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Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet Hardcover – September 10, 2013

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Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet + Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (September 10, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465031013
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465031016
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (205 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,340 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* As author Bradshaw (Dog Sense, 2011) notes in his introduction, the domestic cat is the most popular pet in today’s world, outnumbering dogs by as many as three to one. In this new examination of feline behavior, Bradshaw teases out a better understanding of what our cats want (and need) from their owners. Cats fill two niches that humans unintentionally provided for them—pest controller, as wild cats moved in to feast on the concentrations of rodents attracted to our stored grain; and companion animal, as people (probably women and children) adopted kittens as pets. To fully understand the pet cat, owners must appreciate and work with this dual role. Bradshaw traces the cat’s evolution from a wild solitary hunter to today’s house pet in the first three chapters, and then, in the next three, looks at cats’ biology and how this affects their interactions with each other and with humans. The social lives of cats, both with their owners and with other animals, are then examined, and the book concludes with thoughts on the future role of the cat as a pet. Perhaps the most interesting section speculates on how to train and breed for animals that will be content to stay inside. This fascinating book will be a bible for cat owners. --Nancy Bent


NPR, Book of the Year
“An indispensable addition to the cat-lore canon.... Cat Sense is jam-packed with fascinating (and contrarian) tidbits...covering everything from why cats purr to why they bring us dead things – and why we keep them around, even though their original purpose as mousers is mostly obsolete. Obligatory cat pun coming up ... this book is a purrfect gift for the cat lady or cat dude in your life.”

New York Times
“For any who may wonder what their feline companions are really thinking, Cat Sense, by John Bradshaw, provides the best answers that science can give for the time being....Cat Sense will teach you much about the biology of cats that you never suspected.”

The Guardian
“Bradshaw’s book mixes pellets of cat lore with accounts of feline evolution, anatomy, genetics and development from newborn kitten to adulthood, plus descriptions of cat-psychology experiments in the laboratory, many of which he has conducted himself.... Inveterate cat-haters, those defective humans, probably won’t appreciate this book, but anyone else might. It is written in a friendly and engaging way, has helpful tips for cat owners, and is packed with excellent cat facts.”

The Observer
“You could buy a dozen books by the many cat whisperers, cat gurus and cat therapists that exist in our feline-obsessed modern world, but their accumulated wisdom would probably not help you understand your cats – where they’ve come from, what they want from you, and where they might be going, if we’re not careful – as well as Cat Sense.”

“Drawing from research, the author cracks an enigma: the feline mind. A must for owners wondering how Fluffy really feels about them.”

The Sunday Times
“[Bradshaw] starts with cat origins and works methodically – and illuminatingly – through the many daft anthropomorphic assumptions.... What makes Bradshaw’s book so valuable is his positive thinking. How can we make the cat less anxious? How can we help?... [Cat Sense is] a mind-altering book.”

The Express
“Bradshaw does a great job of explaining to the clueless cat owner what science has discovered about their pet.... [A] fascinating bookshelf essential for anyone who’s ever looked at their cat and wondered what’s going on behind those big eyes.”

“Bradshaw, who has been studying the behavior of domesticated animals for over 30 years, reveals some fascinating explanations for why cats act the way they do around humans.”

Frank Bruni, New York Times
“Bradshaw...flags his seriousness of purpose with his subtitle, How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet. Bradshaw means to get into the cat brain. He’s already plumbed its canine counterpart, in the 2011 book Dog Sense, which was also grounded in research, not sentiment, and in the idea that pets have inner lives more complicated than we imagine.”

Cat Fancy
“[A] definitive guide to the origins, evolution and modern-day needs of our furry friends.... A must-read for any cat lover, the book offers humane insights about the domestic cat that challenge the most basic assumptions and promise to dramatically improve our pets’ lives.”

Science News
“[Bradshaw] deftly sums up the latest science that attempts to discover what’s going on inside the kitty brain.... A careful read can help a cat owner understand why cats don’t get along, guide efforts in training and even reveal what’s behind kitty’s favorite toy.”

Tuscon Citizen
“This is a fascinating book that reveals much new information.... Whether you share your home with a cat or just admire them from afar, this book is must reading. It is meticulously researched, crisply written, and an essential guide that offers penetrating insights about the domestic cat, many beliefs that will challenge our most basic assumptions but promise to dramatically improve not only the lives of our pets but ours as well.”

The Telegraph
“Bradshaw is...a dedicated scientist, with much to teach us about our furry darlings.”

“Books about animals tend to swing from how-to manuals devoid of evidence for the tactics they propose to scientific tracts with little comment on the way we actually live with our four-legged friends. Cat Sense strikes a nice balance, perhaps because Bradshaw researched it for 30 years. He synthesizes academic articles, experiments and his own observations into a lively, readable text.”

