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Patrick Roberts

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Feline Folios 1

A look at some of the books we've enjoyed
[ browse all reviewed titles from the Folios index page ]

The Cats of Moon Cottage, by Marilyn Edwards

The Cats of Moon Cottage
Marilyn Edwards
(Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2003;
ISBN 0 340 86206 8

A beautifully written, true account of life with cats — the old and independent male Septi and the young and mischievous female kitten Otto. There are both joys and heartaches, as anyone who has had cats will have experienced, but this is a delightful little book. The writing is sensitive throughout and the observations right on the mark. In addition, the numerous charcoal drawings by Peter Warner are superb.

A sequel was published the following year: see Folios 5.

The Indispensable Cat
Jean-Claude Suarès
(originally Stewart, Tabor & Chang, Inc., 1983; UK Webb & Bowen, 1984;
ISBN 0 86350 033 1

A fascinating, lavishly illustrated and nicely produced book about the history, lore and ways of cats; famous cats; cats in art, literature, films . . . and much more. I learn something new almost every time I pick it up; a book to dip into, perhaps, rather than read straight through.

The Indispensable Cat, by Jean-Claude Suares
A Cat is Watching, by Roger A. Caras

A Cat is Watching
Roger A. Caras
(1989; UK edition by Souvenir Press, 1990;
ISBN 0 285 62989 1

This carries the byline, 'The way cats see us,' and it's a keenly observed and entertaining look at how and why cats operate and behave in the ways that they do. The author presents the case that they spend a lot of time observing us, the human species, and uses his own long experience of living with cats to illustrate his ideas. It's far from being dry, and he has some wonderful anecdotes.

Paul Gallico

This has to be one of the 'must-have' fiction books for cat-lovers. Gallico was famous for his sensitive and touching stories about animals and people, notably The Snow Goose, and Jennie is a fine example. A young boy is injured in a traffic accident and left in a coma. While unconscious he dreams he is a cat, and the book relates his adventures in the dream. Gallico was clearly knowledgeable about feline ways and behaviour.

The book was published in 1950 by Michael Joseph and later by Penguin, and my copy has no ISBN. In the US it was called The Abandoned. Interestingly, the dedication is 'To the late Simon of the Amethyst'.

Jennie, by Paul Gallico
Urban Tails: photography Knox, text SaraNeeley

Urban Tails
Text by Sara Neeley, photography by Knox
(New World Library, Navato, CA, 2006;
ISBN 978 1 67731 560 5

A remarkable collection of photos of street and alley cats, young and old, in the USA. The stories of some of them are told, some sad, some joyous — but it is the photos that are so captivating. This is an unusual and worthy look at cats that are all too often ignored and abandoned.

Varjak Paw
S. F. Said, drawings by Dave McKean
(David Fickling Books, 2003; Corgi Books, 2004;
ISBN 0 552 54818 9

This is a children's book with an imaginative, unusual and enchanting story of a kitten growing up, finding his strength, overcoming obstacles and learning to survive by means of The Way — as told him by his grandfather, who is called the Elder Paw.

There's a second Varjak Paw book: see Folios 8

Author's website

Varjak Paw, by SF Said
Cats are Smarter than Jack

Cats are Smarter than Jack
(Avocado Press, Australia, 2005;
ISBN 0 958 25716 7

A collection of interesting and sometimes amazing short accounts of the adventures of real-life cats, recounted by their humans. The Smarter than Jack series of books began in New Zealand and has spread to the US, the UK, Australia and Canada; sales of them benefit national animal charities (Cats Protection for this book in the UK). There is a foreword by TV vet and wildlife cameraman Steve Leonard, and many of the accounts have photos.

Church Cats
Richard Surman
(HarperCollins, 1999;
ISBN 0 00 716669 0

Author Richard Surman, cat-lover and professional photographer, visited 18 churches in England and Wales and took wonderful pictures of their resident cats; he must have had the patience of Job to get some of these shots. Then he has written a brief biography of each cat and an entertaining and often amusing account of their characteristics, their foibles, their favourite haunts and the adventures they get up to. Short histories of the churches are also given, with drawings supplied by Peter Arscott. Highly recommended — and see below for other books in the series, all to the same high standard.

There are several articles about Church Cats which you may like to read, in our Featuring Felines section.

Church Cats, by Richard Surman
Cathedral Cats, 1st edition, by Richard Surman Cathedral Cats, 2nd edition, by Richard Surman College Cats of Oxford and Cambridge, by Richard Surman Castle Cats of Britain and Ireland, by Richard Surman
Cloister Cats, by Richard Surman

Further titles by Richard Surman, left, right and above:
Cathedral Cats, 1st edition
HarperCollins Religious, 1993; ISBN 00 0 627658 X
Cathedral Cats, 2nd edition (different cathedrals)
HarperCollins, 2005; ISBN 0 00 718280 5
College Cats of Oxford and Cambridge
HarperCollins, 1994; ISBN 0 00 6278 869
Castle Cats of Britain and Ireland
HarperCollins, 1995; ISBN 0 00 627945 7
Cloister Cats
Collins, 2007; ISBN 978 0 00 723210 9
Country House Cats
Collins, 2008; ISBN 978 0 00 725917 5
Author's website

Note: During 2011 Mick Escott contacted us to say that he would be visiting all the cathedrals in England, and would be enquiring at each one whether they had any resident cats. Sadly, it seemed that of all the cathedral cats featured In Richard Surman's two books — the more recent one from 2005 — and following the death of Wolfie of Salisbury in 2011, at the end of that year only three English cathedral cats remained, and they were not ones seen by Surman. They were Louis of Wells, Doorkins Magnificat of Southwark and Laptop of Canterbury. By late 2020 they had all died — but Hodge took Doorkins' place at Southwark, and there is Budge at Norwich Cathedral. There are probably cats at Canterbury, but I haven't been able to establish that for certain.

Country House Cats, by Richard Surman

Browse titles from the index page

There's also a feature on the series of children's books by Kathleen Hale,
Orlando, the Marmalade Cat

If you would like to comment, or suggest further titles, please contact me,
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There is none better to be our featured feline at the head of the page than Dewey, beloved and famous library cat of Spencer in Iowa
until his passing at the age of 19 in 2006. Read his story here.

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