Guest post by Laura V
Legend has it that ships sailing from far and wide, docking at Constantinople in the Ottoman Empire carried cats for mouse control and the cats disembarked and stayed there. Today, hundreds of thousands of cats wander the streets of Istanbul, Turkey (formerly Constantinople). Over thousands of years these felines have carved a permanent niche in the fabric of the city. According to the website promoting Kedi, “Claiming no owners, the cats of Istanbul live between two worlds, neither wild nor tame — and they bring joy and purpose to those people they choose to adopt. In Istanbul, cats are the mirrors to the people, allowing them to reflect on their lives in ways nothing else could.”
After losing my initial and anxious gut reaction that all of these cats should be spayed or neutered that persisted for a good 20 minutes, I was able to relax into the film. The stories of the relationships between these cats, who have very distinct personalities, and the people who befriend them are beautiful. People named the cats, fed them, let them in their houses, and even took them to the vet, sometimes multiple times but the cats were ultimately ownerless and lived their own lives as they pleased. I was struck by the diversity and attractiveness of the kitties since it would appear that they have come from all over the world and have interbred freely.
If you’re a cat lover, you’ll love this film.
Deceptively slim and compact, this short novel really packs a punch. Told from the viewpoint of a house cat, emotions run from poignant to laugh-out-loud funny to bittersweet and sad. Through it all, this little cat delivers some great truths about humans and life with an uncanny eye for the truth.
Foudini, the title character in The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat, starts life as a feral stray, born in a wall. When his mother fails to return one day, his cries alert a passing human who rescues him. Adopted by a young couple, he learns to trust the woman (who he calls “Warm”) and tolerate the man (“Pest”) He also becomes fast friends with the resident dog, Sam. Now the young and foolish kitten Grace has been added to the family and Foudini attempts to fill her in on the important issues of life. Through Foudini’s wise observations, we see the world from a cat’s perspective – fulfilling the basic needs of shelter and food to the more abstract necessities of attachment, friendship and love.
This is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read – Foudini’s disgust at Warm trying to “talk cat” or Grace’s complete disregard of his lessons are hilarious – yet Foudini remains thoroughly cat-like in his thoughts and reactions. Foudini also faces tragedy and loss and must learn to cope and move on – keep the tissues handy for this section. Beautifully written, this lovely story will stay with you long after you put the book away.
If you’re very lucky, you might run across the audio version of this book. However, it’s only available on cassette, is out-of-print and difficult to find. If you do find it, grab it. It’s narrated by David Hyde Pierce (most famous for playing Niles on the tv show “Frasier”) and is a gem of fine storytelling.
If you’re looking for book that will just plain make you feel good, look no further. I’ve just discovered Joyce Stranger, a prolific English author who writes novels about animals. That may sound horribly middle-brow and non-literary, but The Go-Between is surprisingly engaging and unpredictable.
The book focusses on Flyer, a Siamese kitten who loves people. He begins life with one family and ends up with a completely different, though equally loving, owner. Through the force of his personality, determination and will to survive , he influences everyone he meets. He also acts as a catalyst – bringing together neighbors who create a new sense of community.
If you ever need a recommendation for someone who wants a good story, with a little romance, and is completely G-rated, here you go.
Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper is a closely observed tale of a tiny black kitten who lost his sight early in his life.
Beginning his life as a stray in South Beach, Homer’s eyes became so infected that his eyes had to be removed when he was eventually rescued and treated by a vet. The vet, after many failures, finds Gwen who instantly bonds to Homer, only a few weeks old.
His new owner has her own set of challenges, not only adapting her household physically (eliminating obstacles and clutter and padding sharp corners) but also integrating the kitten with the two already ensconced feline inhabitants.
The author clearly adores the newest member of the family, but also studies Homer with a scientist’s eye for detail, as she works to understand the needs of her new kitten. She describes how his sense of hearing and touch compensate for his lack of sight.
Parts of the story are heartbreaking but Homer is the very essence of resilience. The author is careful not to attribute human attributes to her cats but obviously admires Homer’s bravery and his will to survive and thrive.
The book, Cooper says, is written for “those who think that normal and ideal mean the same thing.” They will come away with an appreciation of the “slightly left of…normal.”
This is the subtitle of Competability by Amy Shojai. She notes that there has always been much less research about cats and even less about the relationships of cats and dogs living in the same household.
She traces the integration of dogs (first) then cats into human families and how far domestication has gone in each species. Their senses affect their behavior; a fascinating chapter details how the dog’s extreme sense of smell and a cat’s powerful hearing affect how they relate to each other.
She also explains how an action such as rolling over is interpreted completely different by a cat and a dog. (Cats roll over to fight and dogs roll over in submission). Or tail wagging: “The dog approaching with a friendly wag is interpreted by the cat to be ready to attack; and the dog seeing the waving feline tail thinks it’s an invitation to approach and can’t understand why Kitty breaks the rules and slaps his nose.”
This book helps to bridge the communication gap – the largest being between humans and the canine/feline world…