The New Statesman
“On physiology, Bradshaw goes well beyond charming did-you-knows to provide insights that could transform the average cat owner’s understanding of their pet.... After reading Cat Sense, you will never look at your cat in the same way again.”

Shelf Awareness for Readers
“Using research, his background in anthrozoology and his personal experiences with cats, Bradshaw has written a scientific book that remains easily accessible to any cat owner. He admits up front there is still plenty to learn about the domestic cat, but Cat Sense is a solid starting point and a must for present owners and potential owners alike. Readers will be more aware of their companions’ behaviors and what those behaviors mean in terms of the human-cat relationship, thereby creating a richer, more fulfilling connection for each.”

Natural History
“[Bradshaw] offers plenty of insights into what makes your tabby purr and how those insights can make a difference in your domestic life.... The understanding you gain should make for a happier cat-human household.”

Cat Talk
“Bradshaw deftly weaves together history, science, cat lore and some interesting predictions on the future evolution of cats as pets and members of human households.... Well-written and as readable as many novels, with graphs, illustrations, photos and boxed vignettes throughout, Cat Sense is a serious look at the science of our feline companions that most cat lovers, owners and breeders will find both educational and enjoyable. It is far more than the typical ‘cat book.’”

Literary Review, UK
“If John Bradshaw’s new book doesn’t entirely penetrate the feline mystery…it does at least shine a beam of light on the question of what is going on in those furry little heads. Not all that much is often the answer. Cat Sense is an amiable and interesting round-up of the history and science of the domestic moggy, from its first appearance in prehistory to the latest behavioural and genetic discoveries.”

Writer's Voice
Cat Sense goes a long way toward educating humans about their feline companions so that we can continue to enjoy them – and, perhaps more importantly, make them happier to be around us.”

Booklist, Starred Review
“This fascinating book will be a bible for cat owners.”

Modern Cat
“[I]nsightful.... Using cutting-edge research, Bradshaw takes us into the mysterious mind of the domestic cat, explaining the cat’s nature and needs, and, in doing, so deepens our understanding of our wild housemates and improves our relationships with them.”

Global Animal
“[A] go-to cat guide in one easy read.... For cat lovers, this book gives a vital look into the perspective of the cat.... The insight this book provides will not only help cat companions better understand their pet, it will allow them to create an ideal living situation for their cat. Keeping your cat happy and stress-free will ensure a comfortable home for everyone.”

Cat Wisdom 101
Cat Sense paves the way for the greatest gift we can give our cats: learning what makes them tick.... Cat Sense, a well-researched reference book (chock-full of lovely illustrations) delves into fascinating insights into the feline mind and their physical evolution to the present day.... No one book encompasses all aspects of cats but Cat Sense is a valuable resource with plenty of food for thought about cats today and their future as a species.”

Globe and Mail
“In his wide-ranging new book, Cat Sense, English anthrozoologist John Bradshaw calls on all his scientific resources to interpret our enigmatic felines for the 21st century – a restrictive era far removed from the predatory instincts of these not-quite-domesticated animals.”

Library Journal
“With more than 30 years of experience studying animal behavior, [Bradshaw] is able to convey valuable information to cat owners, regardless of their experience with the species, that will assist them in providing the stable physical environment that cats crave, as well as promoting the healthiest of relationships between cat and owner.... [E]nlightening.”

Publishers Weekly
“[Bradshaw] engagingly synthesizes recent academic research about cats.... Readable, practical, and original, this is likely to become the go-to book for understanding cat behavior.”

“A useful guide to help cat lovers better understand their elusive pets.”

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author of When Elephants Weep and The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats
“This fascinating book is one of the finest ever written about cats. There was hardly a page where I did not learn something new, and John Bradshaw’s m...

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Customer Reviews

Very well researched and full of information.
Roger Bower
One concern I have about this book is that the author did not report all of his references.
Read this book and you will know more about cats.
George W. Steed

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

162 of 166 people found the following review helpful By D. Dupont on September 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a solid book on an under-researched topic: cats.

The first three chapters provide a context for thinking about cats in today's world. The author discusses the history of the domestication of cats and traces their emergence as a "truly global phenomenon."

In the middle chapters, the focus is on how different the senses and brains of cats are from humans. Cats, we learn, are not little furry humans. The author discusses the way cats gather information, how they interpret and use that information, and the way their emotions guide their actions. The science in these chapters is fascinating.

