Published By: Algonquin Books
Length: 285 pp.
Reason for Reading: I am a cat fanatic and loved the author's first book.
Brief Summary: In the third memoir about his pets, Bob Tarte focuses on the cats that have invaded his home and heart. The Tartes have 6 cats, all of whom were rescued in some way. The author begins by describing a cat who charmed him more than most and then goes back to describe how each of the cats entered his family. Although they have many other pets, the birds take a backseat in this book. But, if you've read either of his other books, you'll appreciate the occasional references to them.
A side note: The author wrote to me and asked if I'd be willing to review this book. I generally try to avoid accepting books directly from authors, but I absolutely loved Enslaved by Ducks and the fact that the book is about cats would have probably been enough to sway me.
What I loved about Kitty Cornered:
I found myself relating to the author's joys and frustrations with cat ownership. The six cats are named Agnes, Frannie, Lucy, Maynard, Moobie and Tina. He talks about their individual personalities, how they interact with each other and how each cat became a part of the family plus loads of anecdotes about how the Tartes have had to alter their lives to fit cats into the equation. In the front of the book, the author has nicely provided a schematic of the main floor of his home that includes labels showing such things as the location of an inconveniently-placed litterbox, the chair that has been commandeered by one of the cats, the stairs where another routinely trips the author, etc.
There is also a "Cats of Characters" list. Haha. There's an example of the author's sense of humor, for you. Since there are so many cats and the house is almost a character in and of itself, both the floor plan and descriptions of the cats are very helpful. I routinely flipped back to remind myself which cat was which, although eventually you do get to know them as individuals and the cast reference is no longer necessary.
Kitty Cornered is heartwarming and lively. The author acknowledges the intelligence of cats and beautifully describes their individual personalities with affection and humor. Although he sometimes longs for them to behave just a little different, he respects their personalities. The story does jump backward in time after describing Frannie's arrival, but it's handled well. By the time you've gotten to know Frannie, you'll be eager to hear how Bob and his wife Linda ended up with so many cats in the first place.
Our cats have all been rescues. Miss Spooky came from the Humane Society; Sunshine, aka "Shiny", was a stray who was foisted on us by my eldest son's teacher; Fiona was fostered and displayed at a Petsmart (where we like to say she found and adopted us); and, Isabel was dumped outside our veterinary clinic and held for me by one of the vet techs, who knew I wanted a companion for Fiona.
Bob Tarte's cats came to him in similar fashion. One of them was rejected by his owner's boyfriend, which is exactly what happened to Fiona. She was found by a highway, fostered, adopted, unadopted because of a boyfriend, fostered again, and then adopted us. So, it's only natural that I found myself relating to Bob's stories and appreciating his deep compassion for the cats in his life.
What I disliked about Kitty Cornered:
I mentioned in my review of Enslaved by Ducks that the author's sense of humor occasionally got on my nerves. He's a pretty silly guy and writes very much like I used to write (my own sense of humor actually irritates me -- weird, but true). This time, I didn't ever feel like I needed to set the book aside to take a break from it, but I still did find his sense of humor a little overwhelming. That is a very minor complaint, though. The cat stories are too enjoyable to let such a little thing turn me off.
Another frustration -- something that has only become a frustration in recent years -- is the fact that the author's cats are indoor/outdoor pets. Spooky and Sunshine were both allowed outdoors because I was raised with cats that spent a great deal of their time outside. However, Shiny eventually decided the outdoor world was too frightening, while Miss Spooky insisted on outdoor time to the end of her days and was, in fact, injured several times. Spooky's injuries were enough to convince me that cats belong indoors. It didn't occur to me, as a younger pet owner, that cats can be perfectly happy indoors. Now, I'm rather opinionated about the need to keep cats indoors and dogs behind fences for the safety of both.
Update: The author has noted the fact that his cats are now kept indoors, in a comment to this post. Wahoo! I'm very excited about that. Having fallen a little bit in love with his kitties, I'm thrilled to know that they're in a safer place and have adjusted nicely. Thanks for the update, Bob!
4/5 - Recommended especially to cat lovers, people who enjoy reading true tales about animals (pets or otherwise) and folks who like memoirs with a very light, entertaining writing style. Kitty Cornered will be released April 10, 2012.
I missed out on a great cat shot, today. Isabel and Fiona were curled up next to each other on my bed with Izzy's nose tucked under Fi's chin. Unfortunately, if the camera isn't handy there's no way I can capture them in any pose. The moment I rise they're awake and following me. Darn. Fiona at least satisfied my urge to snap by exploring the printer shelf. Good kitty.