I love this David Levine illustration of Muriel Spark holding a wicked black cat. It really evokes the wit and brutal perception that made some of her detractors so anxious. Spark really was a little witchy, in the best way. Her “perfect” cat — and only trusted critic — was a Persian, “a gifted clairvoyante [who] would sit on my notebooks if what I had written was all right.”
From her 18th(!) novel, A Far Cry from Kensington:
[I]f you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work, I explained, the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk-lamp. The light from a lamp, I explained, gives a cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquillity of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious.