yawn adorably. This is Gift, the most recent member of the Norwood clowder. Photo courtesy of G. S. Norwood.

They are aloof and demanding apex predators. But we take them with us everywhere we go, because they’re cute. And also, I am convinced, because it feels good to have one purring on your tummy when you have menstrual cramps.

Sitting on us and purring when we feel bad is the single most useful things cats do.

Ella in the linens.
They’ll find their way into people’s luggage and other spaces. This is Ella, another member of the Norwood clowder. Photo courtesy of G. S. Norwood.

So, inevitably, there will be cats in space.  They may not be common, and it would be great if society could finally manage to control their breeding habits, but they will have found their way into people’s luggage and space suits and transfer shuttles because they have found a permanent place in our hearts. 


Many thanks to G. S. Norwood for all the photos used in this post. The artwork of Tidbit (from the cover of Deep Ellum Pawn) is © 2019 by Chaz Kemp.

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