Saturday, June 11, 2011

How "Real" is your cat?

book review

Book: The Unadulterated Cat
Author: Terry Pratchett
Illustrator: Gray Jolliffe
Genre: Humour
Publisher: Orion Publishing
Excerpt: “On the one hand we have these great tawny brutes that sit yawning under the hot veldt sun or burning bright in jungles, and on the other there's these little things that know how to sleep on top of off-peak heaters and use cat doors. Not much in between, is there? A whole species divided, basically, between 500lbs of striped muscle that can bring down a gnu, and ten pounds of purr. Nowhere do we find the Piltdown Cat, the missing lynx.
All right, there's the wild cat, but that just looks like your average domestic tabby who's been hit on the head with a brick and got angry about it. No, we must face it. Cats just turned up. One minute nothing, next minute Egyptians worshipping them, mummifying them, building tombs for them.”

One of the most read authors in the world, Terry Pratchett is well known for his fantasy work that is draped in humour. But not everything that he has written is set on a planet that is a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants that are carried through the universe by a giant turtle. Take The Unadulterated Cat for instance – it’s a book, as its name suggests, about cats. And not just any cats, but Real ones as opposed to the “boring, mass-produced cats, which may bounce with health and nourishing vitamins but aren't a patch on the good old cats you used to get”.

A funny little book that finds humour in cat behaviour (and is in no way meant as a proper guide for pet owners), The Unadulterated Cat begins by describing what a Real cat is and how you can tell it apart from an unReal cat, and then goes on to discuss topics like the different types of cats (Farm Cats; Arch-villains’ Cats; Sort of Tabby Cats with a Bit of Ginger, But Sometimes In the Right Light You Could Swear There's a Hint of Siamese There...), how to get a cat and how to name it (“never give a cat a name you wouldn't mind shouting out in a strained, worried voice around midnight while banging a tin bowl with a spoon”), what kind of illnesses Real cats tend to get (impatient legs, flypaper, sitting and hiccupping gently...), training and disciplining the Real cat (“You think it's the cat turning up obediently at the back door at ten o'clock on the dot for its dinner. From the cat's point, a blob on legs has been trained to take a tin out of the fridge every night.”), and much more.

Pratchett uses his witty style to analyze cat quirks and provide insights into the interaction between humans and their feline overlords. If you’ve ever worried about your cat’s health after you found it eating grass, or seen a pretty pattern of pawmarks in what must’ve once been wet cement, or wondered what the deal with the Schrodinger Cat really is, then you’ll know exactly what the author is talking about and where he is coming from; the observations made in the book might not be groundbreaking, but they will repeatedly bring a knowing smile to your face.

So if you have ever owned a cat (or rather been owned by a cat), then the content of this book is very likely to tickle your fancy. But if you’re not a cat person and haven’t been around cats much, then the book probably won’t appeal to you as much; you might be amused by some of the bits here and there, but you may or may not be able to actually connect to the content. In short, The Unadulterated Cat is a fun, light read and will be a delight for cat owners/lovers who will certainly find their pets described in the lines of this book.

- By Sameen Amer

The Express Tribune - 11th June, 2011

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