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Cats I Have Known and Loved

Cover of Cats I Have Known and Loved

Cats I Have Known and Loved

Who would have guessed that one of the great historian's passions in life is cats? Over the course of his eighty-two years, and from his birthplace in Dawson City, Yukon, to his home in Kleinburg, Ontario, Berton has known and loved many cats. In this charming collection of stories, he has chosen his best cat tales to share with us.

Pierre Berton is a master storyteller, and his lyrical writing and sense of pacing and adventure enliven this collection, making it irresistible to any cat lover.

The book opens with the adventure of Pousse-Pousse, the cat with extra toes, who was carried off by a Great Horned Owl and, seven months later, reappeared at the door, bedraggled but alive. Pierre Berton's first cat was Happy, a kitten the teenage Pierre spied in a pet store window "free to a good home." It was Depression-era Victoria, and the Bertons barely had enough to feed themselves. Still, they kept Happy, and she produced scores of kittens over the years. There are stories of stray cats and "hobo cats," beloved cartoon cats like Felix and Krazy Kat, and finally, "Rules for Guests," which includes the following: "No discussion is so intense, no story so riveting, that it can't be interrupted when a cat enters the room."

This beautifully designed small-format gift book is illustrated with line drawings by Pierre Berton, photographs, and coloured endpapers.

From the Hardcover edition.

Who would have guessed that one of the great historian's passions in life is cats? Over the course of his eighty-two years, and from his birthplace in Dawson City, Yukon, to his home in Kleinburg, Ontario, Berton has known and loved many cats. In this charming collection of stories, he has chosen his best cat tales to share with us.

Pierre Berton is a master storyteller, and his lyrical writing and sense of pacing and adventure enliven this collection, making it irresistible to any cat lover.

The book opens with the adventure of Pousse-Pousse, the cat with extra toes, who was carried off by a Great Horned Owl and, seven months later, reappeared at the door, bedraggled but alive. Pierre Berton's first cat was Happy, a kitten the teenage Pierre spied in a pet store window "free to a good home." It was Depression-era Victoria, and the Bertons barely had enough to feed themselves. Still, they kept Happy, and she produced scores of kittens over the years. There are stories of stray cats and "hobo cats," beloved cartoon cats like Felix and Krazy Kat, and finally, "Rules for Guests," which includes the following: "No discussion is so intense, no story so riveting, that it can't be interrupted when a cat enters the room."

This beautifully designed small-format gift book is illustrated with line drawings by Pierre Berton, photographs, and coloured endpapers.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One

    We know all those dog stories -- the faithful canine standing guard over his master's body, refusing to eat, resisting all efforts to pull him away. Such fealty is not for cats. The master of the house may topple to the kitchen floor clutching at his heart, but the family cat will walk over his prostrate form to gobble a saucer of milk. And all the while he is watching over his shoulder in case some predator is lurking round the corner. That's why cats survive.

    My favourite cat survivor story comes from my neighbours, the Gordons, next door. Next door? Their home, on the rim of the Humber Valley is actually several hundred yards from our own. They look out, as we do, on a small forest of pointed Christmas trees -- white cedars that clothe the slopes leading down to the river. Here, the Humber Valley stretches off to the north, a misty, evergreen realm, the home of wild coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and small herds of deer who follow the river and use the valley as protection. Sometimes they venture up the slopes to gnaw at the bark of newly planted birch and poplar trees on my front lawn. I forgive them, for the sight of a delicate little doe and her two speckled fawns is worth the grief.

    It was in this environment that the next-door cat performed his vanishing act. He was, in many ways, a crazy, mixed-up cat. He had two names, which suggests the two distinct sides of his personality, a not-unknown quality in cats. Lying on the living room couch, slobbering away and purring loudly, he was a feline Dr. Jekyll. Creeping through the undergrowth below the house and pouncing savagely on small mice, voles, and even chipmunks, he was Mr. Hyde -- the terror of the neighbourhood.

    He was already a survivor when our neighbour's daughter, Julie, found him abandoned in a ditch, a lost kitten mewing hungrily for room service. Julie, who was stabling her horse in a nearby barn, turned the kitten over to an accommodating mother cat, who licked him down furiously and looked after him as well as she did her own tribe. There, the cat bonded with Julie's horse, Sydney, snuggling up to him for warmth and putting his nose against Sydney's, almost as if he was kissing him. Later on, the memory of that would help the cat to survive.

    The kitten eventually grew to adulthood and moved into Julie's parents' home. She called him Killer, a name that reflects his hobby of ripping the hides off small furry animals. But when the family moved to their new house near us on the rim of the Humber Valley, her mother balked at the prospect of having to shout "Here Killer, Killer!" across the fields. She discarded the outdoor name and opted for an indoor name: "Pousse-Pousse." That too presented a problem. In our area, if you shout "Here Pousse-Pousse" out the door, half a dozen assorted felines turn up, expecting a handout. Everybody I know calls their cat "Puss" more often than not. The cats don't know the difference because they think "Puss" and "Pousse-Pousse" are synonyms for lunch.

    Inside the house, the killer cat turned into a bit of a wimp. When he wasn't creeping through the forest, he was stretched out on the living room sofa, yawning in his sleep. No hint of a killer instinct there. When he had nothing else to do, he padded down the hall and into the bathroom, sat in the empty bathtub, or even curled up and went to sleep. Cats, as we all know, seek out confined spaces. It gives them a false sense of security. Later, in this memoir, you will encounter Ruby, my tabby, who likes to curl up in a wooden salad bowl that seems to have been especially designed for her; and also Spooky, who snoozes in my in-basket, a move that plays havoc with my personal papers. Any cardboard...

About the Author-
  • Pierre Berton was one of Canada's most popular and prolific authors.From narrative histories and popular culture, to picture and coffee table books to anthologies, to stories for children to readable, historical works for youth, many of his fifty books are now Canadian classics.

    Born in 1920 and raised in the Yukon, Pierre Berton worked in Klondike mining camps during his university years. He spent four years in the army, rising from private to captain/instructor at the Royal Military College in Kingston. He spent his early newspaper career in Vancouver, where at 21 he was the youngest city editor on any Canadian daily. He wrote columns for and was editor of Maclean's magazine, appeared on CBC's public affairs program "Close-Up" and was a permanent fixture on "Front Page Challenge" for 39 years. He was a columnist and editor for the Toronto Star and was a writer and host of a series of CBC programs.

    Pierre Berton received over 30 literary awards including the Governor-General's Award for Creative Non-Fiction (three times), the Stephen Leacock Medal of Humour, and the Gabrielle Leger National Heritage Award. He received two Nellies for his work in broadcasting, two National Newspaper awards, and the National History Society's first award for "distinguished achievement in popularizing Canadian history." For his immense contribution to Canadian literature and history, he was awarded more than a dozen honourary degrees, is a member of the Newsman's Hall of Fame, and is a Companion of the Order of Canada.

    Pierre Berton passed away in Toronto on November 30, 2004.

Reviews-
  • Maclean's

    "Berton unleashes a mongrel collection of lively cat tales -- many amusing enough to hold readers who hate the hairball-spewing beasts."

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    Doubleday Canada
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