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The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World

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House cats rule bedrooms and back alleys, deserted Antarctic islands, even cyberspace. And unlike dogs, cats offer humans no practical benefit. The truth is they are sadly incompetent mouse-catchers and now pose a threat to many ecosystems. Yet, we love them still. Content: Catacombs Cat's cradle What's the catch? The cats that ate the canaries The cat lobby CAT scan Pandora House cats rule bedrooms and back alleys, deserted Antarctic islands, even cyberspace. And unlike dogs, cats offer humans no practical benefit. The truth is they are sadly incompetent mouse-catchers and now pose a threat to many ecosystems. Yet, we love them still. Content: Catacombs Cat's cradle What's the catch? The cats that ate the canaries The cat lobby CAT scan Pandora's litter box Lions and toygers and lykoi Nine likes.


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House cats rule bedrooms and back alleys, deserted Antarctic islands, even cyberspace. And unlike dogs, cats offer humans no practical benefit. The truth is they are sadly incompetent mouse-catchers and now pose a threat to many ecosystems. Yet, we love them still. Content: Catacombs Cat's cradle What's the catch? The cats that ate the canaries The cat lobby CAT scan Pandora House cats rule bedrooms and back alleys, deserted Antarctic islands, even cyberspace. And unlike dogs, cats offer humans no practical benefit. The truth is they are sadly incompetent mouse-catchers and now pose a threat to many ecosystems. Yet, we love them still. Content: Catacombs Cat's cradle What's the catch? The cats that ate the canaries The cat lobby CAT scan Pandora's litter box Lions and toygers and lykoi Nine likes.

