Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Cat Whisperer: Why Cats Do What They Do--and How to Get Them to Do What You Want
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on February 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This review is based on a pre-publication copy: some illustrations are missing, incomplete "Endnotes" (footnotes + references), Index in progress, ... Page numbers may change.

This is an uneven book. If based on just the first part, I wouldn't recommend it, maybe even recommend against it. However, starting around page 130, the book becomes more and more worth reading, and by page 200 the density of useful advice is such that I would definitely recommend if your problem falls within the focus of this book (details follow).

Litter box and spraying issues dominate the book. This is not surprising because this is what is most likely to be serious enough to drive people to hire a professional behaviorist.* What is surprising is the paucity of useful anecdotes I would have expected the author to have acquired during such consultations. The result is prescriptive advice on these topics that doesn't go much beyond what one is likely to have encountered in run-of-the-mill books on cat care. And that advice is repetitive. It isn't until late in the book that I encountered non-trivial treatments of other issues.

The book's coverage is also heavily oriented to the interactions of cats within a household.** The author lives in a household with six cats and three people and many of her accounts seem to be of households with more cats than people. My experience is that the quality and intensity of interactions between cats and their people is very different in households with no more than one cat per cat-person (my situation and bias), although what is cause and what is effect is debatable. Although the book's title and description imply a close connection between the author and cats, what is actually written felt very detached, almost clinical. Similar to her describing lodgers rather than family members.

The author's attitude about cats falls into the school of "cats just are" and "cat have staff" and regards those who see their cats as engaging in various intelligent behaviors as anthropomorphizing. I have a background in cognitive sciences and have had a series of tightly bonded cats (one at a time) and strongly disagree. This attitude may be a turn-off for some readers, but the bigger problem is that it severely limits the book in suggesting how to approach and understand a problem behavior. And although some of the promotions of the book indicate that its approach is to help you get in the mindset of the cat, there is very little of that. The dominant approach is prescriptive advice for owner. FYI because the presentation style of the advice may influence how well you absorb it.

The book gives the very useful reminder that in the wild, cats are prey as well as predators and that considerably shapes their behavior. But then the book fails to provide more than a scattered perfunctory treatment of what that means. Similarly, the book provides statements about the importance of play that are no better than perfunctory. You will likely find as-good or better in most cat-care books.

The treatment of territoriality is a decent introduction, but less than I hoped for. It gives an interesting anecdote of a client who put tape down the middle of a hallway eliminating conflict between cats passing each other (pg 165). But there is no follow-up of similar tips, much less any intuitions on why this might have worked. The book only briefly mentions that some cats see people as key territory. My experience is that this is often a major issue.

Why my negative reaction to the first part of the book? If you have already have a cat and have read another cat-care book, I suspect that the value-added of this portion is not enough to justify the investment in this book (time and money). If this is your first cat-care book, it may not be effective making its points -- it doesn't have enough organization, discipline and efficiency. Exception: It drills home about the importance of litter boxes: number, cleaning and distribution.

What is different about the latter portion of the book: It is organized more like what you would expect from a professional consultant: lists of alternatives, example analyses, action plans, ... But this is useful only if your situation falls within the focus of the book.

My rating of the book is based on asking how helpful this book would have been to me or to various friends who were having cat problems. Unfortunately, those problems were poorly addressed in this book. That wouldn't have been a mark down for the book if its description had let me know whether it was a good fit.
----
* Elimination problems are 40-75% of problems leading to a behaviorist (pg 172).
** In a household with cats, average is 2.5 (pg 128)

---- Examples ----
My current cat is a rescue who was well socialized in the sense that he immediately bonded to me, but he came with such a severe biting problem that he was being written off as unadoptable. Although the book's suggested treatments are not that different from what I did, its different explanation of the situation might have caused me to give up on him. His biting during petting was not from being over-stimulated (the book), but rather his insistence on grooming me -- those bites were just too-rough grabs that you see when cats groom themselves or others. However, the book claims that cats don't do things to please their people. Based on the book, a reader would likely have classified the rest of his biting as "status-related aggression". However, my diagnosis was that this is a very small part, and it was not dominance (I'm the boss of you), but rather trying to communicate boundaries. Most of the biting seemed to be driven by anxiety: memory of his abandonment and reaction to pending separations. The book discourages you from thinking in these terms. My cat is also very high energy, needing lots of exercise and play, and some of the biting was him trying to provoke play. Yet the book associates play aggression only with kittens, and my cat is a 4 year-old adult and I have seen it in even "senior" cats.

