Sunday, June 15, 2008

Under the Paw

I received a copy of Under the Paw to review from the publishers in London. That's only the second time I have gotten anything for all my writing on Caturday, the first being some free kitty litter, which was also appreciated.

Under the Paw is really funny. There are some other books by men about their cats but this is the first one I know of where a man admits to being so obsessed with cats that he has seven of them. I like the idea of the crazy cat man. And I really like his story telling, about his folks putting a cat to sleep because baby Tom was on the way and how he still regrets it. I also really like hearing about his rambles with cat Monty and how close he felt to him. It reminded me of how I felt close to Fergus. With some cats you just seem to understand how they feel about things.

Tom has a way of writing about cats that shows you how much he loves and tries to understand them. It's that sense of closeness and love of cats that makes the book special.

I love Tom's sense of sympathy for the suffering Bear and his attempts to understand Bear and take care of him. It is always wrenching to read of a litter of kittens found in a plastic bag along the highway. Bear's rough start in life seemed to set his personality, making him complicated and moody.

The book goes on to describe Tom's meeting with his cat loving wife Dee and how they moved to the country changing houses and looking for a place that would suit their feline family. Any cat lover is going to feel close to Tom when he says that when he has to travel the question is "how long will I be away from my cats?"

The other chapter where I really appreciated Tom's feelings for cats is when he goes to a cat show and wants to set them all free. This book is not for people who love pure breed cats. This book is for people who love cats as they are.

There are some things that will strike US readers as different in the way we keep the cats we love. ( and a regular non pure breed cat is a "moggy" in England, a term that sounds friendly and affectionate to me) While Tom was searching for a home where his cats would be relatively safe going outside, they are still out roaming. I think in the US most of us are either keeping our cats in or we have enclosures. I know how much peace of mind my cat fence gives me and our cats. Yesterday Olof said that he was doing something with one of the large gates to the fence open and Harper came and sat on his side of the fence and watched him, not even trying to walk through to the outside. I believe the cats see the fence as their safe boundary against the rest of the world and it makes them feel secure. Now that it is summer, there are people coming to the vacation house up the hill and the cats hear voices coming from there. They also hear the cars on the road. So I'm surprised if Tom hasn't figured out he could just fence in the back yard and be safe from losing another feline to either a car, dog, poison or cruel human. For us, it was losing Silas on the road that made us build the fence. These days Harper and Ramona love it that they can walk over to Olof's parents, yell at the door, and go in to visit. Then they yell to get out and walk home. They go out in the morning, after we do border patrol (bears have been known to knock some fencing down) and around 6 in the evening I whistle and they are happy to come in and eat and collapse. During the day they run in and out the cat door and if we are gardening, they come and see what we're doing. But we may not see them for hours, yet we know they are safe.

I agree cats need to be outside. Our two find so much to be interested in. I see them watching bugs, trying to chase chipmunks, eyeing frogs and toads and just lying around enjoying the sun. But I don't want the misery of losing one on the road.

Last night Olof and I watched a show on a scientist looking for the first place in the world to domesticate cats. duh, it was Egypt. One segment in the show was about cat breeding and it turned our stomachs. I'm sorry but those poor furless cats just look sad and alien. One woman with a little furless, short legged cat she had proudly bred herself, took it to Las Vegas to meet another furless cat she wanted to breed it with. And then they had a wedding in a chapel. And soon after, a litter of three sad little furless kittens were born.

We looked at each other and said "give me a break."

So what I really like about Tom's book is his love of cats as they are and his appreciation of them as they are. To me, there is nothing crazy about that.

Right now you can't get the book in the US, except there was one second hand copy on Amazon. However, you can just order it from No, you can't buy my copy. I'm keeping it to read again.


catsynth said...

We just received our complementary copy of Under the Paw as well, and look forward to reading it.

Fat Eric said...

I might buy it too.

There is not much of a culture yet in the UK of indoor-only cats, although we are a nation of animal lovers. I grew up in the countryside and our cats roamed around everywhere and came home at mealtimes, people didn't worry much in those days. Now I live in London I am much more aware of road dangers. However Fat Eric only goes out in the back garden when we are around to supervise him. He's not very adventurous and never goes out of our garden, though we have lots of visits from neighbouring cats. He never goes out the front door where the traffic is. Although we live in a quiet cul de sac so there is not much traffic.

You may be interested to know that when we adopted our cats from the RSPCA they asked all adopters if they have a garden for the cats to go out in, as they don't like the idea of indoor-only cats. Just that UK cultural thing again!

Sorry to go on so long.
Fat Eric's mum, Kate

ML said...

I am reading this book and it is wonderful. Tom has such a good way of writing about the cats.