Tom Cox’s Cat Books

I would’ve reviewed these books individually, but can’t because I read them in quick succession, and thus don’t recall which events happen in which book. (This is what happens when you try to review books a month after reading completion, instead of immediately.)

Tom Cox is a UK journalist and author of various topics, including golf and music. But he’s perhaps best known for writing about his life with cats – including the most chaotic time when there were SIX regular feline residents in the household. That occurs in the second cat-book, Talk to the Tail, and the edition I read included an author photo of Tom and all six of his cats together. (They were, understandably, eating at the time, because that’s pretty much the only way to get six cats in the one image.)

The Bear is with whom the public is most familiar: the hang of his head, or his upturned chin with inquisitive eyes that appear to be on the verge on tears. His first meeting with Tom goes smoothly: “The Bear loves Indian food.” And sure enough The Bear enters the room, licks Tom’s dinner, and then goes on his merry way.

Ralph was initially thought to be female (and thus was named Prudence), but later identified as male and named after the popular Simpsons character. He’s understandably labelled as “smug”, because it’s quite obvious that he’s pretty and knows it.

Other current residents include Shipley and Roscoe, the latter whom is introduced in the third book: The Good, the Bad, and the Furry. Along with their adventures are tales of real estate, art, relationships, neighbours, and even rally-cars in Africa (with a cameo by the great Tommi Mäkinen).

There’s also Tom’s humorous “loud dad”. His dialogue is in all-caps, which ordinarily would be stylistically annoying, but it’s so true to his form of speech that it seems fitting. He’s also the king of the non-sequitur, jumping from topic to topic without starting anew in the next paragraph. And he’s a funny bloke, to be sure – his way of thinking, or the things he does, are jolly.

These books (Under the Paw is the first, and while they likely standalone they make more sense to read in order) are cat books for people who aren’t really into cat books, and thus I don’t have other tomes with which to compare and rate accordingly. They also make me appreciate my own cat more, because at least he doesn’t spray or bring dead – or near-death – creatures inside the house (like the cats in Tom’s life are chronicled doing).

If you need a break from fiction, you’d do well to try these. Though without plot, the narrative flows freely with the author’s easy wit and the memorable moggies.

Tom Cox
Under the Paw
Simon & Schuster (CA: 10th November 2009; AU: 1st March 2012; UK: 30th January 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

For years, Tom Cox might have seemed like a regular, hard-living sort of bloke – a lover of late nights, rock music, and beer – but he had a dark, furry secret. Tom was a cat lover. For a while, he kept his passion in check, but there was only so long he could postpone his true dream, especially after he met Dee, his moggy-loving soul-mate. He let London and his job as a rock critic behind, and he and Dee, her cat Janet and three new kittens, moved to a remote part of Norfolk. They thought it would be easy. They thought their cat madness had reached its limit. They were wrong. Tom records the chaos of owning seven of the most charismatic, idiotic and duplicitous cats in the country. Suddenly on call around the clock for multiple sets of whiskers, Tom encounters death, depression, flying fur and the first human sentence spoken by a feline. Running through all the maelstrom is the heartbreaking story of his relationship with The Bear, his oldest cat: a “painfully sensitive” survivor moggy who may or may not be an evil genius.

Tom Cox
Talk to the Tail
Simon & Schuster (AU: 6th January 2011; UK: 30th January 2014)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Following on from Tom’s life with six cats, he now picks up the story, updating readers on what has happened with his feline friends as well as looking back for more confessions about his animal-loving past. Why does Janet keep bringing 1980s sweet wrappers into the house? Will 24-hour surveillance of The Bear, using a state-of-the-art cat GPS system, finally solve the mystery of his wanderlust? Tom also writes about his bumbling forays into the remainder of the animal kingdom. He attempts to overcome his crippling fear of horses with disastrous results, chase ostriches in Kenya, put his hand into a tiger’s mouth for 0.9 seconds and he meets his “alter-doggo” – the spaniel Tom regularly walks who likes to roll around in dead animals. Where will it all end? Will he give in to temptation and get a dog, a goat or even more cats? With this soppy creature-obsessive, anything is possible.

Tom Cox
The Good, the Bad, and the Furry
Hachette Sphere (AU: 8th October 2013; UK: 10th October 2013); Macmillan Thomas Dunne (US: 14th April 2015)
Buy (US) Buy (UK) Buy (CA) Buy (Worldwide)

Meet The bear – a cat who carries the weight of the world on his furry shoulders, and whose wise, owl-like eyes seem to ask, Can you tell me why I am a cat, please? Like many intellectuals, The Bear would prefer a life of quiet solitude with plenty of time to gaze forlornly into space and contemplate society’s ills. Unfortunately he is destined to spend his days surrounded by felines of a significantly lower IQ… Ralph: handsome, self-satisfied tabby, terrified of the clothes horse. Shipley: mouthy hooligan and champion mouser, rendered insensible by being turned upside-down. Roscoe: fiercely independent kitten, tormented by her doppelganger in the mirror. And then there’s Tom, writing with his usual wit and charm about the unexpected adventures that go hand in hand with a life at the beck and call of four cats…or three cats and a sensitive poet who just happens to be a foot high and covered in fur.


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