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Book Review: Cat Calls: Wonderful Stories and Practical Advice from a Veteran Cat Sitter

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Our two elderly cats, Redford and (Miss) Newman, died a few years ago. At 19 and 17, they were the longest lived of the 20 cats I’ve helped parent. They lived the longest mainly because they were the first cats I ever made a point of keeping indoors. This decision is roundly seconded by the authors of Cat Calls, who believe, as I do, that cats are just as happy — if not happier, in light of parasites and traffic and so on — to be indoor cats as outdoor cats if their basic needs are being met.

Author Jeanne Adlon started the very first cat-sitting service in New York City in 1977. She called her business Cat Calls, and through word of mouth was able (I’ll bet quickly) to grow the business into full-time work. The book by the same name includes many reminiscences about the cats she cared for over the years. Today Jeanne Adlon responds to inquiries as a Cat Expert on CatChannel.com. Co-writer Susan Logan is the editor of Cat Fancy magazine and a regular speaker at the Cat Writers’ Association.

This pairing of authors has resulted in an informative and reader-friendly work especially suitable for new cat owners and also for anyone aspiring to be a cat sitter. In only 144 pages, this slim volume from SquareOne Publishers provides the basics that most longtime cat owners take for granted but are must-reads for the newbies.

This is a book that assumes the reader already has particular cat(s) in mind to apply the advice to. It isn’t a coffee-table book about breeds of cats, for instance, nor does it contain (any!) photographs of cats.

Instead, it is lovingly and lightheartedly illustrated by artist Cathy Morrison in a style reflecting the tone of the text. (It’s too bad Morrison’s name isn’t included, and as prominently as Jim Davis’s, on the cover. And no, I don’t know her.)

As a longtime cat parent, I had the arrogance to predict I wasn’t going to learn anything from Cat Calls, and I’m happy to report I was wrong. The specifics of what I learned aren’t important here — though I’ll mention that four of the items involved, separately, a moat, brewer’s yeast, quick[as in claws]-alert clippers, and getting cats to love their carriers. What’s important is that readers will pick up a lot of neat ideas from the practical advice in this book, and that’s happy news for the cats.

The seven chapters cover issues related to (cat) adoption, food, indoor/outdoor cats, litter boxes, health care, misbehavior, and playtime or special occasions. Chapter subheadings are sensible (as opposed to cute or confusing), and marginal notes called “Feline Fact” add tidbits beyond the text. Once per chapter there is a section called “Distinctive Feline” that tells a special tale in more depth than the other tales in the book, which are quite brief, provided in support of the how-to advice.

Here’s a bit of advice I had to learn the hard way myself, and it really affects how much you like your cat after the kitten has grown up. “[Teach] kittens that fingers, toes, and other body parts are not playthings . . . [It’s] best not to play games in which you move your hand under a blanket, pretending to be prey, or to encourage cats to pounce on or swat you. This might be cute when they’re kittens, but it’s not fun when they’re adult cats and can draw blood.”

Related to that advice is the following, equally important step: “If your kitten or adult cat starts biting you, immediately stop petting him and ignore him for a few seconds. Never hit your cat, because he will not associate the punishment with his inappropriate behavior. Instead, redirect kitty’s attention to a toy. Reward him for playing with his toys with praise or treats, and he’ll soon learn that hands are for petting and toys are for playing.”

This book is a perfect gift for anyone just beginning cat care, even as young as nine  if a good reader, and also for anyone who thinks they know enough to be a cat sitter. Because the latter audience is part of the universe the authors probably hope to reach, Adlon emphasizes that responsibility is the key factor in providing a good cat-sitting service. “[Y]ou need to be available to work seven days a week, and your busiest times are weekends and holidays. You will be working when other people are away on vacation or enjoying the holidays with friends and family . . . To build and keep a loyal clientele, you must be available 24/7.” Imagine the love and commitment behind such a job.

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About Meredith Ann Rutter

  • It is unique, yes! And judging from your website, you already knew a lot about cats too. Cat Calls is a fun read and full of helpful information.

  • This sounds like a really unique book. I learned something already just from reading the article.