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Bradshaw starts his story of the domesticated cat by taking us back to 10,000 or so years ago, explaining that probably the relationship between man and cat began when humans started to store food, thus requiring rodent control. He discusses the ongoing genetic links between domestic and wild cats and suggests what steps may have taken place over the history of the cat to lead to today's level of domestication. He regularly informs us that his views are often no more than educated guesswork, since far less research has been done on the cat than the dog.

In the last few chapters, Bradshaw discusses the place of the domestic cat in today's world, suggesting that the cat will have to change if it wishes to survive in an increasingly urbanised society where many people see cats as wildlife-murdering pests. He points out that most pet cats, especially males, are neutered before breeding (with the exception of pedigrees) and that this may have the unintended consequence of demand for kittens being met by rescued feral litters or by mating between wild males and domestic unneutered females. He proposes that in fact cats should be bred carefully for personality and trained to live happily, either as indoor cats or as non-hunting outdoor cats. He makes valid points about the lack of territory available to each cat in an overcrowded world and about the increased levels of anxiety this can cause.

While there is a lot of interesting stuff in here, there are a couple of things that prevent me wholeheartedly recommending the book. I found the presentation of the first section about the history of the cat quite dry and often repetitive - it may be of more interest to someone with a scientific interest in the subject, but for this casual cat-loving reader there was too much concentration on genetics, while there was little new in the tale of how the cat became a domestic pet.

The second section was more interesting to me, but here I found I disagreed fundamentally with the thrust of his argument - that we should be trying to breed cats to be more domesticated. He makes the point himself that cat owners love them because of their independence and relatively easy care, while suggesting that that independence should be bred out of them and that they should be subjected to intensive training. I would suggest that, in that case, might as well get a dog. As someone who's not very keen on selective breeding of any (domestic) animal, I was also uneasy about messing with the breeding to produce something that would really end up looking like a cat but not behaving like one. If we as a race decide cats are not suited to our environment (and I don't accept that) then surely better to stop keeping cats rather than to play god. When one considers some of the horrors that selective breeding has produced in both dogs and cats, can we really want to go further down that route?

So Bradshaw's assumption that this is the way to go meant that instead of, as I had expected, giving us advice on how to make sure our existing cats are well cared for, in fact he seemed to be suggesting the demise of the cat as we know it to be replaced with designer Stepford Cats. A reasonably interesting read but, for me, more of a warning of why scientists should never be allowed out without a bell on their collar than a convincing argument for the future of the moggie.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 10 October 2013
Now at last I have a slightly better idea of what's going on in Amelie's mind!

This is a good review of cats from a scientific point of view. The genetic and historic information was fascinating. I was especially intrigued by the difference in the degree of domestication in cats compared to other domesticated animals. The fact that 85% of cats in the west still choose their own mates is quite a revelation.

We also get insights into the dramatic sex, violence and politics in our cat's lives which all are far away from the part we normally see. There is much more to that cat curled up in front of the fire than you realise.

All this is useful in helping us to be a meaningful companion for our cats and to provide a good home for them.

I have only two small reservations. The book is slightly repetitive. And the chapter on thoughts and feelings reads as if the author is terrified of the anthropocentric thought police. Actions which are considered as involving thought, consciousness and planning in a human are sometimes here spoken of as if coming from a mindless machine when cat does the same.

Overall, highly recommended.
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Like all cats lovers I am constantly on the lookout for a definitive book which contains everything I need to know about the enigmatic creature who shares my home.

John Bradshaw's interesting and entertaining book goes a long way to satisfy my curiosity and has some really interesting snippets of information. The book is divided into well ordered chapters which cover cats in all walks of life, from the feral hordes who have to scavenge for survival, through to the pampered and cosseted world of the adored domestic feline.
The chapters are many and varied and begin by covering the history of the cat and cat archaeology before going into more specific detail about the domestication of the cat and the way in which we humans fit into the cat's world. There are also some lovely black and white drawings interspersed amongst the narrative and lots of useful diagrams and charts.

