Annie, my golden-haired fluffball, was doing the whirling dervish. Spinning on her hind legs, she'd give a little hop, then pounce and smack something across the laminate floor.
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Which of her many toys was giving her such delight? A chip of bark from the firewood I'd just brought in.
I recently spent a couple of hours looking through dozens of books about cats. I'd started out wanting to check out the new "Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health" and ended up compiling a list of books that would make great gifts for cat people.
The "Merck/Merial Manual for Pet Health" by Cynthia M. Kahn and Scott Line comes from the same people who publish The "Merck Veterinary Handbook," a reference you will find on the bookshelves of most veterinarians. This new book, released in October, is for pet owners. The medical information is not dumbed down, but written in language a non-expert easily can understand.
This is a big, fat volume that deals with dogs as well as cats. There even are sections on ferrets and other popular pets.
"The Everything Cat Book" by Karen Leigh Davis is a new (2006) and improved edition of a popular book in the Everything Series. Covering cat behavior and care, it is a fact-filled yet readable primer ideal for people new to the world of cats.
The "ASPCA Complete Guide to Cats" by James Richards covers all the basics and goes a bit beyond. I'd choose it for the person who has some experience with cats.
My second choice for that person would be "Cat Care" by Wendy Christensen and the Staff of the Humane Society of America. Why second place? It isn't as comprehensive, focusing more on cat care and less on behavior.
"Your Aging Cat" by Amy D. Shojai is a well-written guide for the person whose cat is upwards of 8 years old. Old age crept up on my 17-year-old Clementine without my fully realizing what was happening. I wish I'd had this book early on. It would have made me more aware and Clem more comfortable.
"Cat Watching" by Desmond Morris is just plain fun. Sub-titled "Why cats purr and everything else you ever wanted to know," it is a compilation of short, informative chapters that explain much about what makes a cat a cat. The hazard of giving this book to a friend or family member is that the person will constantly be saying, "Hey, did you know that ... ?"
Good news and good work
In the past 20 years, the number of animals being killed in American animal shelters has dropped from 17 million to less than 4 million a year. It didn't just happen. It is the result of spaying and neutering to rein in the runaway breeding that was producing many more animals than there were homes for them. It's also the result of people choosing to adopt pets from shelters.
If you are thinking of making a tax-deductible, charitable contribution to a cause about which you care, here are three organizations worth considering:
Gastineau Humane Society, 7705 Glacier Hwy., Juneau, AK 99801. "The Gastineau Humane Society's mission is to eliminate cruelty and suffering to animals by promoting compassion and kindness toward domestic and companion animals."
Best Friends Animal Society, 5001 Angel Canyon Rd., Kanab, UT 84741. "Best Friends operates a low-cost spay/neuter program; sponsors a network of members in rescue, foster care and humane education; and works with humane groups nationwide to bring about a time when there will be No More Homeless Pets."
Alley Cat Allies, 7920 Norfolk Ave., Suite 600, Bethesda, MD 20814-2525. "Alley Cat Allies is dedicated to advocating for nonlethal methods to reduce outdoor cat populations."
Linda Daniel has spent her life in the company of cats, most of whom simply showed up at her door. She's a believer in spaying and neutering to reduce the number of homeless cats. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.