The neighbor from whom I got my current cat asked me to look at another "biter" that she was fostering. He was very friendly, but would bite almost immediately upon being petted. Again, the conventional diagnosis was that he was "over-stimulated", but this time what it was was under-stimulation. I picked him up and started giving him a vigorous head rub and he relaxed into my lap with a deep purr. No problem. Even after an extended petting session. Further experimentation confirmed that when petting wasn't strong enough he was using grabbing with his teeth as a prompt. If you have watched cats grooming each other, this is one of the behaviors that you see. As a cat owner, you need to know to distinguish biting from grabbing with the teeth, but this part of cat behavior is not part of this book.

There are a range of claims in the book that are contrary to my experience. Some are harmless, for example, that cats are purely solitary hunters (pg 126). This is mostly true, but I know of multiple instances of biological brothers that routinely hunt together. Then there was the claim that cats don't become territorial until they are adults (age 2). My previous cat was adopted as a 4-month old kitten ("raised underfoot" from a neighbor's litter) and within a week it was challenging older, larger cats using aggressive threat displays that I associate with territoriality (these instances were harmless because I had the kitten under very close supervision). How the reader of the book might have diagnosed the situation? I have no guess.

The book cautions against using a laser pointer for play because it frustrates the cat by denying it a kill-bite. While I know some cats for which the kill-bite is integral to play, I know many more for which it isn't. There are some cats that focus on "counting coup" -- they charge the lure and barely touch it with their paw or mouth before darting off to set up the next attack on it. Other cats focus on simulating using their paws to stun the prey, either a hard landing or a rapid combination of swats. And many cats that do a combination of these. I would have expected the book to give a sense of the diversity of such play.

-- Douglas B. Moran
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on May 23, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Here's the negative about this book:

* Too much time establishing the author's bona fides as a purported "cat whisperer" based on hours of observation of semi-feral cats
* Disorganized editing, the flabbiness in terms of time spent at the beginning rambling around on the author's credentials continues throughout the book
* A lack of staged responses to problems, such that for example, the advice given to address the introduction of a new cat to an existing cat household is mindblowingly complex.

Here's the positive about this book:

* I think if you really are about to give up on a problem cat due to elimination issues or fighting with other cats, you will find the level of detail here (if you skip right to the middle or back of the book) to address your issues.
* The author makes clear the need for daily playtime with your cats and that you need not always respond to their meows with food -- which I have been guity of. More and more, I now brush the cats or play with them instead of feed them when they interact, even if it's in their feeding area.
* Given her emphasis on toys and play time with cats, I went out and bought some new toys for my cats and try to spend more time with them each day playing with a shoelace that they like. She says they like to plan an attack out based on watching their prey, so it's best not to dangle a lace or wand toy in front of them but move away as a real prey object would.

This is useful detail! I just wish (disclosure: I'm a real-life editor) a tough editor had gone through this book as well as a graphic designer to give it more of an information "pop" than is currently present.

Bottom line: Four stars for information presented that certainly is useful -- if you can find it. One star deducted because this is *not* a book you will want to read cover to cover to learn all the basics of cat behavior and problem solving.
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VINE VOICEon February 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I would say this book is a must have for cat lovers and owners. There is so much GREAT information in this book! There are lots of things in here that will help you in ways you didn't expect; things you will start to understand that you didn't before.

Her main goal in this book is to help owners not to have to give away or euthanize their cats. It concentrates on things the owner can do to change the cat behavior. Actually, it's pretty much behavior modification for cats, through owner actions!

