I’m not sure precisely where the line falls between well-adjusted individual and crazy cat lady (or cat person, to be gender-neutral), but I want to say for the record that the quantity of cats in my home is within the legal limit. I have a deep appreciation of felines on both an aesthetic and a scientific level. I’m not one of your run-of-the-mill cat lovers who will squee over every cat video on YouTube–except maybe this one, and possibly this one, and well, maybe I do squee more than I’d like to admit. My point, though, is that I picked up this book hoping to really dive into the evolution and natural history of cats.
The author charmed me almost immediately when, in the introduction, she referred to the domestic cat as “the lion’s little jester of a cousin.” I delighted in the initial chapter where the author discusses the prehistoric cats discovered at the La Brea Tar Pits, an excavation site in urban Los Angeles located just 10 miles from my home in Burbank and my own tar-free felines. Certainly the first several chapters of this book were just what I was looking for, from the explanation of how cats domesticated themselves (cats have always been able to detect a good thing when they see it, apparently) to their utter lack of practical usefulness to people (their interest in protecting ancient homes from rodents having been somewhat exaggerated). The author also delves into the serious issue of domestic cats being an invasive species, responsible for the deaths of millions of native birds and small mammals every year, and presents opposing views on TNR (Trap, Neuter, Return) programs for feral cats. This is all informative and written in an engaging manner.
Then I got to the chapter on cat shows, and I’m sorry, but I require that this sort of nonsense be filtered through Christopher Guest. That people this insane exist is not the fault of the author, but having to read about cat fanciers and their purebreds turned me from pleased to peeved faster than Garfield can down a lasagna. My passion for animal rescue aside, the creatures that result from all this selective breeding are sometimes just silly. I ask you, which is a better representation of the domestic cat’s wild ancestors: the scrappy tom, with the torn ear and crooked whiskers, or a cat that’s been inbred more times than the royal family:
A mouser? What on earth is that?
After clawing (ha ha, clawing!) my way through that chapter, I was almost home free, but my heart sank when I realized the final chapter was dedicated to the popularity of cats on the internet. Despite my initial protestations about cat videos, I’ll admit I love watching kittens bob their heads in perfect synchrony or stare down German Shepherds as much as the next person. I’m just not sure how much more there is to say about why Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub are so popular.
To be fair, this book is entertaining and sure to please many a cat lover. I enjoyed it and I did learn a few things; it just wasn’t quite the book I was hoping to read when I picked it up. Share it with the cat lover in your life (and don’t forget to spay or neuter your pet).