The Cat: A Natural and Cultural History: Book Review

I adore my cats Julian and Sean. I hug them every morning before I go out, and they calm me when I return. I tell them I love them and kiss them goodnight. At work, coworkers ask about them, knowing they are valuable members of the family. In Sarah Brown’s new book, The Cat: A Natural and Cultural History, I was once again charmed by all things domestic feline.

This book is coming out in a few weeks and is great for feline fans who want to improve their relationship with cats or learn their cultural role in society. The Cat is great for those who care for cats or those who simply love to share cat videos online.

the cat book

Sara Brown, a cat behavior expert, examines how the role of cat in society has evolved. You will learn how cats think, the stages of kitten development, and the systems of hierarchy within the cat community.  The author provides advice on how to create feline harmony in a multi-cat household and how to enhance your pet’s physical and mental well-being. According to the 2017-2018 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook over 25% of households in the U.S. own at least one cat. While slightly more households say they are dog people

In my book 99 ½ Homestead Poems I wrote a poem titled, Considerate Cats, which many believe to be an oxymoron. Most people enjoyed my article on Gardening with Cats more. In the article I discuss gardening with and without cats, and gardening for cats, where I list many herbs, including catnip which are useful for felines. In the book Cat Wars, the author describes the benefits of keeping cats indoors. Here are some herbs that you can give to your cats if they can’t access the garden. 

Helpful Herbs

Common name Scientific name Effect
Cat Thyme Teucrium marum Will elicit euphoric sensation similar to catnip, for cats who don’t respond particularly strong to catnip
Catnip, catswort or catmint Nepeta sp. Relives stress and nervousness. Catnip baths can soothe itchy skin. Repels mosquitoes and flies.
Cat’s claw, Dandelion root Uncaria tomentosa and genus Taraxacum Benefits humans and cats. Contains natural cortisone which will help with allergies.
Chamomile, Calendula, Echinacea Asteraceae family Medicinal properties include reducing skin problems such as itching. Some veterinary herbalists use them as a tincture.
Goldenseal Hydrastis canadensis Natural disinfectant can help with infections or allergies.
Licorice root Glycyrrhiza glabra Benefits humans, dogs and cats. Can soothe allergies and help endocrine and digestive problems. May help with arthritis as it has anti-inflammatory properties.
Valerian Valeriana officinalis Strong smelling herb is known to relax humans and stimulate cats. Herb energizes slow, lethargic cats into fast furry felines.

In The Cat, Brown explains a cats sense of taste and the anatomy of a cat’s tongue. She goes into detail regarding the cats flehmen response and Jacobson’s organ. Other sections include evolution and domestication, anatomy and physiology, ecology, behavior, the modern-day cat and my favorite a directory of cat breeds. 

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The Cat, includes many two page spreads which explore a topic thoroughly enough for the reader to be equipped to deposit pertinent information at the next dinner party sans Coronavirus. 

The cat breed directory includes adult weight, genetic background, activity levels, temperament, health concerns and a general profile. Some of the breeds I was not familiar with and if anyone owns them I would be very interested in learning from the owners their thoughts. While you may have heard of the Siamese or Abyssinian did you know about the wild looking Ocicat, the curly Selkirk Rex or the dotted Egptian Mau?

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The physiology section of the book was also very interesting, as I learned how the cat’s senses function and how they relate to being a better caregiver. The cross-section diagrams of their claw, fur, heart, eye, ear, and olfactory system were detailed yet easy for the laymen to understand. The two-page spread of how genes determine coat type was also a great lesson in dominant and recessive gene expression.

Image result for rex cat

Rex genes are mutations that have spontaneously appeared in different locations all around the world. In some version the curly hair gene is recessive and in other places it is dominant. 

This book is 224 pages and includes 250 colored illustrations. Anyone with an interest in or love for cats, and all those who have owned a cat will find much to learn and enjoy in The Cat; A Natural History.

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