Here’s an authentic question for you all, and I would love to hear your answers. The question in the title is based on a phenomenon that seems to be consistent across many years and in many contexts. The ‘word’ in the publishing industry is that, compared to dog lovers, cat lovers buy very few cat related books. I remember when Dogwise (Direct Books) started out they sold both cat and dog books, until they dropped the cat-related items because they didn’t sell well and weren’t worth the trouble. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas’s smash best seller The Hidden Life of Dogs was followed by a book, Tribe of the Tiger, that didn’t sell particularly well. I get 100 (1,000?) requests to do dog behavior-related seminars for every one cat behavior seminar I’m asked to do (I LOVE doing cat behavior seminars by the way).
But why is that? Cat lovers adore their cats, no question about it. No doubt one explanation is that cat owners have fewer expectations of have a “well-trained” cat, whereas dog owners are always buying training and behavior modification books. That might be the primary explanation, and it fits the fact that the cat books that first pop up on Amazon are usually stories about cats (and look at the recent best selling book, Dewey, about a cat and a small library in Iowa). But on my former radio show, I was swamped with questions about cat behavior. Today on Larry Meiller’s on WPR show we got lots of questions of people who were desperate to get help for the cat’s behavioral problem.
People do need to train their cats, and to solve the behavioral problems they have with them… but they still don’t buy cat behavior books that often. I was thinking about this issue last week when Denise, Andrea and I discussed selling a book we really like, Starting from Scratch. We did put it up for sale on the site, and we’ll see how it does. But I don’t bring this up as a marketing promotion, it’s a sincere question about why it is almost universal that dog lovers can’t get enough books about dog behavior, while cat lovers may read a lot (and with a cat in their lap!), but not about cats… You’d think cat lovers would buy cat books, because, well, why not? Any thoughts?
Meanwhile, back at the farm, it’s a swamp outside, hot and muggy. My least favorite weather in the world. I’m moving the sheep to a small pasture every day now, and luckily they need to be moved early in the morning and late in the evening. That gives us all a break because we can avoid the hot times of the day, but even then both Willie and I are relieved to get back inside in the air conditioning. The AC hasn’t been on all year until last Friday, but what a luxury it is to have it. I’ve so much gardening to do though… I’m so far behind after being gone and so busy for a few weeks. Oh well, a weed is just a plant in a place you don’t want it, so I get to say, hey?
The bird life continues at at break neck pace… all the songbirds trying to fit in as many nesting attempts as they can before the light changes and the leaves fall. This weekend I was sorry to watch a male Cardinal feeding a round, pushy Brown-Headed Cowbird baby begging successfully from him at the feeder. Cowbirds are nest parasites, who lay their eggs in the nests of song birds. Their young are large and precocious, and are able to trigger a feeding response from a parent of a different species by using “sign stimuli” that elicit feeding from birds like Cardinals and Vireos. A bit like us getting all warm and gooey over a cartoon character that looks infantile with big eyes, a big forehead and disproportionately large hands and feet. Cowbirds are native, so I guess I shouldn’t be too concerned, but I can’t help but feel sorry for the Cardinal, whose own young may well have starved to death given the aggressive nature of the cowbirds begging (and the fact that their large size can result in the ‘real’ nestlings being pushed out of the nest and dying on the ground.)
Life is tough out there, no doubt about it. But not so rough in the house, where Sushi sleeps on the couch as I write. Here are my favorite photos of Sushi, no doubt she’s pondering the heavy issues I’ve raised . . .