BOOKS: The Cat Whisperer
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2013:
The Cat Whisperer:
Why Cats Do What They Do –
And How to Get Them to Do What You Want
by Mieshelle Nagelschneider
Random House (1745 Broadway, New York,
NY 10019), 2013. 297 pages, hardcover. $25.00.
Feline perceptions and responses differ far more from those of
humans than do the perceptions and responses of dogs. Thus, while most
dogs train humans to understand their needs relatively easily,
misunderstandings of cat behavior may be the most common reason why cats
who once had homes land in shelters.
Mieshelle Nagelschneider in The Cat Whisperer seeks to remedy
that situation. Nagelschneider is renowned for resolving spraying and
litterbox issues, which occupy much of the book. But most litterbox
issues can be resolved just by keeping the litterbox clean and keeping
it where cats feel comfortable using it. And, paradoxicaly, spraying,
fighting, and many other problems resulting from feline rivalry,
another of Nagelschneider’s major topics, can be reduced by adding
more cats to the household: while two cats may fight, larger numbers
often psychologically revert to kittenhood, becoming playmates and
sleeping in piles.
Nagelschneider usefully lectures against declawing, but omits
the simplest of solutions to cats clawing woodwork: if cats claw
doorway trim, let them. Replacing a $10 stick of trim now and then is
much easier and less costly than trying to change the behavior and
possibly redirecting it to furniture.
Want a cat to claw one doorway, but leave another alone? Use
varnished trim for the doorway that is to remain undamaged, with plain
softwood trim on the target doorway.
Most of Nagelschneider’s advice is more-or-less what one might
learn from anyone who has long had cats, and has spent some time
watching them. But Nagelschneider is far off in writing that “Meowing
is a form of communication that is mainly directed to us. Adult cats,”
she contends, “rarely choose vocalization to communicate with other
cats, and when they do it’s usually to communicate fear or aggressive
From barn cats in rural Quebec to street cats in Cairo to the
six still feral ex-basement cats in my own home, I have witnessed
countless cats who have never had or sought relationships with humans
using a considerable friendly vocabulary among each other––especially
when unaware that I am anywhere within possible earshot.