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Doris Lessing's love affair with cats began at a young age, when she became intrigued with the semiferal creatures on the African farm where she grew up. Her fascination with the handsome, domesticated creatures that have shared her flats and her life in London remained undiminished, and grew into real love with the awkwardly lovable El Magnifico, the last cat to share her home.

On Cats is a celebrated classic, a memoir in which we meet the cats that have slunk and bullied and charmed their way into Doris Lessing's life. She tells their stories—their exploits, rivalries, terrors, affections, ancient gestures, and learned behaviors—with vivid simplicity. And she tells the story of herself in relation to cats: the way animals affect her and she them, and the communication that grows possible between them—a language of gesture and mood and desire as eloquent as the spoken word. No other writer conveys so truthfully the real interdependence of humans and cats or convinces us with such stunning recognition of the reasons why cats really matter.

Topics: Cats, Friendship, Writers, Animals, Love, Touching, Heartfelt, London, Zimbabwe, and Essays

Published: HarperCollins on Dec 2, 2002
ISBN: 9780061981951
List price: $9.99
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By the time I finished this little novel, which I took many weeks to slowly peruse while I had other things going on, I was quite sorry I had come to the last page, because the story I had just read was both sublime and heartbreaking, an ode to a cat who had clearly taken a very special place in Dorris Lessing's heart and who is no doubt still missed. When I got this book, I wondered how it could be that a book on cats written by a Nobel Prize laureate wasn't more popular, but then the first few pages gave me the answer. Lessing's recollections about cats begin with those that lived in and out of their family farmhouse in Africa when she was a child. As they multiplied exponentially, with many of them going wild and then attacking the fowls, Lessing's mother was assigned to kill a great number of them off, which makes for some gruesome and sad anecdotes which are hard to take for an animal lover. By chapter 3, things become much more tolerable, even quite enchanting, with the hard living of Africa now forgotten, as we're introduced to a beautiful new arrival in the author's London flat: "The kitten was six weeks old. It was enchanting, a delicate fairy-tale cat, whose Siamese genes showed in the shape of her face, ears, tail, and the subtle lines of its body. Her back was tabby: from above or the back, she was a pretty tabby kitten, in grey and cream, But her front and stomach were a smoky-gold, Siamese cream, with half-bars of black at the neck. Her face was pencilled with black—fine dark rings around the eyes, fine dark streaks on her cheeks, a tiny cream-coloured nose with a pink tip, outlined in black. From the front, sitting with her slender paws straight, she was an exotically beautiful beast. She sat, a tiny thing, in the middle of a yellow carpet, surrounded by five worshippers, not at all afraid of us. Then she stalked around the floor of the house, inspecting every inch of it, climbed up on to my bed, crept under the fold of a sheet, and was at home."Only a true cat lover could have written those lines, and we discover all the wonders of grey cat (mentioned above), and her standoff with black cat, most of which is quite amusing and charming, if you ignore the bits about kittens having to be gotten rid of, since apparently in these bygone days, people didn't believe in getting their cats spayed. But when we reach the last story "The Old Age of El Magnifico", we're willing to forgive Lessing for taking us through the painful bits—this is a true love letter to a cat dearly beloved, which pulls at the heartstrings, and might make the reader shed a tear or two, as I did.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Charming, little book that most accurately describes cats and their ways. Fast read, highly enjoyable for those who have and/or love cats. Her cats are indoor/outdoor cats and had multiple litters of kittens before being fixed. Non-fiction.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Highly astute observations about the inner lives of cats.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

By the time I finished this little novel, which I took many weeks to slowly peruse while I had other things going on, I was quite sorry I had come to the last page, because the story I had just read was both sublime and heartbreaking, an ode to a cat who had clearly taken a very special place in Dorris Lessing's heart and who is no doubt still missed. When I got this book, I wondered how it could be that a book on cats written by a Nobel Prize laureate wasn't more popular, but then the first few pages gave me the answer. Lessing's recollections about cats begin with those that lived in and out of their family farmhouse in Africa when she was a child. As they multiplied exponentially, with many of them going wild and then attacking the fowls, Lessing's mother was assigned to kill a great number of them off, which makes for some gruesome and sad anecdotes which are hard to take for an animal lover. By chapter 3, things become much more tolerable, even quite enchanting, with the hard living of Africa now forgotten, as we're introduced to a beautiful new arrival in the author's London flat: "The kitten was six weeks old. It was enchanting, a delicate fairy-tale cat, whose Siamese genes showed in the shape of her face, ears, tail, and the subtle lines of its body. Her back was tabby: from above or the back, she was a pretty tabby kitten, in grey and cream, But her front and stomach were a smoky-gold, Siamese cream, with half-bars of black at the neck. Her face was pencilled with black—fine dark rings around the eyes, fine dark streaks on her cheeks, a tiny cream-coloured nose with a pink tip, outlined in black. From the front, sitting with her slender paws straight, she was an exotically beautiful beast. She sat, a tiny thing, in the middle of a yellow carpet, surrounded by five worshippers, not at all afraid of us. Then she stalked around the floor of the house, inspecting every inch of it, climbed up on to my bed, crept under the fold of a sheet, and was at home."Only a true cat lover could have written those lines, and we discover all the wonders of grey cat (mentioned above), and her standoff with black cat, most of which is quite amusing and charming, if you ignore the bits about kittens having to be gotten rid of, since apparently in these bygone days, people didn't believe in getting their cats spayed. But when we reach the last story "The Old Age of El Magnifico", we're willing to forgive Lessing for taking us through the painful bits—this is a true love letter to a cat dearly beloved, which pulls at the heartstrings, and might make the reader shed a tear or two, as I did.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Charming, little book that most accurately describes cats and their ways. Fast read, highly enjoyable for those who have and/or love cats. Her cats are indoor/outdoor cats and had multiple litters of kittens before being fixed. Non-fiction.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Highly astute observations about the inner lives of cats.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is a book by Doris Lessing and her life with cats, the book is based on her love of the feline creatures that habitats her life, included in the book are two chapters on two cats she was particularly fond off, Rufus and El Magnifico.This book is a lovely read, the style of writing is exquisite and she describes all manner of the cat’s personality and their traits. I wouldn’t say she has a particular love of cats but she sees certain qualities in them that draws them too her affectionately, referring to some cats at the beginning of the book as grey cat or second cat and not by name. Lessing chronicles all the feline’s behaviour from their fussy habits, who is the top cat to the way they move, the descriptions are exceptional.I didn’t think I would enjoy this being a dog lover but it was a fab book, I’ll look at cats differently from now on. If your a lover of cats then I recommend this book to you.
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Though a dog lover, I absolutely loved this book. The insight that Doris has about her cats is so easily transcribed to the pages of this book. You can feel the love that exists between her and her cats.Her descriptions at times brought tears to my eyes. I will never look at a cat again without stopping to think that here lies a very special being.Read this book, you will love her stories.
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This little book is an intimate memoir of Lessing's life with cats. Frankly it is at times very difficult to read. It demands both pragmatism, as well as the insight that the place of cats in the world in a different time and place is very different from what it is now. Lessing seems to dislike the idea of spaying and neutering because of what it puts the animals through, documents what unwanted cats and kittens experience, but doesn’t seem to factor that in to her own perspective.
However, her sentiment and affection for cats is clearly real and profound. It is accessible to anyone who reads this book. I believe it will resonate with anyone who loves cats as will her observations of the relationships of various cats to her and to each other. It is a remarkable book that I think will stay with me for a long time to come.
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