How to Talk to Your Cat by Jean Craighead George
This fun little non-fiction children’s book was brought to my attention by my school librarian—she noticed that the cat on the cover looks a bit like Boris, and thought he might be interested in reading! How to Talk to Your Cat provides a good introduction to cat behavior and some general information in interpreting what your cat is trying to say. Of course, as a book intended for children, it’s not a definitive guide. There are a few items of cat behavior included that I would consider a bit questionable, plus a few items that contradict things I have read recently. I suppose some of this is inevitable in a book that was published nearly 20 years ago.
The book starts with the history of domestic cats, referring to something I have heard a few times from other sources: humans did not domesticate cats; cats domesticated themselves. From there, it moves on to cat greetings, and communication via scent, sound, and body posture. The book wraps up with some more behavioral information—typical habits for indoor and outdoor cats. Along the way there is some advice in communicating and living with cats. I believe it is said a few times that cats tend to have the attitude that we belong to them, rather than the other way around. I’m not quite sold on this, but I think there is some truth to it. Boris knows that there are some limits to his running of the household. I am the keeper of the treats, after all.
Although I would still consider this a picture book, it is quite heavy on text. Most of the pictures included are for demonstration, with a few additional illustrations to fill in along the way. The drawings are fairly simple and cartoonish, which I think feels appropriate with the style of the book. There are a few photos of the author (Jean Craighead George) included, intermingled with the cartoonish cats. It feels a little silly—especially the picture of her on hands and knees rubbing heads with a cat. I suppose this is one way of keeping interest for kids who might otherwise be off put by the lengthy text passages on each page. I can see this as a good book for older kids who have an interest in cats or pets, or perhaps animals in general, but would not necessarily make a general recommendation for this one.
Boris’s thoughts: “A well read cat like me clearly has much more to say than this book would suggest. 2 paws.”
I’d love learning cats language. It’s fascinating. I know some Felinez because I’d been feeding feral cats since childhood, and had two cats, and now have four others. You learn when you watch them. But there’s always more to learn. Cats have a language different from ours because they can’t tell a story, but more describe emotions and what they want, like when my cats sit in front of the kitchen that means they’re hungry.
Yes! So much of what cats say to us is in their behavior! I can tell whenever Boris is upset with me: he sits where I can see him, but out of reach, and with his back to me. But I know he’s still paying attention because his ears are always turned in my direction!