The Cat Master

As a rule, I’m not crazy about stories in which animals talk, but I just finished The Cat Master, a lovely book by Bonnie Pemberton, and I’ll never look at a feral cat in the same way again. According to the promotional material, it’s for ages 10 and up, but up is the significant word. Like Watership Down, it’s a story about animals in a well-established culture with its own rules and rituals and mythology. Indoor cats yearn for the freedom enjoyed by outdoor cats, while outdoor cats sometimes huddle miserably in the cold and dream of a warm hearth and a bowl of food. Each looks down on the other as inferior, and at the same time each is jealous of the other.

Two male cats each claim the title of Cat Master, and every cat who is able journeys to the meeting place where the two cats will have a final showdown. The story follows the journey of four of those cats — it might have been more effective if there’d been one less cat to remember — and the dog, possum, mockingbird, and lizard who help them. Only one cat can be Master of the feline world, and that cat will have to kill the other. By the time the showdown comes, you know the back story of every character, the vicious and the gentle, and you know that a little compassion from a human would have changed the personalities of the killers. But this isn’t a story in which all the humans are old meanies, either. Cats are rescued and fed, they are taken to vets and healed, they are loved. Some cats who are given the choice between outside freedom and living with humans gladly choose to stay inside.

It was a cold night when I finished the book, and the story had made me especially mindful of all the outside cats trying to find a warm place. As I drifted to sleep, I sent a mental image of warm cocoons wrapped around every outside cat. I’ve done it every night since. When a book has that much effect on a reader, it’s a good book!


6 thoughts on “The Cat Master

  1. Dear Blaize,

    Will look for this book and add it to my TBR pile! Also, the quote of the day about the memory of a good cat and lingering cat hair touched my heart. I lost a beloved orange tabby two years ago and occasionally still find one of his bright hairs in a book I open or on an article of seldom worn clothing. And just last week, on a Christmas cookie recipe card (of all the mysterious places!) from my box of favorites. His aged brother was put down just a few weeks ago and I will be finding his hairs for awhile, I imagine. It is bitter-sweet each time…
    I live just up the coast from you and love your descriptions of our gorgeous part of the world. I’m a native Floridian and feel very fortunate to be here.
    Blessings to you and yours this holiday season!

  2. This book sounded like something I’d enjoy reading so I ordered it online and should be getting it early January. In Toronto as in most large cities there’s a increasing feral/homeless/abandoned cat population and you can imagine how cold it gets in Toronto during winter. The problem could be solved if a) every cat owner neutered or spayed their cat and b) if people took responsibility for their pet. There are trap/neuter/release programs and also many private citizens that use their own money to provide food for the cats especially during the winter months, however it’s hard to keep up with the increasing numbers. If you get a chance look up Cat City the documentary

    I know that fellow animal lovers would never abandon their cats and that most people are humane, but those that find their cat to be an “inconvience” and turn them out on the street make my blood boil.

    Right now my 3 year old male, Bobby is snuggled under my duvet and Isis my 18 year female (love of my life, baby girl) has found her own warm cocoon somewhere in the house. Two is my limit though because I heard if you have more, they start calling you “the cat lady”. LOL.


  3. I’ve never been able to imagine how anybody can put a pet out to fend for itself. My grand-dog Zoey was found as a beautiful, well-trained, healthy young dog with no collar and no ID chip. She had obviously been well cared for, but she was on a rural road by herself. I often wonder what her story is and imagine how she ended up alone. She’s now the most loved dog in the world, but all stories don’t turn out with such happy endings.

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