Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cats I Have Known and Loved by Pierre Berton

Who would have guessed that one of the great historian’s passions in life is cats? Over the course of his eighty-two years, and from his birthplace in Dawson City, Yukon, to his home in Kleinburg, Ontario, Berton has known and loved many cats. In this charming collection of stories, he has chosen his best cat tales to share with us.

Pierre Berton is a master storyteller, and his lyrical writing and sense of pacing and adventure enliven this collection, making it irresistible to any cat lover.

The book opens with the adventure of Pousse-Pousse, the cat with extra toes, who was carried off by a Great Horned Owl and, seven months later, reappeared at the door, bedraggled but alive. Pierre Berton’s first cat was Happy, a kitten the teenage Pierre spied in a pet store window “free to a good home.” It was Depression-era Victoria, and the Bertons barely had enough to feed themselves. Still, they kept Happy, and she produced scores of kittens over the years. There are stories of stray cats and “hobo cats,” beloved cartoon cats like Felix and Krazy Kat, and finally, “Rules for Guests,” which includes the following: “No discussion is so intense, no story so riveting, that it can’t be interrupted when a cat enters the room.”

This beautifully designed small-format gift book is illustrated with line drawings by Pierre Berton, photographs, and coloured endpapers.
As I mentioned earlier this weekend, I have been cleaning up my books. All the unread books are organized on the shelves and it looks really nice now! I have way too many and I probably will not read everything I have in this lifetime, but that is beside the point. One good thing about mixing things up a bit is that I tend to locate books that I knew in the back of my head that I had, but I at the same time didn't remember I had them. Tonight, I decided that I was in the mood for some Pierre Berton. I had planned to read some of his history, but I have been curious about this book since I found it at the second-hand store. In this book, Pierre Berton recounts tales of the cats that he has owned in his eighty-two years. It is not really his normal book, but it is written with the style that I have come to know from him.

I have to be honest. I am a dog person. If Pierre Berton didn't write this book, I probably wouldn't have read it. But, since I am a huge Pierre Berton fan, I feel the need to purchase all of his books. The stories in this book are hillarious and make me think about the cats that I have had so far.

The first cat that I picked out was a black cat named Sam. He was a great cat... Even after he was fixed he continued to spray. Not in the house, thankfully, but cars. Normally cars driven by male drivers. It was actually pretty funny to watch him mark his territory! He was the hunter in the clan, and my god did he let you know it! He would cry until someone noticed that he had caught a squirrel or a bird or a rodent. I was always so thrilled!

At the same time that I got Sam, my sister picked out Mittens. Mittens was an orange cat that, well, just was not all there. Insanely affectionate, but not the brightest bulb in the box! You never knew what stupid thing this cat was going to do next, really. The strangest thing about him, though, was his sleeping habits. That cat would sleep on anything and in any position. We would make houses out of lego and he would go to sleep on top of them. Many times I would have to pause and stare to try and figure out how on earth that location or position was comfortable! That cat drove me insane. It yeowed more than any creature I have ever dealt with, but it is also the cat that I remember the best!

Sam became more of the family cat than my own cat, so my parents let me acquire another cat. This one was a white fluffball named Snowball (I know, I was so creative with Sam and then I went right downhill in names). This cat was an obvious choice because when I picked her up at the shelter she put one paw on either side of my head. It was like she was hugging me, and this was something that she would do the entire time I had her! Too bad she was never all that friendly the rest of the time... Snowball was the cat that would cover her food over with whatever she could find so that the other cats could not use the food dish. She also always had something in her mouth.

The baby of the group was Maggie. Maggie was a double-pawed wimp. She hated the outdoors, especially in the winter! When there was snow on the ground and she was forced outside you could see her gingerly attempting to navigate around the snow. Eventually, she just never went outside. She would instead go to the bathroom in the furnace vents, which was a blast! We could never catch her doing it, but we could smell the evidence! This lead to a litter box, something that my mother hates. Maggie was the cat that would sleep in my closet or on my bed or other strange locations. To be honest, as much as I was a dog person over the cats, these four cats were always around me. This is because I fed them, probably, but I am also the animal person in the household.

With one of my ex-boyfriends, there were cats. Three are still living, but I never see them, and one is deceased. That deceased cat, Lana, was the craziest cat I have ever seen in my entire life. She played fetch, if you asked her a question she would answer with a meowing noise, she attacked everything, climbed the Christmas tree and slept in it, and so much more. The stories I can tell about that cat and she only lived to be just over two years old! I was kitty-sitting one holiday season and I noticed that she wasn't very mobile, which is very strange for her. She ended up being a very sick little cat and being put down fresh into the new year. The other three cats are Tolkien (the baby), Atra (the one in my profile picture), and Miko (the timid little princess). I never see those three anymore, but I hear they are doing well!

So, instead of rehashing the book, I shared my own stories. Fun, huh? Berton had some really entertaining cats as well. The stories are hillarious at times! Some of them I would have loved to see in action! And, as I was reading this book, the cat I gave my mother earlier this year was visiting. That cat is the most indecisive cat I have ever met. In five minutes she changes her position from side of the room to the other like ten times, I swear! I never know where I am going to trip over her next...


  1. Wonderful review! I just added it to my TBR for something lite. I love cats, actually all fur babies

  2. It was a fun book! I hope you enjoy it when you get a chance to read it!

  3. I bought this book in a book fair for £1 in Coniston in Cumbria, England.

    I love it - Pierre is a brilliant storyteller! I love the tale of Pousse-Pousse - it's so heart-warming!


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