Thursday, August 2, 2012

Admiring the Cat Whisperer

Read Charlotte Canelli's column in the August 3, 2012 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin or listen to the podcast on SoundCloud. Podcasts are archived on the Voices from the Library page of the library website.

I don’t get cats. I’m simply not a cat lover and I don’t know why. Our family had one, two or as many to three cats at any time when my children were growing up. I think I cuddled with them. I know I fed them but I guess I’ve repressed those memories. I do recall their names and I do remember that I was very, very fond of our first cat, Jonathan. But Jonathan thought he was a dog so perhaps I did, too.

I am a dog lover and have managed to have one in the family for most of my adult life. I’ve had several Dalmatians, Golden and Black Labrador retrievers and Old English Bulldogs. Our current Boxer is just as much a member of our family as a child could be. I’ve spent nearly the equivalent of one year of private school on vet bills, pet sitting and doggie daycare during the last seven years of my Boxer’s life.

My family had a variety of fish, hamsters, gerbils and birds. So don’t get me wrong, I do love family pets.

But I don’t get cats. Years ago I yelled at one of our ornery cats to get down from the counter so many times that the parrot mimicked me. I recoiled in horror when I heard MY voice parroted by a bird. “Get down, Binx. Get DOWN!” It was simply humiliating. I preferred cats that loved the outdoors. I did have the heart enough to realize that indoor cat boxes were the solution when we lost our beloved Jonathan when we lived outside of Dallas, Texas where coyotes roamed our prairie-yard at night.

Jonathan had, in fact, moved with us around the country. One time he actually missed his plane. Kind neighbors had kept him for a few days until we were ready to settle into our new home across the country in Massachusetts. He didn’t show up in the morning for his 6 AM scheduled flight from San Francisco and they had to reschedule him the next day. I myself had never before missed a flight but cats, well, they are cats and march to the beat of their own drummer. Perhaps Jonathan was only saying some rather prolonged goodbyes to the lady cats in our California neighborhood.

So, I do have a sense of humor and a heart. But I just don’t get cats.

I listen to my grown children’s cat stories and chuckle at their beloved pet’s antics and I smile at their cute photos. I have empathy for their veterinary bills and sobbed along with my daughter when she lost her beloved Buddy. I inquire about Petey and Tyler in Atlanta and Stringer Bell in Princeton, New Jersey. Petey has just been diagnosed as obese (he’s really just ‘big’) and Stringer Bell has some psychological issues which include chewing on electrical cords and driving my daughter, her husband and their dog crazy. (Perhaps being named for a television character on The Wire brought this all on?)

In any event, if you are like me and want to understand the phenomenon of cats, you can check out the new book by Jackson Galaxy, “Cat Daddy: What the World’s Most Incorrigible Cat Taught Me About Live, Love and Coming Clean” (2012). Mr. Galaxy is a cat behaviorist and is the star of Animal Planet’s amazingly popular show, “My Cat From Hell.” Galaxy understands troubled cats and claims to “speak cat fluently.” He also understands the troubled owners that those cats leave in this tornado of cat hair they stir up. Galaxy was a “cat” himself, a somewhat troubled rock musician until he bonded with another needy soul, a cat named Benny. Galaxy is as close to the cat whisperer as we’ll get.

If you want to understand why cats drive us nuts, read “Cats Behaving Badly: Why Cats Do the Naughty Things They Do” (2012) by Celia Haddon. Haddon claims to help owners reform and transform cats into lovable creatures. Cats that bite? Cats that refuse to use the litter box all of a sudden? Cats that refuse to cuddle or respond? Haddon offers solutions and explanations to these and other maddening antics.

Other books that will offer insight into furry felines are “Your Cat: The Owner’s Manual – Hundreds of Secrets, Surprises, and Solutions for Raising a Happy, Healthy Cat” by Marty Becker (2012) and “Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat – Not a Sour Puss” by Pam Johnson-Bennett (newly revised in 2011).

If you’d like to solve some of your bored cat’s problems, read “Boredom Busters for Cats: 40 Whisker-Twitching Games and Adventures” by Nikki Moustaki (2010.) Moustaki is host of’s Celebrity Pet Dish and the founder of the website,

And if you are like me and wish you liked cats, there’s always “The Cat Selector: How to Choose the Right Cat for You” (2011) by David Alderton. Alderton claims that there is a perfect cat to match anyone’s personality and lifestyle. There are 85 million cats in the United States. One of them must be perfect for me.

If you would like to reserve any of these titles, please call the Reference or Information desks of the library, 781-769-0200, or reserve them in the Minuteman Library catalog.