30 review for The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World

  1. 4 out of 5

    karen

    A house cat is not really a fur baby, but it is something rather more remarkable: a tiny conquistador with the whole planet at its feet. House cats could not exist without humans, but we didn't really create them, nor do we control them now. Our relationship is less about ownership than aiding and abetting. here's the one-sentence summary of this book: cats own us. that's basically what you will take away from this book, but you should read it anyway, because it is a highly entertaining study that A house cat is not really a fur baby, but it is something rather more remarkable: a tiny conquistador with the whole planet at its feet. House cats could not exist without humans, but we didn't really create them, nor do we control them now. Our relationship is less about ownership than aiding and abetting. here's the one-sentence summary of this book: cats own us. that's basically what you will take away from this book, but you should read it anyway, because it is a highly entertaining study that combines science, history, and cultural analysis to examine how cats managed to insinuate themselves into our homes (and our HEARTS!) and why we let them stay there, in what is pretty much a one-sided relationship in which they tolerate us (on a good day), while contributing nothing but their cuteness. "if i dig my claws into you, you will never leave…" despite being a cat-lover herself, abigail tucker is a curious lady seeking the answer to the great mystery no one else seems to be investigating, namely - why cats? People are accustomed to driving a very hard bargain with domesticated animals. We expect our dependents to come to heel, schlep our stuff, or even obediently proceed to the slaughterhouse. Yet cats don't fetch the newspaper or lay eggs or let us ride them. It's not often that human beings are left scratching our heads about why in the world we keep a creature around, let alone hundreds of millions of them. The obvious answer is that we like cats - love them, even. But why do we? What is their secret? in this book, she explores our relationship with this enigmatic and beloved beastie through the entirety of our overlapping existences, and reminds us of what we all already know, but do not speak about: that cats are highly adaptive opportunistic hypercarnivores who have done little for us in practical terms since introducing our species to meat in the wayback,when carnivorous kangaroos and "jumbo otters" roamed the earth, when our scavenging ancestors came upon the picked-over remains of the kills of giant cats and said - "hmmm - this looks tasty!" of course, these same giant cats were also using us as a source of delicious meat, dragging us into caves, devouring us in trees, caching our eviscerated corpses in their lairs, so it's a fairly tainted legacy. eventually, cats saw we had homes and hearths that they deemed comfy, and they used their big eyes to ingratiate themselves and somehow, in times of scarce resources, when animals were beginning to be domesticated for their use as food or to help with farming or hunting and nothing was fed and sheltered that didn't contribute in some way, somehow cats wormed their way in and domesticated themselves. she traces the history of the domesticated cat back to the lybica, a middle eastern wild cat which all the world's 600 million housecats call great-grandaddy: she talks about the cat's dispersement throughout the world, as people brought them to continents without indigenous cat species - on ships, for their reputation as rat-catchers, by christian missionaries hoping to charm the natives with these little wide-eyed cuties, pampered and toted around in bags by victorian fancy-people, and the effect this cat-diaspora had on environments unprepared for a creature requiring massive quantities of meat relative to their size to live; three times as much protein as dogs. when they went free into these new territories, many native species were suddenly at risk as prey items, but just as many cats became pets, with only their personalities to contribute to the arrangement: Cats, it seems, transcend the practical. Domesticating them made so little sense that we likely never tried; once cats domesticated themselves, they provided few tangible services. but we let them stay. and why? she claims that their …raw cuteness combined with innate boldness, helps explain how the cat got a paw in the door when so many other species stayed out in the cold, as she discusses their similarity in appearance to human babies, unlike most other domesticated animals, which is what got them into our homes, and the additional element of manipulation cats employed: …through a combination of evolved behavior and natural good looks, house cats exerted a kind of subtle control over us. We became their creatures as much as they became ours. They ate our food without much to offer in return. and these evolved behaviors?? Many cats somehow figure out…that humans respond well to sound. Take the pleasing trill of a purr. Among cats, this tonal buzzing in the vocal folds has no fixed significance - it can mean anything from "I am happy" to "I am about to die." But to humans the sound is welcome and even flattering. house cats have learned this about us, and have adapted accordingly: …not only do pet cats meow more often - and more sweetly - than feral and wild cats, but within a given household, a cat devises a unique language of meows to instruct its owner. and - damn - we are so easily manipulated: With our hypercommunicative hardwiring, humans are prime targets for such exploitation., so …within our earshot, many cats apparently rejigger their purposeless purr to include a barely audible, very annoying, and insistent signal, a cry - usually for food - that resembles a baby's wail, and studies show that cats may have modulated their vocalizations over time to mimic the cry more precisely. clever beasties…. but there's a dangerous flip side to this: …small Amazonian cats called margays have been observed mimicking primate baby calls while hunting. i'm in the treeees, sounding like your babies! all the better to eat you, suckas! so it would seem we are in an abusive relationship with cats. they have learned how to make sounds like our helpless babies sparking our parental drives and they manipulate us into feeding them while they do nothing but sleep all day. and we are lapping it up. because make no mistake, cats don't need us. they do just fine in the wild with their excellent hunting skills and masterful abilities in the making of baby cats. dogs have been well-domesticated, and without us, they flounder. Feral dogs, for one thing, are incompetent mothers. Puppies born on the street tend to die. Packs of street dogs are sustained through recruitment of new strays rather than through births. dogs also depend almost entirely on garbage, which cats, while certainly enjoying a nice, easy meal of trash, can also do without, going off the grid and subsisting on their own kills. cats adapt easily to the urban wild, and if we all up and died, they'd just shrug it off and delicately step over our remains on their way to a new adventure. making armies of cats along the way. because they are damn good at breeding: By one calculation, a pair of cats could produce 354,294 descendants in five years, if all survived. In real life, five cats introduced to forbidding Marion Island (permanently snow-capped and actively volcanic, it's hardly a feline paradise) bore more than 2,000 surviving descendants within 25 years. this combination of breeding and hunting has become a real problem to conservationists in certain parts of the world, most notably australia, which is home to 3 million pet cats and 18 million feral cats. and those cats get hungry! how hungry, you ask?? thanks for playing - hungry enough that the Action Plan for Australian Mammals report determined cats to be a factor in the fate of 89 out of Australia's 138 extinct, threatened, and near-threatened mammals, many of which are only found Down Under. The continent has far and away the highest rate of mammal extinctions in the world, and the scientists declared house cats to be the single biggest threat to mammalian survival there, far more dire than habitat loss and global warming. australia is displeased, and their environmental minister promptly declared war on the world's favorite pet, which he described as "a tsunami of violence and death." who, me?? but it's not just australia where cats move in and wreck shop. in new zealand, cats are also hungry. In the 1970's, they cornered the last population of kakapo and today there are just over 100 of the huge flightless parrots left. Some of these birds might have otherwise enjoyed a life expectancy of ninety-five years. i learned all about these kakapo from elizabeth knox's book Wake. you really want these things living for 95 years, attacking heads all the while? i didn't think so. my anti-bird stance is well-documented, so i'm applauding all the little kitties doing what nature enabled them to do: In 2013, federal scientists released a report suggesting that America's cats - both pets and strays - kill some 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds per year, making them the leading human-related cause of avian deaths. that's more like cat-related causes, if you ask me, but i suppose humans are culpable for enabling the little monsters.but how can you fault an animal for cleverness? On the island of Kauai, the Newell's shearwater has a mothlike relationship with city lights and. enthralled yet confused, then suddenly exhausted, they plummet from the sky. Good Samaritans are encouraged to collect birds and deliver them to aid stations, but cats have learned to wait beneath the lights. sounds to me like those birdies need to adapt better. the cats certainly have. it's more than just birds who have to fear the cat's voracious appetite. back to australia - In Queensland a few years ago, the Save the Bilby Fund shielded a few acres of bilby habitat with a $500,000 predator-proof fence and herded dozens of precious survivors inside. To everyone's delight, the rare marsupials began to breed and by 2012 had produced more than 100 newborns - a regular embarrassment of bilbies, at least compared to wild populations. But, unbeknownst to the bilby boosters, heavy rains and flooding rusted a hole in the fancy fence. When scientists entered the breached sanctuary afterward, they found 20 cats and no baby bilbies. can you blame them? so tasty looking! also at risk is the key largo wood rat which conservationists in florida tried to steer away from extinction, making cute cozy little sanctuaries for them where they could happily (and slowly) breed, and then releasing the fattened-up population back into the wild, straight into the jaws of cats. hypercarnivores gonna hypercarnivate. there's so much ground covered in this book, and it's all entertaining as hell, particularly the chapter on the history of cat shows and breeding, which began with the victorians and their pet pageants: The nineteenth-century British sought to impose order on the whole world, and the new discipline of natural history embodied this ideal - men subduing the chaos of nature through science, even as they simultaneously hunted down the most disruptive beasts in the wild. The Victorians dearly loved to rank and classify domestic animals, from puppies to pigeons, just as they liked to rank and classify all living things. but cats proved to be problematic creatures to classify, and the results of their "nocturnal and rambling habits" (i.e. - mad boning), baffled the victorians when it came to identifying breeds, as most cats were mixed-breed alley cats, indiscriminately mating as the mood struck, all looking the same - a melting pot of proximity-rutting. At best, they were alley cats from particularly far-off alleys. but the victorians were nothing if not dogged, and when it came to their cat-pageants, …Victorian cat fanciers simply invented categories…There were divisions for "fat" and "foreign" cats, "tortoiseshell" and "spotted." "Black and white cats" and "white and black cats" were considered to be entirely distinct creatures. The first American cat show, at the Boston Music Hall in 1878, paraded "Short-Haired Cats of Any or No Sex and Any Color," "long-haired cats," and "curiosities of any variety." gotta love it. even better: Amid so many desperate attempts to draw distinctions among ordinary house cats, perhaps it's no surprise that one early cat show was won by a ring-tailed lemur, a small primate that was much closer in kin to a cat show's human judge than to its meowing contestants. and why did no one tell me that people were now breeding werewolf cats?? i will need one of those, pronto. and what book about cats would be complete without a chapter devoted to internet cats, entitled Nine Likes, in which one encounters this regrettable pun: Instead of mice, they survive on mouse clicks. because the internet is nothing but porn and cats at this point. When Sir Tim Berners-Lee, often called "the father of the Internet," was asked recently what aspect of modern web usage most surprised him, he replied: "Kittens." and no one appreciates this feline takeover more than me! tucker name-drops a ton of cat-meme sensations, some of which were completely new to me, so that fact alone is enough to make me love this book. it's a parade of kitties (with no pictures, but that's what i'm here for) l'il bub maru colonel meow princess monster truck grumpy cat sir stuffington hamilton the hipster cat happy cat keyboard cat hitler cats the infinite cat project bonsai kittens hunger games with cats cats confronting cucumbers cats yodeling sushi cats bread cats and they're not going anywhere - cats have dug in hard, with a little help from us. Over a span of two years, the top five BuzzFeed cat posts received about four times as many viral views as the top dogs. take that, doggies! here are two of the most useful things the internet has supplied, both of which are new to me: -written? kitten! - a motivational tool for writers, where a user is sent a cat picture every hundred words. and -unbaby.me - a service which replaces all those pesky pictures of your friends' kids with pictures of cats instead (and which has changed since this arc was printed to and is now http://getrather.com/) i like to close reviews on dark notes, because i am a ruiner of days! she doesn't come right out and say it, not exactly, but she suggests that a possible explanation for our servitude to cats, besides them just being widdle cutiepootiepies, is perhaps down to them controlling all of us through toxoplasmosis. which i do not have the space to discuss here, but is a phenomenon i find endlessly fascinating, and have read many books in which it comes into play in various horrifying ways. basically, toxoplasma is a parasite which can ONLY reproduce itself inside a cat's body, and causes a zombielike effect in those infected, but what i didn't know were the stats; that it is believed to inhabit the brains of one in three people worldwide, including some 60 million Americans. THAT IS A LOT OF PEOPLE, YO! and it may explain why cats are the stars of the internet and run our lives. we are being mind-controlled to feed and care for a species that will occasionally let us snuggle them. i got cut off - review continues in comments. come to my blog!

