Cats: Nature and Nurture

First Second. (Science Comics). Aug. 2019. 128p. bibliog. glossary. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250143136; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781250143129.
Gr 4-7–Must reading for ailurophiles and ailurophobes alike, this entry in the series explores the physical features that make cats large and small so perfectly adapted for hunting, and also delivers speculative but credible explanations (supported by a substantial list of published scientific studies) for how they develop individual character traits and dispositions, and why they are so popular as pets. All of this is wrapped in an autobiographical, celebrity-style “video” interview with Bean, a former stray who looks back on his life, from being left as a kitten outside an abandoned mall to joining a community of feral creatures to being adopted by “a large, upright, mostly bald mammal.” With one eye on informational content and the other on what he dubs the “cute factor,” Hirsch fills his neatly drawn cartoon panels with a great array of winsome cats wild and domestic—often shown gleefully pouncing on hapless mice, insects, or other prey but never visibly killing or chowing down. Prospective cat owners should look elsewhere for specific care advice, but along with the eye candy (and guidelines for creating a cat-friendly environment), Hirsch offers plenty of nourishing, chewy tidbits, from the observation that felines either purr or roar but not both to how “trap-neuter-release” programs may be “undomesticating” the stray cat gene pool.
VERDICT This guide to understanding cats and cat behavior provides rare insights aplenty, both to middle grade readers with a specific pet in mind and to young naturalists with a general interest in animals wild, domestic, and (in this case) in between.

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