Have you ever loved a book because it had a furry friend with whom you identified, felt comforted by, or related to your own pet? I have.
Using animals and pets in your fiction is a simple device to reach more readers. People love animals.
Did you know:
- Most pet owners (94%) say their pet makes them smile more than once a day.
- 70% of people sign their pet's name on greeting cards and 58% include their pets in family and holiday portraits.
- Over two-thirds of Americans would rather be stranded on a desert island with their pet than with their partner
In the book Fall on Your Knees (an Oprah book club selection) by Ann-Marie Macdonald, there is a cat that the protagonist is particularly bonded to. In fact, the cat actually saves her life at one point. As the MC is lying unconscious from a wound, the cat curls itself around her head and kneads her scalp. Ouch! But this is what keeps her from slipping away. I loved that. I believe my Siamese cat would try to save my life if ever the need arose.
I, you see, am a cat lover. So, I like it when there are companion cats in a book. Though I am not much of a cozy mystery reader, you may be aware of "The Cat Who..." series by Lilian Jackson Braun, who sadly passed away this year. In her books, the cats (Koko and Yum-Yum, I believe)actually help solve the mysteries. Then there is Rita Mae Brown, who features animals as characters in her stories as well. Both of these writer's books are enormously popular.
But, it doesn't have to go that far and, of course, it doesn't have to be a cat. Sometimes, an animal can give the protagonist some distraction from herself. If a book is written in first person, and the narrator is spending a lot of time alone, say, figuring out a mystery in an old house, it is important to have some dialogue, even when no one else is around. This type of example was well received in Katherine Howe's Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. The dog sidekick Arlo was well loved by many readers.
A pet can be a dedicated ear and can even respond in cute ways that add a little something extra to the book. Though not all animal sidekicks need to be main characters, I think Rita Mae Brown says it well: "I can never understand how authors can write books without having animals become important characters. We share the earth with other sentient creatures and they often do a better job of living full lives than we do. One woman’s opinion but I like the chatter of all living creatures."
Do you have any favorite fictional furry friends? Or... do dogs that do good and cats that carry the characters drive you batty?