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How to Talk to Your Cat    by Jean Craighead George & Paul Meisel order for
How to Talk to Your Cat
by Jean Craighead George
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2003 (2000)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This picture book combines childlike feline illustrations by Paul Meisel with photographs of the author. It is a must read for catlovers, young and old. Jean Craighead George introduces it with the contradiction of cats, loners who can yet form loving relationships with humans. A brief history of the self domestication of Felis sylvestris follows, including its elevation to Egyptian godhood as Bast, and the evolution of Felis catus, which wooed us with cat talk.

The author then gives a primer on cat talk. Only cats initiate conversations, and they communicate with 'scent, touch, sound.' Jean Craighead George tells us that cat talk is 'body language. It is enchantment' and that a cat is all about free will. Two wonderful pages explain seven variations on Meow and all the appropriate responses to make to them. And then of course there is the purr, 'the witchery through which cats charm people.'

Other illustrated pages cover the meanings of tail, ear and whisker positions, and the author poses in an effective posture for saying 'Scram' to stranger cats; must try that one! She then shows us some ways in which humans can initiate a conversation with the cats who honor them by sharing their homes - through play - and gives a pictorial view of feline pathways through their 'luxurious world within your world.'

I've lived with generations of cats for a great many years now. I thought I knew it all but I still learned something from this delightful book. It makes the perfect gift for a child who has a cat at home, or is about to share their home with one, and can teach everyone in the household something about How to Talk to Your Cat.

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