Book review: Cats’ Miscellany by Lesley O’Mara

‘There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats,’ observed the German philosopher and theologian Albert Schweitzer.

Tuesday, 11th December 2012, 9:00 am

The revelation that one of the world’s greatest thinkers was so enamoured by our feline friends will be music to the ears of the world’s army of cat lovers who need no convincing that these quirky animals are the purr-fect pet.

And to celebrate the eccentricities and charms of humankind’s most disdainful but delectable domestic companion is Cats’ Miscellany, an extraordinary box of delights covering everything feline from practical advice and top tips to popular fallacies and cat myths.

Lesley O’Mara’s cuddly compendium is a treat for cat lovers everywhere, dishing up the most delightful cat facts – like just how far a cat will go to stay with its owner, which famous historical figures were owned by their cats and a rundown of some of the most legendary cats.

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Arranged as a true miscellany, this definitive book on cats can be read from start to finish or dipped into as the reader pleases, celebrating every age of the humble human’s subservience to feline domestic domination.

From explorations of cat behaviour and tips on how to photograph your cat to cats’ incredible journeys and cats in high office, there are scores of stories about cats and occasional glimpses of the famous people they owned.

Did you know that while Marilyn Monroe and Charles Dickens loved cats, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler all disliked or despised them?

Sir Winston Churchill was a well-known cat lover; in later life he owned a tabby called Jack who attended many wartime Cabinet meetings and was reported to have been lying on the bed at his master’s side when the great statesman died in January 1965.

The nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale owned more than 60 cats during her lifetime and named all of them after famous names of her day, including Disraeli, Gladstone and Bismarck, a large Persian.

In early Christianity, a cat seen on a grave signified that the buried person’s soul was under the Devil’s control and legend has it that the Manx breed lost its tail when the door closed on it as it was boarding Noah’s Ark.

It is also believed that cats can forecast the weather. So expect high winds when your cat claws at the carpet or curtains, rain when it washes its ears and cold weather when it sleeps with all four paws tucked under its body.

The heaviest recorded cat was Himmy from Australia who weighed in at a staggering 45lb 10oz and amongst the most fecund was a Burmese with the eccentric name of Tarawood Antigone who produced 19 kittens in 1970, the largest litter in history. In fact, left to their own devices, one female cat and her offspring can produce 420,000 kittens in just seven years.

Illustrated throughout with beautiful black and white illustrations and written with all the love and adoring admiration of a true cat lover, Cats’ Miscellany is proof that, as French musical phenomenon Colette once noted, ‘there are no ordinary cats.’

(Michael O’Mara Books, hardback, £9.99)