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Secrets of the Cat: Its Lore, Legend, and Lives Paperback – November 23, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Smart, bright, well-written....A book about cats as good as this one is rare.” (Smithsonian)

“May be the most elegantly written, witty, perceptive statement about felines ever published.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

“Charming....Will soften the heart of even a certified ailurophobe.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Perhaps the best aspect of the book, combined with Holland’s style, is the appropriately low-grade temperature of the cat/human philosophizing—nicely situated between Sartre and Wild Kingdom.” (Trenton NJ Times)

“An absolutely wonderful and sometimes hilarious and always soulful book.” (Mademoiselle)

From the Publisher

Profound yet merry, eloquent but bristling with insightful and stoutly–defended opinions, this singularly appealing volume celebrates the special “otherness” of the domestic cat—its incomparable grace and manners, skills and mysteries, even its failings and maddening peculiarities. Originally published in 1988 under the title The Name of the Cat. New Foreword by the author. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Rev Upd edition (November 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061978043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061978043
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,613,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Lovitt HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've already pressed "Secrets of the Cat" into the hands of my husband and my best friend and said, "You must read this."
So what were the odds that both of them would actually read the book and enjoy it? Slim to none, I'd have guessed from previous treatments of my recommendations.
In this case though, both husband and friend were hooked from the first page. The author begins with the tale of Boston Blackie, a cat who went berserk in the presence of other felines. He ripped off their ears, he gouged out their eyes, he sent them streaking for the bushes even at feeding time. And then, one day...but I don't want to spoil Blackie's story for you. Just a hint - his name was changed to Basil and no anatomical alterations were involved.
Barbara Holland has written an extremely personal book about the history, lore, and personality of 'Felis libyca.' In the chapter, "A Choice of Cats" she does riffs on many of the different feline breeds, but it is easy to see that the Siamese is her favorite:
"Properly treated, Siamese develop a deep, single-hearted devotion to their people and overreact to competition, absences, and infidelity like an adolescent in love. They need attention, and think nothing of pulling the books out of the bookcase and the pictures off the walls to get it. They demand notice in a raucous, echoing voice that many people and some other cats find alarming; the sound has been compared to that of a giant sea gull in distress. Taking on a Siamese is rather like getting married."
Our own preference is for Maine Coons (we share the house with five), and Barbara Holland tells a great story about them, too. Not that I agreed with everything she wrote.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a wonderful book. It was entertaining and, at times, very, very funny. It was also very well-written - not just a silly cat-lovers book written in the language of the Simpleton. Holland writes beautifully and she is witty and clever. Anyone who has ever befriended a cat, and made one part of their lives, will truly enjoy this gem of a book.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By David Fields on October 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
When it comes to cats, I'm a sap. There is only one cat in my house, and there will be for quite awhile because my cat will not tolerate any others in her presence. In fact, if you were to attempt such a foolish task as trying to introduce another feline in our house you would be faced with my cat bullying the other to the bottom of our couch in the living room, and observing pieces of hair everywhere that my cat has pulled out of the other.
In our futile attempt to find a way to alleviate this behavior, my wife and I went through several books, dozens of phone calls to veterinarians in Lincoln and Omaha (Nebraska) and were never to find a way to keep our tort shell from beating up on the calico kitten we brought home. Finally, however, we had to give the calico to my stepdaughter.
In our desperate attempt to find a way to stop Pokeman (yes, at last I reveal the cat's name) from being a bully we discovered this wonderful book by Barbara Holland. It starts with a tale of hope for our family with a short essay called "The Conversion of Boston Blackie". Boston Blackie was a stray that would terrify all the other cats in the author's household. It became so bad that Ms. Holland actually hired someone to assassinate Blackie. As it turns out, there was no need to do so, as for some reason the cat converted. Truly a story that kept us going for awhile in our fruitless attempt to convert our cat.
There's great stuff in this book, including the one I mentioned, some of it very sad (a story of a woman who would only let her cat live alone in a basement), some of it useful (how to wash a cat to prevent allergens from reacting).
Lyrical, recommended, and picked up at our house and browsed through frequently.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Susie on March 21, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I found this little book to be very appreciative of cats in general. As an avid cat lore reader, I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Holland's tracing of the cat in human history facinating and interesting. She also relates wonderful tales of cats which have shared her life. Any cat lover will find delight in every chapter.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Constance D'Ulisse on August 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
Another wonderful book from one of my favorite authors. A must read if you live with moggies or are considering the adoption of one. This book made me laugh out loud reading about Boston Blackie (I've entertained thoughts of a hired killer a few times with my brood)and gave me chills while reading the chapters on the cat in history. I've bought copies of this book for cat loving friends and like all of Barbara Holland's books, a keeper.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 26, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've read lots of pet books, and this is one of the most entertaining, right up there with Farley Mowat's "The Dog Who Wouldn't Be". It is very skillfully written, with wry humor and deep insight into the psychology of our feline cohabitants.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Lovitt HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 24, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I've already pressed "Secrets of the Cat" into the hands of my husband and my two of my best friends and said, "You must read this."
So what were the odds that all of them would actually read the book and enjoy it? Slim to none, I'd have guessed from previous treatments of my recommendations.
In this case though, both husband and friends were hooked from the first page. The author begins with the tale of Boston Blackie, a cat who went berserk in the presence of other felines. He ripped off their ears, he gouged out their eyes, he sent them streaking for the bushes even at feeding time. And then, one day...but I don't want to spoil Blackie's story for you. Just a hint - his name was changed to Basil and no anatomical alterations were involved.
Barbara Holland has written an extremely personal book about the history, lore, and personality of 'Felis libyca.' In the chapter, "A Choice of Cats" she does riffs on many of the different feline breeds, but it is easy to see that the Siamese is her favorite:
"Properly treated, Siamese develop a deep, single-hearted devotion to their people and overreact to competition, absences, and infidelity like an adolescent in love. They need attention, and think nothing of pulling the books out of the bookcase and the pictures off the walls to get it. They demand notice in a raucous, echoing voice that many people and some other cats find alarming; the sound has been compared to that of a giant sea gull in distress. Taking on a Siamese is rather like getting married."
Our own preference is for Maine Coons (we share the house with five), and Barbara Holland tells a great story about them, too. Not that I agreed with everything she wrote.
Read more ›
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