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

4.4 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, November 23, 2010
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Editorial Reviews


“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
  • ASIN: B005SN6CMY
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,728,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By ealovitt 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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
The tone of this book put me off. Half the time Holland is writing a charming, observant love letter to the 'secrets of the cat', with a running theme on how cats are wholly their own beings, who can never fully be understood or controlled by humans. These are the good parts. But interspersed throughout, Holland makes broad generalizations and snarky remarks concerning dog lovers, scientists, historians and people in general, mocking and disregarding anything these groups have said or thought about cats. Rather than coming across as tongue-in-cheek, it reads as mean-spirited and ignorant. Holland's refutation of all this misinformation comes in the form of her own personal experience owning many cats. If she has witnessed anything contrary to commonly accepted cat knowledge, well then everyone else is completely wrong. This goes both ways in the chapter 'a choice of cats' where she celebrates the physicality and personalities of several purebreds she has owned and then makes the shocking, sweeping statement that 'no one seems to have a deep personal relationship with a striped cat.' Excuse me? I am one of the thousands of cat owners who can prove you wrong Ms. Holland. The paragraph continues to justify the universal 'no striped cat relationships' rule by explaining that SHE was never close with the striped cats SHE owned. Therefore, no one ever has been.

This supplanting her own personal opinions as more correct than written accounts by scientists and historians isn't helped by the fact that she uses no citations. At all. There isn't a bibliography either. This book explains cat behavior, physicality, husbandry, origins and history and doesn't refer to a single source of research. Holland states everything as plain fact and moves on.
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