In between pumping out his countless Discworld novels, Terry Pratchett (may he rest in peace) also found time to pen this delightful little oddity. It’s more or less a novelty book, perfect to read in short bursts if, like me, you can’t eat breakfast without leafing through a book or staring at your mobile phone. You probably need to like British humour and cats to get the most out of it, but if you enjoy both or, better still, own a cat, you’ll be cackling like crazy in recognition while reading this gem.
Far too many people these days have grown used to boring, mass-produced cats, which may bounce with health and nourishing vitamins but aren’t a patch on the good old cats you used to get. The Campaign for Real Cats wants to change all that by helping people recognise Real cats when they see them. Hence this book.
All cats with faces that look as though they had been put in a vice and hit repeatedly by a hammer with a sock around it are Real cats.
Real cats never wear bows.
Real cats can hear a fridge door opening two rooms away.
After this opening manifesto, the rest of the book is a collection of vintage Pratchett humorous observations that cover a wide range of cat-related topics. Some more down-to-earth subjects include cat illnesses, foods, the games cats play, cats in history, while others explore the mystery of the Schrodinger gene (which gives cats the uncanny ability to get in and out of locked boxes, such as rooms, houses and fridges), and the cat breeds we missed (including the Bullmog, King Charles’ Lapcat, the Tabby Retriever and the German Sheepcat). In his quest to enlighten the world about the Real cats, Pratchett is aided by some wonderful and expressive illustrations from Gray Jolliffe which pop up on almost every spread. Why or why has the world decided that book illustrations must be restricted to the children’s literature?
As of now, I am not entirely sure if my new British Shorthair kitten Charlie qualifies as a Real cat, but I think he’s made steps in the right direction by ignoring the expensive sheepskin bed I got for him in favour of lying on a small uncomfortable embroidered cushion full of scratchy sequins.
The book is endlessly quotable, but here are some of my favourites:
The Real cat on wheels
It’s a simple choice. The cat travels either in:
a) a box,
b) a stupor
Offside (a popular cat game, which our old cat loved)
Consists simply of persistently being on the wrong side of a door, and goes on for as long as human tolerance will stand and then a bit longer. See the illustration:
The St Eric (one of the never-was cat breeds that could substitute dogs if they were wiped out by a series of devastating but amazingly accurately pinpointed meteor strikes)
Many a weary traveller, half-buried in the snow, has hauled himself out and kept himself warm at the sheer rage of seeing a St Eric curl up and go to sleep twenty yards away. They were never a great success, since they depended on a cat’s natural sense of charity and benevolence…