Part of the Reaktion's animal series, Cat traces the relationship between humans and the cat from its original domestication in ancient Egypt c. 2000 BC, where it enjoyed high status, through its centuries as a mere utilitarian rodent catcher, its gradual acceptance as a charming and amiable pet, and its present status as a companion on a par with the dog.
Cats spread from Egypt, reaching Britain by the fourth century BC and Japan by about the seventh. They were immediately appreciated in Japan, but in the West they were regarded as harmless and necessary at best, and, at worst, as convenient targets for abuse. Finally, in late-seventeenth-century France, an aristocratic coterie began to make much of their pet cats. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, people of all classes came to appreciate cats as companions, and now there are more pet cats than pet dogs in both the UK and the USA.
Long before people valued cats as companions, however, they recognized something special about them. Cats' ease of negotiation in the dark, their silent movements, their self-detachment even as they live in our homes, their refusal to defer to humans, seem to indicate strange, even supernatural powers. At first these attributes seemed sinister, but for later cat lovers they add to the animals' fascination. They have inspired writers from Poe to Lewis Carroll to imaginative creations. But cats can also be the embodiment of a happy home and good friends, whether they sustain a lonely old woman like Hall's Fr#ulein Schwartz or chat pleasantly with an old man in Murakami's Kafka on the Shore. The peculiar fascination of the cat, indeed, is the diversity of images it projects - sweet and ferocious, affectionate and independent, elegant and earthy, cosily domestic and eerie.
This book will appeal to the enormous number of people who like and are interested in cats. Unlike many other cat books, it offers substantial and accurate information about the history of cats and their presentation in literature and art.
a beautifully illustrated history ... A perfect read for ailurophiles. The Guardian Reaktion's reliably stylish and intelligent series of illustrated books about animals in culture goes from strength to strength. Cat unites a typically broad and fascinating set of images with Katherine Rogers's elegant survey of the way humans have seen and thought of home-based felines. The Independent It requires a wealth of knowledge and some ingenuity to write a book about cats that has a fresh approach and provides unusual information, which has not been repeated from innumerable previous publications. But, as with all the books I have in the this fine new series, this is what Katharine Rogers has achieved in Cat ... [this] book has a very balanced approach and is written with great empathy and understanding. Anthrozoos
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Katharine M. Rogers is a freelance writer living in Bethesda, Maryland, usa. She is the author and editor of numerous books and anthologies including The Cat and the Human Imagination: Feline Images from Bast to Garfield (1998), L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz (2002) and First Friend: A History of Dogs and Humans (forthcoming).