Guest book review by Peter J. Wolf
As a rule, I steer clear of feline adventures told from the cat’s perspective—not so much because of the naïve sentimentality that typically plagues such stories, but because the cats’ voices rarely ring true for me. That said, I jumped at the chance to review Taming Me: Memoir of a Clever Island Cat when I learned that “memoirist” Lucy Miracle’s story revolved around TNR, a method for reducing the population of stray, abandoned, and feral cats through sterilization.
“Trap, neuter, return,” ponders the young Lucy, only recently brought indoors, and still missing her mother and littermates. “That’s what happened to me—all but the return part.”
But many of the island’s cats have been returned, thanks to Lucy’s people, Darcie and Ray, who split their time between Florida and the Bahaman island of North Cat Cay, home to “easily over a hundred” cats, as Darcie explains to neighbors. “A hundred,” considers Lucy, overhearing the conversation.
“I turn the phrase over in my head. I can’t picture a hundred. Has my mommy—a member of that hundred—recovered yet? Will she be set free once again? And does she wander alone, a notch in her ear and no more kittens to keep her company? Or does she have a companion? Oh, if only she and the other island cats knew how easy it is to train humans!”
And train them she does—cautiously at first, but then with an expertise that will no doubt be familiar to many Moderncat readers. Lucy’s story makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read, thanks in large part to author Cathy Unruh’s talent for crafting a narrative that’s uncomplicated yet compelling. And her ease with language, evident, for example, in her poetic description of Lucy:
“I am a scrawny thing, thinner than any of my littermates—I have not grown into my age. Born in the moist dense heat of summer, I have now been alive long enough for the days to shorten and go dry. I would likely perish in the sudden chill without my mother—if hunger didn’t fell me first… I creep closer to my mother. My body looks so much like hers: the color of sand on my underbelly, shoulders, and legs, with dirt-colored patches on my back and feet, accented by stripes the color of the island roads—blacktop, they call it—winding around and down my tail like a snake. I wonder if my face resembles hers. Fur the color of cinders outlines her eyes and swoops upward toward the whiskers in her ears. She has a beautiful straight ear, the solid color of a ripening coconut, and a crooked ear, dark at the bottom and pale at the tip. A patch shaped like a sand dollar sits on her cheek.”
Readers involved with TNR will, to coin a phrase, come for the TNR and stay for the story. Others—and, this is what excites me most about Taming Me—will pick up the book for the story, and quickly become acquainted with trap-neuter-return. Unruh, like her protagonist, is pretty clever.
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Peter J. Wolf is the founder of Vox Felina, a blog featuring in-depth analysis of science and policy issues related to the management of free-roaming cats in general, and trap-neuter-return in particular.