There’s little enough humour in our lives and when there is, we don’t always appreciate it or even get it. I admit there is a lot of humour that doesn’t work on me, it’s not enough to know the English language, the cultural and political context is critical and as for French humour – way too difficult! – however I do admire anyone able to write with humour, speak with it or just be it!
Caroline Paul has something of the gift, in a kind of self-deprecating way, and her book Lost Cat, allows us to have a few laughs at her expense, although they are situations that could equally apply to many of us and especially cat and dog owners.
She has written this light and entertaining tale which will appeal to all ages, a story of love, desperation and the many tools available to obsessed animal lovers in search of a missing pet. It is a true story which comes with a caveat, three in fact, (1) painkillers, (2) elapsed time, (3)normal confusion for people of a certain age.
Knowing that the author has previously written a book about her job as a fire-woman, it came as less of a surprise to learn that she was involved in a light plane crash in an ‘experimental plane’. Her sense of humour is established not long after this revelation when hospital staff inform her that she has broken her tibia and her fibula.
“The Tibia and Fibula?!” I said, tasting the blood in my mouth, feeling the bruises on my arm, laughing through my morphine haze. When I explained that these were my cats, the staff just nodded, expressionless; to them, I was just another numskull hallucinating on a gurney. But it was true. Two thirteen –year-old tabbies, affectionately nicknamed Tibby and Fibby, were now wondering where the heck I was and why I hadn’t come home.
The accident leads to a period of enforced convalescence and a bout of the blues ; she is unable to venture out, most likely taking up too much space, both mental and physical in what had been the cats’ territory. The home dynamic has also changed since the author became involved in a new relationship, her partner not exactly a cat lover, although as a graphic artist, she has contributed sketches to the book that add to its entertainment value.
Then, a month into her recovery, without warning, something terrible happens. Tibby disappears.
Caroline panics and in the aftermath of his disappearance indulges every possible theory to find out where he is, from walking the neighbourhood to visiting the pound, from prayer to consulting a psychic. Then five weeks after his disappearance, Tibby returns, just like that. In perfect health. He’d even gained half a pound and his coat was as shiny as silk.
Confusion. Jealousy. Betrayal. I thought I’d known my cat of thirteen years. But that cat had been anxious and shy. This cat was a swashbuckling adventurer back from the high seas. What siren call could have lured him away? Was he still going to this place, with its overflowing food bowls and endless treats.
Rather than accept the fact he is safe and has returned, the author then turns detective to try to figure out where he has been, some place he’s clearly still visiting as he is no longer interested in his food. This when I discover things about animal behaviour and the obsessions of animal owners that have me laughing out loud and wanting to tell everyone about all the crazy things it is possible to spend your hard-earned cash on when you are under the influence of an animal obsession.
And then I quieten down, remembering I have a ten-year-old who is heading in that direction, big time. I’m just thankful that dinosaurs are extinct or he’d be begging for a pet one of those too! I’m afraid of what will happen when he becomes financially independent, the ‘overflowing with life’ rooms, in the virtual home he has created online, possess no furniture or accessories, unless you call a peacock in the living room an accessory.
Where do our pets go and what do they do, when we’re not around? And why? Aren’t we enough for our furry companions? For animal lovers, these are the ultimate questions. And so began a quest familiar to anyone who has realised that the man in their life isn’t who he seems: the quest to find out where Tibby had been for those five weeks.
This book landed on my lap in a busy work period a little while ago and was the perfect antidote, even if you are not a fan of animals, it is worth reading for the enlightenment of the lengths people will go to, to understand their animal. I wish this book had been available just before Christmas, it’s the perfect gift. There’s always next Christmas! I’ll be buying multiple copies.
Note: This book was an Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley on behalf of the publisher.