cover image THE NINE EMOTIONAL LIVES OF CATS: A Journey into the Feline Heart

THE NINE EMOTIONAL LIVES OF CATS: A Journey into the Feline Heart

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, Author . Ballantine $24.95 (288p) I

Prevailing wisdom holds that cats are aloof, smug, quintessentially distant—especially when compared to dogs—but Masson, in his latest exploration of feelings in the animal world, argues otherwise: "cats," he says, "are almost pure emotion." He establishes nine basics (narcissism, love, contentment, attachment, jealousy, fear, anger, curiosity and playfulness) and, in nine casual and sometimes digressive chapters, suggests when and why cats feel each of them and how we humans might better understand our pets as a result. In the tradition of his bestselling Dogs Never Lie About Love, Masson's exploration is a warm fuzzy to the feline world: in observing the antics of his five cats (Miki, Moko, Yossie, Megalamandira and Minnalouche), Masson's tone never fails to convey his wonder for "these perfect beings who briefly and softly grace my life." He draws desultorily on history, scientific research and correspondence with cat experts and owners, but most of his book is dedicated to a highly subjective study of his beloved five, who live with him in a New Zealand paradise. Though Masson strains to establish evidence for cats' sophisticated emotional landscape (and in doing so exposes himself to accusations of anthropomorphism), cats are still mysterious creatures, and even a former psychoanalyst such as he must occasionally admit (though with a certain kind of glee) that he cannot entirely figure them out. One thing Masson is sure of: because cats, unlike humans and dogs, have never been pack animals, much of what comes naturally to us—guilt, apology, even rage—is absent in cats. In the end, this appealing book is as much a portrait of Masson as it is of his enchanting cats. (Nov.)