No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

#28: Cat Confidential -- Vicky Halls

Subtitled 'The Book Your Cat Would Want You to Read', or in my case 'The Book Your Cat Would Want To Sit On When You're Trying to Read'.

A friend's been recommending this for ages -- she found it helped her understand Oscar's many problems. (Oscar, as in Wilde, is a rescue cat and has mellowed considerably from Psycho Kitty.) I finally caved and read it, and was amazed and amused; what's more, I did learn quite a bit from the book.

Cat Confidential is a series of case studies in feline psychology by 'cat counsellor' Vicky Halls, who provides therapy for cats with problems and their owners. The book is well-written and very readable, packed with weird and fascinating characters. And that's just the cat-owners ... One thing I did learn from this was that there are some very odd people out there (actually, I think I knew this already) and that I have a long way to go before I achieve the zen state of Crazy Cat-Lady.

I like the way Vicky Halls writes: suitably self-deprecating, as when she's describing the onslaught of a 'ferocious' kitten. It's a perfect illustration of hubris: 'oh, sweet little -- aaaargh!!!" Ruefully, she admits to having framed the bloodstained notebook page as a reminder not to underestimate her clients.

Halls doesn't regard cats as 'small people in fur coats', but she does convey the complexity of the feline psyche: fierce, solitary furry predators forced to be cuddly and affectionate objects of devotion. No wonder cats are screwed up, especially when their owners aren't entirely sane. And some of the cat-owners described in this book go to extreme lengths because of their cats. I have learnt what to do about cats that masturbate*, and how to prevent some truly revolting forms of attention-seeking behaviour. This is information I hope I shall never need.

More prosaically (am so grateful that my cats are relatively normal, and elderly too!) I've worked out why S&S wouldn't drink out of the water bowl next to their food (cats in the wild aren't used to finding food and drink in the same place: a bowl of water in the bedroom has fixed this problem) and why Sam's so much happier now there's an extra litter tray with newspaper. I am reassured to read that the average cat is more than a match for the average fox (though this has also been demonstrated to me lately by Shiva).

The author has an excellent website. And there are two other books, Cat Detective and Cat Counsellor.

*Tesco carrier bags. Actually, mine are already scared of these ...

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