“How To Live With A Calculating Cat” by Eric Gurney (1962)

I don’t know who this Eric Gurney fellow is (was?), but he certainly has our number!


This volume is a brief and hilarious treatise on the nature of the domestic cat, and right off the bat Gurney endears himself to domestic cats everywhere by explaining that, unlike our bellicose larger kin, we are “the right kind of cat.”

Hear, hear, Mr. Gurney!


The first chapter provides a quick and satirical description of the evolution of mankind’s relationship with feline-kind. There are amusing pictures, some rather delicious puns, and a delightful insinuation that the ancient Egyptians, in deifying cats, were simply trying to avoid materially remunerating us for our invaluable services protecting their grain silos and fields. This sets the tone for the rest of the book, and a welcome tone it is.


He goes on to suggest that humans can learn much from the fact that tyrant-conquerors like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte & Benito Mussolini were all well-known cat-haters, while freedom-lovers and intellectuals like Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain and Albert Schweitzer were avowed cat-lovers. And Gurney notes that we cats are the greatest naturalists and observers of things as they truly are, thanks to our tiny, silent paws and capacity for sneaking – you blundering humans with your thunderous treads must instead content yourselves with the observation of things as they wish to be seen. Which blind ignorance may explain why some of you prefer your perfidious dogs to we regal cats.


It isn’t all fawning praise, mind you! Gurney’s book is as much a roast of feline foibles as a paean to our obvious glory. He notes, for instance, that we are not above training the more biddable canines to serve our ends or bedevil their own comrades.


And he does poke a bit of fun at our admittedly-raucous courtship and lovemaking rituals. But he does so with such wit that I couldn’t hold it against him. And as this book is, apparently, the follow up to a previous volume by Gurney, How To Live With a Neurotic Dog, one gets the sense that Gurney is fully aware of our natural superiority as household companions.


He simply couldn’t resist pointing out how marvelous are cats, after devoting an entire earlier book to lambasting the foolishness of “man’s best friend.”


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