Back in 2019, I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing a lovely anthology of writings about dogs from Notting Hill Editions. It was a real treat to read, particularly as I am a huge animal lover; so I was really delighted to find out that they were issuing a sister volume to that one in the form of “On Cats”, which was released earlier this month. The book, which is edited by Suzy Robinson, comes with an introduction by Margaret Atwood and contains photographic illustrations of lovely moggies by Elliot Ross; and as it’s one of NHE’s lovely clothbound hardback editions, it’s a thing of great beauty in its own right.

Atwood’s introduction, exploring her own relationship with the cats of her life, is lovely enough to start with; and the range of authors featured is wide and impressive. There’s Tove Jansson turning up again (she was in the Ghosts anthology I wrote about recently); this time with as piece from “The Summer Book”, rather than anything Moomin. Ernest Hemingway appears with a letter to his ex-wife, updating her on the amount of cats he owns; Ring Lardner worries about the tendency of cats to produce so many kittens; Edward Gorey explores the topic of writers and their cats; and Bohumil Hrabal goes down the same route as Lardner. It’s worth pointing out that the life of a cat is not always easy, and the many kittens they produce are not always destined to make it through to a happy adulthood. The book doesn’t shy away from these darker aspects, so be aware of this if you’re sensitive about cat fates…

The roll-call of amazing authors continues, however! The extract from Rebecca West‘s “Why My Mother was Frightened of Cats” was a particular stand-out for me, relating her long experience alongside her cat Pounce; a piece from Muriel Spark‘s “Robinson” (which I wrote about here) reminded me just what a wonderful author she was; Ursula Le Guin takes a different angle on things, exploring life from the point of view of the cat Pard, relating his ‘life so far’, which is very entertaining; and Caitlin Moran tackles the passing of a family pet, how devastating that can be, and just how attached we get to the animals who share our lives.

If you have, or have had, small children in your life, you may well have spent time reading the Mog books to your offspring; mine were particularly fond of them, although less than happy with the final book in which Mog crosses the rainbow bridge to that great cattery in the sky… A piece by Naomi Fry examining the Mog books is particularly interesting, and I did love this little aside:

As any feline lover knows, all happy cats are alike, but each unhappy cat is unhappy in its own way…

Other authors include Keats, Guy de Maupassant and even Nikola Tesla – this really is a book full of riches. As I may have mentioned before, Mr. Kaggsy and I briefly had a cat pass through our lives in our early days together; we called him Pushkin and regarded him as a real free spirit. Although dogs are pretty much domesticated, I always feel that cats have an independence, only really tolerating being with us much of the time. This beautiful anthology is a wonderful exploration of the feline race, their relationship to humans and how they affect our lives; and it’s a lovely, occasionally sad, read from start to finish. Highly recommended for the cat lover in your life! 😀

*****

November is Margaret Atwood Reading Month, hosted by Buried in Print, and despite my best intentions, I don’t think I will get to one of her novels. But as this book has a lovely introduction by her, I think I will count this! 😀