The cat of nine tales

Tapping the vast market of cat fans in the United States (Americans take care of 77.7 million cats, according to a 2004 American Pet Products Manufacturers Association survey), publishers are releasing litters of feline-focused books this season. Are these nine worth pouncing on -- or should they be put down?

Children's/teen books

"Dogs and Cats" by Steve Jenkins, $16, Houghton Mifflin

Purr: This 40-page children's book gives equal time to both popular pets -- it's a flip book full of drawings of various breeds and information that talks with children rather than down to them.

Hiss: Appeal is likely limited to elementary-school-age children and younger because of the style of the book.

For cat lovers only? No, both dog and cat lovers will appreciate the even-handed tone, and nonpet owners could learn a thing or two.

"What Cats Want for Christmas" by Kandy Radzinski, $16.95, Sleeping Bear Press

Purr: Lushly detailed paintings of cats and a mostly sardonic (occasionally sentimental), Roald Dahl-like sense of humor.

Hiss: $16.95 for 32 pages (including the title pages) seems a bit much.

For cat lovers only? Pretty much, although the humor is universal.

"The Secret Diary of Adrian Cat" by Stuart & Linda Macfarlane, $22.95, DNA Press

Purr: The comical misadventures of an everyday house cat, in diary format, with a slightly more sophisticated sense of humor than "Garfield."

Hiss: Best read one month of entries at a time (or less). Sense of humor and tone become too repetitive to be amusing beyond that.

For cat lovers only? Yes.


"Life Lessons from Your Cat: We're So Vain, We Probably Think This Book Is About Us," by Anthony Rubino Jr., $14.99, Thomas Nelson

Purr: You can judge this book by its cover: The photo of a tiara-wearing cat and the book's subtitle reflect the funny, if not always original, witticisms in this fifth installment of Rubino's "Life Lessons" series.

Hiss: Occasional un-PC humor, with a swipe at Korean restaurants particularly offensive.

For cat lovers only? Not necessarily, but cat lovers will recognize the truisms.

"Cat Yoga: Fitness and Flexibility for the Modern Feline" by Rick Tillotson, $14.95, Clarkson Potter

Purr: Definite kid appeal in the visuals of cats in various poses (as long as the readers hear a "don't try this with Fluffy" message).

Hiss: It's a one-joke book, although a funny one, as you wonder "How did they do that? Was that Photoshopped?"

For cat lovers only? No, but it's basically a gag gift.

General interest

"100 Cats Who Changed Civilization: History's Most Influential Felines" by Sam Stall, $14.95, Quirk Books

Purr: Fascinating, strange-but-true stories such as that of Tibbles, the cat who wiped out an entire species, told in a quick journalistic style with a sense of humor; each tale is two to four pages, not requiring much reader commitment.

Hiss: None, unless you dislike nonfiction.

For cat lovers only? No -- the history and culture references will offer appeal to any reader.

"Planet Cat: A Cat-alog" by Sandra Choron, Harry Choron and Arden Moore, $14.95, Houghton Mifflin

Purr: Fascinating trivia book with entries as diverse as "45 Cartoon Cats," "The 38 Cats of 'Cats,' " "Anne Frank's Cats" and "Living With a Cat Allergy: 16 Things You Can Do."

Hiss: With more than 400 lists and 389 pages, this may be too much of a good thing. (And that pun in the subtitle is pretty bad!)

For cat lovers only? No, though cat fans will find it irresistible.

For adults only

"The Cat in Art" by Stefano Zuffi, $35, Abrams

Purr: Thorough, beautiful survey of art history from Egyptian papyri and cat mummies to Roman mosaics to Renaissance paintings to modern lithographs and watercolors.

Hiss: It's a coffee-table book with a coffee-table book price.

For cat lovers only? Definitely not, but maybe for art lovers only.

"Catnapped: An Animal Instinct Mystery" by Gabriella Herkert, $6.99 paperback, Obsidian Mystery/Penguin Books

Purr: A missing cat leads to a murder mystery in this series debut told in a satisfyingly breezy, soapy style.

Hiss: With a seduction scene between the investigator and her Navy SEAL, Vegas hookup husband in chapter two, this one's definitely for adults.

For cat lovers only? No -- but you need a certain curiosity to appreciate it.