  2. 5 out of 5

    abby

    Don't be fooled. Your precious Fuzzykins is a barely-domesticated hypercarnivore who is probably hypnotizing you with its parasite tainted urine-- when not busy hunting endangered species into extinction. Hmmm. I might need a bit more convincing. "Many cat lovers, pondering their blind devotion to a savage little archcarnivore, privately wonder if they might be just a little touched in the head." Well, as a life-long cat lover, I can honestly say I have never wondered this. But author Abigail Tucke Don't be fooled. Your precious Fuzzykins is a barely-domesticated hypercarnivore who is probably hypnotizing you with its parasite tainted urine-- when not busy hunting endangered species into extinction. Hmmm. I might need a bit more convincing. "Many cat lovers, pondering their blind devotion to a savage little archcarnivore, privately wonder if they might be just a little touched in the head." Well, as a life-long cat lover, I can honestly say I have never wondered this. But author Abigail Tucker did and set out to discover just why people-- including herself-- are so crazy for cats. What caused her to stay awake at night worrying that someone might kidnap her ginger tomcat Cheetoh and what she might be willing to pay as ransom? Why are we so fascinated with internet cat videos? Why do we desire to surround ourselves with this creature-- both in animal and consumer product form (cat pillows, cat mugs, ect.)? Why am I about to fill this review with cat gifs? Tucker's research takes her to places that might unnerve cat enthusiasts. In a sense, cat lovers talking about cats is supposed to be a "safe space." A place where being a cat lady is a badge of honor. A place free from that co-worker who stops by your desk each week to smugly remind you how much she hates cats-- while looking at a picture of your cat. So I think there's an expectation that a book about cats will take a feline friendly tone tell us all the things we want to hear about our fluffy friends. And this expectation only grows stronger as cats have become "cool," and cat people have come out from the shadows. So, in contrast, this book just seems so negative. According to the wildlife preservationists Tucker interviews, cats are an "ecological axis of evil," who are single-handedly wiping species off the earth. Yet, at the same time they are horrible mousers, and thus don't provide any true benefit to humans like dogs do (I'll remember this next time I see my neighbor dragging his fat pug down the block). Cats spread toxoplasmosis, a parasite that causes birth defects and basically eats your brain. It also might hypnotize you into irrationally liking them. And cause schizophrenia. Cats are tricky devils who figured out what no other species did-- that hitching their wagons to humans would improve their outcome. Which means cats are in our homes and our lives on their terms. They could leave at any time and be just fine without us. Pretty much all my reading is done with Hot Fudge Sundae, my dim-witted but infinitely snugly tuxedo cat, curled up beside me. And while I was reading this book, I looked down, meeting those deep amber colored eyes and thought: "why are you trying to kill me?" It's best to take Tucker's writing with a grain of salt. After all, it seems illogical to blame cats for hunting endangered species, when said species became endangered in the first place due to human habitation, deforestation, ect. The claim that the rise of insanity corresponds with keeping cats as pets ignores that the same time period corresponds with emerging concepts about mental illness. My favorite chapter had to be "Pandora's Litterbox," where I learned that I am "cat-shaming" my feline by not having a cat friendly living room layout. Poor Hot Fudge Sundae! I pretty much died reading about Doug, the cat owner who moved out of his 400 sqf master bedroom and onto the couch so his pet could have "personal space." No worries though-- he's allowed to sleep over in the cat's room a couple nights each week. This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me, but over all I enjoyed it. Because, you know, cats. And with that, I'd like to close out with my favorite cat gif. Because that's what the internet is for. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    This more was even more fascinating than I had imagined when I read the blurb. For wont of a better word, most cat books are somewhat...fluffy. The theme is usually 'oh, they're so cute' and believe me when I say that I can get behind that attitude, I have three cats after all, but this book takes another approach. It is a well researched, evaluative investigation into the phenomenon of cat domestication and the changing ways in which cats have interacted with humans since we started bringing th This more was even more fascinating than I had imagined when I read the blurb. For wont of a better word, most cat books are somewhat...fluffy. The theme is usually 'oh, they're so cute' and believe me when I say that I can get behind that attitude, I have three cats after all, but this book takes another approach. It is a well researched, evaluative investigation into the phenomenon of cat domestication and the changing ways in which cats have interacted with humans since we started bringing them into our lives. This means that the book isn't obsessively positive- for example, it talks about how cats have acted as destructive presence in many environments, killing (sometimes eradicating) native species, especially birds. Also about the role they play in spreading the parasitic toxoplasmosis. It's a contentious and current topic. Another book Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer has taken these points on to argue for a complete reevaluation of how we see one of our favourite pets. Whatever your side, it's causing a lot of talk ...https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandst... But it's not all doom and gloom in Tucker's book, she looks at a multitude of subject areas: she traces the roots of cat worship to Bastet in Ancient Egypt, shows the evolution of cat genetics and cat breeding, looks at cats in literature, assesses their role in human relationships and modern culture. If you're looking for one of those 'cats are the best!' books, this probably ins't for you, but if you genuinely want to know more about cats and how they have fit themselves into our lives, this is a great place to start. Many thanks to Abigail Tucker, Simon & Schuster, and Netgalley for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dorie - Cats&Books :)

    This was an interesting book, I thought it was going to be something different than what it turned out to be. This book has a lot, a very lot, of information regarding the domestication of cats, where it started, how it spread etc etc. She takes us back to the origin of cats, back to Anatolia, cats were not indigenous to our country but came here over time. There is a lot of science of evolution, psychology of why we love cats, etc. We also learn how in some instances the introduction of the dom This was an interesting book, I thought it was going to be something different than what it turned out to be. This book has a lot, a very lot, of information regarding the domestication of cats, where it started, how it spread etc etc. She takes us back to the origin of cats, back to Anatolia, cats were not indigenous to our country but came here over time. There is a lot of science of evolution, psychology of why we love cats, etc. We also learn how in some instances the introduction of the domestic cat into a particular habitat, say an island, could lead to another animal’s extinction, as the cats continued to hunt them. Ms. Tucker related that in some instances “cat lovers” have interfered with what was thought to be the best way to rid the population of too many cats, you can imagine the the theories that have been discussed! I was hoping for a little more humor, or relation of how many things cats still do that are indicative of their still wild nature. For me it was a little dry and slow moving. I started out really liking it and ended up feeling a bit underwhelmed. This is really not a book for a cat lover such as myself, over the 46 years of our marriage we’ve had many cats and foster cats, and I think overall the tone of the writing was a little negative. There was no mention of cat breeding which is a huge story in itself and only leads to more over population, and I think that should have been touched upon. I think that all of the work that shelters do, including spay, neutering and release programs for outdoor cats as we have in our area, was described as unsuccessful. I think that probably depends on the area and the programs involved. Do read this book if you want lots of information of the history of the domestication of cats, don’t read it if you feel that despite the fact that cats don’t “perform any type of job” for us, as in a dog trained to pull a sled, retrieve hunted ducks,ect, what they give back is love, companionship as well as laughter, then I don’t think this book is for you. I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I was excited about this book when I first heard about it because it sounded like it would be really interesting for cat lovers. I liked it at first, but it lost me pretty quickly. I felt like the book had a pretty negative tone over all, and her point seemed to be that we shouldn't really be keeping cats as pets. Which was interesting, because that wasn't the point she claimed to be trying to make. It also bothered me that she didn't really address any of the problems with breeding purebreds, b I was excited about this book when I first heard about it because it sounded like it would be really interesting for cat lovers. I liked it at first, but it lost me pretty quickly. I felt like the book had a pretty negative tone over all, and her point seemed to be that we shouldn't really be keeping cats as pets. Which was interesting, because that wasn't the point she claimed to be trying to make. It also bothered me that she didn't really address any of the problems with breeding purebreds, but I'm a cat shelter lady, so of course that bugged me. Overall I wouldn't really recommend this to cat lovers. Received from Edelweiss in exchange for review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    The amazing cat book I’d been looking for! This is a fascinating interdisciplinary look at how the domestic cat has taken over the world – both literally and figuratively. A writer for Smithsonian magazine, Tucker writes engaging, accessible popular science. The closest comparison I can make, style-wise, is to Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, even though that has much heavier subject matter. Tucker traces domestic cat evolution from the big cats of the La Brea tar pits to th The amazing cat book I’d been looking for! This is a fascinating interdisciplinary look at how the domestic cat has taken over the world – both literally and figuratively. A writer for Smithsonian magazine, Tucker writes engaging, accessible popular science. The closest comparison I can make, style-wise, is to Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, even though that has much heavier subject matter. Tucker traces domestic cat evolution from the big cats of the La Brea tar pits to the modern day, explaining why cats are only built to eat flesh and retain the hunting instinct even though they rarely have to look further than their designated bowls for food nowadays. Alongside the science, though, is plenty of cultural history. You’ll learn about how cats have been an invasive species in many sensitive environments, and about the bizarre, Halloween-scary story of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. You’ll meet the tender hearts who volunteer for trap, neuter and release campaigns to cut down on the euthanizing of strays at shelters; the enthusiasts who breed unusual varieties of cats and groom them for shows; and the oddballs who buy into the $58 billion pet industry’s novelty accessories. From the earliest domestication of animals to the cat meme-dominated Internet, Tucker – a cat lady herself, as frequent mentions of her ginger tom Cheeto attest – marvels at how cats have succeeded by endearing themselves to humans and adapting as if effortlessly to any habitat in which they find themselves. A must for cat lovers for sure, but I don’t think you even have to be a pet person to find this wide-ranging book pretty enthralling.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Todd Martin

