Fans of felines will adore these four books, which offer fascinating new perspectives on cats and their indelible influence on our culture. Whether the giftee is a philosopher, artist, behaviorist, epistolist or some fabulous combination thereof, they’ll be thrilled with these edifying, heartfelt tributes to cats.
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Cat
Nia Gould’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Cat: The Life and Times of Artistic Felines will be catnip for fans of cats, art, cat puns and expertly rendered illustrations in an impressive range of styles.
This visual feast of a book conjures up feline alter egos for 22 famous artists. For example: What if Frida Kahlo were a black cat with a white unibrow-esque marking, plus a penchant for putting flowers on her head? She’d be Frida Catlo, a specialist in “self-pawtraits.” And what if Pablo Picasso were a beret-wearing gray cat with an unusually shaped head? Why, he’d be Pablo Picatso, “one of art history’s most purr-found influences.”
Each section features a spot-on portrait of the cat artist and a well-researched biography detailing methods and influences, plus gorgeous cat-centric visual homages, from Roy Kittenstein’s dotty pop art to Mary Catsatt’s domesticity-influenced impressionism. Cat lovers and art aficionados will truly find A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Cat (to borrow one of Gould’s words) “mesmeowerizing.”
Cat vs. Cat
Pam Johnson-Bennett knows cats. The professional behaviorist has written multiple bestsellers (such as Think Like a Cat) and starred in an Animal Planet UK TV series called “Psycho Kitty.” Now, with her updated Cat vs. Cat: Keeping Peace When You Have More Than One Cat, she’s ready to help ensure that multicat homes are characterized more by napping and playing than by hissing and errant pooping.
Of course, cats can’t tell us what they’re thinking (as far as we know . . . ), so Johnson-Bennett says it’s up to humans to learn to see things through a cat’s eyes. She points out that, whereas humans view a home as a single territory, a cat sees it as “numerous territories on many different levels, geographic and psychological, and negotiating them is a central part of maintaining cat family harmony.”
Whether readers are bringing a new cat into an existing cat household or just want to learn more about cats’ behaviors, Cat vs. Cat has it covered. It’s impressively researched with lots of suggestions, strategies and support throughout.
Letters of Note: Cats
Shaun Usher’s popular Letters of Note website launched in 2009, and his first compilation was published in 2013. Now cat people will be happy to learn there’s a volume just for them: Letters of Note: Cats.
Usher asserts that letters are “humans’ most precious, enjoyable, and endangered form of communication.” The 30 collected here are entertaining and memorable, not least because they were penned by famous actors, scientists, writers and more.
It’s thrilling to discover that a cat named Máčak was central to Nikola Tesla’s fascination with electricity—and amusing to learn Ayn Rand sent a terse missive to the editor of Cat Fancy. (She noted, “I subscribed to Cat Fancy primarily for the sake of the pictures.”) Other letter writers include Jack Lemmon, Anne Frank and T.S. Eliot, and the letters range from sentimental to satirical, whimsical to a bit rude.
Letters of Note: Cats is a fascinating celebration of the timelessness of cat appreciation and a compelling argument for keeping letter writing alive. As Usher urges, “Rescue your last remaining pen from the cat, and write to someone.”
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Not a cat person? Check out these heartwarming reads about dogs instead.
Whether snoozing in a sunbeam or frenziedly attacking a scratching post, cats live in the moment. And that’s why, John Gray explains in Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life, “Cats have no need of philosophy. Obeying their nature, they are content with the life it gives them.”
But humans are quite the opposite, according to the retired professor and author of several books (notably 2018’s Seven Types of Atheism), because “the human animal never ceases striving to be something that it is not.”
Gray considers happiness, morality and egoism through the lens of philosophers including Decartes, Pascal, Montaigne and Spinoza. He also uses Patricia Highsmith’s short story “Ming’s Biggest Prey” as a jumping-off point for musings on affection. Again, cats have the upper hand (paw): “Cats do not love in order to divert themselves from loneliness, boredom, or despair. They love when the impulse takes them, and are in company they enjoy.”
It’s hard to deny the benefits of such an existence. As Gray asserts in Feline Philosophy, being open to what cats can teach us just might “lighten the load that comes with being human” via less catastrophizing and, one imagines, a lot more naps.