Bad news, your dog probably wants to kill you.
Study shows dogs understand their owners…but they don’t care.
What alternate universe are these headlines from? This one, sort of. See, substitute the word ‘dog’ for ‘cat’ and tada! You get an actual headline written about cats.
This is a problem. Despite an increase in our understanding of cat minds and behavior, cats continue to get a bad rap. No matter what a study finds, it seems like an anti-cat mentality persists, especially in the media.
“The sporadic popularity of anti-cat literature seems also to reflect latent animosity toward felines,” comments James Serpell, of the University of Pennsylvania, in the edited volume, The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour. “The small book of cartoons entitled A Hundred and One Uses of a Dead Cat (Bond, 1981) became a world bestseller, and sold over 600,000 copies in the first few months after publication.… It is difficult to imagine A Hundred and One Uses of a Dead Dog… achieving the same levels of popularity.”
Cats deserve better.
With considerable help from the accomplished Mikel Delgado (@), a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant, blogger extraordinaire, and PhD Candidate in Psychology at University of California, Berkeley, we compiled the best books for cat lovers on your gift list. Our list features four sections with academic texts, general introductions to cat behavior, a section on play and environmental enrichment, and a final section on learning and training. I can assure you, none of these books would be so silly as to suggest that your cat wants to kill you.
Cat behavior and cognition studies are uncovering loads about our supposedly mysterious companions. Each book is packed with details your cat would want you to know.
Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet
“You could buy a dozen books by the many cat whisperers, cat gurus and cat therapists that exist in our feline-obsessed modern world, but their accumulated wisdom would probably not help you understand your cats – where they’ve come from, what they want from you, and where they might be going, if we’re not careful – as well as Cat Sense.” The Observer
I couldn't agree more. Cat Sense is the most recent book to dispel myths and explain the true nature of our feline friends. I also snuck it into last week's post, The Best Books for Dog Lovers because sometimes people live with dogs and cats!
The Behaviour of the Domestic Cat, 2nd Edition
John Bradshaw, Rachel Casey and Sarah Brown
Drawing heavily from published studies of cat behavior and cognition, this comprehensive book tackles what it means to be a cat. Twelve chapters dive into every aspect of the cat: their sensory abilities, feeding, hunting and predation, social behavior and communication, relationship with humans and more. One incredibly useful section explains that behavior problems are better divided into behaviors that are essentially normal for cats but undesired by owners and behaviors that are actually problems for cats, i.e. influenced by pathology. An important and compelling read.
The Domestic Cat: The Biology of its Behaviour, 3rd Edition
Dennis Turner and Patrick Bateson, Eds.
In this edited volume, multiple experts weigh in on the cat in human societies. The book tackles cat behavior, biology and welfare as well as how cats are perceived and treated in different settings. Sections explore both their persecution and reverences as well as welfare issues of cats in shelters. One section even looks at the recent history of cat breeding and showing. Comprehensive read intended for specialists and general readers.
Cat Behavior: The Predatory and Social Behavior of Domestic and Wild Cats
First published in German in 1956, this is the first scientific treatise on cat behavior. Delgado describes this as THE guide to the ethology of the cat, with a heavy emphasis on their predatory and social behaviors. I need to get my hands on this one.
The Cat: Its Behavior, Nutrition and Health
Here you’ll find “comprehensive coverage of man’s OTHER best friend,” packed with details on cat domestication, breeding and genetics as well as health care, disease prevention and lifetime nutrition. I have Case's dog-version of this book, and now I have to get with the program and get the cat counterpart.
Animal Behaviour for Shelter Veterinarians and Staff, ASPCA
Emily Weiss, Heather Mohan-Gibbons and Stephen Zawistowski, Eds.
I included this book on the list of Best Books for Dog Lovers, and it is a must-read for cat lovers too. I was excited to hear that Veterinary Behaviorist Meghan E. Herron recently reviewed it as “long overdue,” and “a must-read for anyone working with shelter animals and will appeal to those who have an interest in shelter animals or animal behavior in general.”
