By Susan Finden
Simon & Schuster UK - Nonfiction/Memoir
I knew nothing about this particular cat of British "national celebrity" but saw the book at a reasonable price in a Tesco and, being a cat fanatic, decided it would be a fun vacation read. The subtitle gives you a good idea of Casper's favorite antic, riding on the No. 3 bus around Plymouth in England, on regular 11-mile journeys.
Casper was particular about bus lines and drivers and he regularly waited politely in the queues to board the bus, where he would nap or watch the passing scenery. Eventually, Casper become a favorite of both passengers - even some with allergies - and drivers of the First bus line. Because his story spread by word of mouth and then through the news, Casper became so well known that he became the bus line's mascot. Drivers and passengers did their best to see that Casper returned safely to the bus stop across from his home.
Casper the Commuting Cat tells about author Finden's history of cat ownership and love of cats, how Casper came to join her family and why he may have been prone to straying so far, as well as details of his rise to fame. It also tells about his tragic death, which is so sad I was really glad the cover blurb gave fair warning.
What I liked about Casper the Commuting Cat:
I liked reading about Casper's adventures and loved the photos of Casper and the author's other cats. I was also very impressed with the author's commitment to give older, unwanted cats homes rather than choosing the adorable kittens that are easy to place. In general, the book was a little awkwardly written but entertaining.
What I disliked about Casper the Commuting Cat:
The author is rather adamant about the fact that most cats simply cannot be convinced to stay indoors. I disagree. Provided plenty of playtime and attention, I've found that many cats are quite satisfied to stay indoors -- some are even afraid of the outdoors.
Please bear in mind that I used to have exactly the same mentality! I've had a big change of heart in recent years. Our little Sunshine was an indoor-outdoor cat for a time, simply because she felt obligated to go through a door if it was opened (and I thought I was required to let her do so). Spooky was always insistent about going out (my fault - I introduced her to the outdoors) and was injured not once but several times.
Eventually, Sunshine decided the Great Outdoors was scary and not worth the trouble. Both Sunshine's resistance to the outdoors and Spooky's injuries (two of them very serious) convinced me I needed to alter the way I looked at caring for valued pets. We decided in advance that our next cats would be indoors-only, after Miss Spooky's death. Fiona has been a little challenging, occasionally sneaking out but frightened enough of the unknown that she's never gone more than a few feet from the door. Isabel is simply curious and will look outside but bolt away from the door when I walk in or out.
Casper was apparently determined to go outside -- to the point of breaking windows and cat doors, so it's understandable that the author let him out when she left for work. If the alternative is frequently replacing broken windows, what do you do? But, I was frustrated that she was so insistent that most cats can't be kept indoors. She also said it's impossible to humanely restrain them outside. While I wouldn't do it myself, I've seen a cat humanely restrained in a fenced yard. She had a leash attached to a wire that ran the breadth of her yard. I would never restrain a cat in a yard with no fence, but I thought that was a brilliant idea and the cat seemed content. We saw that particular feline when we were house-hunting.
A mild sort-of rant:
Cats are vulnerable little creatures. Besides automobiles, there are other animals and humans who will harm cats, poisons they can get into, places they can get stuck, etc. It's not unusual for a small cat to curl up under the hood of a car, next to a warm engine. Car engines can be death traps. A lot of people think the new-fangled "catio" concept (enclosed patios specifically for cats, with things to climb on and play with, but screens to let in outdoor smells) are silly. But, if you truly love a pet and can afford such a thing? I think they're a terrific concept. I can't. But, if I had the money, I'd have a catio built for my little beasties, or a little playroom built into my garage. Having pets spayed or neutered also keeps them closer to home and happier, as well as keeping the unwanted pet population down, so I'm a huge advocate of spaying and neutering.
~~End of rant
The bottom line:
I enjoyed reading Casper the Commuting Cat, but it's not a favorite pet memoir because I am so strongly opposed to the author's opinion that a cat's desire to roam cannot be overcome. I just don't think that's necessarily true. Some cats are difficult to restrain but I don't think it's good to advocate giving them an option. I do, however, understand that Casper was an older cat who was set in his ways and it's certainly true that I have to work to keep my own little gals entertained. I've found that if you give them plenty of exercise and keep them well-fed, they're perfectly happy to "hunt" stuffed toys, a bird on a stick, a laser. It's the joy of the chase that they love if they're not hungry. Good reason to keep them indoors, away from our rapidly-dwindling songbird population.
A side note:
My hometown in Oklahoma has leash laws that are imposed on both dogs and cats. I was surprised when I found that out, but I think it's an excellent idea. Cats can do damage to property (particularly gardens - we've had a bit of trouble with neighborhood cats deciding our kitchen garden makes a lovely litter box) and they have a natural instinct to hunt. Running loose is also hazardous to their health. I'm impressed with my hometown.
In other news:
Well, actually, there is none. I'm in a mood to whip out reviews, so this is the third post I've written, today. Monday is a day off from my exercise program, so I suppose I'll get quieter as the week progresses and Rachel (our fearless exercise leader) slowly tries to kill me. I'm just going to go ahead and set this one to post mid-morning on Tuesday.
What's up with you? Read anything brilliant, lately?
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