Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Cat Sense by John Bradshaw review – what is your cat thinking?
A thoughtful, useful and utterly absorbing study of how cats perceive the world
Cats … closer to their wild forebears than dogs are to theirs. Photograph: Alamy
I do hope we are agreed on the superiority of cats to dogs. As Fat Freddy from The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers once pointed out: "Dogs are fascists ... When did you ever see a police cat?" John Bradshaw does not quote Freddy Freekowtski, or allude to the legendary antipathy of dictators to cats, but there is plenty here to attest to the animals' independence of mind in this thoughtful, useful and utterly absorbing book. (Bradshaw has already written a book called In Defence of Dogs, but we all make mistakes in life.)
Bradshaw, a biologist who directs the University of Bristol's Anthrozoology Institute, has been studying cats for more than 25 years. He has done things like cover the legs of chairs with paper and then, after cats have rubbed themselves against them, removed the paper and presented it to other cats. The result? "Those pieces of paper excite a great deal of interest." More than that he cannot yet say because, as he acknowledges, it is hard to know what goes on in a cat's mind. People have pointed to cats' intractability and resistance to training as evidence of underpowered brains; others claim this as evidence for precisely the opposite. It turns out that cats can be trained, but you have to be very, very patient indeed, and not expect too much More