Friday, June 11, 2010

Nina Malkin "An Unlikely Cat Lady"

As Megan McMorris noted on the introduction to “Cat Women”, girls tend to be apologetic about cat ownership these days. Decades of “cat lady” syndrome has given kitties a bad name, and if you happen to have more than two, well…be afraid, be very afraid…

But just as knitting is now cool (it is, right?) so can cats make a fearless comeback. If they become the symbol of independent ladies everywhere instead of the icon of sad spinsterhood, it will probably have something to do with books such as an “Unlikely Cat Lady”. Malkin, drops contemporary cultural references like she just doesn’t care, is way funny, a hard-core urbanite and she watches out for hardcore cats: feral cats.

Already the proud owner of two indoor, spoiled kitties, Malkin started noticing the strays around her neighbourhood. From noticing to caring, to doing something about it, it wasn’t but a few small steps. Next thing you know, TNR (trap, neuter, release) became a mantra to this Brooklyn native after a litter of stray kittens entered her backyard and her heart.

Caring for ferals is, of course, heartbreaking stuff. Cats suck at being grateful - and they are not smart about safety either. They vanish, get sick, get themselves into dangerous places, obviously not doubting for a single moment that you will risk life and limbs to save them (did I mention all the money you spend neutering the ingrates?). “An Unlikely Cat Lady” chronicles a year of joy and sadness, and also of the author’s discovery of a growing community devoted to the care of feral cats. It’s exactly the sort of book I read compulsively and enjoy immensely.

Stanley Coren theorized in his “Why We Love The Dogs We Do” that cat people (meaning people that prefer cats and would not live with a dog even if they could) have a very different psychological makeup compared to dog people (which to him are people living with dogs, preferring dogs, but who wouldn’t mind a cat if they could). I’ve always been a little skeptic about that, but I have to say I’m more ambiguous about cats than any other animal. I still haven’t quite figured out whether I like them. As pets I mean.

I feel sad for cats that live decades cooped up in apartments. But I hate that cats, even well fed, kill birds if they get a chance.

Ferals are a loaded issue as far as animal rights go. Some people would have them all euthanized. Even if fed and neutered they might still cause an impact in wild-life. Worse, most well-meaning old ladies tend to feed them (or pigeons) and not think much about any future issues.

But cats, I think, have stumbled into the most perfect evolutionary gimmick: kittens. Oh, I love puppies…and bunnies and birds, and hamsters, and chinchillas…but there is nothing in this world as adorable as a kitten. I know it. You know it. Cats know it. Their future is secure.


Jeane said...

I'm glad you brought this book to my attention. I'd love to read it. I've read many books about cats but none about ferals.

Amy said...

I saw this book in the Dogear Diary blog and she said she saw it here so I came over! I love the idea of this book although I don't like reading about sick, injured or abused cats so I want to read it but will be careful! I feed feral cats and have many cats who were feral to some degree or other and decided they would like a home with my husband and I! I adore dogs, too, but cats are easier to care for. Since I am in a wheelchair I cannot take care of dogs so well, hense the cats. Dogs & cats are very different but all are wonderful! I am happy being a "crazy cat lady"!

Thank you for mentioning this book. I love the Eudora Welty quote in your header!

~ Amy

Diane said...

I have to check this book out. Big Time cat lover here. Thanks so much~

bookworm (inês) said...

Thanks for all the comments! I'll definitely be reading more about cats soon!