|Doris from her 1915 yearbook at Franklin High School in Seattle. And one of her prize-winning Siamese cats, Mee Zee, from a 1932 newspaper article.|
As Doris became more and more obsessed with her cats, she realized that although there were plenty of dog toys and supplies, there were none specifically for cats. So she set about making her own cats toys. Eventually, there became a demand for her cat toys and she decided to open a cat shop. It was while this was happening that the Stock Market Crash of 1929 hit and the Great Depression began. Her husband quickly lost his lucrative job and Doris’ cat shop began supporting their family. (In addition, her husband began creating small pastry cups filled with hamburger meat that he sold to speakeasies during Prohibition). The financial issues must have put a strain on their marriage and they were soon divorced.
|One of the editions (1953) of one of her books.|
Doris’ shop – called Doris Bryant’s Emporium – in Greenwich Village was very successful. Because it was so unique, she apparently had customers across the world. She did much of her business by mail. Eventually, Doris put her self-promoted expertise to use and decided to write books about cat care. Her first book was published in 1936. She eventually wrote and published at least three more books; all of which went through several revisions.
Over the years of her cat business, Doris had many famous customers. They included Clare Luce (US congresswoman and writer), Selena Royale (actress), Beth Merrill (actress), Sophie Kerr (writer), and Doris Duke (socialite/heiress). Perhaps her most famous customer though was Ernest Hemingway, who was a noted cat lover. Apparently Ernest kept one of Doris' cat care books next to his bed and read from it every night.
|Excerpt from a 1935 newspaper article discussing |
Doris' shop and cat advice
In 1980, her old colleague Dr. Camuti wrote the following description of her:
Doris was always very pale. Her skin had the look of alabaster to it. She seemed like a delicate statue come to life. In fact, she resembled - at least, to me - the large ceramic Siamese cat that stood in her pet-supply shop window. But there was nothing of the cold statute about Doris Bryant. She was a warm, outgoing person and a bit of a character. Cat lovers came to her from all over the city, and she usually was very helpful to a customer. But if someone came in that she didn't take to, Doris had no hesitation throwing him out. "That's not for you," she'd say, or more bluntly, "You don't like cats well enough, get out!"Some excerpts from Doris' 1944 book The Care and Handling of Cats, A Manual for Modern Cat Owners (the same book kept on Hemingway's nightstand):
"Getting a certain kind of pet because it is pedigreed or is a smart breed at the moment is the worst possible reason; we should get our pets because we love them - not to exploit them."
"A cat refuses to flatter and he is never servile. He is capable of deep devotion, but his devotion depends upon his approval; his utter lack of flattery makes his devotion something worth cherishing."
"Some cats have become so vicious that it was necessary to have them put to sleep. This is deplorable, since it was not their fault that they developed as they did, but rather the fault of the people who mismanaged them."
"Cats are not suitable pets for children and most cats are not happy in households where they are children."
"When a woman has a well-loved cat, there is no reason for disposing of it just because she has a baby."
"Any two cats living together will have their little quarrels, or one may temporarily be annoyed with the other. People have their differences of opinion too, and cats are little people."
"If your cat "will not do a single thing you want him to" you should be ashamed to admit it; the fault lies in the way the cat has been handled - by you, or by previous owners."