Some of the cures in here are involved and time consuming. Some are impractical for me, as I live in a singlewide mobile home (and have multiple cats), and don't have room to do some of the things she talks about (and thank goodness I don't need to). But people in doublewides or houses and in many apartments, shouldn't have such a problem. Additionally, owners of one or two cats won't be so challenged.

She is very able to explain the behaviors to you, so you can see them from the cats angle. An example is cats who won't use their litter boxes, when it is not a physical reason. I had no IDEA there could be so many different causes, and so many remedies to try. And she really walks you thru everything step by step, and does not leave you hanging, or forget to finish explaining something, as I have seen some authors do. She really does a superb job on explaining the causes as well and the solutions.

There is also very involved information on cats that don't get along (a form of them being reintroduced gradually and nonthreateningly) which is extremely well set out. However, it is not a quick thing; it takes time and effort. But in the end all in the family should be very happy with each other and get along well.

She also goes into irritating behaviors (such as unwanted meowing concerts in the middle of the night, etc.). There are lots of other problems and cures in the book; I just touched on a few of them here.

I am very lucky in that my babies don't have the problems in here, but I am really grateful to have this book in case any of them develop. It has also shown me I need to play with the cats more often than I do, and feed them more often than I do, in order to keep them at their happiest; I have tried things she recommends for that, and they are working out well!

I adore all cats, and I am really glad that this lady is writing books that will help them. Also, I hope that she will write another book soon, about her stories of her kitties (and other animals) as well as cases she has had. I found those stories extremely interesting. However, in this book she was concentrating on helping out with problems; I would love to read more about her experiences. She is a very gifted storyteller as well as cat behaviorist, so I really hope she will give us more of her stories in the future. I HIGHLY recommend this book for cat lovers!
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I have owned a cat or several cats for 3 decades, the majority of those years just a single cat. I recently saw this book at my local library and the tag line that peaked my interest was "why cats do what they do", and so I picked it up.

"The Cat Whisperer: Why Cats Do What They Do and How To Get Them To Do What You Want" (2013 publication; 336 pages) comes from author Mieshelle Nagelschneider who is a self-proclaimed "cat whisperer" (themed along the lines of the "horse whisperer", I suppose). She bases her advice on having worked with "thousands" of cats and their owners. The book's inner flap notes that she founded the Cat Behavior Clinic, serving clients "all over the world". Nagelschneider is not a veterinarian nor does she have an educational background in cat behavior or pet psychology. The book is nevertheless heavily focused on the remedial side of cat problems, such as not using the litter box properly, or being overly aggressive, or not getting along with other cats. Based on that, if you only own one cat, about half the book, simply does not apply to you. I don't mean this as a criticism of the book, as I really didn't know much of the book before reading it.

What I was hoping to read more of, was only there in drips and drabs. Such as: should you let your cat go outside? The author's position is clear: "As a general rule, if your cat has never been outside, it's best not to start". What to make of a cat's meowing? The author notes: "Meowing is a form of communication that is mainly directed at us. Adult cats rarely choose vocalization to communicate with each other". I wish there were a lot more insights about normal cat behavior (as opposed to problematic cat behavior, which is the main focus of the book). As it happens, I have no problems at all with my current cat whatsoever, and as a result the book didn't give me what I really wanted, which is to understand "why cats do what they do". This book should be tag-lined "why problematic cats do what they do".
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on June 7, 2015
OMG!!! I had been having issues with our cat defecating outside the litter box. Every vet told me he needed more litter boxes. He had 3 and still would not use the litter box for that. Within hours of setting up the new litter box and recommended litter, no more defecating outside the litter box! I even bought a copy of the book for my vet and sent Mieshelle an e-mail about how her advice has changed our household for the better. DO NOT hesitate to purchase this book if you have any issues with your cat.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
My wife and I have owned cats (usually 2 at a time) for over thirty three years and have learned a few tricks. Nothing the author said in this book was new or different and is information that can be found from most vets and brochures in their offices.

