A tapestry of the feline world

2012-10-29 00:00

WHETHER the subject is dogs, trees or that of his newest project, cats, former creative director Lewis Blackwell produces books that whack you over the head with the power of their images.

His new book, The Life & Love of Cats, is an absolute delight for any cat lover. Blackwell clearly has a great love and understanding of cats, weaving a wonderful tapestry of the feline world. His research into their world is extraordinary and spans some 9 000 years and the unique range of images were shot by leading animal photographers.

Paging through his massive book brought back many memories of the cats that have shared our family’s home and life. “Cats need their mythical nine lives,” he writes in the introduction. This reminded me of our cat Shaz. I took her on when a friend had to move and couldn’t keep her. She is a feisty creature and keeps the other cats in line. Her favourite sleeping place is, unfortunately, under cars and one night my daughter, Amy, reversed over her back legs. We rushed her to the vet where she had extensive nerve damage to the spine and her legs were paralysed. With the help of Veterinary House Hospital and an amazing woman, Doreen Stapleberg, who uses a technique called “T Touch”, Shaz is now completely healed. She still sleeps under cars.

Some people find cats strange and otherwordly, and Blackwell acknowledges that, writing: “It always gives me a shiver when I see a cat seeing what I can’t see.” I often catch my own cat Coco staring fixedly at my bedroom door. I found it rather spooky at first but told myself just because I can’t see anything doesn’t mean she can’t.

It’s a well-known fact that cats and other animals can predict impending disasters and paranormal activity. My beloved Baba and companion of 17 years would sit on our suitcases and scratch if we tried to move her — she hated us going away.

But cats — like dogs — are incredible healers too and are used in old-age homes to comfort and sit purringly on any willing lap. Our beloved Salem, who has died, used to accompany us to Rosewood old-age home during the last months of my mother’s life. Although he hated car travel, he seemed to know she needed his comfort and would lie with her when she retired for the night.

At the end of the book, there is a lovely saying: “One morning a cat wakes up, and doesn’t feel disposed to eat or wash or walk. It doesn’t panic or scream: ‘My last hour has come!’. It simply fades. Cats never go grey at the edges like us, they don’t even look old. Peter Pans, insouciant. No wonder people identify with cats.”


• The Life & Love of Cats by Lewis Blackwell is published by P.Q. Blackwell.



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