    Cat owners laugh about being owned by their pets, but there might be some truth to the sentiment. One of the reasons cats have been so successful as a species is that they’ve been able to get humans to feed and care for them despite the fact that they don’t really have much to offer in return (except their sweet, sweet kisses, ever-so-soft bellies, playful antics and comforting purrs!!). Ok, I admit it, I’m a cat person and after reading this book I am forced to acknowledge that I may have been Cat owners laugh about being owned by their pets, but there might be some truth to the sentiment. One of the reasons cats have been so successful as a species is that they’ve been able to get humans to feed and care for them despite the fact that they don’t really have much to offer in return (except their sweet, sweet kisses, ever-so-soft bellies, playful antics and comforting purrs!!). Ok, I admit it, I’m a cat person and after reading this book I am forced to acknowledge that I may have been duped (or is it ‘enslaved’) by the creatures, even if willingly so. With this said, I have plenty of company. Cats are the most numerous pet in the U.S. (74 – 96 million according to the ASPCA) thanks to the invention of cat litter and food in a can. In The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World Abigail Tucker writes about the domestication and eventual domination of cats around the world and throughout the internet. What she finds is that cats are not so very different from their wild ancestor Felis silvestris lybic. The main difference being that their brains have changed so that they are less fearful and therefore able to live within the chaotic world created by humans. Tucker also covers: - Toxoplasma gondii: A parasite that reproduces in the guts of cats. - Cat’s predatory nature: Which has resulted in a significant reduction in small animal species wherever cats are introduced. - Whether cats historically served to reduce mouse and rat populations: Tucker thinks ‘not so much’. - Trap, neuter and release programs. - Cat fecundity, which results in millions of stray and unwanted kittens in the U.S. All of this is fine and reasonably interesting, but there’s one gaping flaw to the book. Tucker’s analysis is almost entirely negative because she seems to want to weigh a cat’s worth based on its utilitarian value. Seriously, what is the utility of a goldfish or hamster or turtle or nearly any other pet (other than a service animal)? For that matter … what is the utilitarian value of a child? People have pets (and children presumably) because they like them and want to have them around. Pets enrich our lives and make them more interesting … they don’t ‘need’ to do anything more to have value.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    2.5 stars. This is not the fluffy, cuddly book I thought it would be. When the author kept stressing that cats are are an "invasive species", I knew I was in for a rough read. Although she does use some wit and humor to temper her writing, this is a very dry read and way too scientific. There is a lot of information about the history of the cat, how it lived outdoors, how it came to live indoors, show cats and cat breeding, a whole chapter devoted to toxoplasmosis (ew!) and another one all about 2.5 stars. This is not the fluffy, cuddly book I thought it would be. When the author kept stressing that cats are are an "invasive species", I knew I was in for a rough read. Although she does use some wit and humor to temper her writing, this is a very dry read and way too scientific. There is a lot of information about the history of the cat, how it lived outdoors, how it came to live indoors, show cats and cat breeding, a whole chapter devoted to toxoplasmosis (ew!) and another one all about cats on the internet. Fortunately the book is short, so it doesn't take long to read. The author did a lot of research and it shows. Unfortunately, at times she didn't know what not to include so she just threw it all in. For someone who claims to love cats, at times she seemed to blame cats for just being cats. There is an underlying negativity to this book that is off-putting. Starting out with the label of "invasive species" and other negative comparisons to other animals such as dogs as pets left me wondering why she wrote this book. As a cat lover, I found this book very disappointing. It's not that I want to disparage the messenger, it's just that the premise of the book and what she actually wrote are at odds.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Clint Smith

    The kitten on the cover of "The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World" by Abigail Tucker grabbed my attention because it reminded me greatly of my own cat, Curious George, as a stray kitten that I found on the side of the road five years ago. I have always loved cats and found their personalities, habits, and instincts to be fascinating. Ms. Tucker's book, a deep dive study into the history of cats from wild creature to domesticated companion, the bond between The kitten on the cover of "The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World" by Abigail Tucker grabbed my attention because it reminded me greatly of my own cat, Curious George, as a stray kitten that I found on the side of the road five years ago. I have always loved cats and found their personalities, habits, and instincts to be fascinating. Ms. Tucker's book, a deep dive study into the history of cats from wild creature to domesticated companion, the bond between humans and cats and the humorous, poignant adoration that modern culture has for cats through social media and other platforms was natural for me. The book is a fascinating read, well-written and highly organized in its study of the feline. I learned a great deal on the subject of cats. A must read for cat lovers everywhere (or anybody interested in a good non-fiction book). I highly recommend "The Lion in the Living Room: How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker (published by Simon and Schuster).

