It has been a long time since I read something that actually made me laugh out loud. Bob Tarte’s Kitty Cornered: How Frannie and Five Other Incorrigible Cats Seized Control of Our House and Made it Their Home did just that. There were nights when I was laughing so hard the cats would throw me a “what is your problem” look. Sometimes it was the “keep it down, I’m trying to sleep” look. For all the humor and nights of disrupting the cats with laughter, there were also plenty of profound, sentimental movements. The superb balance of humor and profound moments makes this a great book for anyone who has ever loved an animal. After all living with animals is at times hysterical, frustrating, rewarding and moving.
With chapters detailing the arrival of new cats and their far flung personalities, as well as chapters about trying to keep a bandage and e-collar on a cat and introducing a hypoallergenic diet there is something that every cat owner can relate to. While the summary on the back of the book says Tarte takes an “unabashedly anthropomorphic approach” I think he is extremely talented at capturing the personalities of his cats (as well as the occasional duck, rabbit or bird who makes an appearance.) And with six cats in the house, there is a personality that you are sure to is sure to resonate with a cat you have personally known. I will leave you to read Tarte’s descriptions of each of his cats as they enter the story line since as his descriptions are hysterically beautiful.
When the book begins Tarte and his wife have just two cats, Agnes and Moobie, as well as two bunnies, some birds and a barn full of ducks and hens. A new cat is making appearances in the neighborhood. This new cat becomes Frannie, the third cat added to the Tarte family zoo. The first time Tarte sees Frannie he writes “The merest flicker of eye contact had passed between us. But in the brief instant between the crouching and the rocketing away, as my cloudy blues met her metallic yellows, I felt the spark of a connection between us….In my scant few seconds observing her I had identified a kindred spirit, a creature who in spite of her many strengths was apparently as anxiety laden as I was. She was a shadow afraid of a shadow.” Perhaps it was because I have experienced this exact moment, trapping and caring for feral cats. Or perhaps it was because I too am sometimes as anxiety ridden as my feral cats (Mama and I have lots in common). Whatever it was, this passage struck a chord.
To contrast, you have the exploits of Tina and Maynard, two of the new additions to the house. In one chapter Tarte describes what he and his wife go through to try to keep Tina out of the kitchen and away from the birds. “Our kitchen door solution, our cat barrier, wasn’t any more permanent. Among all of our cats, Tina and Maynard were the ones most interested in spending time with us. Maynard craved cuddling, while Tina simply wanted to stare at us.” Who hasn’t had a Tina or a Maynard in their life?
Beyond telling stories of cats though, Tarte’s book explores how the cats changed his life. They help him find contentment, sooth (or increase!) his anxiety, but ultimately lead him to a better understand about himself and maybe even life itself. And at the end of the day, beyond the moving moments and the hysterical antics his cats get up to, that is what brings me back to Kitty Cornered. My own experiences with cats have brought me so much healing and taught me so much not only about myself, but about others and about life. I love knowing there are other people out there who have learned from the same lessons from our feline teachers. It helps me to feel not so alone in this crazy world we live in. So if you have learned something from your cats; If you can’t get enough cats; if you want reassurance that you are not the only person out there crazy enough to have multiple cats; if you want to know your cats are not unique in their brand of crazy, then you should pick up Kitty Cornered.
You can learn more about Kitty Cornered, Bob Tarte and his other books by visiting his website. You can also check out pictures of his six cats! Because honestly, what’s the internet for if not looking at cat pictures?