Pros: Some useful information; low price
Cons: More whimsical than useful
Rating: 2 out of 5
First published 8/20/2001
Oddly enough, this small (and I do mean small – 31 tiny pages, mostly photos) booklet on kittens was written in the same year and published by the same company as the last kitten book I reviewed. Also oddly, it has all of the opposite problems of the last book. Perhaps if someone had taken the best aspects of each author and fused them into one person, we’d have ended up with a good book on kittens. I guess that’s a lot of work to go through for a $4 book though, huh?
This is a tiny little book – $2.49 at my local pet store. I guess I shouldn’t expect much for that much money. To start with the aesthetics, the kitten & cat photos in this book are much more “posed” than in the last book I reviewed, with a tendency toward the sickly-sweet.
There’s a one-page introduction which tells us that historians don’t know where the first domestic cat came from (India? Africa? Asia?). Last I knew people were pretty certain that the domestic cat was descended from the African wild cat. If you’re prone to watching nature shows on the Animal Planet channel you may have seen this cat once – it looks like a housecat, walking nonchalantly around the wild African plains in the company of lions and wildebeest. I’ll try to give this author the benefit of the doubt and assume that relative historical certainty came after her publication date. (Or who knows – maybe these people on these nature shows are exaggerating their certainties. I guess anything’s possible.)
The next section covers selection and purchase of your new kitten. This author manages to convey the fact that “A barn or alley cat makes a wonderful and hardy pet,” nicely summing up the advantages of getting one (low cost, easy to find), without getting condescending and annoyingly moralistic like the author of “Kittens as a New Pet.” Then follows brief descriptions of some of the purebreds: Persians, Siamese, Abyssinian, Domestic Shorthair, Himalayans, Maine Coon Cats. These paragraphs do convey the color and coat differences between the breeds; otherwise the descriptions are more whimsical than useful. For instance, the Siamese description says that they like to “chatter,” and says that they are reputed to be the smartest of all cats. From my experience Siamese actually sound like crying babies (very unnerving if you aren’t expecting it), and, well, there are a number of particularly intelligent breeds – any designation of “smartest” is probably highly subjective at best.
There’s a little information on selecting your kitten. There’s the difference between a purebred sold as “show quality” and a purebred sold as a pet. (The author of that other book, “Kittens as a New Pet,” would have you believe that if you buy a purebred you pretty much have to breed it. This isn’t the case at all. In fact, many breeders will only sell pet-quality purebreds, and require that you have them spayed and neutered as part of the contract you sign when you buy them.)
There are a few hints for how to tell if the kitten is healthy, and the minimum age at which you should buy a kitten. (Note: both kitten books talk about wanting the kitten to be at least around 7 or 8 weeks old. Many breeders wait until they’re more like 10-14 weeks old.) There’s some information on the differences between males and females. The interesting part to me is that although it says that each kitten has its own personality and that you really can’t generalize, it says that the stereotype is for males to be more active and females to be more docile. This is the opposite of my experience – at least when you’re talking about neutered males and spayed females. The author also gives a few suggestions about the age at which cats are spayed and neutered.
The book suggests transporting your kitten in a box or basket. That might lead to more traditional views of kittens (sweetly snuggled in a blanket in a basket, or scratching at their shoebox), but companies make cat carriers for a reason. They’re sturdier; you don’t want your kitten bolting from its basket in a moment of fear and running away; and many carriers have ways for the cat to look out of the carrier, which in my experience often makes them less nervous. There are also some pretty basic suggestions in here about having a cat bed, toys, and catnip available.
Feeding & Housebreaking
There’s a page each on feeding and housebreaking. The feeding hints are fairly generic, along the “feed them cat food, not something silly like vegetables” variety. The housebreaking hints are also pretty simple, since, as the author points out, the mother should have done most of the work for you here.
Grooming & Health
Again, nothing spectacular or unusual in the grooming section. Longhairs need to be brushed every day; only bathe a cat when necessary; keep claws trimmed and have scratching posts around. That sort of thing. At least there is a paragraph on picking your cat up properly, for those who’ve never done it before. The health section is a little more useful – it gives a few symptoms like constipation and diarrhea, and tells you under what circumstances you should be worried enough to take your cat to the vet. It also lists a couple of the cat illnesses out there, and the subject of fleas (although it only covers sprays and flea collars, not any of the other types of flea preparations out there).
Training & Shows
I admit, I do kind of find myself wondering why such a short book on kittens tells you how to teach your kitten to sit, fetch, and walk on a leash. A part of me really does wonder, if someone wants that out of their cat, why they didn’t get a dog instead. Oh well. Maybe someone will find this useful. At least there’s a paragraph on teaching your cats to behave, with some simple but useful guidelines. There’s also a page on showing cats – it answers a few simple questions, like whether your kitten needs to be registered to enter a show, how you register your kitten, the difference between a pedigree and registration, how you enter a show, and what preparations you need to make. Again, however, this seems like an odd choice regarding space expenditure in such a small book; I daresay most people shopping for a book on kittens don’t plan to raise show cats.
This book glosses over or omits important information and some of the information is more whimsical than useful or accurate. Some of the subjects it chooses to address (training, showing) are neither subjects that can be remotely adequately covered in two pages, nor subjects that your average purchaser of a very first kitten tends to be overly concerned with.