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The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats: A Journey Into the Feline Heart Paperback – June 29, 2004

3.3 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Non-cat people frequently describe cats as selfish, unfriendly, and frustratingly independent, while a true cat lover can see these same traits and wax poetic. The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats is truly an ode to the wonderful and mysterious behavior of our furry friends--even when the behavior at hand is narcissism or jealousy. Author Jeffery Moussaieff Masson (Dogs Never Lie About Love) explores the lives of his five cats as they relate to his family, each other, and the world around them, filled as it is with such interesting creatures as butterflies, automobiles, and visiting humans.

Each chapter is devoted to a study of a particular emotion, ranging from love to playfulness to anger. While there are interesting tidbits of animal science, such as "cats look away or blink when feeling friendly," the majority of the book revolves around the author's observations of his own pets. When he suggests answers for mysterious behavior like the grooming that instantly turns into a bloodthirsty brawl, he is never absolute, but merely offers one among many possible explanations. Kind and thoughtful, Masson's entertaining tales and wise musings will be appreciated by any cat fancier. --Jill Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Prevailing wisdom holds that cats are aloof, smug, quintessentially distant-especially when compared to dogs-but Masson, in his latest exploration of feelings in the animal world, argues otherwise: "cats," he says, "are almost pure emotion." He establishes nine basics (narcissism, love, contentment, attachment, jealousy, fear, anger, curiosity and playfulness) and, in nine casual and sometimes digressive chapters, suggests when and why cats feel each of them and how we humans might better understand our pets as a result. In the tradition of his bestselling Dogs Never Lie About Love, Masson's exploration is a warm fuzzy to the feline world: in observing the antics of his five cats (Miki, Moko, Yossie, Megalamandira and Minnalouche), Masson's tone never fails to convey his wonder for "these perfect beings who briefly and softly grace my life." He draws desultorily on history, scientific research and correspondence with cat experts and owners, but most of his book is dedicated to a highly subjective study of his beloved five, who live with him in a New Zealand paradise. Though Masson strains to establish evidence for cats' sophisticated emotional landscape (and in doing so exposes himself to accusations of anthropomorphism), cats are still mysterious creatures, and even a former psychoanalyst such as he must occasionally admit (though with a certain kind of glee) that he cannot entirely figure them out. One thing's for sure: because cats, unlike humans and dogs, have never been pack animals, much of what comes naturally to us-guilt, apology, even rage-is absent in cats. In the end, this appealing book seems as much a portrait of Masson as it is of his enchanting cats.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; First Printing edition (June 29, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345448839
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345448835
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #571,050 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Wombat on September 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The plus side.... I found it an engaging read, and it did make me study my three cats more than I normally do. I like his assessments that there are more to cats then what we see on a surface view, and I agreed with most of the emotions listed and how they manifest themselves. The writing style was well done, and I liked the contemplative style of his prose.
The negative side... The author does not seem to realize that most of us do not live in rural beaches and rain forests, and for the vast majority of cats out there, the environment outside is hostile to small domestic animals. I am a volunteer in a cat shelter, and have been the unfortunate witness to many a bad situation caused by owners wanting their cats to be able to run free. I found it surprising that someone who was so anti-declawing (which I applaud) could be so naive as to the perils outside. Cats and toddlers alike may yearn to run into the street, but it doesn't mean those who are responsible for them should allow them to do so. I suppose it is not surprising; after all, it came from an author who was willing to give away a cat who had gotten somewhat cranky in middle age, as well as one who seems nonchalant at the end that his wandering cats were no longer spending their nights at home. But for someone who is truly concerned about their cat's welfare, the casual attitude was a bit hard to swallow. I am hoping that his current cats do not end up getting squished by a car like he admits the rest of them had in California.
Buy the book? No. But it might be worth checking out at the library.
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Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately, I did purchase this book as a guide to understanding my cat better. I guess I should have realized it would only help understand the author's cats better. Purely anecdotal accounts, no real expertise or science to his assertions. That may sound like no big deal, but realistically, every cat owner has a cute little story about their cat and an opinion about what they are thinking. So I was hoping this would go beyond his cute little cat stories. Frankly, by the third section, everything he said was running together, as there were no real main points presented. Also, I found it tiring to hear him talk about himself so much. Even his cats don't get full focus in this book, it's mostly him and his swims and walks on the beach. I wanted some depth and got a shallow swim with this one.
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By A Customer on December 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I have been a multiple cat owner all of my life and was hoping this would be an inciteful read given the author's previous popular works - what a disappointment. His assessment of cats personalities is elementary, and loaded with generalizations. Cats personalities vary widely and you cannot write a book based on spending 1 year with kittens, particularly the exotic breeds that he has. He states the obvious as if it was a revelation (i.e. cats ancestors are naturally solitary hunters which he states over and over again as rationale for his opinions) - DUH!! He rambles quite a bit in each chapter and sometimes contradicts opinion from one chapter to the next. Some stuff was out an out wrong (i.e. "All cats immediately warm up to humans but not to their own species" - say WHAT?). About the only thing I liked were his opinions on declawing, and agreement that cats would prefer to be free to roam. But thats just not possible for many these days - and to say that cats who cannot are not truly happy is an ego stroke to the author (who lives in New Zealand where his cats can roam - I doubt he moved there for his cats sake).
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Format: Hardcover
This is not the book about cats that it wants to be. The acclaimed author is uncomfortably personal and intrusive and manages to be in the way like a young father too proud of his new video camera to just tape his children at play. To budding authors, this book could serve as a warning: What can go wrong when you become too famous for your own good and you believe your audience will find you as interesting as you find yourself. Who cares whether the author is a personal friend of other authors? A good editor will help (read: force) an eager and proud writer to remove himself from his treatment of the topic and make it interesting to people who have no interest in the author, and this is more important the more famous the author. Nancy Miller is acknowledged with editing this book, but it is depressingly unedited. The author is also a "provocative psychoanalyst", but there is no evidence of a scholastic aptitude here. To make matters worse, a childhood encounter with a narcissistic literary critic is only related on page 6, not learned from: That paragraph describes how the entire book feels to the reader. Do look inside the book.
However, if you tolerate the author and want to snuggle up with your cat and him for company, it may be an OK book to read a chapter from each night, as it is both charming and sometimes amusing, but if you intend to study or just learn about the presumed emotional lives of cats, forget it. This reviewer believes that cats communicate with us the same way music does, directly to our emotions before thought can intervene, and sought more information on the emotional bond between cat and human.
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