I like dogs. I like cats. Right now I own a guinea pig. When it comes to reading about animals, though, I will reach for a book with cat in it far more quickly than a dog. Like I said, I like dogs; however, in terms of characterization, cats are far more interesting. Why? They are so unpredictable and independent that they are a free agent, and that is what makes them so interesting as book characters.
I didn’t realize how much I preferred cats as my literary animal of choice until I looked over my Good Reads list and read the titles. Definitely cats, especially this last year. Below are a few of the cat books I’ve encountered, relished, and experienced.
I must admit I am not a Cat in the Hat fan. He made me nervous and tense as a child with his edging towards the naughty side of spicing up a boring day, and as a grownup–he still makes me nervous. Nevertheless, how can I fault a cat that has championed the cause of reading?
Tom Kitten and his companions are adorable in their little suits. What little girl doesn’t dream of having her kittens all dressed up and talking?
Who can resist kittens?
As I got older I turned to books like The Incredible Journey and It’s Like This, Cat. Both impacted me differently. I think I cried when I read about the hardships of the animals as their love drove them on to find their owners. Any book that makes me cry is going to be notable. Truthfully, I don’t remember anything about Neville’s book except the title. It seemed odd to me that a teenage guy would turn to a cat for solace. Actually, that’s not too hard to believe since I dated a guy who owned four cats. I figured a man who owned four cats possessed understanding and compassion. (“Reader, I married him.”)
Another unforgettable literary cat is the Cheshire found in Alice in Wonderland.
The Cheshire represents to me that cunning, sphinx-like knowing, but not telling aspect of cats. They blink and stare at you with their little paws tucked under them. They have secrets they aren’t sharing, that’s for sure. I imagine if they started talking to us they would be a little bit maddening in their logic, and perhaps a bit condenscending in tone. Last year I began a short story that’s growing into something larger, which is about a modern girl getting caught up into an Alice type world. I know, it’s been done. Remember, I love to write and now that I’m caught up into the story I have to keep going. I’m at the part where Alyce (yes, different spelling) has caught up with Chessy, a Cockney-speaking cat. We’ll see what happens.
I can’t leave out James Herriot. I cried sometimes after reading his stories. I read the entire series and became a devoted fan of the televsion series. When the picture books came out spotlighting the various animal stories I read them as well.
Last year I discovered two cat books that left me with that satisfied afterglow of a really good read. These cats impacted many lives and though they have departed, their stories live on. If you haven’t read them I encourage you to do so. Be ye cat fancier or not–they are reads of longlasting impact.
I think every public library should have a cat, especially if they could be as personable as Dewey. Found in the library’s book drop as a nearly frozen lump of golden fur, he was nursed back to health by the staff. Head librarian Vicki Myron became his mother, and she writes lovingly of his impact on the library and on the town. There is also a series of picture books featuring Dewey.
They say cats can sense sadness and will lend their furry compassion when needed. Oscar, one of the resident cats in a nursing home, had an uncanny sense of which patients were terminal and he would visit them in their last hours, giving comfor to both the patient and the family members. His feline ESP caught the attention of staff doctor, Dr. David Dosa, and he learned how to add that Oscar touch to his rounds with his patients.
And then there is Homer. Born blind, he learned to not only cope with life but through the devotion of his owner, Gwen Cooper, he embraced life, and became an inspiration to all who came in contact with him. One aspect of the story is Gwen’s and Homer’s experience with being separated in 9/11. A touching tribute to the bond between pet and owner.
I thought if I were going to read about cats I should delve into the famous The Cat Who… series. I read the first one the other night: The Cat Who Read Backwards, which came out in 1966.
There are thirty books in the series (actually the publisher cancelled the last one upon Braun’s death in 2011). I have my work cut out for me if I intend to get caught up. The last came out in 2007. Koko, the star of the series, must have been well taken care of to make a sojourn of that length.
From cats in hats to cats who solve murders, there is something for everyone’s interest.