Paw Tracks at Owl Cottage by Denis O'Connor

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Paw Tracks at Owl Cottage by Denis O'Connor

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Category: Pets
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: Four Maine Coon cats with very different personalities feature in a rambling account about country life.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: October 2010
Publisher: Constable
ISBN: 978-1849016407

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'Paw Tracks at Owl Cottage' is the story of four pedigree Maine Coon cats which the author and his wife acquired after moving back to a cottage where they had previously lived. This is the sequel to a volume called 'Paw Tracks in the Moonlight', which I have not read, and which features their first cat Toby Jug. Apparently, on his demise, they had sold the cottage; but now, a little more advanced in years, they buy it again, and do extensive renovations before deciding that it's ready for another cat.

And so Pablo arrives. Pablo is quite an independent cat, but develops a strong friendship with the author. They go out for walks together in the evening, although Pablo likes to be out on his own during the night. He's a hunter, despite being well-fed and cosseted. He also remains rather aloof, and so his owner (if a cat can be said to have an owner) decides that he could do with some feline company.

And thus Carlos arrives. Carlos has a very different personality, being somewhat hyperactive and undisciplined. The author and his wife work hard to 'train' him, and are gradually rewarded for their pains. But he and Pablo don't really strike up much of a friendship, and Carlos is such an extravert that they decide the time is ripe for another kitten.

And so to Luis. A regal kind of cat, even from his earliest days, who sees humans purely as servants and considers most games to be beneath him. However, he does become quite attached to Max, poor nervous grieving Max, who is the fourth cat to arrive at Owl Cottage.

Except that there are never four of them together. We learn early in the book that two of the four come to an untimely end. There are four main sections to the book, each featuring one of the cats, but there are also chronological events described that relate to other cats or events, including the sad stories of the demise of two of them.

I liked the stories. I am, myself, very much a 'cat person'. We currently have three. Just regular Heinz cats, not pedigrees, but certainly each with a distinct personality. I felt that I got to know each of the featured cats somewhat through the book, and could picture them quite well. And yet, my emotions were barely moved. The only time I had anything approaching a tear in my eye was for sad little Max, newly arrived and missing his brother.

I rather wished there had been more editing. The book is written in a rambling kind of style, with tangential reminiscences about Toby Jug, about the countryside in general, and - it seems - whatever else the author happens to be thinking about. People who have read the earlier volume probably like hearing about Toby Jug, but to me - not knowing him at all - these seemed like irrelevancies. There is some interesting information about Maine Coon cats, which I didn't know, but for anyone who does, that part would be rather dull. There's also rather a lot of description of the countryside, much of which I rather skimmed.

It's definitely a book for cat lovers; preferably those who also like descriptive passages of walks in the country, and a writing style that digresses rather like a conversation. It did grow on me as I read it, and I'm glad I did.

Thanks to the publishers for sending it.

For anyone who likes autobiographical books about cats, I would highly recommend Dewey: The True Story of a World-famous Library Cat by Vicki Myron and Brett Witter, which I found extremely moving.

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