  10. 4 out of 5

    Olive Fellows (abookolive)

    See my review on booktube: https://youtu.be/ZtTzR7fWf4I See my review on booktube: https://youtu.be/ZtTzR7fWf4I

  11. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I'm a cat-owner, always have been. I love dogs but I've never owned one, always had cats. And I love my little fur-babies, but reading this book did make me side-eye them a little bit, as they dozed beside me in the warm spot next to the radiator, fluffy belly up, paws crocked, snuffling in their sleep. So cute and cuddly and harmless. Right? Wrong. I'm now convinced that the cats will rule the world one day. If they don't already, and there's definitely arguments to be made there, most of them I'm a cat-owner, always have been. I love dogs but I've never owned one, always had cats. And I love my little fur-babies, but reading this book did make me side-eye them a little bit, as they dozed beside me in the warm spot next to the radiator, fluffy belly up, paws crocked, snuffling in their sleep. So cute and cuddly and harmless. Right? Wrong. I'm now convinced that the cats will rule the world one day. If they don't already, and there's definitely arguments to be made there, most of them detailed in this book. It was truly fascinating to take this kind of hard analytical look at a relationship I've never really thought much about. What do we get from pet cats, exactly? They're not loyal and unconditionally affectionate like dogs; they're not pack animals and they don't tolerate company much; they're almost impossible to train; they haven't historically been service or labour animals; they don't help us hunt, protect us from threats; unlike dogs or even horses, they're not much good for therapy animals. Your modern pet dog is the result of thousands of years of domestication and genetic mutation - pet cats have changed very little through domestication, they are still miniature lions and tigers with the great majority of those wild predator instincts intact. They certainly don't need us in the way dogs do - your average abandoned pet dog will starve, your pet cat might sulk for five minutes and then go off and hunt down breakfast. So why are we so damn obsessive about them? The answer, surprisingly enough, could be a form of mind control. Ah-ha!, I hear some of you shout. I always knew it. Cats carry a parasite known as Toxoplasma gondii, which causes a disease known as toxoplasmosis. Up to half the world's population could be infected with toxoplasmosis, and in most adults it causes no symptoms, although it can be a risk to foetuses. However, studies have shown that toxoplasmosis does cause behavioural changes in rodents and other small animals - namely removing their fear of cats, increasing their chances of being eaten and the toxoplasma parasites returning to their favourite home, cats' intestines. Is it possible toxoplasma causes some kind of behavioural change in humans, pre-disposing us to fuzzy feelings towards the miniature versions of our historic predators? It's an intriguing argument. Studies have also uncovered an intriguing link between toxoplasmosis and schizophrenia, which means there could well be a germ of truth or explanation behind the 'Crazy Cat Lady' stereotype! This is just an example of the kind of nuggets of fascinating information strew throughout this book. From the fact that housecats are in the top 100 of worldwide threats to nature to the unseen stresses of living alongside humans, from Egyptian cat-worship to modern cat cafes, from the similiarities between Fuzzy Puddykins and your basic African man-eater, it's all here. Some reviews have described this book as negative or cat-phobic, but I don't see it that way all - and I'm a cat-lover. This book simply strips some of the emotional blinkers from our eyes (or perhaps the parasite-induced hypnosis) and highlights the modern cat in all its incredible, dynamic, brutal, predatory, adaptable glory. I was left quite in awe of the modern housecat - it truly is taking over the world, one living room (or entire house or flat in some cases) at a time!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    Overall, it’s well written and very amusing. There are some interesting (even fascinating) and accurate nuggets of information in this book. Bu, there are numerous factual errors, and more importantly key omissions of data. These damage the credibility of the book overall, and dropped my rating down. Here is a few points to consider: 1) The author emphatically made the case that no cat breeders have ever tried to breed cats for temperament. Only for physical appearance. The history of the “Ragdoll Overall, it’s well written and very amusing. There are some interesting (even fascinating) and accurate nuggets of information in this book. Bu, there are numerous factual errors, and more importantly key omissions of data. These damage the credibility of the book overall, and dropped my rating down. Here is a few points to consider: 1) The author emphatically made the case that no cat breeders have ever tried to breed cats for temperament. Only for physical appearance. The history of the “Ragdoll” is a critical omission here. 2) When talking about why cats are now kept indoors vs. outside, the emphasis is placed on factors of human convenience. Deemphasized, was the biggest driver for cats becoming indoor animals — at least according to shelters and vets, which is: for the safety of the cat. 3) Correlating cat ownership with human mental illness via Toxoplasma. Toxoplasma is a risk to unborn & infants, young children and immunocompromised adults. But, it can't be contracted by a human (mother) who already has antibodies for it or from a cat who already has antibodies for it. What's important to know - in the context of this book - is that antivirals, not antibacterials are showing the most promise for the treatment of adult-onset schizophrenia and psychotic mental illness. Without a balanced discussion contrasting the potential causality of viruses (specifically Herpesviridae) and mental illness, the author's case for Toxoplasma in adult mental illness is exaggerated at best. At worst, it's another example of lying by omission.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Huether

    All you ever wanted to know about Cats. A big surprise was that a pet cat does not help the owner live longer. To my dismay, only dogs can extend a person’s longevity. In ancient Egypt, Cats were house pets and well thought of. Pictures of brown tabbies are pictured on the walls of the tombs. Because of the predatory nature of Cats, especially when they live outdoors, some living animals and birds have become extinct due to the Cats eating them. Cats in today’s world are big business, with special f All you ever wanted to know about Cats. A big surprise was that a pet cat does not help the owner live longer. To my dismay, only dogs can extend a person’s longevity. In ancient Egypt, Cats were house pets and well thought of. Pictures of brown tabbies are pictured on the walls of the tombs. Because of the predatory nature of Cats, especially when they live outdoors, some living animals and birds have become extinct due to the Cats eating them. Cats in today’s world are big business, with special food, toys and cat litter for the indoor pets. I recommend this book to all cat lovers.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jess

    This wasn't quite what I expected. For some reason, I thought it would be more pop sciencey and less about parasites. Still, it was fairly interesting, even if a lot of it doesn't jive with my individual experiences as a cat person. I found the part about cats really not wanting another cat for company food for thought, as I've often considered whether or not it's something I should consider. It's definitely good to know that my instincts to not attempt it until I have more space were sound.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lis Carey

    Such a promising title. And such a disappointment. Tucker says she's a cat lover, and I think she probably is. Yet she conveys an impressively negative tone in this book, as if she feels guilty about liking our favorite little carnivores. She's very insistent that cats serve no real, practical use in human settlements, citing for instance studies that seem to show that cats are not very effective ratters. Nowhere does she mention that in fact cats are primarily thought of as mousers. For serious r Such a promising title. And such a disappointment. Tucker says she's a cat lover, and I think she probably is. Yet she conveys an impressively negative tone in this book, as if she feels guilty about liking our favorite little carnivores. She's very insistent that cats serve no real, practical use in human settlements, citing for instance studies that seem to show that cats are not very effective ratters. Nowhere does she mention that in fact cats are primarily thought of as mousers. For serious rat killing, yes, you mostly want the smaller terrier type dogs. Yet mice are a significant threat to grain stores, and volunteer mouse control would have been welcome in early farming communities. She much later in the book mentions that rats are apparently strongly repelled by cat urine, and avoid areas where it is present. At no point does she comment on how unlikely this is if cats have never been a threat to rats, or how useful this might be to farmers regardless of whether or not cats actually kill rats. She also credulously recites tales of cats devastating nearly every other small animal except mice, including claims that they kill "billions" of birds annually in the US, without ever citing the sources for the reader to follow up on. It's a figure that initially came from the initial hypothesis that was the beginning of a study, not from the conclusions of the study. The conclusions are not nearly so popular with cat haters. She mentions, in passing, but does not highlight, junk science from a Smithsonian researcher later convicted of animal cruelty after trying to wipe out an entire managed cat colony via poisoning. Tucker's discussion of the essentially solitary nature (she says) of the cat doesn't mention the studies that show feral and semi-feral rural cats voluntarily form colonies, including females sharing kitten care and even nursing of young kittens, in areas where they could easily form exclusive territories if they wished. Shared kitten raising is a behavior limited to two members of the cat family: lions and house cats. As such, it's a pretty interesting behavior, and one you'd think would be worth mentioning. In discussing control of feral cats, she trots out all arguments supporting the claim that Trap-Neuter-Release is of limited effectiveness. PETA is cited as an animal welfare organization to quote its anti-TNR position. PETA in fact favors killing all cats found outside a home, whether ferals, free-roaming pets, or indoor pets who have accidentally gotten out. Their goal is no domestic animals at all. Eventually, after many paragraphs of similar nonsense, she gets around to mentioning, in passing, that trap & kill, as a method of controlling feral cat populations, is even less effective. It really is an interesting book, but should be read, or listened to, with a healthy dose of skepticism. I bought this audiobook.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn

