Fall 2010 Magazine

Cat Chat

Cats, Books - What Could Be Better?

By Nancy Marano

Summer usually is a time for relaxing, taking adventurous vacations to exotic destinations or possibly indulging in beach reading. I guess the idea of summer relaxation is a throwback to school days. Summer seemed like a golden stretch of unscheduled time when you could do things you didn't have time to do during school. This summer didn't turn out quite that way for me but I had adventures of a different kind.

This summer found me chatting daily with the postman as he delivered envelopes and boxes to my front door from across the globe. These were entries for the 2010 Cat Writers' Association Communications Contest. For the past two years I've been the contest chair. From March through July our guest bedroom is devoted to stacks of books, photographs, CD's, and hundreds of magazine, newspaper and newsletter articles. These offerings are the best work people have produced about cats during the previous year.

I must admit I took sneak peeks at the various offerings as I unloaded and logged them in. One day I read a novel, another I read some health articles or watched a DVD. Then there were the photographs and illustrations. I looked at all of them because they were gorgeous.

Since I had such a good time looking at all these feline treats, I thought I would share a few books with you. They weren't all entered in the contest but probably should have been. They are all worth your attention.

That Cat Can't Stay by Thad Krasnesky and illustrated by David Parkins is one of the best children's books I've read in years. I used to be a librarian and occasionally led a children's story hour. I wish I'd had this book then. It made me laugh and I know it would make children laugh as well. But underneath the humor is a serious message about the benefits of rescuing animals.

The story's rhyming couplets beg to be read aloud. The father is a likeable, easy-going guy who tells his family at every opportunity why he doesn't like cats. The problem is his wife and children keep finding lost, hurt, stray cats that need help and a home.

With each cat Dad goes through a litany of reasons he doesn't like them.

"I don't like cats. They scratch my knees. / They make me sneeze. / They carry fleas. / They're always getting stuck in trees. / They eat my cheese. / They hairball wheeze. / Their licking makes my stomach quease."

Mom totally agrees with him but by the end of her agreeing, the cat has a new home. "She's beautiful, but you're quite right. / Our house is full. / I'll put her back out on the street. / She'll have to scrounge for things to eat. / But she'll survive. / Yes, I can tell. / I'll put her out."/ But Dad said, "Well."

Five cats later we get a surprise. "That week, Dad said, 'Look what I found all sad and lonely at the pound' And we were happy to discover." You'll have to read the book to learn what the family discovered.

It isn't just the vibrant writing that makes this a great book. The superb ink and watercolor cartoons by David Parkins add exactly the right note to go with Krasnesky's rhymes. His illustrations of Dad mimicking feline expressions as he tells anyone who will listen why the cat can't stay are priceless. He also catches the emotional changes in the mother and children as one cat after another teeters between being thrown out in the cold and staying in their home.

Krasnesky and Parkins should continue collaborating because they obviously are on the same page.

Raising money is a necessary activity for every nonprofit organization. Coming up with ideas and new ways to do that isn't easy and fundraisers are a lot of work for your team of volunteers. What can you do to maximize your return for the amount of work done on a fundraiser? How can you use your volunteers in the best way?

Susan C. Daffron has done the legwork for you in Funds to the Rescue: 101 Fundraising Ideas for Humane and Animal Rescue Groups. She walks you through structuring a fundraiser, the basics of marketing, how to select your team, and how to plan a fundraiser from idea to the deposit of donations in the bank. But the main section of the book is comprised of 101 separate fundraising ideas. A nice touch is that she gives you an idea of the level of difficulty, planning time, upfront costs, and personnel needed to make each idea a success.

The author is no stranger to fundraising since she has worked as an animal shelter volunteer, board member and employee. Daffron is also the founder of the National Association of Pet Rescue Professionals (www.naprp.com). Many books talk about fundraising, this book is actually a practical guide on how to do it successfully.

Have you ever rescued a kitten, fostered it and then found it a home? This might start you thinking about founding or volunteering in a rescue group. Before you jump into that, read Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals: A Guide for Volunteers and Organizers by Sheila Webster Boneham, PhD. The title says it all. This is one of the clearest explanations of what it takes to work in animal rescue that I've seen.

Part I deals with the organizational structure of a rescue group. Boneham spends a lot of time on the human relationships involved in an animal rescue group and how one must manage these correctly to help the animals best. She explains how to recruit the right person for the right job and why that is necessary. She doesn't shy away from the subject of volunteer burnout and what to do about it. She even discusses how your decision to get into rescue will affect the rest of your family.

Part II focuses on the animals. The topics are assessing health and behavior problems, finding foster homes, veterinary care and how you evaluate potential adopters. She explains all the things necessary to rehome the animals served by your rescue.

Boneham founded Labrador Retriever and Australian Shepherd rescue programs. Much of her knowledge comes from hands on experience and it shows.

The Cat Lover's Book of Days by Peg Siloway is a charming book for any cat lover. There is a page for every day of the year - including Leap Year. Each day has information that may include photos, history, folklore, humor, quotes and commentary about cats.

I immediately flipped to the birthdays of my friends and myself to see what the cats were doing that day. There is a lot about the naming of cats - what the names mean and where they came from. Put this book on your bedside table and dip into it at will. You will always come up with an interesting tidbit about cats you didn't know before. Have fun browsing through the year.

For those of you who like fiction Cat Striking Back: A Joe Grey Mystery or Cat Playing Cupid by Shirley Rousseau Murphy are worth trying. When an author writes a continuing series, these are the 14th and 15th books in the Joe Grey series, the books can become a little stale and predictable. This is not the case with Joe Grey and his band of talking feline detectives.

Yes, I said talking cats. If you can't surrender to the fantasy and mystery of talking cats, these books aren't for you. But, if you give them a chance, Joe, Dulcie and their talking friends will win you over.

In Cat Striking Back, Joe smells the trail of human blood at the site of a muddy swimming pool and follows it to where the body disappears. Then there are four burglaries in homes where the owners are on vacation. But this is only the beginning. The story setting in Molena Point, CA, is based on Carmel and the Monterey Peninsula.

I highly recommend this series for its characters, humor and storytelling. You'll come away from these books believing these people are your friends. And even better, you'll have met a remarkable group of cats who actually keep order in Molena Point.

To find out more about these books and to see reviews of other animal-related books go to http://www.petroglyphsnm.org/reviews.html.

Happy reading.

Nancy Marano is an award-winning writer who is owned by a cat named Sammy and a Westie named Maggie May. She is a member of the Cat Writer's Association and the Dog Writers Association of America.

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