The Magic of Cats
by Andrew Anderson
Illustrated by Hannah Willow
Publisher: Moon Books
Release Date: May 1, 2023
Cats are magical. There’s no two ways around that. Dogs are great – I love dogs, I’ve owned dogs and I miss the dogs I used to own, especially my beloved yellow lab Lucy – but dogs are pedestrian, ordinary, almost run-of-the-mill. Cats have a whole ‘nother vibe and it’s not too far out there to say that vibe is magic.
There have always been cats in my life. My grandmother had a gorgeous calico cat named Pansy who lived to be eighteen years old; there’s a picture of me, petting her, when I was only eighteen months old. My family’s first cat was a grey tabby named Oliver; when we moved to a larger house around the corner, not a quarter-mile from the original house, we took Oliver with us, but Oliver roamed back to his old stomping grounds at the old house and became the new family’s cat. A few years later, we found a kitten in the ditch and brought it home. His name was Little Meiou – a joke, because my father insisted that the cat in the “Dick and Jane” books was called “Little Meiou” and not “Puff” – everyone knows that Dick and Jane’s cat was named Puff! Little Meiou was hit by a car one Saturday night – I remember well his hindquarters all mangled up – he had to be put down and that was a very sad event for a nine-year-old girl. We didn’t get another cat until we got Emma, seven years later – we found her underneath our car after shopping at Wegmans.
As an adult, I’ve had numerous cats. First there was Shadow and Kahlua. When I broke up with my first husband, he got custody of the cats. I really missed being a kitty-cat mommy, so I got Jet and Max. Max only lived to be six months old – he ate one of the little balls made of the cellophane wrappers from my boyfriend’s Camel cigarette pack – it tore up his insides and he had to be put down. That was really traumatic for me but it brought Jet and me much closer. A few weeks later, my boyfriend took me to a pet store and I got Little Joe – named partly for the character in “Bonanza” and partly because when we were going home, Jimi Hendrix was on the radio. I used to sing “Hey Joe, where you going with that mouse in your mouth” to Little Joe.
I had Jet and Little Joe until they died. They were my son’s companions in his crib when he was a baby and as he learned to crawl and walk. Little Joe developed diabetes and had to be given insulin shots. He was twelve when he died. Jet lived another four years and had to be put down.
After that, I got Jack. This was when I was living in Lockport, NY. I had feral cats in that period; Garcia, Deo, and their baby Little Guy, who died when he was four months old – all Deo’s kittens died but I thought Little Guy would make it. When I moved to Buffalo, I only took Jack with me but then I got Bobby and a year later, Radar. They were both rescue kittens. If anyone is acquainted with my WordPress blog “silverapplequeen” and my “Saturday Caturday” posts, then you know Radar and Bobby. Jack had to be put down two years ago; there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss that cat. I think I loved him more than any cat I’ve ever known.
Andrew Anderson writes about his cats; he had a cat named Whiskey and it’s easy to see this cat the way he describes her. But that’s not the only cat he writes about – there’s Marlowe and Alfie (great names!). These two cats are the basis of his poem “The Cat of the Night and The Cat of the Day”, which is at the end of the book, and which is the genesis of this entire book. It’s a lovely poem and really, a cool idea for cats in general. It’s just in my experience, my cats have neither been cats of the night nor cats of the day – like myself, they are awake during the day and the night; they sleep during the day and at night; there’s really no either/or. Cats like to nap. And they don’t like rules.
However, this book is filled with so much feline lore and the prose written so poetically that it’s an absolute joy to read. I loved learning things like there’s a feline constellation! Yes, there is! (Anderson, 12,13) He writes about the association of cats and deities, especially those of Egypt, but also the British Celts, the Scandinavian pantheon and even the Virgin Mary of the Catholics. He delves further into this in Chapter Two: “The Cat of the Night – The Witch’s Cat”, which looks at the role of cats
in Greek myths, focusing closely on the Goddess Hekate, her evolution into the goddess of witchcraft, and her close association with cats.