INTRODUCTION TO YOUR CAT
Mikel Delgado helped entirely with the next two sections (thank you!). She describes these books as user-friendly and accurate in what they tell us about cat behavior. Enjoy her summaries of each book; I did!
What Is My Cat Thinking? The Essential Guide to Understanding Pet Behavior
This short and sweet book is all about body language, featuring many lovely pictures of cats, giving solid descriptions of feline body language and what it means — is your cat enjoying that petting? Are your cats fighting or playing? What is all that cheek rubbing about?
Think Like a Cat: How to Raise a Well-Adjusted Cat–Not a Sour Puss
This book is a classic, user-friendly guide to cat care and behavior. It covers everything from setting up your home to be safe and fun for your cat to resolving common behavior issues (from the litterbox to furniture-scratching).
PLAYTIME & ENVIRONMENTAL ENRICHMENT
If only play were like porn and you just know it when you see it. More than we expect, play in cats is not straightforward, and to make matters worse, dogs and cats don't play the same way. This section tackles play and environmental enrichment, two areas that greatly affect a cat’s mental and physical health and well-being. Here’s more from Delgado:
Felinestein: Pampering the Genius in Your Cat
Suzanne Delzio and Cindy Ribarich
I like this book because it was one of the first to really address the cat's needs for environmental enrichment and mental stimulation. It has activities for owner and cat to do together (including trick training and an "IQ test" to see if your cat is a "Felinestein" or just a "Happy-Go-Lucky" type).
Playtime for Cats: Activities and Games for Felines
and Stefanie Sigl
A really fantastic book on enrichment for cats, with lovely photos and suggestions for modifying your cat's environment, with a nice emphasis on training and my favorite… FOOD PUZZLES! Lots of information on how to play with cats, as well as how to provide enrichment that meets all of the sensory needs!
Bird Watching for Cats: An Entertainment Guide for Indoor Felines
Kit and George Harrison
A book for people who love cats AND birds. It's really a guide to setting up window feeders and bird baths to attract birds to your windows, with the goal of providing hours of entertainment for your indoor kitties! It's a lovely little book.
Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!)
Jackson Galaxy and
This book is really aimed at the person who doesn't want the beige carpeted cat tree in their home but still wants to create a fun environment for their cat. It's all about the much-needed vertical space, scratching options, and cozy spots that all cats need. No more excuses! Looking like you "live with cats" doesn't have to be ugly anymore.
The Cats’ House
Bob Walker is sort of the OG of catification - The Cats' House documents the home that he and Frances Mooney built in San Diego to be the ultimate feline playhouse, with walkways, floor-to-ceiling scratching posts, and jungle gyms galore. The house has since been sold, but the book celebrating it remains.
LEARNING & TRAINING
What if cats are learning all the time? (They are). What if you could help cats learn things you wanted? (You can). What if training could enhance your relationship with your cat? (It can).
Clicker Training for Cats
What’s the one way to communicate with giraffes, lions, bears, dogs or cats? Clicker training is a common way to communicate with species of all sizes, and it even works with humans. Teach cats to come when called, play without biting, and more. Check out this cat clicker training video from the Dumb Friends League.
Kitten Training for Kids
Delgado describes this book as, “A lovely little book for parents and kids to read together. It covers the development, socialization and training of cats, and broadly covers basic cat behavior. This book also guides parents through what responsibilities for cat care children can be responsible for, and how parents should supervise. Nice photos of body language and activities.”
The Trainable Cat, coming soon!
John Bradshaw and Sarah Ellis
“Why would anyone want to start training their cat? The answer is – because it is a sure-fire way of enriching the bond between cat and owner, while at the same time helping to make the cat’s life run a great deal smoother. And it’s not at all difficult: contrary to their reputation as inscrutable loners, cats are both easy and fun to train.” This book comes on the scene in July 2016, and we’re looking forward to it!
Final thought: Although I linked to Amazon, Patricia McConnell made a great point on her blog The Other End of the Leash -- it’s worth checking your local bookstore or even having them order a title for you.
Photo: Fred Guillory Flickr creative commons license.