People who write about their cats used to make my eyes roll. How things change

The hidden philosophical appeal of cat literature

Rebecca Armstrong
Tuesday 01 October 2013 11:25
A British Shorthair kitten plays with a toy mouse
A British Shorthair kitten plays with a toy mouse

Cats used to leave me cold. And people who wrote about their cats made me roll my eyes. How things change. My old self wouldn’t recognise the born-again cat lover I’ve become, and she certainly wouldn’t be very impressed with some of the things I get up to (such as asking the great minds on Twitter if they, too, sang songs to their cats. Answer: yes. Some improvised, some versions of popular songs with the lyrics changed to reflect their pets’ personalities. I’m thinking of collecting them as an album. Working title: Now Cat’s What I Call Music), nor with some of the cat-related literature I own.

While the recent, scholarly Cat Sense by animal expert John Bradshaw would probably be okay, Fur Babies and Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul (found on the slush pile at work, I promise) would result in pre-cat me reaching for the matches. The book I’ve just finished reading, The Good, The Bad and the Furry by Tom Cox would probably be on the edge. In it Tom writes about his relationship with his four cats, some of whom starred in his previous books, Under the Paw and Talk to the Tail. True, there are extremely high levels of cat in it but there are also thoughtful passages about growing older, life after divorce, and hilarious descriptions of Tom’s loud dad, who, like my father, operates at a volume of 11 most of the time. This book is very, very funny and Tom writes beautifully, so I hope even old me would approve.

Having had two cats pass away in the last 18 months, I was moved to read about the death of Janet, one of Tom’s male cats. Obviously no-one realised he was a she initially and once the truth was out, the name had stuck. As I read, I stroked my new kitten, Badger, who came to live with us a week ago. We’d gone for a female cat in the hope she wouldn’t roam as far as her predecessors, who had come to sad ends when out mogging. Old me would probably wonder why I was putting such faith into the idea of “third time lucky”. Not that lucky, actually, as when I took Badger to the vet at the weekend it transpired that little Miss Badger was actually Mr Badger. She/he is quite furry, but there was unmistakable evidence. Old me, it’s safe to say, would think I was an utter pillock for not having noticed sooner. New me is philosophical - I have a few more tracks for my cat album. I find Lola by the Kinks with the main lyric changed to “Badger”, or a blast of “Dude Looks Like a Lady” sums up my current life rather well.

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