The author has a real fondness for the feline and has used his skill and knowledge to good effect and has produced a book which is entertaining but which is also informative and a real delight to read.
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on 15 September 2013
As much as I love cats, I'm not normally a fan of books about cats. They tend to be way too cosy for my taste, and too full of home-spun wisdom, which I am not a fan of at all. But I was excited to read Cat Sense as it promised to be a scientific portrayal of cats, written by author who works in feline science and based on proper research. Divided into three parts, Cat Sense covers the history of cats and their domestication, scientific explanations for their behaviour and challenges faced by cats as they live in great numbers alongside humans.

The first part of the book, which was a history of cats and their relationship with humans, was completely fascinating. There was quite a lot of information on genetics, the ancestors of modern day pet cats and the genetic relationship between domestic and wild cats (not as far apart as you would think!). I genuinely found this interesting, especially when Bradshaw discussed the genes responsible for cat colouring and markings. I had no idea that blotched tabbies (like Joseph, but you can't see his blotches in the picture above), which are so common in the UK, are rare in other parts of the world. It's also interesting how some features, such as white paws, have survived because we like them, even though they are counter-productive to the cat's role as a hunter.

After the history, Bradshaw moved on to the science behind cat behaviour, which took up the bulk of the book. A lot of the information won't be new to anyone who has owned a cat or even observed one, but it was interesting to read about the studies that scientists have carried out. The section I most enjoyed dealt with the way cats think, their emotions and their personalities. The idea that animals have distinct personalities and can experience emotion in a similar way to humans is a modern one in science, so I was glad to see Bradshaw outlining the research in this area so far. As much as this section on cat behaviour was interesting, I felt like it was overly long and too heavily skewed towards the author's own work.

Finally, Bradshaw covers several issues facing cats and their owners, such as what the rising numbers of neutered cats will mean for future kittens. My cat was neutered at six months and I have always assumed this was the right and responsible thing to do, but Bradshaw argues that this narrows the choice of available males to part feral ones, meaning that the most domesticated, docile cats do not breed, and this could have consequences for the future. He also discusses the way wildlife campaigners have targeted cats and campaigned for things like cat curfews, and whether this actually has any impact on the population of wild animals in the area.

On the whole, Cat Sense was an enjoyable book if not a mind-blowing one. It was full of interesting information but tended to be over-long and wasn't always written in the most engaging style. However, if you like cats and want to find out more about them, Cat Sense won't disappoint.
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on 16 October 2013
There is always this sort of competition between dog and cat lovers. Who are better creatures? What are their characteristics and how sometimes they grow to define their owners is also very interesting to note. We want to know more about the pets we own and yet somehow we do not have the time to get to know more about them and why they behave the way they do.

"Cat Sense: The Feline Enigma Revealed" by John Bradshaw is an insightful book into cats and how they have come to me from ages ago. Cats have always been under-researched. This topic has always intrigued me (though I am a dog-lover throughout) and I have always wanted to know more about these enigmatic creatures and their behaviour. "Cat Sense" is also not surprisingly a BBC series, which must be watched after you finish reading this wondrous book.

"Cat Sense" speaks of cats right from the beginning. From the history of domestication of cats, to how their senses are different and what makes them act the way they do, to drawing on the social life of cats - which to me was the most interesting part in the entire book.

What John also does is let some mysteries about cats be and not delve too much into them. Bradshaw also tackles his subject as being a certified Anthrozoologist for over thirty years. He writes sharply and draws from his experience with cats which adds that much needed personal touch to the book.

The snippets of information and trivia are worth noting more so if you are a cat lover. Bradshaw also touches on the most misconceived notion of cats being selfish creatures and demystifies it for the reader. I have a lot of friends who are cat lovers and I know for one that I would be telling them to read this book, which they will cherish and love as much as I did.
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on 23 November 2013
Very accessible, funny, but reinforced with lots of science. I couldn't put it down. A great romp through the natural history of cats, I learned quite a lot, and the call to action is quite stirring. It definitely made me think about cat ownership.
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on 22 September 2014
The cat is, of course, like any other animal, open to all kinds of scientific and historical study, including dissection, scanning, and DNA analysis. To those who look forward to their first sight of their pussycat as they open their eyes first thing in the morning, do not complain as the cat walks past the scratching post to rip up the furniture, and drift happily to sleep cradling their purring pet in their arm hoping for another day at home with the cat, commitment to a cat is religion; I knew a boy whose main motive for growing up way to be able to allow his cat up onto the table with being scolded by his mother.

