Roberta Gregory is a cartoonist who has recently published True Cat Toons. It’s a book that taps into our love of telling stories about our beloved cats, with Roberta illustrating short anecdotes that friends and strangers alike have related to her. You can pick up copies of the book and check out sample strips over at her little nook of the Internet.
Celebrating the release of True Cat Toons, I spoke to Roberta about her fondest feline tales, the life lessons to be learned from appreciating cat behavior, and a little something she likes to call cat yoga for humans.
Catster: When did the idea to make True Cat Toons come about?
Roberta Gregory: Back in I think 1999, I’d done a story about one of my own kitties and I had a comic book that was coming out regularly through Fantagraphics. Then in 2006 we had a book festival and as part of it we had cartoonists tell true stories people had told them and illustrate them. I got the idea for doing cat stories. The very first story in the book was one of the people who organized the program. Since then I’ve been asking people for stories about their cat. I’ve got many more stories than I’ve been able to illustrate right now.
What do you look for in a good cat story?
I guess I ask, will it be fun to draw? Some of them are just very simple stories about how someone got their cat, or like there’s one about how a cat likes to hide in a toilet. This usher I work with at a theater told me about this cat who would climb up the wall of her building and was in the window — I could kind of see myself drawing that.
What happened in that very first cat story?
The very first one was written by K.D. Boze and it was basically just that he had a cat when he was a child and they were having tuna sandwiches and he opened his mouth and the cat stuck its head in his mouth to smell his breath! It was just one little anecdote. He just described it in such a funny way.
From there I’ve had many more elaborate stories, like a friend of mine who goes back to the early ’70s and talks about how different cats come into her life. It was a fun neighborhood to draw so that inspired me.
What’s the most bizarre cat story you’ve been told?
I think probably the one about a woman who rescued a kitten from an animal hoarder in the neighborhood and instead of bringing her mice as a present the cat would bring her fruit! The cat would drag a banana or an apple to her! For some reason she decided the cat was bringing her gifts of fruit because the house didn’t have any mice and she liked to eat fruit.
Have you learned any life lessons from the cats in the stories?
Patience. Cats strike me as very patient creatures. If a spider crawls into a hole they’ll sit by the wall for hours waiting it out. They also kinda take life as it comes. A friend of mine was visiting from out of town and she brought her cat and the cat pretty much looked around, he had his litter box and somewhere to sleep, and you could see the cat deciding that it was his new home and he’d be okay with it. Of course, the next day he left, but he was very pragmatic and able to adapt to this new situation. They’re wonderful little creatures.
Your website has a section on Cat Yoga for Humans. What’s that all about?
Well, I used to have a cat that I swear he was teaching me yoga. I had a very physical job about 10 years ago and I’d come home and lie on the floor just to stretch and my cat would come and lie next to me and look at me and stretch and roll over. I started imitating him — I’d stretch and then roll onto my side and it was very relaxing. I kinda picked it up even though he might have just been bonding. He was a very bright cat though and I think he was enjoying the interaction with me.
What’s the hardest Cat Yoga for Humans pose to master?
Oh, gosh, let’s see, I don’t know if I can do the cat stretch any more. I don’t know if I can get up from the cat stretch when you have your arms out front and your back stretched — I might need someone to help me out with that one.
Your website also mentions a cat called Roo. What’s his story?
We found Roo at a junkyard out east of Washington. He was wandering around the junkyard and he didn’t belong to the junkyard, and it was out in a rural area with coyotes so we decided to bring him home with us. We had another cat at the time and they did not get along so I hired a cat behaviorist to come and study our situation and she said Roo was a Border Collie in a cat suit — meaning he was so bright he needed to be constantly stimulated or he’d be destructive. That’s pretty true — he’ll trash the bathroom. He’s a very interactive cat and I’ve drawn about three stories on him so far. He also likes to play with my iPad.
How does Roo get along with the iPad?
There’s a cat app on it with a little mouse. He likes to chase it around and swat and then he looks underneath the iPad. One of the last times he tried to smash it with his paw out of frustration. After that he jumped up onto my dresser, opened the drawer, got a rolled-up sock out and tossed it into the hallway so he could have something real to sink his teeth into. I did a two-page story about that — I couldn’t believe it when I was sitting there watching him do it all!
Finally, now that you’ve published True Cat Toons, do you have any plans to draw more cat stories?
Absolutely! I’m always looking for new anecdotes about cats. Readers can contact me through my website.
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About Phillip Mlynar: The self-appointed world’s foremost expert on rappers’ cats. When not penning posts on rap music, he can be found building DIY cat towers for his adopted domestic shorthair, Mimosa, and collecting Le Creuset cookware (in red). He has also invented cat sushi, but it’s not quite what you think it is.