If you are a relatively new cat owner, this book may have some validity and be of use to you. If you have already owned cats for a while, this won't tell you very much.
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on March 15, 2014
I bought this book to find ways to handle one of my very skittish cats, but was so turned off by the author's tips on feeding that I stopped reading. My vet told me a big reason why so many cats are fat is because their owners "free feed," leave dry food out 24/7. So I feed my two cats twice a day, as per my vet's directions. Both of my cats are a healthy weight, maybe slightly over. This author calls this method "abusive," saying cats should have full-time access to food. Not all cats self-regulate--and wild cats certainly do not have access to food 24/7. Telling a cat owner they're "abusing" their cats by feeding them twice a day angered me so much if this had been a print book and not on my iPad I would've thrown it in the garbage.
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"The Cat Whisperer" is a reference book on solving a variety of common cat behavioral problems. While the instructions were easy enough to understand, I was surprised by how long it took me to completely read through this 254 page book.

The first 68 pages were mostly the author's credentials (why you should believe that she knows what she's talking about), talking about what she thinks is wrong with the system, and speculation about the motives and minds of cats. She places the blame for cat behavioral problems on humans and talked like cat owners are largely abusive toward their cats. I suspect she'd get faster cooperation from humans if she didn't talk so negatively about them.

She did make a few good points in this first section, though: cats are cats, not dogs, not humans. Cats don't act out of a desire for revenge. Getting angry or hitting them isn't generally going to help and will probably make things worse. Simply removing your attention or presence is far more effective.

Unless you're set on reading the whole book, I'd suggest jumping to chapter 2's "Elements of an Effective C.A.T. plan" and then to chapter 3's "Taming the Wild" and continuing from there. The author became more organized and used a more practical and instructional tone at that point. You can also jump directly to the chapter that talks about the problems you're having. The solutions that she suggests are sometimes quite complicated, other times relatively quick and simple. If you're having a problem, her suggestions would probably be good ones to try.

Of her suggestions, though, I would never try to reduce the confidence of a "confident," bully cat. I doubt the cat is actually confident. I've fixed this problem by building up all of my cat's confidence--in my cats' case, confidence that my attention is not a limited resource. I also made different locations my "focused attention" spots for different cats so they all got attention in places that felt safe to them. They're now relaxed and willing to share me in all locations, though they reserve first rights in their special spots.

Anyway, overall I thought that her advice would be helpful. She covered what types of medical problems might cause various behavioral problems, described a case with the problem, what might be causes of the problem, conventional advice NOT to follow, and how to change the cat's behavior using a C.A.T. format: Cease unwanted behavior, Attract to a wanted behavior or location, and Transform the territory.

The main cat problems and techniques that she covered were: introducing new cats or reintroducing known cats in a way that ensures friendly relations afterward; using friendly pheromones; creating enough territory and resources to reduce conflict over resources (which is a cause of many problems); properly playing with your cat using a prey sequence; cat aggression toward people or other pets; pooping or peeing outside of the litterbox; marking with urine or poop; excessive meowing; destructive scratching of items--no need to "declaw!", unwanted jumping up on counters or tables, overgrooming, wool sucking and chewing, and clicker training basics for cats.

I received this review copy as an eBook Advanced Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
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on February 11, 2014
I got this book b/c I was having trouble getting my kitten and my resident cat to get along. I tried everything in this book, followed it to a T. Maybe my two cats were just never destined to get along, but this book was of no help in my specific case. Her idea of putting the resident cat in it's own space and letting the kitten run free really was the worse advice I could have gotten. I believe that step made matters much worse for our little family and I wish I had never tried that. I did get another book, called Think Like a Cat, that seemed to help a bit more for my situation.
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VINE VOICEon January 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I've always had dogs, but it's been just the last few years that I've had cats as pets. Dogs are pretty straight forward in their needs, and not too difficult to figure out, but cats are another story. Knowing why they do the things they do and how to convince them not to do the things I don't want them to do is challenging. This book helps make it clearer for me. If you can see inside a cat's head - and this is what this book allows you to do - it makes understanding them so much easier. The book outlines the problems, then explains why the cat's antics may be occurring, then suggests what can be one to correct the problem.

The book i inforamtional and interesting to read. It covers the subject of all things cat, clearly and entertainingly. There isn't much more for which you could ask.
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