Book Review: The Secret Language of Cats
The Secret Language of Cats examines the meaning behind the sounds our cats make when engaging with us and with other cats. The author, Suzanne Schöltz, produces a guide to help you translate what your cat is trying to say to you when it meows, purrs, chirps, trills or yowls.
On starting to read, my first impression of the book was initially skepticism.
The opening chapters painted a familiar pastiche: A middle-aged lady pottering about a garden, holding conversations with her cats and offering translations of the sounds they made. My initial reaction was "meh, another Crazy Cat Lady book..." but I stuck with it and I'm that glad I did.
The research Susanne Schötz has done is interesting - I particularly enjoyed the sections where she describes how she analyses the sounds, why context is important when attempting a translation and the restrictions on data collection that affected her work.
Along with anecdotes of time spent with her cats that lend context to how she interprets their vocalisations, the author creates and groups an index of feline sounds. These sounds are captured in her home environment where the cats are relaxed and behaving naturally. She records and analyses the sounds using her expertise in phonetics and produces a guide on what certain sounds generally mean, how they are affected by context and how to understand your cat better overall.
As with all reviews, my feelings about the book are very much down to the type of reader I am and why I'm reading the book. Personally, I read the book to see if it could provide information that may be useful day to day in a professional animal care context, and so therefore I'm very much more facts-oriented in my reading. A more relaxed reader may enjoy taking their time to share in the bonding moments the author has with her cats.
One of the great advantages of this book is that the author writes in a very accessible and comprehensible way. Most animal behaviour book publications are written by either academics (who can sometimes be rather incomprehensible - academic writing is not the same as mainstream prose) or the general 'husbandry guides' you get from pet stores, which are often inaccurate and not very detailed. This title heralds something new, detailed, accessible and engaging. I do hope that animal care books continue to move in this direction of being carefully thought out, supported by research, but still able to be enjoyed and understood by everyone.