Cats are elusive, beautiful, sensuous, not too hard to care for, fairly small. They live relatively long lives, and are, while maddening at times and inscrutable much of the time, one of the earth’s most fascinating creatures. We are honored to live with them. (Or so they let us know.)
After one has finished reading this unusual, engaging memoir, the outstanding impression is the author’s passion for cats and his straightforward, non-apologetic approach to his ardor. Peter Trachtenberg is not sentimental; he admires the feline species and feels life is impoverished without their company.
The memoir starts with his splitting up with his wife, taking a temporary teaching position in North Carolina, and, after he is ensconced in the new apartment, his favorite cat, Biscuit, disappearing from the couple’s house in New York. Of course, he has hired a house sitter, Bruno, who perhaps was not the sitter to best understand the minds and actions of cats.
The book revolves around Trachtenberg’s two potential permanent losses--that of his wife, F., and that of Biscuit. It is sometimes apparent that he, in fact, misses the cat more. In an email to a friend, he writes,
It’s stupid and sentimental [not the reader’s impression], but she’s
[Biscuit] the one thing or creature I can’t bear to lose. Which may be a
message that one must be prepared to lose everything. Not that he doesn’t love his wife.
The relationship has become stale, although, throughout the memoir, they do work at reconciliation.
Trachtenberg admires and watches cats and discusses issues many of us cat-lovers are familiar with: After Biscuit began sleeping with F. and Peter, “I obliged her by sleeping on my back and was careful not to disturb her if I had to get up to piss. It took some minor acrobatics, but I was grateful that she chose to be so close to me.” Friends and neighbors notice some of the female cat’s eccentricities. For example, Biscuit often visited a riding stable: “A woman who worked there told me that she once saw Biscuit grab a horse’s tail in both paws and swing from it like Tarzan. It was a miracle she didn’t get her brains kicked out.”
Trachtenberg goes to great lengths to find his cat, flying back to his home at quite large expense to search for the cat, posting various ads, asking neighbors,
and emailing the house sitter often. After the cat is gone quite a long while, the prospects begin to look dim.
Also included in the memoir are stories of other cats with whom the author has lived and black-and-white photographs of said animals.
This book is one of the few this reviewer has read about the deep relationship between a man and a cat. Generally, women write cat-related books, with the great exception of Willie Morris’s
My Cat Spit McGee. As noted previously, this author is not at all embarrassed to love his cats so much. And, aside from cats and marriage, this book is deeply philosophical on the issues of love, trust, and loss in all forms. This unique memoir is recommended not only for cat lovers but for any who have engaged in an “insane devotion.”