Cats: aloof, picky, demanding. Why do we invite them into our homes and give them so much love?
We asked Jennifer Quasha, co-author of the new book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Cat's Life: 101 Stories about the Ages and Stage of our Feline Family Members, to be released in bookstores on April 12.
This is not even the first Chicken Soup book about cats, is it?
No, there have been two previous books!
What is it about cats that makes us love them so much?
The interaction between humans and our cats influence us in amazing ways, emotionally, psychologically and physiologically – and have for thousands of years. Cats provide us with comfort, love, and attention. They help us feel less anxious and offer physical contact, and they make us laugh, feel less alone, and give us something to care for. Often we love our family pets more than our human family members. In fact, in a 2001 American Pet Product Manufacturers of America pet owner survey, 57 percent of people would rather be stranded on a desert island with their pet than with another human.
I prefer friendly, mellow cats, myself. But I've noticed that some people adore their cats for their crankiness or aloofness. Why do you think that is?
Cats, just like people, have personalities. And, just like some people, cats can be cranky. Humans aren't perfect and we don't expect our pets to be either. I have found that humans are amazingly adaptable, and will find reasons to love their cats even if they are cranky or aloof. Cranky and aloof are simply a part of who the cat is, and despite those tendencies, these characteristics don't take away from the overall interaction and relationship between human and feline. As a matter of fact, some humans might admire the fact that their cat is cranky, and wish that they could get away with acting that cranky.
You read through thousands of submissions to find stories for this book. What were some of the themes you saw recurring?
My Cat's Life focuses on the ages and stages of a cat's life, so many of the themes relate to a particular time in the cat's life. But the overriding theme in every story is love and companionship between human and feline. Side themes include how cats help us persevere through hard situations, how cats make us better people, and how cats help us enjoy simple pleasures.
Do cats give us something we can't get from other people?
Cats offer us unconditional love. I think many humans would like to be able to do that, but realistically we are too complex. Cats are simpler creatures that are often dependent on us for their wellbeing, which makes us feel important and loved. Plus, most cats are soft and furry and nice to pet.
What did you learn working on this book?
I was inspired every day by the stories that people shared. I was reminded every day how incredible the bond is between people and their cats, and how our pets actually make us better people.
Make us better people? Can you give us an example?
One contributor, David Michael Smith, shares the story of how when he was a boy his family's purebred Persian cat gave birth to four perfect kittens until one last one — which came out with crippled, severely disabled hind legs. Despite his funny gait, his upbeat and playful personality made him a family favorite, and throughout the cat's ten-year life he proved to be an astute hunter, a great digger, and a faithful friend. "He taught our family a lot, [including] living life to the fullest regardless of your limitations," Smith wrote.