Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live with one of the world’s greatest spiritual teachers? Well, wonder no more! In The Dalai Lama’s Cat, a novel by David Michie, a sassy Himalayan gives us a cat’s eye view of life in the inner sanctum of His Holiness’s household. True to feline nature, the curious cat soaks up the teachings that take place when visitors – everyone from Hollywood celebrities and self help gurus to philanthropists and royalty – seek an audience with the Dalai Lama. To be sure, life is never dull when you’re the Dalai Lama’s cat!
The Buddhist wisdom is artfully interwoven with entertaining tales of a cat just being a cat…getting into mischief, making the most of every opportunity, and purring her way into the hearts of all who meet her. One would expect no less of any feline, let alone one who spends every morning curled up with the Dalai Lama while he meditates.
The Dalai Lama’s cat, a.k.a. Mousie-Tung, The Snow Lion of Jokhang, His Holiness’s Cat (HHC), The Bodhicatva, and “The Most Beautiful Creature That Ever Lived,” is so charming, funny, wise and witty that it’s hard to imagine anyone who wouldn’t love her. She even shares her most embarrassing moments for the sake of giving us a good laugh, which is something most dignified felines wouldn’t dream of doing! But the Dalai Lama’s cat is no ordinary feline, and she never lets us forget.
She makes no apologies for eavesdropping on the conversations between the Dalai Lama and his guests, and she puts a uniquely feline spin on the basic Buddhist principles she overhears. Through the Dalai Lama’s cat we learn about concepts such as karma, mindfulness, enlightenment, compassion, and the meaning of life.
The mark of any good novel, at least for me, is that it captures my attention on page one and compels me to keep turning pages despite other distractions and obligations. I read this book in two days because I just couldn’t put it down. And when I finished, I found myself wanting more. You really can’t ask for more from a good book, can you?
When a tiny homeless kitten was just a wee lad of three weeks, he developed a terrible eye infection. His eyes were surgically removed to save his life, but that was not the biggest obstacle the brave little kitty would face. Finding a forever home for a blind kitten is a daunting task, and his fate seemed all but sealed. Luckily, he met a kind woman named Gwen who knew at once that she loved this plucky little ball of fur despite his handicap. She took him home and named him Homer.
That decision proved to be life-changing for Homer and for Gwen, as this spirited kitty who didn’t know he was different has taught Gwen many things. Among them, that “love isn’t something you see with your eyes.” Gwen wrote a book about her life-changing decision to adopt the little blind kitten no one wanted, and Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat became a national bestseller. It’s a wonderful book that would make a great Christmas gift for a cat lover, and Gwen gives 10% of her royalties to charities that serve blind cats. Homer graciously agreed to an interview so our readers could get to know a little more about him. You can also follow Homer on Facebook!
JW: Why does your Mom call you a Wonder Cat?
Homer: Because of how amazing I am! ;-p Seriously though, nobody ever expected a blind cat like me to be able to do much. So the fact that I can do everything any other cat can do— and even some things they can’t—makes mom say that I’m a real wonder!
What are some of the challenges you face not being able to see?
It takes me a little longer to learn my way around new rooms (although once I learn where everything is, I never forget!), and if my mom leaves something like a pair of shoes lying around, I usually trip over them. Mom says I force her to be neat, which is a good thing! I used to be more startled by loud noises if I didn’t know where they were coming from, but my mom always made me feel very safe and secure. Loud noises haven’t scared me much since I was a kitten.
If you could have your sight for just one day, what would you most like to see?
I’d most like to see the faces of everyone in my family. I know what they look like in my head, but not what they really look like.
Our pets inspire and enlighten us in so many ways. They teach us important life lessons, and their very presence can help us overcome our struggles and bring about positive changes. Thus it should come as no surprise that countless pet owners with a story to tell have written books about their four legged friends. Moreover, the public is lapping up these heartfelt tales, and pet memoirs are dominating the publishing world like never before.
“The entire book industry has gone to the dogs,” said Diane Herbst in Newsweek. Books supposedly penned by the pets themselves are also barking and meowing their way onto bestseller lists in unprecedented numbers! These first person pet memoirs have effectively created brand new genres – they’re called “dogoirs” and “catoirs.”
How did the pet memoir trend start?
In the past, “dog books didn’t get on national bestseller lists,” said Publishers Weekly senior editor Dick Donahue. “That’s something we can credit Marley with.” He’s referring of course to the dogoir Marley & Me, John Grogan’s account of his family’s relationship with a mischievous yellow lab.
First published in 2005, the book went on to sell more than 6 million copies and was made into a movie starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. After the popularity of Marley, “People came out of the woodwork with their own dog stories,” said Susan Canavan, executive editor of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
As a writer, books hold a special appeal to me. In a bookstore, I become the proverbial ‘kid in a candy store’ and can’t wait to sample them all. I love the feel of holding a book in my hands, love the way they smell and how the words look on the printed page, which is why I’ll probably never get a Kindle; it’s just not the same.
You can imagine my excitement then, the day Deborah Barnes’ The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey: A Journey of the Extraordinarily Ordinary arrived in my mailbox. I’d read about this book on other cat lover’s blogs and have gotten to know the author through her own blog. My anticipation swelled as I opened the package and took out the book, which was wrapped in leopard print paper and fastened with a custom-made seal. The high gloss cover was simply breathtaking. Zee, a handsome Maine Coon mancat and Zoey, an exotic Bengal, appeared so lifelike that I half expected them to leap into my arms.
