Book review: The Cat Whisperer: Why Cats Do What They Do – and How to Get Them to Do What You Want by Mieshelle Nagelschneider (Bantam, 2013)
Who says you can’t train a cat? Just when you thought you had reached the end of your ball of twine, one of America’s most popular cat behaviorists comes to the rescue of perplexed cat owners everywhere, providing practical and effective strategies for solving every feline behavior problem imaginable—from litter box issues to scratching, spraying, biting, and beyond.
Cat Whisperer Mieshelle Nagelschneider has been helping people deal with these dilemmas for two decades, achieving a near-perfect success rate. Central to her approach is a keen understanding of the unique way cats see the world—their need for safety and security, their acute territoriality, and their insatiable desire to catch and kill prey. Her proven C.A.T. cat behavior modification plan is a commonsense course of action that can be specifically tailored to your cat in the context of its behavior problems and its particular household environment. Easy-to-implement solutions help transform even the most anxiety-riddled companions into confident, gregarious, and relaxed cats who live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Inside you’ll discover
- how to harness the power of “friendly pheromones” to improve your cat’s appetite, exploration, grooming, and play
- where, when, and how to create a litter box environment that will provide ease of access and reduce anxiety for you and your cat
- how to end aggression in multiple-cat households and help your cats coexist peacefully
Is it impossible to train a cat? Not anymore! Your days of yelling and tearing your hair out in the wake of the latest household “cat-astrophe” are over. In this fascinating and indispensable book, the Cat Whisperer takes you inside the mind of a feline to explain why members of one of the world’s most inscrutable species act the way they do—and how you can convince them to change their behaviors for the sake of your peace of mind . . . and theirs.
Not only do I love and adore cats and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a book like this, it has also come in very handy considering we went from one cat to three exactly three months ago today! It came about very quickly, in fact in less than a week, and we were going away over Christmas so they weren’t properly introduced to each other … with all the associated issues.
So, here’s a cat “whisperer” with oodles of experience to tell me where I went wrong and what I can do to salvage the situation and get the boys and Daisy get along with one another, and also give me handy tips on how to get the boys off the kitchen counters and maybe even stop one of the boys from over-grooming. Awesome.
In fact, I could wax lyrically about how useful this book might be to a problem cat household, and that the author talks to you in a nice way that makes you understand exactly what the problems actually are and what can be done about them. She definitely knows her stuff.
The proof is in the pudding. Since I finished reading this book, have the boys stopped jumping on the counter? Has li’l ginger stopped over-grooming? Do they all get along like they’re best friends ever?
Yes and no. The counter-jumping has definitely got better, because I took the advice (technically related to another problem in the book) of blocking off the window – they enjoyed jumping up to the sink to look out the window. I pulled down the blinds, so now there’s nothing to see there. The bird table outside was moved so they could look at it from their perch on a shelf. We still can’t get them to not jump on the table, but then I’m way too nice and don’t necessarily shoo them off straight away, so that’s my fault.
Li’l ginger hasn’t stopped over-grooming, but from what I could tell, he was over-grooming before we got him. (UPDATE 2021: He was given a steroid shot to rule out allergies, and he stopped over-grooming. Bingo! He was put on medication, and as I was buying food once the guy at the counter said some cats are allergic to chicken. I thought chicken was supposed to be hypoallergenic, but sure enough, when I switched him to a dry food without chicken he no longer needed his allergy medication, because he was no longer over-grooming. His belly has been fuzzy ever since!) However, I took the advice from the book and got a bottle of Bach Rescue Remedy (flower essences) and dripped in their water bowls. It has definitely made them more relaxed. I also got a second Feliway diffuser so we could have one upstairs and one downstairs, which has probably helped as well. The cat in question is fairly introverted and quiet, not to mention easily startled, so it’s just something to work on.
They’re not all best friends, though. The boys lived together since they were kittens so they’re fine with each other, but Daisy’s not happy about the company. I’ve got a brush and am trying to create a “group scent” as per instructions. That they all managed to get fleas somehow has complicated things, though … but I’m working on it. The book didn’t go into details for how to introduce two new cats to a one-cat household (it did one new cat to a one or multi-cat household), but the basic idea remains the same. (UPDATE 2021: Daisy and the boys got as far as tolerating each other, but they were never really friends.)
A big thing, if you go by the contents of the book, seems to be to do with soiling outside the box. I don’t actually have that problem (thank goodness), so sometimes I wanted to skip ahead to the bits relevant to our household. The chapters also cross-referenced one another, saying “read more about this in chapter X” which is fine when you’re reading a physical book. I was reading it on the Kindle (as an ARC from Netgalley), however, so jumping to the relevant sections wasn’t really practical.
That being said, I’ll be buying a physical copy of The Cat Whisperer now that it’s out, because it’s one of those books that’s good to have in your bookshelf as a reference, so that when you need it you can go look things up easily.
If you’re into cats and want to know more about their behaviour, and how to solve behavioural issues that crop up, this is a great resource. Mieshelle Nagelschneider clearly cares about cats, and wants them all to have the best life we can give them, and has written a nice, easily understood book to help the rest of us along who love our pets but aren’t quite sure how to solve potential problems.
5 out of 5 prey sequences.
EDIT 7 March 2013: Actually, I just read someone else’s review, and need to add that the book is written much from the perspective of “cats see humans as staff” and that everything else you’re reading into them and their behaviour is anthropomorphising, i.e. you’re thinking of them in human terms, not cat terms. I don’t agree with that. Not all of it, at least.
When Daisy’s trying to trip me up in the kitchen, I know she’s after a bowl of wet food, as opposed to just wanting to let me know that she WUVS me. Fair enough. But as a highly sensitive and empathic person who also is a professionally trained animal communicator, I know there is more to a cat than just “feed me”, “play with me” or “I need to get my pheromones on you”. Monkey might enjoy sleeping on me because I’m nice and warm (“you’re my heated mattress, servant”), but it’s also because my scent apparently makes him feel safe (“you’re my mummy”). There are reasons why I feel he’s very “mumsy”, and they have very little to do with me being the one who feeds them.