Cats don’t do heartwarming. If a feline were able to read LOLcats, the retribution would be swift, just and terrible. I type this with the marks of new-cat ownership all over my arms. We’d been feeding a stray that my big cat brought home when a storm was coming (“Suckers” is scratched somewhere on our house). The newly christened Bartholomew ate roughly his weight in canned tuna to recover from his fright and ensconced himself on the sleeping porch. Our big guy would have eaten his weight in tuna, too, but we didn’t have that many cans in the house. He retired to the sock basket to console himself.
Here are three new cat books that celebrate the feline nature in all its aloof self-servingness, without making the mistake of regarding the pint-size predators as purring stuffed toys.
1 With his tattoos, shaved head and goatee, as well as a custom guitar case loaded with the tools of his trade, Jackson Galaxy looks more like the rock star he once dreamed of being than the “Cat Guy” he became. In his new memoir, Cat Daddy (Tarcher, $24.95), which is sprinkled with useful tips, the host of Animal Planet’s “My Cat From Hell” writes about overcoming an entire band’s worth of addictions — drugs, alcohol and food — before discovering his life’s work as a cat behaviorist. His constant companion: Benny, a cat he adopted after its former owner dumped it at an animal shelter with a shattered pelvis. Galaxy nursed Benny back to health. In return, Benny threw enough behavioral and psychological challenges at Galaxy over their 13 years together to turn him into an expert on why cats do what they do.
2 Celia Haddon wants to be clear about one thing: It’s not your cat; it’s you. In Cats Behaving Badly (Thomas Dunne, $23.99), the British “pet agony aunt” likens the feline-human relationship to a boyfriend who’s just not that into you. (Her analogy comparing cats to Mr. Darcy, however, is a little eyebrow-raising.) Unlike dogs, cats lived alongside humans, rather than with them, for much of history. While your dog wants to please you, your cat can’t be bothered. But that doesn’t mean she can’t be trained. In a book filled with whimsical illustrations and funny anecdotes, Haddon details solutions to an array of problem cat behaviors, from biting to, um, thinking outside the litter box. The book is definitely written from a British perspective: In England, some animal shelters refuse to let people adopt cats if they won’t be allowed outside. In the United States, it’s often the opposite. Haddon is also firmly on the side of cats being free to be the hunters they are, an attitude likely to infuriate birders.
3 There are animal lovers, and then there’s Bob Tarte. The author of Kitty Cornered (Algonquin; paperback, $13.95) and his wife, Linda, had three cats — plus parrots, rabbits, parakeets, ducks, hens and doves. Then a black-and-white stray showed up in the woods outside their Michigan home. While Tarte hopes it is “just stopping by for takeout and not intending to reserve an inside table,” newly christened Frannie soon worms her way indoors, along with Moobie, Agnes, Lucy, Maynard (who lived for eight years as Mabel) and Tina — all strays or unwanted pets embraced by the Tartes. Bob goes to great lengths for his animals, holding a bowl of water for an injured cat “like a sommelier with the dish for her to sample.” (Their vet bill has to be roughly the size of a mortgage payment.) Bob admits he spoils the cats: “I figured that bad behavior would go away if I just made a cat a little bit happier, even though years of keeping cats hadn’t produced a shred of evidence that this was true.” “Kitty Cornered” is episodic in nature, and the timeline can be difficult to figure out, but cat lovers will enjoy this tale from a kindred spirit.
Zipp regularly reviews books for The Washington Post and the Christian Science Monitor.