Opening the book, I discovered leopard spotted inside covers front and back, and a matching bookmark. Leafing through it, I saw enchanting artwork, charming page borders with butterflies and dragonflies, and lots of beautiful photographs of cats, dogs…and KITTENS! Oh my. I was already smitten with the book, and hadn’t read a single word! I knew then that if the words –the ‘meat’ of any book to be sure – were even half as lovely as the visual presentation, it would be a memorable reading experience.
I was not disappointed. The Chronicles of Zee & Zoey is many different things all rolled into one delightful book. At its core is the touching ‘Romeo and Juliet-inspired’ love story between two unique and extraordinary breeds. The book follows the feline pair from the moment they meet and become inseparable, through the trials and tribulations of accidental kittens and the separation this creates. Unlike the Shakespearean tragedy, however, this love story has a happy ending as Zee and Zoey reunite once their four kittens are grown.
Speaking of kittens, the book also presents an honest look at what raising a litter of them entails, with chapters devoted to their first 8 weeks– from teeny tiny babies with their eyes shut tight, to rambunctious kittens capable of mass destruction in the blink of an eye. I particularly enjoyed these chapters because they brought back fond memories of a time I helped a friend with his kittens. Deb describes the ‘chaos that is kittens’ so well, and it’s clear that although these demanding little beings were not always sugar and spice, she loves them wholeheartedly. “Most people would joke that any cat living with me, had won the cat lottery as far as homes go,” she writes. After reading her book, I completely agree.
It’s a known fact: kids and animals go hand-in-paw, and fiction books that feature pets are great fun. Children’s books that include animal characters are always a hit with kids. Here are a few favorites that my own kids love and enjoy.
The Bunnicula books, written by James Howe in collaboration with other authors features a pet vampire rabbit named Bunnicula, a mystery-solving cat named Chester and a lovable sheepdog named Harold, along with various other animal characters. The adventures of these precocious pets are played out in several short chapter books that are great read-alone books or read-together choices, starting with the first – Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery.
My friends and family all know that I’m crazy about cats. As a result, I’ve been given my fair share of cat gifts over the years. I love them all (well, most of them) but being a writer my favorite gifts, paws down, are the cat books. Since the gift giving season is upon us, I thought this might be a good time to compile a list of some of my favorite books about cats. If you have a cat lover on your gift list, any one of these great cat books will please them. And if you just want to treat yourself to a good read, that’s fine too!
The Cat Who Came for Christmas, by Cleveland Amory. This classic cat book is a true tale of how the author rescued a bedraggled stray cat that was so dirty, he didn’t even know what color it was. After a bath, a beautiful, pure white cat emerged, and was christened Polar Bear. In a rambling, roundabout way, Mr. Armory recounts their first eventful year together. First published in 1987, this book was on the New York Times bestseller list for years, and is still one of my all-time favorites.
The Cat and the Curmudgeon, also by Cleveland Amory, is the second of three books about Polar Bear. It continues the story of their relationship with humorous and heartwarming tales, including visits to interesting places and Polar Bear’s “catitude” on his newfound celebrity status. I didn’t find it as endearing as the first book, but it’s still a fun read that all cat lovers would enjoy.
Catwings, by Ursula K. Le Guin, is billed as a children’s book (for ages 7 to 10) but I think cat fans of all ages will love it. Indeed, who could resist a delightful tale about four wee kittens with wings? The book chronicles the adventures of the kittens as they fly away from their dangerous city neighborhood in search of a safer place where they can (and do) live happily ever after. Catwings had three sequels, making up a series called the The Catwings Collection.
All I need to Know I Learned From My Cat, by Suzy Becker, is one of the funniest cat books I’ve ever read. It’s a collection of hilarious life lessons dispensed by Binky, a quirky feline with a viewpoint that every cat owner will instantly recognize as “truth.” Such as, help with the crossword (i.e., sit on top of it), recycle (dig in the garbage), and finally, try not to obsess about cholesterol (stick your face in an ice cream carton). Binky’s sage advice is accompanied by super-cute illustrations. This bestselling book was first published in 1990 but there is a new edition with additional wisdom. One anonymous reviewer on Amazon said it best: “It’s true that you can learn all you need to know from your cat because, after all, if your cat doesn’t know it, it probably isn’t worth knowing.”
The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats, by psychoanalyst Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, explores nine basic emotions (narcissism, love, contentment, attachment, jealousy, fear, anger, curiosity and playfulness) using observations of his own five cats as examples. I don’t believe there is any real “proof” that his explanations correlate to how cats really feel, why they do certain things or what they are thinking when they do them, but I did find this book interesting and entertaining.
Natural Health for Dogs and Cats by veterinarian Richard H. Pitcairn and his wife Susan, is a terrific resource for animal lovers who are interested in taking a more holistic approach to pet care. The book has chapters devoted to important issues such as how to choose a healthy animal, creating a healthier environment for your pet, responsible pet ownership, how to give your pet a checkup, and what to do in emergencies. It also has an in-depth, alphabetical listing of common pet ailments and detailed information on holistic and alternative therapies. (Please remember that while books can be a great help in expanding your knowledge of pets, you should always see your vet if they are sick or injured).
101 Favorite Cat Poems is a nice anthology of poetry by John Keats, Emily Dickinson, William Blake and other poets who show that they clearly understand the feline psyche. Another wonderful book of cat poems is Purr, by James Servin, featuring whimsical poems that are a true reflection of life with cats.
Cat books make great gifts for a number of reasons: they’re easy to wrap and easy to ship to your faraway friends, they fit nicely into Christmas stockings or under the tree, and last but certainly not least, they’re just so much fun to read!
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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.