Simon & Schuster (1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020), 1998.
201 pages, paperback, $11.00.
Reviewed by Merritt Clifton
In 1992 and 1995, surveys of cat rescuers that I conducted for ANIMAL PEOPLE netted several signed responses from PETA staffers who, almost alone among the respondents (there was just one other), identified mass roundups for killing by needle as their preferred “rescue” method. One of them killed an average of about one cat per day.
In January 1998, I received a detailed account from John Newton of the Meower Power Feral Cat coalition, alleging that a hit squad led personally at first by PETA cofounder Ingrid Newkirk had for three years frequently trapped cats from supervised neuter/release colonies in the vicinity of Fort Norfolk, Virginia, and delivered many to their deaths at local animal shelters. The PETA raids continued, Newton said, even after the intervention of Alley Cat Allies brought a brief hiatus in early 1997.
Such activities don’t seem to be mentioned in Newkirk’s recital of 250 Things You Can Do to Make Your Cat Adore You. But Newkirk does describe how cats, in her view, should be converted into vegetarians, contrary to the outcome of around 40 million years of evolution. If that doesn’t make your cat adore you, you can–if the cat eats the wrong plants–try again by feeding the suffering animal a bit of vegetable oil, and then administering a warm-water enema. (Page 182.)
To Newkirk’s credit, she acknowledges that, “This does not sound like a fun way to spend even five minutes.”
Much of Newkirk’s advice is Cat Care 1-A. Much is overt plugola for favorite products, and of course for PETA. Among cat-related charities, Newkirk recommends only PETA, Alley Animals (not Alley Cat Allies), the Best Friends Animal Society, the Greek Animal Welfare Society, and the Roman Association for the Protection of Animals. After warning sternly against patronizing cat breeders, Newkirk recommends Cat Fancy, Cats, and I Love Cats magazines, all heavy on breeder ads and pro-breeding articles.
250 Things is, in short, a rather odd cat care manual.
I assess animal care manuals by asking myself, after a reading, “Would I want this author to be my pet-sitter?”
Taking into consideration my intuition since childhood that cats are not ours to be changing their natural diets or bumping off if healthy, just because we think they might eventually suffer the normal stresses of life, I think I’d rather go naked while giving a distressed feline vegetable oil and an enema than let Ingrid Newkirk anywhere near any of my cats––even Gidget, nicknamed “Devil of the Boss Cats,” whose temperament, I understand, is much like Newkirk’s.
(An earlier edition of this review appeared in ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1998.)