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Cats can be such independent pets, yet they are bound to need proper care just like any other living creature, especially now that they seem to be living longer lives. Nearly ten years ago I adopted a sixteen-year-old cat when I moved into her house, and she lived for another four years. When I eventually had to have her put to sleep, I was horrified to be told by the vet that one of her kidneys was only the size of a baked bean. Not long after that I acquired a rescue kitten, and I decided that it would be a good idea to buy a book about cat care as I had realised how little I knew. The Catlopaedia is a slim volume, but its 206 pages are crammed with information covering everything from breeds to diseases.
This is obviously a reference book that doesn't need to be read from cover to cover, but the index allows you to find what you're looking for if the table of contents doesn't (although it will give you a good idea). I wasn't interested in the first chapter on breeds at all, and five years later my cat has not yet had any serious illnesses. On the other hand, the chapter on feeding is an invaluable one, and advice on behavioural problems can also be a boon. Some of the information seems rather obvious, but to someone having a cat for the first time it might not be. I know, for example, that it's not right to turn a cat out for the night, but I've heard of people that still insist on doing so. Our cat flap is always left open.
The style of the writing is very straightforward, making the text easily readable. There is a glossary in one of the appendices that gives meanings of terms a vet might use. In each chapter, the text is broken into small chunks, each of which has a subheading in bold, making it easy to find exactly what you're looking for. Sometimes the subheadings take the form of questions, as in Chapter 8 on Signs and Symptoms of Illness, where we have What if my cat is incontinent? Or What if my cat has bad breath?
Throughout the Catlopaedia there are diagrams, tables and illustrations that make the information much easier to absorb. Chapter 7 on Anatomy and physiology has labelled diagrams on almost every page, showing exactly where the alveolus or the metacarpel pad are found. Chapter 9 on Diseases affecting cats has several tables where it is particularly easy to find the names of diseases, capitalised and listed in alphabetical order, their definition and then where to find further information on each one in the book. If this all sounds a little too serious for your liking, don't worry. Chapter 4 on Training and the correction of behaviour problems contains a few drawings that ought to have you chuckling. One of them shows a smiling puss that has just bitten a good-sized piece off a house plant; another has a cat curled up in an armchair with a "Do not disturb" notice on her tail while a mouse on the floor looks as pleased as punch.
My one criticism of the book is that the font is very small, especially in the tables, and I can foresee that if my cat lives to the ripe old age of twenty I shall need a magnifying glass to read the book by then. If a larger font had been used, however, the book would have been a heavier tome and probably a more expensive one. As it is, authors J.M. Evans and Kay White have done an excellent job of packing everything a cat owner could wish to know into the Catlopaedia. Evans is himself a veterinary surgeon, while White is a journalist and author.
I definitely recommend the Catlopaedia, whether you are about to acquire your very first kitten or whether you are a seasoned cat lover with several feline members in your family.
Here is a list of the topics covered by the eleven chapters and two appendices:
Chapter 1 Breeds
Chapter 2 Cat management
Chapter 3 Motivation and Intelligence
Chapter 4 Training and the correction of behavioural problems
Chapter 5 Dos and don'ts
Chapter 6 Feeding
Chapter 7 Anatomy and physiology
Chapter 8 Signs and symptoms of illness
Chapter 9 Diseases affecting cats
Chapter 10 First aid and nursing
Chapter 11 Further useful information
Appendix I Glossary - What did the veterinary surgeon mean?
Appendix II Index of diseases and conditions
by J.M. Evans and Kay White
Paperback, 206 pages
Ringpress Books Ltd, 2006
Price £9.99 (Amazon £6.49)