Love them or loathe them, cats are remarkably popular as pets; according to John Bradshaw in his book Cat Sense, domestic cats outnumber dogs by three to one, so chances are most people encounter them on a fairly regular basis. Unlike dogs however, who tend to be overt with their displays of affection and emotion, cats are often difficult to read; the purpose of Cat Sense then is to dig a little deeper into cats as a species in order to try and help cat lovers understand their feline companions better, and as a result make the lives of both cats and owners a little easier.
Far more than a generic ‘book about cats’ this is a fascinating, in depth look at cats as a species, from their worldwide origins to the history of the domestic cat, and on to how they live alongside humans nowadays and the hurdles they face in order to continue thriving. Along the way Bradshaw looks at how cats spread across the world and the genetic similarities (and differences) between their varieties, both wild and domestic, worldwide; the reasons behind their domestication and the changing nature of their roles as pets; the emotional and psychological aspects of life for cats, whether they live indoors or roam outside; the list goes on.
Clearly written and understandable, despite the amount of information being imparted and the complex nature of some of the concepts, while not an ‘easy read’ as such this is certainly an accessible book, albeit one that rewards taking some time over. As a biologist Bradshaw brings a scientific approach to the book, and despite being not only a cat lover but a specialist in their behaviour, he maintains a balanced viewpoint throughout. Clearly the book is pro-cats, but where he discusses issues relating to cat ownership and the environmental issues associated he manages to remain if not impartial then at least balanced.
For some this might simply be too detailed and in depth, and certainly anyone looking for a casual read about different breeds or just a few tips on ownership would probably be better looking elsewhere. For anyone genuinely interested in learning about cats however it’s an absolute treasure trove of interesting and often practically useful information. Many of the topics covered are simple concepts applied to everyday interactions that we as cat owners or simply cat lovers engage in, and shed new light on those interactions that really does make you think about them differently. It poses some unexpected but valid questions that most people are unlikely to have considered previously, but overall it’s an inspiring, fascinating read about one of the most well-loved but enigmatic animals.