"A new book by Janet Lembke is always a cause for celebration."—Sue Hubbell We share our lives, for better or worse, with a multitude of animals, white-tailed deer and white-tailed eagles, hens and wrens, frogs and guppies, and, last but hardly least, bugs and bacteria. For the most part, we drift along separately, with neither man nor animal affecting the other's way of life. Sometimes, however, we fall in love—as in the case of the cat in the title—or otherwise encounter our animal neighbors in ways that change both of us. Lembke challenges her readers to consider the idea that all creatures are conscious, with the ability to make choices, exercise awareness, and seek pleasure while shunning pain. Rarely has a book of natural history covered such a broad range of subjects, from the everyday bargains we make with our pets and other domestic creatures to descriptions of bungee-cord snail sex and the purpose of a honeybee's sting. Lembke explores the evolution of her subjects, and draws on literature and myth to paint gorgeous, wide-ranging portraits of everyday (and more unusual) encounters, such as that of a gardener and a groundhog, or a chicken egg and Augustus Caesar's wife. This is a sensitive and timely appraisal of how we treat the creatures we share our planet with—and how we ought to. It is a book that no lover of intelligent writing about the natural world will want to miss. 20 b/w illustrations.
The moral that natural historian Lembke (From Grass to Gardens) has learned from her observation of cat life "All purrs are not the same" evokes the three main themes of this short, sweet book: the complexities of animal and human behavior, the interactions between owner and pet and what modern civilization owes its domesticated and wild animals. What makes the book work is the author's ability to simplify complex topics such as the human genome project while presenting, in depth, the fascinating worlds of less complicated subjects: groundhogs, cottontail rabbits, carpenter bees, chickens, turtles, snails and, of course, cats. She also features a range of fascinating fellow animal lovers, such as Tommie, a "totally enamored turtle fan" who runs a one-man turtle rescue squad. Lembke provides careful observations of disparate elements of the natural world and convincingly argues that while there is "no basic difference" between human and animal capacities for suffering and pleasure, human beings are different in one important way. We have "the ability to reflect on what we do, the power to act humanely."