reviews

My Life in a Cat House; Gwen Cooper

My Life in a Cat House: Gwen Cooper
Genre: Nonfiction/pets
Published: 2018
Pages: 258

If you’re a cat lover…have you ever struggled to take your cats to the vet? Have you been simultaneously irritated and enamored with your fluffy friends at the same time? Have you ever been perplexed by a cat’s eating habits or wondered why you feel the need to let them rule your life? Gwen Cooper feels you, and she’s here to tell the stories of five different cats she’s owned and loved. From the frustrating to the funny, these cats and their “tales” will remind us all of the struggles and rewards of having pets.

Because the stories here are about the author’s life with her cats, I wondered how much I was actually going to get into My Life in a Cat House. The first story, starring adopting a finicky cat, started slow. As time passed, though, I found the stories to be relaxing and enjoyable…and hilarious and sweet.

Each chapter is its own story. They originated, I believe, as stories in Cooper’s Curl Up with a Cat Tale subscription series. We start with three stories, each about one of her “first generation” cats, that both succeed in telling a story and giving us kind of an “overview” of who that cat is. Homer seems to be the “star” of her life, as Cooper’s career took off with the book she wrote about him specifically. However, each cat has equal time. This gives readers a sense of who each cat truly is. There’s that “one cat,” Scarlett who refuses to take to Cooper. There’s the beautiful Vashti’s certain—artistic—talents in how she expresses her thoughts. There is Clayton’s desire to play fetch, Homer’s friendliness and adventurous spirit despite being blind, and Fanny’s food obsession. There are aloof sides to the cats, annoying sides, and sides that are just plain endearing.

Cooper does a great job of choosing story-worthy moments to write about as well, which are easy-to-read and makes one of the most relaxing books I’ve read in a long time. This is not an easy task. Just because you think your cat does something interesting doesn’t mean that readers won’t be easily bored, but the stories here were good picks. She is also always taking time to explain her cats’ behavior, sometimes to the point of crazy-cat-ladyness. One might wonder if she is truly an expert on her cat’s thoughts and feelings. But when paired with the context of the story, her reasoning actually kind of makes sense. The last story may have been a little deep for its own good, but it still has some interesting insights into cat behavior.

If I had to critique this book for one little thing, it’s because these stories were part of an email subscription, sometimes we get fed the same information a lot. Vashti’s namesake is explained several times, as is Homer’s blindness and Scarlett’s attitude problem. If an author is going to write a book out of stories she’s already written, they should give the reader something new; in this case, a story that flows better and was edited for publication purposes (and maybe a bonus story that wasn’t online). I should also mention that her constant asides get annoying–I think that you could take out every phrase in parenthesis that appears and we wouldn’t lose any relevant information, or we’d gain the loss of lots of unimportant information actually. But that’s nitpicky and something I mostly just want to point out for you future writers out there.

If you’re a pet lover, a cat lover, an animal welfare supporter, a shelter volunteer, a Best Friends donor/magazine subscriber–I think that’s how I found out about this book actually– My Life in a Cat House is for you. I think that the subject matter and constant praises of the cats will get a little cheesy for people who want more than reading about the lives of pets. But if you’re within the target audience, this is a charming hidden gem. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel late this year.

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