let me tell you about my pet

Patricia Lockwood’s Cat Doesn’t Always Speak in a French Accent

Photo-Illustration: by Preeti Kinha; Photos: Getty, Patricia Lockwood

Patricia Lockwood is a poet — notably of the poem “Rape Joke,” which you have already read but should read again — and author, most recently of the much-lauded Priestdaddy: A Memoir. She once reviewed the Met Gala Red Carpet with her mom for this website. She and her husband have three cats, and one of them is Twitter famous. “Miette’s extremely ready for her interview,” Lockwood told the Cut. “Actually, I heard my husband asking her, as he left this morning, ‘Are you ready for your interview?’” So, since we’re all ready, can she tell you about Miette?

Photo: Patricia Lockwood

On Miette’s origin story:

We got her in October 2015, from the Lawrence, Kansas, SPCA. She was a kitten and she had escaped — we think maybe from a Ragdoll breeder, because it’s sort of unusual to have that breed just running around in the wilderness. They’re not really cut out for it. So we think she escaped, and had been attacked by coyotes, or a coyote. She had multiple fractures in her back right leg, and terrible wounds all over her body that were full of maggots and stuff. I think the person who found her just brought her in to have her put down, because it was like, Oh my gosh, this poor little garbage creature. But the vet at the SPCA took an interest in her and she nursed her back to health. They shaved her and fixed her up, and they gave her to a foster family for a little while. Her foster mom called her Marge, because she makes little Marge Simpson noises. She runs around being like — GRRRMM! Then they brought her back, and we adopted her.

She was very scared when we first met her. We had gone in to the SPCA to see another cat, actually, and my husband was like, No, let’s look at this garbage cat. So we went into the little room with her and she was totally shaking, but you could tell that she was a little sweetheart. So we brought her home.

Photo: Patricia Lockwood

On Miette’s name:

It means “little crumb.” She really likes snacks, so it turned out to be a prophetic name. She wants little, tiny snacky crumbs and things, always.

I don’t remember how I came across the name. I think it might have had something to do with … Madeleine L’Engle had a little poodle that was named something similar, and that might have given me the idea. But I don’t know, it was just like a psychic choice, because, as I said, it did turn out that the only food she likes to eat is little snacky crumbs. It was just like an obvious psychic power swooped in.

On Miette’s personality:

She is so sweet. She believes I’m her mother and that I gave birth to her out of my body, because I took care of her from the very beginning and was with her all day. She wants to sit on me all the time, she wants to be in the bathroom with me, knowing exactly what’s coming out of my body, and encouraging me with her voice as I do it. She’s really, really sweet to the other cats. We have this other boy, Fenriz, and he’s objectively the worst asshole on the face of the earth. And he loves her so much, like, they’re boyfriend and girlfriend for sure, but if she gets a treat or something he’ll run over and start taking her treat and eating it. And she just lifts up her head and starts to bathe him when he does that. She’s like, It’s fine, if you need it more than I do. I wouldn’t say she’s doglike, but her personality is not exactly like a cat. She’s just a sweetheart.

Photo: Patricia Lockwood

On her other cats:

We have two other cats, Fenriz is the a-hole, but he actually is really so sweet. He’s like my husband’s baby boy. He’s like, This is my father. And then we have Gilly, who is our music cat. The distinguishing feature about Gilly is that she can tell whether any song you play her is good. So we test her — we’ll get out various things and play them for her, and if she doesn’t like it she won’t even acknowledge it. If she does like it she’ll run toward it and sit next to the music, worshipping it. So that’s her thing.

Miette’s the last one we got, and then it felt like — okay, this is all we need. I mean, three cats is a lot anyway. It’s a crazy number of cats to have. But our first cat, Alice, had to be put down in 2015, just a little while before we got the others. I didn’t know if I was going to be the kind of person where I wanted to wait a long time with her memory, or if I was a one-cat woman, or something like that. But literally like two or three days after she passed away my husband was like, I can’t stand it, we have to go rescue another cat. I CAN’T STAND IT! And we got Gilly. And then I was like, well … maybe she wants a friend. And then we got Fenriz and we were like, Wow, this guy’s personality is terrible. And then we went with Miette. But it was perfect because like … boy cats are kind of doggy, or they’re like dirtbag teenagers. There’s sort of a permanent James Dean aspect to them. So we got him and I was like, this bitch needs a girlfriend. Then at that point we had the correct personality balance.

On Miette’s Twitter fame:

I did that one tweet about Miette, and she became famous for that tweet. There’s something very pure about having that be one of your most retweeted tweets. Because nobody gets mad about it, everyone is just like — oh, I’ve met cats! That is how they are! Or like, This is what my cat does! It’s very pure. There is something about this tweet and this representation of my cat that is very pure and joy-giving in a very basic way.

Photo: Patricia Lockwood

On Miette’s voice:

Her voice is a shared voice my husband and I developed. You’d think she would speak in a French accent, which she sometimes does, but more often it’s in the voice of a British orphan. So she’ll say to my husband, like — Oh no fah-tha! I simply can’t believe you’d come disturb me when Miette is enjoying a nap, oh fah-tha! Oh I hate you! Oh go away! 

On Miette’s three games:

Her three games are — the first is Rug, where she just runs to a fur rug and you pet her while she looks up at you with admiration. Her second game is called Rice, which is where you open a secret cabinet and allow her to lick a bag of jasmine rice that has been in there for two years. I don’t know if it secretes a sort of hormone or something where she’s like, Oh, I’m married to this bag of rice, fah-tha! So you open the little cabinet and she goes in there and she just licks the bag for as long as you hold the door open. We have literally no idea why. And Rat — she plays with a little rat that she’s had since she was a little kitten, when it was basically as big as her body. She just sort of sits with it. She’s like, I love this rat. I know we’re supposed to be mortal biological enemies, but I love this rat. I would never harm him.

Photo: Patricia Lockwood

On gratitude for Miette, and Miette’s gratitude:

I would literally jump off a bridge if she weren’t here. I’ve never been so devoted to an animal in all of my days. There’s something about — you feel like, with cats you’ve rescued who have health problems, they know. A little bit. And they’re, like, especially grateful. There’s just something about the feeling where you saved her life, and she’s like, I kind of know that. I know that you did that, and I just want to hang out with you all the time. It’s very sweet. Also she’s so soft, she’s basically a chinchilla. And she does the Ragdoll thing where she just flops. She acts like she has no bones and just flops on you. Or she shows you her belly and she’s like, You can touch this. I will never bite you or claw you, you can touch this belly all you want. And I’m like, Okay, baby. I will. 

Photo: Patricia Lockwood
Let Patricia Lockwood Tell You About Her Cat