Loving, entertaining, clever, confounding . . . our precious pets enrich our lives, and attentive pet owners are always looking for more: more ways to understand them, decode their behavior, have a closer relationship or pay tribute. These new books offer wonderful ways to do just that, via pet psychology, inspiring stories, poetry and creative DIY.
With CatWise: America’s Favorite Cat Expert Answers Your Cat Behavior Questions, Pam Johnson-Bennett has created an informative, insightful go-to resource for current or aspiring cat owners. The author, a certified cat behaviorist for 30 years with eight bestsellers and a TV series under her belt, created the book to serve as an FAQ, but it’s also a work of advocacy. She writes, “[C]ats are often placed in a no-win situation. We . . . pick and choose what aspects of catness are acceptable, which usually means convenient—to us.” She urges readers to remember that, just like humans, cats are individuals. She also encourages readers to see cats’ more confounding behaviors as the problem-solving efforts they are, rather than attribute them to aloofness, spitefulness, etc. To wit, if your cat turns her back to you, she’s not being rude—it’s actually an expression of deep trust (i.e., she doesn’t have to keep a suspicious eye on you). Readers can choose sections of interest, specific questions (Why does my cat eat grass?), or read straight through from babyhood to the golden years. Whether readers are considering a new kitten or caring for a longtime feline companion, there’s much to learn from Johnson-Bennett’s patient, smart, encouraging expertise.
It’s also important for dog owners to resist preconceived notions and pay attention to individual personalities, as Victoria Stilwell explains in The Secret Language of Dogs: Unlocking the Canine Mind for a Happier Pet. The author, an accomplished trainer and host of the TV series “It’s Me or the Dog,” writes, “Like humans, dogs communicate consciously and unconsciously, using body and vocal signals that reflect what they are thinking and feeling.” Recognizing and responding to them (while remembering that doggy intent may not be the same as human interpretation) encourages a strong, happy relationship. The book covers everything from tone of voice (high = playful, low = serious) to the reason bitter spray won’t stop inappropriate chomping (bitterness receptors are on the back of dogs’ tongues, so they won’t taste it on a shoe). Photos and illustrations are helpful for deciphering body language. Throughout, Stilwell shares her knowledge while advocating for a consistent, loving approach to training and caring for dogs.
OLDIES BUT GOODIES
An adorable, fuzzy-headed senior dog named Susie turned out to be the key to unlocking Erin Stanton’s passion for helping senior dogs find forever homes. After she began co-parenting the pooch with husband Brandon Stanton, of Humans of New York fame, “Improving their lonely, vulnerable lives became my purpose,” she writes in Susie’s Senior Dogs: Heartwarming, Tail-Wagging Stories from the Social Media Sensation. Stanton realized that, like her husband, she could use social media to spur change, and it’s working: The Susie’s Senior Dogs Facebook page has 585,000-plus followers, and the eponymous nonprofit organization has helped arrange 500 adoptions of senior dogs. This book is sure to inspire more. It’s a charming collection of adoption stories, plus profiles of inspiring dog-centric sorts like a longtime city shelter volunteer and a rescue dog photographer. Photos abound, and the book is dotted with tips from Susie, who says, “Don’t be scared of old age. Great things still do happen.” She sure would know.
QUOTH THE FELINE BARD
Jennifer McCartney is a writer and humorist who struck a chord with her bestseller The Joy of Leaving Your Sh*t All Over the Place. Her new book, Poetry from Scratch: A Kitten’s Book of Verse, is a “collection of the best (and only) cat poetry in existence.” She discovered the collection in Milan, you see, where the owners of a century-old cat cafe had faithfully been transcribing the feline residents’ literary efforts. Now, everyone can enjoy poems like “The Rodent Not Taken” (“I took the one less fit and spry/And that has made all the difference.”) and “Ode to a Sunbeam.” There’s also beat poetry (“88 Lines About 44 Cats”), plus haiku and limericks. This is funny stuff for poets, cat lovers, poetic cats, catty poets and whoever else might appreciate a literarily inclined laugh.
ADORABLE CAT ABODES
DIY meets cat worship in Cat Castles: 20 Cardboard Habitats You Can Build Yourself, a how-to guide for creating fanciful and functional cat habitats. As Carin Oliver notes, although cats “are experts at relaxing,” they are “not great at arts and crafts. That’s where you come in.” Though it’s likely a curious cat will want to “help” when they see construction begin, that shouldn’t prove a hindrance, because Oliver’s instructions and diagrams are clear and easy to follow—and she devotes many pages to proper preparation via detailed materials lists, basic techniques and design tips. Projects include a castle, airplane, condo, nap tubes, couch and the especially hilarious and on-trend food truck. Lots of fun for budding builders—or those who just want to look at lots of photos of cats as they climb, hide, play and explore a variety of cardboard domiciles.
The cover of How to Keep a Pet Squirrel—a wide-eyed red squirrel on a trapeze—will inspire delight in those who see the furry tree-dwellers as cute . . . and stomach-clenching angst in those who consider them birdseed-stealing, wire-gnawing miscreants. More lively, witty illustrations from Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo) accompany the text, which Scheffler discovered while paging through a circa-1910 children’s encyclopedia. While the book isn’t actually advocating squirrel adoption, peaceful coexistence might feel more achievable after reading it. This would be a delightful gift for an animal lover, or a funny way to tweak someone who talks perhaps a bit too much about their ongoing battles with these resourceful rodents.