    A whole book about the history of cat culture. How could I not geek out over it?!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    Written by a cat owner and science writer. Very informative.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Fox

    I can understand why a lot of cat lovers really didn't like this book. This is a remarkably valuable book all the same. It traces the history of why we keep cats, and why we continue to do so. Ultimately, the book truly encompasses the strangeness of keeping cats, their popularity as pets, and the fact that people generally refuse to view the outdoor and stray cats around us as the threat to the environment that they truly are. The sheer determination of people to keep cats outdoors is truly asto I can understand why a lot of cat lovers really didn't like this book. This is a remarkably valuable book all the same. It traces the history of why we keep cats, and why we continue to do so. Ultimately, the book truly encompasses the strangeness of keeping cats, their popularity as pets, and the fact that people generally refuse to view the outdoor and stray cats around us as the threat to the environment that they truly are. The sheer determination of people to keep cats outdoors is truly astonishing. The denial of their hypercarnivore nature is equally baffling. This book was actually rather fair in its assessment of the animal's nature. Abgail Tucker interviewed a great number of people on both sides of the equation and never backed away from rather uncomfortable truths. She admitted her own biases from the outset, and as you read you can practically hear her discomfort when some problems are raised. There are studies of everything from domesticated cats beginning to destroy the native felid populations from whence they came, how owning them is often correlated to shorter lives and mental illness (?), and how hard people are trying to begin to produce new breeds. The writing on the Lykoi especially interested me. This book is a deep dive into the strangeness of cat ownership, and I would happily recommend it to anyone regardless of their personal biases for or against the animal. It's a wild read, and certain facts within it are undeniable. Something has to be done about the stray population, regardless of how people feel about it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cynda

    I chose this book as a relaxer to be read in bits and pieces while reading kore challenging books. This book is exactly what I thought it would be--a mostly pleasant book, nothing too serious as Simon and Schuster publishes lighter works. Also I knew there might be a slight bite in the information as the writer is a correspondent for a reputable mag, the Smithinsonian. I wanted, expected, and read lightness with bite. So very basic 3 stars.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    Pretty interesting, and pretty disappointing for a cat lover. Tucker loves cats herself, and it feels like that should have dulled some of the negativity, but I think she was trying very hard to stay on the side of science and what is documented and verifiable. I can understand the motivation for that, but it misses a large part of the story. Perhaps she assumes that cat lovers won't be swayed regardless, which would also be understandable. It was very interesting to read comparisons to other dom Pretty interesting, and pretty disappointing for a cat lover. Tucker loves cats herself, and it feels like that should have dulled some of the negativity, but I think she was trying very hard to stay on the side of science and what is documented and verifiable. I can understand the motivation for that, but it misses a large part of the story. Perhaps she assumes that cat lovers won't be swayed regardless, which would also be understandable. It was very interesting to read comparisons to other domesticated animals and to see that the domestication of cats is not complete. It was troubling to read that TNR (trap-neuter-release) doesn't really seem to make a dent, but then euthanasia doesn't either. That makes TNR an easy choice, though it still leaves many questions about how to protect other species. Reading about a cat hotel where the cats can always adjust to the absence of their owners, and many cats who were ill and then healed automatically after being removed from their homes to more of a shelter situation, and then people who give over their entire homes to the cats, well, that was more complicated. I have known cats who could not adjust to being removed from their original owners. I have known abandoned cats who were terrified but also desperately lonely, even after being fed. I have seen cats love. That's sentimental and not scientific, and I acknowledge there is room for self-delusion. Still, science supports it when we are talking about dogs, and they can explain why it makes sense with dogs, but not with cats. We have a not quite adult cat who was a feral kitten that I started handling at about two months old. When she follows me around the house, or when I get into bed and she jumps onto the bed, looks for an opening into the covers, and stretches out along my legs and starts to purr. I know that she loves me. I am sure a lot of that is based on feelings of trust and safety, but I suspect that is pretty similar to the way human infants first respond to their parents. Those relationships can then grow to something far more complex, and that's fine, but it doesn't negate the value of that start. One of the interesting facts was that a cat's meows can have specific meanings, but they are not universal. Your cat can have specific ways of requesting food or company but they will be different from your neighbor's cat, or even your other cat. If their can be that level of specificity and individuation between a cat and human, is it so hard to believe that there can also be a two-way emotional attachment? That is what made the book frustrating, but it doesn't mean I want to completely negate the book either. For people having cat problems, reading about Pandora Syndrome and some of the other chapters may provide some insight on how to help your cat. I just want to give fair warning that if you love your cats, there will be many points in the reading that will make you think "No!", and while a certain amount of self-examination can be healthy, this book does not mean that you are wrong about your cats and your relationships with them.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Leah Bayer

    Throughout this book, I've argued that it's important to appreciate and animal like the cat for what it really is, not our plaything but a powerful organism with a strategy and a story. Seeing them in this light also means recognizing ourselves, and acknowledging the full range of what we're capable of--our special mix of tenderness and cruelty, and our unlimited, often careless influence. This is a book for cat lovers, but it's not for people who want to blindly adore kitties for being cute and Throughout this book, I've argued that it's important to appreciate and animal like the cat for what it really is, not our plaything but a powerful organism with a strategy and a story. Seeing them in this light also means recognizing ourselves, and acknowledging the full range of what we're capable of--our special mix of tenderness and cruelty, and our unlimited, often careless influence. This is a book for cat lovers, but it's not for people who want to blindly adore kitties for being cute and fluffy. It's very much a deconstruction of cats' evolutionary history, and it treats them like the apex predators they are. There are uncomfortable truths here, particularly in the chapter about cats and their effect on the environment, and as a cat owner/lover it can be kind of hard to look at Mr. Mittens and think "wow, your kind sure are wreaking a lot of havoc ya little murderer!" But if you're willing to understand exactly how and why cats and humans became entangled and what that means for earth's history and future, it's a really great read. It's kind of awe-inspiring (and a little terrifying) how far-reaching the power of cats is. However, I do wish there had been a little bit more positive attention payed to the cat-owner bond. I think the tone of the book comes off a little negative (which makes sense, given how much shit cats fuck up) and it really needed a 10th chapter. I get that there were 9 because it's cute (9 lives and all), but any cat owner can attest to the fact that cats bond as strongly as dogs with their owners. It's just a different kind of connection. And while there was a LOT of talk about why we like cats here, not once was the emotional bond deconstructed. I'm sure there's some interesting science behind it because cats tend to latch on to one person and kind of ignore everyone else, but this aspect of cat ownership (which, you know, is kind of the main reason humans like them...) was glanced over. This seems like a pretty big issue, but at the same time it wasn't the point of the book. The Lion in the Living Room is a critical look at cat ownership, but it's not overly harsh. The author is a fellow cat lover and does her best to look objectively at the information and present different sides of the argument. It's not a perfect book, but it's jam-packed with cool facts. Also the last chapter is literally about cat memes and is one of my favorite things I've read this year. Anything that mentions Lil Bub is A+ in my book. [arc provided by netgalley in exchange for an honest review]