The author goes on to examine the social life of cats--the connections they make with one another, and the science of cat "personality." The chapter on "Cats and Their People" is especially good. It discusses the human preference for "baby-faced animals," but points out that the physical appearance of cats cannot explain the affection humans have for them. Cats owe their success as pets, the author writes, because they are open to building relationships with humankind. The discussion of what cats feel for humans, and the analysis of purring, will warm the hearts of cat owners.

The book closes with a look at the different pressures cats are under in today's world. The evolution of cats, the author argues, is moving away, rather than toward, better integration with human society.

The book reveals that cats and dogs are more different than we might have imagined. "The dog's mind has been radically altered from that of its ancestor, the gray wolf; cats, on the other hand, still think like wild hunters." There is much to be learned from this work.

NOTE: One reviewer here says the author "advocates breeding." That's not quite right.
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107 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Daneman #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books on feline "psychology" and cat nature that I've read. Either you are a cat person or you are not; I've had cats almost continuously for more than fifty years and I like them. They are easy to care for, affectionate, yet sometimes you'll get a cat with a quirk and it drives you crazy. I found some of the quirks explained in this book--for example, why "Oriental" (ie Persian and Siamese cats) eat wool or other fabrics. I have had several Siamese and all of them were dangerous around wool. Eating yarn is bad--it can wrap around a cat's intestines and cause a deadly condition. The observation that Siamese do indeed seem more prone to nervous disorders and eating fabric to comfort themselves is true in my experience as well.

I enjoyed the chapter on the domestication of cats. Cats have not been domesticated nearly as long as dogs. Domestic cats more or less hark back to Ancient Egypt, and the author discusses how the wildness is just below the surface in any cat, which may account for the fact that some people find them difficult to understand and call them "aloof" or unfriendly, even. But it's all to do with their nature.

There is info all sorts of cat psychology and physiology, for example, the effect of "scruffing" --which can be controversial. This is picking a cat up by the loose skin on the back of the neck, same as a mommy cat would do to a kitten. I happen to know from my own animal physiology classes that this causes a relaxation effect in a cat --they go limp when you pick them up by the scruff, same as when Mommy Cat picks up a kitten, and this is an actual physiological effect that will calm a cat. But it looks nasty to some people. Other cat behaviors also hark back to kittenhood and soothe a nervous kitty, such as "kneading" or "knitting.
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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By K Becker on December 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Cat Sense is worth your time, I wish I could have given it four stars, but it had some flaws that kept it from that rating. It gets many things right. The structure of the book is clear and moves cleanly from the evolution and history of the cat to behaviors and quirks that makes this animal a beloved pet. I learned a lot about my cat, confirming some things I suspected and correcting some misunderstandings. I appreciated most the scientific grounding of the book, especially in regards to the ecological impact of cats. Bradshaw does not get sucked into the "cats are innocent" and "cats are indiscriminate killers" dichotomy. Reality is much more complex. However, the book was frustrating in that it wasn't written very well. Chapters closed with recaps of content like students trying to pad papers for length. I felt like I could have skipped the last two or three pages of most chapters. If it had been more fluidly written I probably would finished it much quicker. Still, I'm glad to have finished it and recommend it for anyone interested in cats.
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103 of 125 people found the following review helpful By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet", is written by British anthrozoologist, John Bradshaw. Bradshaw is also the author of "Dog Sense", a similar book about...dogs. "Cat Sense" is not a manual for cat ownership but rather a broad look at cats in history, cats in today's world, and cats in the future.

The reason I'm pointing out that John Bradshaw is British is that cats are treated a bit differently there than in the US. Most Americans keep their pet cats inside their houses and apartments, basically for safety reasons. In Britain, as Bradshaw points out, many pet cats are allowed to roam. This immediately plays in to the hue and cry about "predator cats", who are hunting birds and other fragile wildlife when let outside. Obviously, the answer to this is to keep your damn cat INSIDE - for both his sake and the birds and wildlife! But it seems that way too many cats outside the US are allowed to roam and provisions are made for this roaming through the use of cat-doors. Of course, we're not even discussing feral cats, which are a problem everywhere.

John Bradshaw is very good at explaining the scientific origins of cats, the ins-and-outs of cat genetics, and the reasons cats - and their owners - do the things they do. His book is fascinating when looking at the past of cats to explain the present, and how pet cats could easily slip back to feral status if placed in a non-protected setting.

As an American cat owner, I was a bit put off by Bradshaw's seeming assumption that most people let their pet cats roam. We don't. A British cat owner may feel more at ease with his writing about that part of cat ownership. It's an important point in this book. Oh, and the drawings of the cats are quite charming. A big plus. Bradshaw's cats, in particular, are wonderful.
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