This chapter is also interesting with Anderson’s discussion of what kind of cats are “particularly suspicious and likely to be involved in such malevolent activities” as assisting a witch in performing spells and rituals (Anderson, 30). He mentions tabby cats and tortoiseshell cats – Little Joe and Garcia were tabbies – and “brindled” cats – meaning a brown or grey cat – Jack and Radar were/are grey. And of course, the always mysterious and magical black cat. My cat Jet was a black cat with a strain of Siamese in him; Bobby is a beautiful aging black kitty, his black fur now flecked with grey.
In Chapter Three, he mentions a study made in 2013 that stated that “cats do recognize their owners’ voices, but choose to ignore them” (Anderson, 42). This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Perhaps these owners didn’t train their cats properly – or at all. Most people think that cats can’t be trained. But like all animals, cats need to be trained from babyhood. I can attest that both of my cats come when I call them. Radar trots out of wherever he’s been hiding, Bobby slinks out a bit slower, but they appear when they hear the sound of my voice. They know who the Mother Goddess is in their world.
And honestly? “Cats’ lack of regard for humans”? (Anderson, 42). When I am depressed, my cats are all over me, trying to make me feel better. They are annoyingly attentive. I know that for most people, a cat insisting that you stop what you’re doing and pet them and adore them isn’t exactly a group hug comforting, but it does work. The fact that when I’m feeling my lowest, either Radar or Bobby is right there, wanting to make me feel better is enough. And while I’m at it here – I know my cats love me. Bobby licks the top of my head – like he’s grooming me – and Radar rubs his head against mine. I know that’s kitty-cat love. And it feels good.
Still, this book is fabulous and I can’t say enough about it – every page has a great story about a cat in history or myth or literature. Anderson quotes from poetry liberally – lines we may all well know and lines that may be new to us. In the Cat of the Day section, Anderson moves from mythology to fairy tale – he recounts the story of “Puss in Boots” – always a favorite of mine – revealing its original source from India via Italy and France.
Not only does Anderson write of cats in literature, he discusses the linguistic word “cat” and how it is rendered in languages around the world; how the cat evolved physically and its physical attributes today; and how the cat continues to evolve.
At the very end of the book is the poem, “The Cat of the Night and the Cat of the Day (a story for kittens of all ages)” which is charming. I can well imagine myself reading this to my granddaughter in a few years. She’s seven months old as of this writing and already loves cats!
The relationship between cat and human is a complex and close one; anyone who has ever owned and loved a cat or numerous cats knows this. In The Magic of Cats, Andrew Anderson explores every aspect of cat mythology, cat folklore, cat literature, cat ownership, and cat evolution and physicality with a prose style that borders on the poetic and flows like the milky way across the sky. Along with the beautiful illustrations by Hannah Willow, The Magic of Cats by Andrew Anderson is a wonderful addition to any cat-lover’s collection of feline literature or simply for anyone who is interested in the magic of cats. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I look forward to reading more from Andrew Anderson.
About the Author
Andrew Anderson is a Druid author and practitioner who has been publishing with Moon Books since 2019. He moved to Stratford-upon-Avon in his 20s to study Shakespeare and decided to stay. Having worked in education for almost 20 years, teaching English and Creative Writing, Andrew now divides his time between working in the Shakespeare Industry and exploring the Warwickshire countryside. He lives in Stratford-upon-Avon with his two cats.
About the Author:
Polly MacDavid lives in Buffalo, New York at the moment but that could easily change, since she is a gypsy at heart. Like a gypsy, she is attracted to the divinatory arts, as well as camp fires and dancing barefoot. She has three cats who all help her with her magic.
Her philosophy about religion and magic is that it must be thoroughly based in science and logic. She is Dianic Wiccan but she gets along with a few of the masculine deities. She loves to cook and she is a Bills fan.
She blogs at silverapplequeen.wordpress.com. She writes about general life, politics and poetry. She is writing a novel about sex, drugs and recovery.