May 16, 2008

The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats

A Journey Into the Feline Heart
by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

When I began reading this book, I wasn't really enjoying it much. I disagreed with many of Masson's observations, was skeptical about his conclusions and a bit bored. But the more I read the more interesting it got, and by the end I'd decided it will definitely remain in my library. My husband picked the book up once, read a page at random, and began laughing. He really wants to read it himself now, too.

The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats is similar in many ways to Elizabeth Thomas Marshall's The Hidden Life of Dogs (which Masson himself refers to several times, being a personal friend of Marshall's- a fact that tickled me pink). Marshall's book is the result of an experiment in which she followed free-roaming dogs, to discover what they do when left to their own devices. Similarly, Masson - a psychoanalyst- went out and purposefully acquired five cats to live with him, then observed their behavior and interactions. Each chapter of the book examines in depth the character of cats via nine distinct emotions or mental states: narcissism, love, contentment, attachment, jealousy, fear, anger, curiosity and playfulness.

As the book- and Masson's relationship with his cats- progressed, I was surprised and intrigued to see how his cats' behavior changed. They became more bold, confident and affectionate. They accompanied him on daily walks along the beach- even in rain- and made friendly advances on the neighborhood dogs. I enjoyed speculating along with the author why cats do many eccentric things, and comparing his observations with my own experiences living with cats. If you've ever lived with a cat, or wondered at their alien nature- aloof, uninvolved, mysterious- you will certainly enjoy and learn from this book.

Rating: 4/5........ 259 pages, 2002

More opinions at: The Stay at Home Bookworm


Trish said...

I need to check this out! I've said this before, but cats are so fascinating and mysterious to me. I love our dog, but my cat and I have a different type of connection/bond. That sounds silly, but I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Now, if I could only speak "cat" :)

PK said...

This looks fascinating - I'll add it to my list! :)

Nyssaneala said...

This book keeps popping up, I really should check it out. Great review!

Danielle said...

I've never read any cat books (I know there've been a few popular ones out), but I really should. I have two cats and am always curious about their motivations! Glad this one turned out better than you anticipated.

Stephanie said...

This sounds like a great book for any cat lover!