The Old Man And The Cat

The Old Man And The Cat :

 “I am a qualified doctor; I am a lecturer in psychology…into philosophies of life…

cat illustration

Book delightfully illustrated by Ane Gustavsson

Nowadays I am also a cat owner or, I wonder,

 is it in fact the cat who owns me,” Nils Uddenberg


We had our first hard freeze this Fall morning on Alec Mountain.  It’s a bit chilly inside the cabin and I don’t have a thing I have to do today.

I’ve been saving this little book for just such a morning.  I lit a nice fire in the fireplace, pulled my rocker up to the hearth and began reading.

I like to get to know the author of each book I review. In this instance,  I found that Dr. Uddenberg is a retired Swedish psychiatrist with seven published books; some with serious titles like Prometheus and Dryad : man, nature , technology and ethics.

Not all of his works have fifty-cent words in the title.  Some focus on nature and the environment like Vanishing Creatures (eight essays on humans and apes).  With his deep interest in nature, I was truly surprised to read that for most of his life he had no interest what so ever in acquiring a household pet.

But at some level I instantly related to his feelings as I have proudly proclaimed for years my distaste for sharing my life with any kind of furry pet; cats in particular.

I can’t help it but I get this icky feeling when cats wind themselves around and between my legs.   Maybe their independence and arrogance threatens my need to control my own space.  Plus there is something just not right about a slinky creature walking around a house with Edward Scissorhand appendages.

So imagine my surprise when an abandoned black kitten shows up at my front door a few months back and I let him into my life.  Today, as I settle into my chair, my new furry friend, Itzey, warms himself on the hearth beside me.  Together we will see what changed Dr. Uddenberg’s mind although I suspect the doctor didn’t have a chance the minute the cat chose them.

This newly retired 70-year old and his wife had freed themselves from any encumbrances and were now free to do whatever, whenever and wherever they pleased.  When they weren’t flying off to parts unknown, they live in a little house in Lund with the traditional picket fence or in their apartment in Stockholm.

Weary from a recent trip to Namiba in Africa the good Professor peers out his bedroom window to discover a cat peering back at him from the top of the garden gate.  Dismissing this encounter with little thought, he was surprised several days later to discover the cat in their garden shed seeking warmth by curling up in a basket filled with garden tools.

Two weeks later, returning from Stockholm. the cat was still in the shed and despite the winter cold appeared well nourished and comfortable in its furry coat.  But I knew it was all over for the Professor when he took pity on the cat.  When he removed the tools in the basket and replaced them with a warm towel the cat had found a new home but it would be sometime before anyone else but the cat knew it.

Carefully and methodically the author describes the process whereby the cat trained them into becoming pet owners.  The story unfolds in a voice clearly crafted by years of academic experience and when I begin to feel lectured I remember that I am in a way being  lectured.  This warm-hearted man is sharing his hitherto repressed feelings in the only voice he knows.   He wants us to appreciate the most intimate detail of his developing love affair with Kitty.  He wants us to love Kitty as much as he does.

My favorite sections of the book are his descriptive psychoanalysis of the cat’s bizarre behaviors.

It was truly worth waiting for just the right moment to read this heartfelt bonding between the old man and his cat.  As reported in other reviews, the final pages reveal the true depth of emotion he has developed for Kitty.

Cat and Author graphic

Illustration by Ane Gustavsson

Here is an excerpt to entice you to read this charming little book.

“…it has become a philosophical challenge to try to understand at least a little about her world.  She is after all a part of my daily social interaction and one likes to understand those who are close to one, even when they happen to be cats.”

NetGalley and St Martin's Press provided this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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