  22. 4 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Covers some of the same ground as John Bradshaw's "Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1.... Both are worth reading. Because, you know, cats. And she did her homework. And she's a good writer, who likes cats, and likes science. She keeps a little distance from her topic, which I like. Unexpected bits: each housecat devises its own language to train its owners. And they're pushy, and *very* persistent. OK, that part isn Covers some of the same ground as John Bradshaw's "Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet" https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1.... Both are worth reading. Because, you know, cats. And she did her homework. And she's a good writer, who likes cats, and likes science. She keeps a little distance from her topic, which I like. Unexpected bits: each housecat devises its own language to train its owners. And they're pushy, and *very* persistent. OK, that part isn't new. They tend to get fat, because their owners feed them to get them to shut up....

  23. 5 out of 5

    David Pappas

    Very disappointing. Great conceptually. Cats have done much to alter human behavior so as to cater to ... well cats every whim - or at least those who have homes. But this book did little to augment the superior position of the cat in society. Instead the writing style was careless and annoying, the author seemed to want to try to impress us with her whimsical greater-then-thou writing style. Couldn't stand it. Research was random and delivered in a haphazard style. Author needs to go back to sc Very disappointing. Great conceptually. Cats have done much to alter human behavior so as to cater to ... well cats every whim - or at least those who have homes. But this book did little to augment the superior position of the cat in society. Instead the writing style was careless and annoying, the author seemed to want to try to impress us with her whimsical greater-then-thou writing style. Couldn't stand it. Research was random and delivered in a haphazard style. Author needs to go back to school to understand how to write for an audience and how to develop a topic. Just goes to show great titles do not always make for great books.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dany

    3.5 stars. Well, we certainly thought this was going to be more FUN, but at least this was interesting and we also learned some things. Still, Rosey and I couldn't help but yell a little bit. Check out our discussion at Robots Read. 3.5 stars. Well, we certainly thought this was going to be more FUN, but at least this was interesting and we also learned some things. Still, Rosey and I couldn't help but yell a little bit. Check out our discussion at Robots Read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Elise

    A non-fiction book about how house cats took over the world, and why we let them. If you live with cats (not “own” cats, nobody can own a cat), you know exactly what a huge incomprehensible mystery that is. Abigail Tucker explores everything about the relationship between cats and humans: the history, when they started to tame and train us to cater to their every need; their environmental impact, which is bad and is not the most fun chapter to read as a cat lady; all the way to cat memes and LOLs A non-fiction book about how house cats took over the world, and why we let them. If you live with cats (not “own” cats, nobody can own a cat), you know exactly what a huge incomprehensible mystery that is. Abigail Tucker explores everything about the relationship between cats and humans: the history, when they started to tame and train us to cater to their every need; their environmental impact, which is bad and is not the most fun chapter to read as a cat lady; all the way to cat memes and LOLspeak and cats being Internet superstars today. This was a very fun book to read, I laughed out loud more than once. I learned a lot of things I didn’t know about cats, but not the answer to the book’s overarching question: what is the point of house cats, exactly? But I mean, do you really need a reason for this?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    I found this book frustrating. There were interesting insights, but overall it feels like if you are a dog person - this book will confirm your suspicions of the feline species. If you’re a cat admirer, you’ll feel irritated and let down. At the end, I had a hard time believing the author when she admits to being a cat lover. It certainly didn’t seem that way throughout the whole book, which I wouldn’t have finished unless I had been reading it for a book club. Of the 11 other people in the club I found this book frustrating. There were interesting insights, but overall it feels like if you are a dog person - this book will confirm your suspicions of the feline species. If you’re a cat admirer, you’ll feel irritated and let down. At the end, I had a hard time believing the author when she admits to being a cat lover. It certainly didn’t seem that way throughout the whole book, which I wouldn’t have finished unless I had been reading it for a book club. Of the 11 other people in the club, 10 agreed with me and had similar opinions. Ultimately, she didn’t answer the question as to why humans love cats so much. And it seemed the issues the author decided to cover -- she placed the blame on cats, not on the humans.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Penmouse

    For cat lovers or for anyone who is interested in the history and lore of the lovely house cat aka "The Lion in the Living Room" will love The Lion in the Living Room: How Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker. Tucker's writing is snappy and her prose is a delight to read. Her writing is backed up with end notes found in the chapter called Notes. At the end of her book Tucker says it is important to realize cats are animals who are powerful organisms and a story. Anyone who has For cat lovers or for anyone who is interested in the history and lore of the lovely house cat aka "The Lion in the Living Room" will love The Lion in the Living Room: How Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World by Abigail Tucker. Tucker's writing is snappy and her prose is a delight to read. Her writing is backed up with end notes found in the chapter called Notes. At the end of her book Tucker says it is important to realize cats are animals who are powerful organisms and a story. Anyone who has been owned by a cat will agree cats indeed are powerful organisms. Recommend. Review written after downloading a free galley from NetGalley.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Meredith

    Enjoyed very much. Mary Roach-style nonfiction, but about cats. Many opportunities for cat puns; none missed. Especially enjoyed learning that middle aged ladies ruined LOLcats for 4chan. And that in a land of so many terrifying species (Australia), house cats are the invasive species. Seriously though, could have used some pictures.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kim Stallwood

