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Cats finally make sense

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Finally! A book that discusses cats in all their reality.

Non-fiction books about cats as cats are rare. Books investing cats with all the imagination and mysticism of their writers (and readers) are far more common. Readers are reminded, again and again, that cats were worshiped in Ancient Egypt, forgetting (or ignoring) that cat worship was apparently accompanied by the equivalent of kitty mills.

John Bradshaw of Cat Sense doesn't forget. He has as much besotted admiration for cats as any devoted cat owner. However, his admiration (and faint anthropomorphizing) is accompanied by solid research and an acknowledgment of cats as animals, not mini-people.

The most astonishing aspect of Cat Sense is how little research cats have evoked over the years. So many respectful cat owners: surely, they have performed interviews, hired investigators, utilized GPS tracking, and analyzed eating behavior (speaking as one of the obsessed, Nita Heerk can give you a fairly accurate run-down of her cats' potty habits)! Where has all this research gone? Why isn't there more?

Bradshaw reminds readers that cats have lived nearly parallel existences to humans until just recently (i.e., the twentieth and twenty-first centuries). Dogs have interacted directly with humans for much longer; consequently, dogs have not only evolved to "read" human behavior, humans have expended much time and energy trying to understand dogs.

Cats will have their day! Bradshaw, a professor at the University of Bristol, has performed observational research on cats with his students. For Cat Sense, he also tracked down reputable research. Such research is sparse and rarely includes large sample sizes. Even with these limitations, the information reveals fascinating insight into cat perception, behavior, training, and grooming, specifically allogrooming.

Nita Heerk, for instance, was pleased to learn that allogrooming--one cat licking another--can be a sign both of affection and domination. Her younger cat Bob often demonstrates allogrooming with her older cat, Aurora. Aurora tolerates, even seems to enjoy the grooming until she decides, "Enough is enough!" and delivers a swat.

Bradshaw's book is well worth a read. It is slow in parts, and some chapters may interest certain readers more than others: Do you like genetic histories? Do you prefer discussions of indoor versus outdoor lifestyles? Are you worried about the future of cats as pets? Do you want to know what your cats think of you? Bradshaw gives you all this and more.

Cat Sense is available at Portland Public Library and through MaineCat.

Portland Public Library

5 Monument Square

Portland, Maine 04101

207-871-1700

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