Saturday, September 29, 2012

Cat Catalog: The Ultimate Cat Book

1976, possibly first paperback edition, from Workman Publishing
Edited by Judy Fireman
Cat Catalog: The Ultimate Cat Book
Bought newish for $6.95
Very worn paperback

I remember getting this book when I was 8 or 9 and not understanding all of it (especially the bits about sex), but enjoying it because I loved cats and then lived with two.  I haven't had a cat since leaving home at 20, never feeling rooted enough to get one, but I still like cats and hope to have one or two when I retire, if not sooner.  (I no longer want to be an old lady with a dozen cats though.)

About a fourth of the book, Chapters VI through X (with headings like "The Healthy Cat"), seems like a feline version of Our Bodies, Ourselves.  There's also information about cats in history, myth, and pop culture, as well as methods for training and breeding cats.  The last chapter, "The Consuming Cat," seems skimpy, as if pet product merchandizing was still in its infancy.

This is a very '70s book, from its front cover painting of a giant cat hovering over the landscape to the discussions of astrology, psychology, and acupuncture for your cat.  The parts on catnip show the era's casual attitude towards drugs.  The humorous essay on cats sleeping in a pyramid was for years my main impression of "pyramid power."  Also, "Oriental" was still being used as a term for "Asian," which is rarely the case these days.  And finally, there is a story of Morris being interviewed by Gene Shalit.  You can't get much more 1970s than that!

This was also of course decades before LOLcats, but not that long before one sentence got very ironic.  After a lament that comics starring cats weren't as popular as in the first half of the century, with Snoopy the current most notable comics animal, the writer says, "But we can console ourselves, for some day another great cat comic will arrive on the scene."  Some might disagree about whether Garfield is great, but there's no question that the comic, which debuted two years after this book came out, is very popular.  (The world's most widely syndicated.)

It's still a fun book but would've been better with some color photos, especially in the chapter on breeds.  Also the book could've used tighter editing, to avoid redundancies, as with the multiple discussions of the Black Plague.  Still, I imagine getting all of these contributions, some from such celebrities as Edith Head, Adlai Stevenson, and Helen Gurley Brown, not to mention all the dead writers who are quoted, must've been like, well, herding cats.

I've now done more posts for the 1970s than any other decade, but I'm pretty sure that the 1980s will break that record.

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