cover image The Illustrated Book of Cats

The Illustrated Book of Cats

Robert Dolezal, Reader's Digest, Of Readers Digest Editors. Reader's Digest Association, $27 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-88850-198-1

Maybe the cat ``chose to become domesticated, just as it chooses to do as it pleases today,'' suggests the Reader's Digest editorial team in this attractive, double-columned compendium of facts and a few whims. You can find out, if you want, about the mouth and pharynx of the cat; you can learn how to ``immobilize'' it; and apparently you can try to reform its behavior, although you may lose this game. Under the heading ``Fiction and Fact,'' we are reminded that Dr. Samuel Johnson fancied cats, and that his biographer James Boswell once caught him slipping oysters to a favorite, named Hodge. Then, in a sidebar titled ``The Law Versus Cat,'' we discover that Adlai Stevenson, then governor of Illinois, vetoed a proposed 1949 law seeking to make cats stay at home: ``It is the nature of cats to do a certain amount of unescorted roaming,'' the governor said. It is in the nature of the reader to roam through these pages, pausing to face the baleful glare of Persians, and the wobbly wrinkles of a hairless breed named Sphynx (``soft, pliable, and warm,'' the Reader's Digest people insist). Illustrated. (Mar.)