What was your inspiration behind the book?
Most people appreciate that dog breeds can have very different temperaments, but the differences that exist between the various types of cats are definitely not as well-recognized. I think that might be because purebred cats generally look rather similar in size, compared with dogs. But with the widespread, growing interest in today’s cat breeds, including the rapidly increasing number of hybrids, I wanted to highlight the key differences in the case of cats. Hopefully, the book will guide people in choosing a purebred that not only appeals to them, but also suits their individual circumstances. I was also keen to include some of the beautiful ‘one-off’ house cats that are out there, but often overlooked.
Can you pick one or two favorite cat breeds?
That’s a really difficult question. But I guess that I’d have to opt for the Abyssinian — it’s an elegant, intelligent, playful and great all-round pet, and it agrees very well with dogs. I’d also pick the British shorthair, another adaptable but perhaps slightly more relaxed companion in my experience.
Do you share your home with any pets?
Yes, I always have. I grew up in a house that was home to all kinds of pets, and that interest has stayed with me. So the cats need to agree with dogs, birds, fish, etc. Thankfully, we’ve never had any injuries or fatalities! In fact, it always amazes me how dogs and cats can strike up such a close rapport. A dog will ignore other cats fighting outside in the neighborhood, and yet can recognize when its companion is involved in conflict, rushing outside and barking loudly with the aim of helping!
At the end of the book, you include a “Human Selector” chart and a “Cat Selector” chart that help guide readers to the cat breed most appropriate for their lifestyle. Can you tell us which breed best suits your lifestyle?
Writing about animals and running my website means that I am at home most of the time, so that makes my choice easier. I’ve also got a good-sized backyard and no young children (unless you count my youngest daughter, who is now a veterinarian, and particularly attached to cats!). I tend to prefer shorthairs, as you’ve probably guessed, and I like an affectionate, home-loving cat, rather than one that has a strong, independent spirit. In terms of choosing another breed, I think the Korat definitely ticks the boxes for me — not just because of its nature, but also because of its long and fascinating history.
What was the most rewarding part about writing the book?
Seeing it come together! We had a great editorial and design team involved. It amazes me to look at the completed book and see what a fantastic job they did in terms of merging the text with the beautiful images of the cats themselves. Looking ahead though, I hope people will find it useful; that would ultimately be the most rewarding part.
What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
It wasn’t so much the writing, as hoping that we’d be able to find photographs of all the cats that needed to be included! This book is structured completely differently from any other cat book out there. It was the sort of project that gives nightmares to commissioning editors, as there simply wasn’t a back-up plan available. The different cats are divided into thirteen distinctive sections within the book, and we couldn’t move them around, which would be the usual escape plan! We went for 120 entries in total, and there are individual photographs of all of these cats, even of the newest and rarest breeds. We had a couple of very scary moments as the clock ticked down, but everyone we contacted was so helpful that we got there, thanks to them!
What is one lesson you’ve learned from a cat?
Patience. If it doesn’t work out the first time, be persistent. If you’re determined, it should work itself out eventually.
What do you enjoy doing on your free time?
It’s a bit boring, really. I enjoy walking with the dogs, watching nature and reading. I live near the coast, which provides another dimension that I enjoy exploring. I also enjoy listening to music — particularly singer-songwriters like Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Emmylou Harris, Guy Clark and Kris Kristofferson. I often have music on when I’m writing.
Are you planning on writing more books?
Yes, I’ve got another one coming out in November 2011, called Animal Grief — how animals mourn. It’s obviously very different in terms of its subject matter. Although it discusses why we can feel so distressed at the passing of a pet, and how to cope in such circumstances, the scope is actually much broader. It covers both wild and domestic animals, and it seeks to explain their emotional responses to death.
As far as cat books are concerned, a photographer friend of mine has a wonderful collection of over 750 different domestic cats, all behaving in different ways, so we’re looking for a publisher to take on this project at present. Our working title is It’s a Cat’s Life. Again, it’s something that’s unique and has never been done before. I think the range of colors and patterns will fascinate people.
If you could tell your readers one thing, what would it be?
Don’t rush into acquiring a cat. Think it through carefully, and hard though it can be, do not simply choose the first one that you see, especially if you have any doubts whatsoever. Your cat will hopefully be part of your daily life for 12-15 years or even longer, and you need to be sure that you will be compatible, as in any close relationship. So many people want kittens, but remember that there are many wonderful older cats out there in shelters who, through no fault of their own, are in desperate need of kind, permanent homes. Give them that opportunity if you can.