    With so many books about cats published to read, I try avoid those that are cute photo books; or books about how Fluffy, Snowy, Blackie, etc. saved my life although I have read some. I stay away from how-to manuals or behavioural or veterinary guides. And such books as those that reproduce great paintings with cat heads replacing those of people. You know, the self-satisfying smirk of a Siamese painted over the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa. After this process of elimination, I am left with a With so many books about cats published to read, I try avoid those that are cute photo books; or books about how Fluffy, Snowy, Blackie, etc. saved my life although I have read some. I stay away from how-to manuals or behavioural or veterinary guides. And such books as those that reproduce great paintings with cat heads replacing those of people. You know, the self-satisfying smirk of a Siamese painted over the enigmatic smile of the Mona Lisa. After this process of elimination, I am left with a small but increasing number of what I call “serious” books about cats. So, I look to their subtitles as clues to discover their unique perspective and decide whether they live up to their claims. I am on a bender on serious books about cats because of my consultancy work with Alley Cat Allies. Of course, I love cats. We have rescued and lived with many cats but our (my partner and myself) present schedules prevent us from sharing our lives with cats (and dogs). Besides, I have always thought that subtitles should be read with a grain of salt. Do they really describe what is in the can? The subtitle for Abigail Tucker’s "The Lion in the Living Room" is “How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World.” As subtitles go, it is fine but I found myself wanting more than what I took away from reading her book. "The Lion in the Living Room" is Tucker’s first book and, as you would expect from someone who is a correspondent for Smithsonian magazine, it is well-written and researched. Every now and then, though, I did read something that was not appropriately referenced in the back of the book. And while I learned about such things as how in 1911, the “New York SPCA gassed 300,000 [cats] in New York City” because they were “falsely accused of carrying diseases like polio.” (p. 86) I assume she meant the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals but this is not made clear as it is not referenced. Further, there were often times when I wanted the text to be tightened up to move the narrative along. This was particularly true for chapters 8 (“Lions and Toygers and Lykoi”) and 9 (“Nine Likes). Gorging on serious books about cats reveals their commonalities, weaknesses, biases, and whether they are a good read. The author is a life-long lover of cats. Her Cheetoh is the “book’s bright-orange muse.” (p. 6) She takes us through familiar territory to do with cats. Their evolutionary development and history of association with our ancestors. These are explored with insight as “Cats are biologically at odds with the broadest patterns of human civilisation.” (p. 20) She goes onto explain "The more we push, the more coexistence with wild cats becomes nearly impossible. First, we clear the land, reaching ever deeper into rain forest and savannah, and devouring or shooting off the prey animals. This hurts wild cats, from the lions and tigers that compete with us directly for the big herbivores that we like to eat [well some of us I–Kim–must note], to house-cat-sized felines like the African golden cat, whose smaller prey is exterminated or siphoned off as bush-meat. After we topple forests and polish off the native prey species, we introduce our own food animals like cattle, sheep, chickens, and fish–which wild cats of all sizes, now without a meat source, naturally want to eat. Now it’s their turn to be kleptoparasites, and farmers don’t tolerate feline thievery. (p. 21)" As I read on I found myself moving through the familiar territory of such issues as domestication, predation, endangered species, Australia, Marian Island, Macquarie Island, American Bird Conservancy, and so on. Generally, Tucker deals well with these issues and fairly explores diverse points of view; however, there are times when I think she could have been more challenging on the arguments deployed in defence of killing cats. She visits several places to interview people as part of her research (e.g., breeders, researchers, bird advocates, Internet celebrities) and they inform and enrich the book’s narrative. It was pleasing to read about the author’s several trips out with feral cat advocates to witness TNR and colony care management. Chapter 6, “Cat Scan,” is devoted to the issue of toxoplasmosis. Again, I thought her treatment did not sufficiently challenge the claims made associating toxoplasmosis with mental disease. The preceding chapter, “The Cat Lobby,” includes her account of meeting Becky Robinson, president and founder of Alley Cat Allies, and attending their conference. Generally, this chapter is fine but again I felt she insufficiently challenged the counter arguments to Trap-Neuter-Return that it is ineffective. Further, these various points are brought together in the chapter’s summation. "As the sober PowerPoint concludes, the presenter suddenly flashes a slide of an adorable feline neonate: “And this is my kitten Rex!” she says. The room explodes in squeals. It was a bit like ending a lecture on the war on drugs with a picture of a lit crack pipe–especially since there is actually evidence that cats, like street drugs, have clinically compromised our minds. (p. 101)" This is a clever juxtaposition of issues but it feels like a cheap gratuitous shot. There was another similar occasion that stood out when I thought the writing style overshadowed what was actually being said. "Indoor cats are apex predators without a pyramid, and territorial overlords without territory. But in his own cage, safe from rivals, unexpected noises, unwanted eye contact, and us, every cat is what he was born to be: a king." (p. 137) So, with these various misgivings, "The Lion in the Living Room" is a worthwhile read even though it is not exactly clear how, as the subtitle claims, “cats tamed us” other than perhaps through toxoplasmosis and “took over the world.” It is not as if we live in the age of the felixpocene.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    This was an interesting novelty book. Readers might be taken aback by the general premise that while we as a society are crazy about cats, they are capable of wreaking havoc on native populations (like the wood rat, plenty of birds and lizards and many other small to medium creatures) and our own health (many of us are infected with toxoplasma and don't even know it) and a whole host of other things. The book is written by a self-professed cat lover (which helps soften the blow), but it doesn't This was an interesting novelty book. Readers might be taken aback by the general premise that while we as a society are crazy about cats, they are capable of wreaking havoc on native populations (like the wood rat, plenty of birds and lizards and many other small to medium creatures) and our own health (many of us are infected with toxoplasma and don't even know it) and a whole host of other things. The book is written by a self-professed cat lover (which helps soften the blow), but it doesn't at all leaving you feeling good about our affection for felines. I had no idea that house cats are among the top 100 world's worst invasive species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature! I also didn't know that unlike larger carnivores like bears, cats are hypercarnivores. They need huge amounts of protein and won't supplement with things like berries or other plants. I learned that cats can't synthesize key fatty acids on their own so while a dog might do fine on a vegan diet, a cat won't. It needs three times the protein that a dog does! The book covers a wide variety of topics like preservation efforts that are under way to keep cats from decimating so many species, the crazy extremes of animal rights activists, the attributes of wild cats that house cats retain, the domestication process, cat behavior/personality, cat cultures around the world (every heard of Hello Kitty?) and even how cats have taken over the internet in totally unforeseen ways. I had no idea how pervasive house cats and their feral relatives had become—physically and iconically. From what the author's written, it sounds like only very drastic measures would neutralize their population growth—and most people are opposed to such drastic measures. As much of a bummer as it was to read about so many negatives about cats, it was still pretty entertaining and witty, and I'd like to say I learned some interesting things. I'm taking most of what I read with a grain of salt, though. The author has decided to base pretty much the whole book on the theory of evolution. Unfounded claims and ridiculous stretches of explanation are stated without apology, like this gem: "So powerful was the ancient feline influence that cats may have helped make us human in the first place." Mmmmk. If you *gasp* don't believe in macroevolution, there's a lot you'll have to overlook in this book. Like a lot. While the author does a fairly good job countering research findings and theories with other possible explanations in some areas (and pointing out the ever vital "correlation doesn't equal causation" clause), the fact that these sometimes wild theories are given so much space made me read this book pretty lightly. There's a lot of unknown and speculation here (and only some of it is admitted). And even allowing for different interpretations of the facts, if you read this book too seriously, you'll still probably come away feeling like cats are ruining the world. If you're not open to hearing a lot of negatives about cats (reported by someone sympathetic to our loyalties), you probably won't like this book. We have three cats that we love and it didn't phase me too much. I also found some of the material maddening because of exactly the opposite issue: how crazy some people are about cats which is also discussed in this book. Did you know that people pay $460 a month for their cat to live in some sort of a retirement home somewhere where they can visit if they so choose? One owner exactly replicated their living room in the room in which their cat would be staying. These people can even pay extra to call their pets! I'm not sure what's worse: that or the famous cats and their owners that travel for live appearances. Thankfully, I have been blissfully unaware (until now) of most of the cats discussed that apparently have huge followings. But even after all that, as a cat lover and curious person I found this book plenty interesting (even fascinating in some parts) and it gave me a new awareness of some areas that involve cats that I had never considered. I'd recommend it to people who want to learn about the good, the bad and the ugly sides of cats and who are wiling to do some heavy sifting.

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