Mark Twain was known to rent cats when he traveled.

  • Mark Twain holding a cat
Mark Twain holding a cat
Chronicle/ Alamy Stock Photo

Samuel Clemens, known to literary history as Mark Twain, once wrote that “when a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.” Those are not the words of someone for whom cats are a passing fascination. In fact, the writer likely enjoyed the company of felines over people. At one time, Twain owned 19 cats, many with inventive monikers such as Soapy Sal and Sour Mash. So deep was his ailurophilia (love of cats), Twain even rented furry felines for company when he traveled. As he wrote in his autobiography, “Many persons would like to have the society of cats during the summer vacation in the country, but they deny themselves this pleasure… These people have no ingenuity, no invention, no wisdom; or it would occur to them to do as I do: rent cats by the month for the summer, and return them to their good homes at the end of it.”

In 1906, while staying for the summer in Dublin, New Hampshire, Twain procured the companionship of three kittens from a local farmer’s wife (he got a discount if he took three) — one named Sackcloth and the other two, identical twins, both called Ashes. One of Twain’s biographers, who visited the author during his stay, recalled Twain holding open a screen door for two waiting kittens, saying, “Walk in, gentlemen. I always give precedence to royalty.” Twain’s rental payment covered expenses for the cats’ care for the rest of their lives.

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