Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Lion in the Living Room How Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker (2016, forthcoming)


Almost all of my life I have had the great privilege of sharing my living space with cats.  Right now a Persian-Siamese mix, Ashley, given to one of our daughters as a kitten is sleeping on the computer desk near me as a I write this and Loki, our very hyper cat with a stub tail, who we found starving at about age two months, is sleeping on a kitchen table. Loki, maybe as he suffered starvation when a kitten, is super food oriented and wants to be near the kitchen most of the time.  Ashley has always been a pampered indoor cat and is very laid back. They are the best of buddies most of the time.  When I saw The Lion in the Living Room How Cats Tamed us and Took Over the Living Room listed on a books for review website I at once requested a digital review copy.  I greatly enjoyed this book's combination of history, science, ecology and cat lore and love. 

Abigail Tucker begins her very interesting book with an account of the ever increasing popularity of cats as pets, in pics on the Internet and as factors in the ecology all over the world.  I was shocked to learn Australia has eighteen million stray cats.  They were originally brought in on convict transport ships and spread all over the country.  Tucker tells us that even the Aborigines took to the new arrivals.

The book is in part the history of the cat, in part an account of the huge impact cats have had on native animal and bird spieces whereever they have spread.  Their impact on bird populations shocked me.

The popular historical understanding is that humans invited cats into their lives to keep down the rat population.  Cats stayed because of the vast amount of food the humans threw away.  At length Tucker largely debunks cats as efficient rat killers in a very convincing fashion.  She says some cats will go after rats but most prefer other prey. She offers a very interesting account of the history of the domestication of the cat.  She estimates tne dog might have been domesticated maybe half a million years ago whereas the cat first entered our world  as pets and family retainers about 12,000 years ago, descended  from a Turkish wildcat. 

Tucker explains in very convincing detail the horrible impact cats have had on native animals on tropical islands where they came ashore from ships.  

Tucker suggests people came to love cats because the face of a cat resembles a human baby and they are about the same size.  

This is a serious work of science, a popular history and yes it is also a "gush about how great cats are" book.  Whatever Tucker says, she back up with citations of research.  

I am guessing only cat lovers with an intellectual curiosity about their house mate's  history will read or  buy this book.  If you love cats then you will like this book.  It is full of fascinating facts and touching accounts of cat and human bonds.

I would suggest libraries stock this book and will find it very popular. 

Author bio

Abigail Tucker was the first ever staff writer for Smithsonian magazine, where she remains a contributor. She previously wrote for The Baltimore Sun. Her work has been featured in the Best American Nature and Science Writing

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