John Bradshaw is, happily, a believer, and his cats Splodge, Lucy and Libby (nothing on the naming of cats, perhaps dealt with in his way by T. S. Eliot ‘The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,/ It isn't just one of your holiday games;/ You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter /When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.’ — am I alone in thinking those rhymes are contrived?) and none of the fascinating cat facts presented seem to have been acquired by cutting them open.

Actually, the early history of the cat is uncertain (how were they domesticated? By whom? The Natufians? — how much further forward does that get us) and the later history of the cat is distressing. Still, the book is full of information.

A lot of this information passes before your eyes several times. Among the many attractive beasts, who did not become the domestic cat, for example, ‘were sand cats, Felis margharita, large eared nocturnal animals that [WAIT FOR IT] hunt by night, using their acute hearing’ (18). And lest it be thought this recourse to pleonasm is momentary aberration, just over the page we find ‘As its name implies, the fishing cat is a strong swimmer and specializes in [WELL, WITH A NAME LIKE THAT, WHAT WOULD IT SPECIALIZE IN?] catching fish’ (20).

Bis repetita placent, said someone who could well have been Horace, and who, in any event, had not read this book. Among the oft-repeated truths are: wild cats (now) have domestic DNA; Egyptians regarded cats as useful; cats hunt; black genes are recessive; mice are a balanced diet, but until recently, cat food was not; dogs are domesticated longer than the cat; dogs can be trained to do lots of things, whereas semi-domesticated cats only really do ONE thing; cats are naturally solitary, and need to learn to socialize with others of their kind, as well as with dogs; cats are territorial; the gesture consisting of holding the upright is probably recent… &c &c.

While it is true that some truths do not bear infinite repetition, this ought not to obscure the fact that there are many rich and fascinating insights in the book, which will give the ailurophile useful glimpses of the workings of the feline mind.

There are things it does not explain:

1) Why does a cat who has just peeped out of the back window and discovered it is raining, then go to the back door in the hope the weather might be better there?
2) Why do cats, exclusive carnivores, inspect Waldorf salads and bowls of tomatoes with envious glances?
3) Why do cats always look askance on cat food?
4) Why do cats knead/pound?
5) Where did the myth that cats like milk come from, given that many won’t touch it?
6) Why is it impossible to give a cat a present that isn’t food?
7) Why do cats, who generally avoid water, meow to be let into the bathroom?
8) Why do some cats chew plastic (but it is explained that come cats gnaw fabric)?
9) Why will a cat who finds its owner reading ALWAYS seek to insinuate itself between eyes and page?
10) When there is a shirt on a clean and soft duvet, why will the cat always sit ON the shirt?
11) Whenever a box is left on the floor, why will a cat always step inside, and assume a pose of immense seriousness?
12) Do cats enjoy speech?
13) Do cats like having Radio 4 on?

Perhaps there is a place for a book about cat owners? Why do you laugh at cats (the electronic media seem to exist for that purpose)? Why do we say ‘Who’s a silly girl?’? Why do we talk to cats? Why does an even quite comfortable house with no cat in it seem unbearably dull?

I did come away after reading this book with a feeling of wellbeing, though, and my faith strengthened.
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on 12 October 2013
I understand my daft cat more and am considering some training. Apparently it is possible. Might need some Kevlar gloves...

Thought provoking regarding the uncertain future of people-friendly cats due to widespread neutering.
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on 12 October 2013
This was a thoroughly excellent book for anyone who either owns a cat or likes them. I learned a lot about my cat Jesse which I hadn't previously known!
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on 18 December 2013
Watching the TV programmes was fascinating, and this book compliments them. Essential reading for any serious cat fan, or co-habitee.
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