Tuesday, August 21, 2007

feline philosophy from across the pond

Vicky Halls is a veterinary nurse who currently works in Canterbury, Kent, United Kingdom as a “cat behaviour consellor” (that U.K. bit is important because there are some fundamental differences in U.K. thinking on what is best for our little feline friends and U.S. thinking). Being a cat behavior consellor apparently means that she earns her living by visiting people in their homes, drinking tea from their cat mugs and listening to their stories about their cats.” She never gets bored (her words). I’m not sure how helpful any of this is to the North American cat owner who picks up Cat Confidential: the book your cat would want you to read with a hope to solve a particular cat problem, it is, however, a rather entertaining and thoughtful book written with some insight.

First off, in case you didn’t know, two major difference between British and American views on house cats:

  1. In the U.K. declawing is illegal so you will not find any discussion of it here~pros OR cons (not that that’s a bad thing~i believe it’s a rather inhumane thing to do myself, but it does bear mentioning)

  2. more importantly, in the U.K. it is considered depriving a cat of one of its most basic needs to not allow it to freely roam outside whereas the A.S.P.C.A and the Humane Society of the United States as well as most U.S. vets agree that not only are cats much safer as purely “indoor” creatures but that they can live a very happy satisfied life if kept inside (given the proper amusement and stimulation). In fact it is mentioned as one of the symptoms of an overly attached (perhaps even bordering on pathological) owner in this book if:

the cat is kept exclusively indoors or allowed only restricted access to the outdoors under supervision for reasons of ‘safety’. (The owners worry that the cat would be exposed to unacceptable dangers if it were to go outside)”

In the U.S. this would be considered indicative of a responsible cat owner.

Another conceit of this particular author seems to be that often the answer is to remove the cat from the home, which, i am sure, must sometimes be necessary but she seems much quicker to do it than i would be (and have worked out situations in my own home that have seemed more daunting than those she seemed to resort to very extreme measures with…)

The book is divided into chapters which would seem to make seeking help for particular problems easier:

  • The New Kitten

  • The Scaredy Cat

  • The Aggressive Cat

  • The Indoor Cat

    • which of course would always seem to result in a “stir crazy” cat who needs some outdoor time

  • The Multi-Cat Household

    • which rarely seems to work well (except in the author’s case)

  • The Weird Cat

  • The Human/Cat Bond

  • The Elderly and Disabled Cat

  • Coping with Bereavement

Unfortunately many of these “problems” often seem to have similar solutions and they are so anecdotal as to be of little use. I found the last two chapters dealing with elderly cats (which is really just a report on a survey the author did of cat owners) and coping with bereavement to be the most helpful. Halls said she wrote this book mainly to talk about the nine cats she has shared her life with (and each of these is used to introduce a chapter), it is on this level and in Halls’ tone that i find the book succeeds most. (She also is incredibly witty and i love her description of how cats feel about cat doors~but without them, and the constant need for the cat to go outside, doesn’t that leave you at your cat’s beck and call?)

Worth reading but for behavior advise a better bet is probably Nicholas Dodman.

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