on September 5, 2013
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. The author says that we should not be breeding cats for appearance--which is what is done today. If there is to be breeding, it should be done in order to select behaviors. The author is not calling for breeding, however.
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." When cats pulse their paws against your side or a blanket, they are repeating nursing behavior, pushing Mommy Cat for more milk, and thus going back to infant bliss. (My university degree is in zoology, so perhaps I look at things slightly differently than most folks when it comes to animals--but I find all this absolutely fascinating.)
There is information about purebred cats and their specific traits in this book. This is proper for a book on cats; the breeding of cats has produced a lot of variants, such as the flat face breeds and other extremes. This discussion is proper for a cat book; my cat is a dumpster rescue, but he turns out to be a purebred Siberian (we were surprised when we found ths out.) He was probably tossed out by an irresponsible person because he has birth defects.
Breeding cats however, is controversial because there are millions of feral cats, the product of their amazing fertility. A pair of cats over a few years can be the progenitors of literally (litter-ly) thousands of offspring. These cats, your "dumpster cats" eat wildlife, and are not only eating rodents (yay!) but also birds and can make a dent in the local songbird population. So stabilizing wild feral cat populations and spaying and neutering are key. But the author talks about cat breeds and this book would not be complete without a rundown about the various types of cats.
So I'm not dinging this book for discussing breeding, which is a scientific endeavor. If you feel that there are too many cats in shelters, as I do, then adopt one, as I did and will always do in future. Anyone who dings this book for containing valid information about cat breeds is being unfair; you can discuss cat breeds and then go right down to the shelter and adopt a cat and that's what I always do. But the information belongs in this book and is interesting as well. I would not have known as much about my adopted cat if I didn't have access to such information.
on December 8, 2013
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.
on October 11, 2013
If you are a new pet owner, are having problems with your cats, or just are interested in research on cat behavior, this book is for you.
For me, the best point the author makes is if you want cats that are affectionate with you, your family, and your guests, you need to work at it especially if the cat hasn't had the right experiences as a kitten. There are a number of good suggestions for how to go about helping the cat, but you have to do a lot of digging to get there.
If you are a dedicated cat owner who has already learned how to socialize a cat, you might be interested in the historical information in this book.
My main issues with the book are that I find a few of the claims contradict what I see in my own cats or have read elsewhere. For example, the author states that only 1 in 10 cats likes to have their belly rubbed, but 2 of my 3 cats love it (one is addicted to his belly rubs), and the third likes them on occaision now even though initially he really did hate them. The author also says there is no evidence to suggest that indoor-outdoor cats fare less well as indoor-only cats, but that contradicts almost everything else I've read on the topic. Finally, the author stresses that it is extremely hard to socialize cats after about 6 months, but one of my cats was feral, adopted at between 6-10 months according to the vet, and is now indistinguishable from a house-raised cat.
Have to end this review. The formerly feral cat (George) is complaining that I'm late for his 7:00 a.m. belly rub.
"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.
on September 28, 2013
I bought this book because it was on a "recommended" list in a magazine I read. It was a disappointment from beginning to end - the author repeats his 3-4 main points ad nauseum and never gets around to offering any advice for a cat owner to better interact with their pet. Additionally, the author makes the assumption that most people let their cats outside and a lot of the book is dedicated to the issue of domestic cats hunting wildlife. I didn't find any of the information in the book new or useful.
on September 10, 2013
Cat Sense is an all-encompassing book about the domestic cat. The first few chapters describe the history of cats and their domestication. John Bradshaw then discusses some of his research with the modern, domesticated cat. The final chapters discusses how cats are seen in contemporary society and some of his concerns about how cats are treated (i.e., spaying and neutering cats).
Let's discuss each of these sections in turn. I really enjoyed the chapters on the history of cats. It is something that is rarely discussed in history textbooks, and I found it quite interesting. The chapters on the authors experiments and observations of cats were intriguing; however, I wish he had provided more detail on the experiments themselves. It was frustrating not to have a full picture of the experimental procedures. I am a researchers by trade, so this concern may not be a problem for others. The last few chapters, especially the final chapter were intriguing to read, because he focused his discussion on some controversial ideas. Primarily, he discussed how he dislikes spaying and neutering, because it prevents certain genes from becoming dominant in the cat populations. Specifically, he notes that well-adjusted cats that like to be around humans get spayed and neutered by angry, feral cats that never get trapped (for TNR programs) continue to procreate. His ideas are definitely intriguing.
Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about cats that I would not have learned elsewhere. The book is a bit dense at times, so I recommend reading it in doses. It also doesn't hurt that the book is not too long (< 400 pages). One concern I have about this book is that the author did not report all of his references. He stated that he only put some of the references in the notes section at the end of the book. I find this problematic, because the reader cannot go and check his sources. I understand that the everyday reader may not want all the references, but I think the reader should be able to fact check if interested. Hopefully, the author will list the references online at some point.
I received this item for free in exchange for an honest review.
on October 30, 2013
I was hoping for more on cat psychology and how to maximize your pet's enjoyment of life. A good part of the book is taken up with cat genetics and evolution, which is interesting up to a point, and speculations about how cats will continue to evolve and how to guide that evolution, whereas I happen to like cats just the way they are. I did get a couple of good pointers but they could have fit on a couple of pages, frankly.
on July 2, 2014
It took me months to read this book because it is extremely hard to follow, even for an advanced reader. It seems to go over about three main points in the entire book, often repeating the same ideas. It did not offer any new or exciting insight on cats and rather i often felt the author was dead wrong on a few points.
Bradshaw mentions that purebred cats are bred for looks only, which is untrue in most breeds. Most respected catteries will not breed any cats with temperament issues, and in fact focus only on those who display a good nature. Most Standards will disqualify a cat showing aggression towards humans, a cat showing health issues or deformities or any other trait that could harm the breed.
Bradshaw also makes the claim that all future cats will be wild or deformed from breeding by humans because of our effort to spay/neuter all pet/feral cats. This is highly irresponsible of the author to encourage the public to not spay/neuter pets and allow females to have a litter for this reason. I suggest Bradshaw re examine the numbers of pet cats being killed every year in shelters, since he dose not seem to understand the seriousness of the over population problem. Perhaps in an ideal world every owner would spay and neuter, however, I know better. There will always be those unwilling/unable to spay perfectly suitable cats before they have litters of kittens. I do not forsee a world with only purebred cats. Instead of making remarks implying that there will be no kittens to adopt, the author should encourage those to adopt older cats. There is nothing wrong with adult cats and we as humans need to understand that we do not always need to adopt a pet as a kitten for it to be a good pet.
Despite the obvious moral objections to this book, it was hard to read, disorganized and straight up boring to read. skip this book.
Bradshaw starts his story of the domesticated cat by taking us back to 10,000 or so years ago, explaining that probably the relationship between man and cat began when humans started to store food, thus requiring rodent control. He discusses the ongoing genetic links between domestic and wild cats and suggests what steps may have taken place over the history of the cat to lead to today's level of domestication. He regularly informs us that his views are often no more than educated guesswork, since far less research has been done on the cat than the dog.
In the last few chapters, Bradshaw discusses the place of the domestic cat in today's world, suggesting that the cat will have to change if it wishes to survive in an increasingly urbanised society where many people see cats as wildlife-murdering pests. He points out that most pet cats, especially males, are neutered before breeding (with the exception of pedigrees) and that this may have the unintended consequence of demand for kittens being met by rescued feral litters or by mating between wild males and domestic unneutered females. He proposes that in fact cats should be bred carefully for personality and trained to live happily, either as indoor cats or as non-hunting outdoor cats. He makes valid points about the lack of territory available to each cat in an overcrowded world and about the increased levels of anxiety this can cause.
While there is a lot of interesting stuff in here, there are a couple of things that prevent me wholeheartedly recommending the book. I found the presentation of the first section about the history of the cat quite dry and often repetitive - it may be of more interest to someone with a scientific interest in the subject, but for this casual cat-loving reader there was too much concentration on genetics, while there was little new in the tale of how the cat became a domestic pet.
The second section was more interesting to me, but here I found I disagreed fundamentally with the thrust of his argument - that we should be trying to breed cats to be more domesticated. He makes the point himself that cat owners love them because of their independence and relatively easy care, while suggesting that that independence should be bred out of them and that they should be subjected to intensive training. I would suggest that, in that case, might as well get a dog. As someone who's not very keen on selective breeding of any (domestic) animal, I was also uneasy about messing with the breeding to produce something that would really end up looking like a cat but not behaving like one. If we as a race decide cats are not suited to our environment (and I don't accept that) then surely better to stop keeping cats rather than to play god. When one considers some of the horrors that selective breeding has produced in both dogs and cats, can we really want to go further down that route?
So Bradshaw's assumption that this is the way to go meant that instead of, as I had expected, giving us advice on how to make sure our existing cats are well cared for, in fact he seemed to be suggesting the demise of the cat as we know it to be replaced with designer Stepford Cats. A reasonably interesting read but, for me, more of a warning of why scientists should never be allowed out without a bell on their collar than a convincing argument for the future of the moggie.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher.