The Cougar – Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous

The Cougar  – Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous by author Paula Wild is a book I first came across over a year ago and was drawn to it partly due to its focus on cougars in western Canada. The author was born in the U.S. but moved to British Columbia (BC) where she currently resides, and where much of the book is focused. BC and in particular Vancouver Island, contains the largest concentration of cougars in Canada and in all of North America or the world, making the area a hot spot for cougar activity and encounters both positive and negative.

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The opening chapter includes the story of two young children who had fended off and survived a cougar attack on Vancouver Island in 1916 as well as insight into why the author decided to write the book. There are quite a few references to cougar attacks throughout, both historical and modern-day accounts, but the author mentions that her interest in writing about the cats wasn’t based on these experiences alone. Besides wanting to know how to prevent or survive an attack, she was also driven by a need to know more about an animal that is strongly linked to the same landscape she and many other people share. After hearing a cougar ‘scream’ near her home, listen to what that sounds like here, and reading an article about safety in cougar country she decided to delve into the world of this magnificent but highly misunderstood and persecuted big cat.

For those not familiar with the history of cougars in Canada there is a decent introduction of what the cats met with when the first settlers arrived. The cats were declared ‘varmints’ a threat to livestock and people, they were to be destroyed at all costs, and by any means. Extermination campaigns and bounties were the norm, one cougar hunter was so successful that the Canadian government even provided hunting hounds for him. Many of these sanctioned bounties in Canada, as well as in the U.S., ended in the recent past when the bounty system was realized as an ineffective means of controlling the population and attitudes towards the cat started changing.  By that point the numbers of cougars killed was staggering. In the book it is stated that during the bounty years an estimated “21,871 cougars were killed in BC alone“.

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The history of the cougar in Canada, as well as the U.S. is disturbing however, it is important to acknowledge the past to ensure that we never repeat it again. Cougar in British Columbia – Historical Image Government of BC, Ministry of Environment

The Cougar touches on a variety of topics including safety in cougar country, research, behavior, biology, the captive animal crisis and the rise of cougar encounters. Some researchers think that encounters are increasing due to the cats recovery in particular areas, while others feel that it is a direct result of the presence of more people and in cougar territory. Humans are simply putting more pressure on cougars, their prey and habitat which ultimately can have an impact on the cats behavior. All of this is a recipe for more conflict and to avoid it the public must educate themselves and wildlife agencies and government must be supportive. Unfortunately at the moment Canada continues to fall behind on almost all fronts when it comes to cougars – in research, education of the public and protection of the cats from persecution.

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Cougar attacks are still very rare – you are more likely to drown in your bathtub, be killed by a pet dog, or hit by lightning.

Fear-mongering and sensationalism still exists, especially in the main stream media, and cougars are for the most part portrayed as a public threat, but thankfully some of the old attitudes towards cougars are slowly changing, with the knowledge that they already do co-exist with people remaining out of sight, preferring to avoid humans when they can. Researchers are now also aware of the vital and important role they play in healthy ecosystems, managing prey species and enriching our landscapes.

The trade off with living in or near cougar country means we must take responsibility and learn to safely coexist with them taking precautions to ensure people, pets, children and livestock are safe.

The Cougar – Beautiful, Wild and Dangerous addresses many of the key issues surrounding cougars as well as being an interesting read, especially for those who would like to know more about cougars in western Canada where they exist in what could be considered their last great refuge.

The One-of-a-Kind Cat Book

The-One-of-a Kind Cat Book by Ciye Cho, is 127 pages of cat stories brought to life with 50+ illustrations. While it seems to be geared towards the Young Adult (YA) market, once I finished reading it, I could easily see adults of all ages enjoying the colorful artwork and entertaining story lines.

Ciye Cho – About the book“THE ONE-OF-A-KIND CAT BOOK is a whimsical treat for cat lovers everywhere. Dive into its pages to meet Catalina the narcissistic movie star, Kit the steampunk genius, and Guillaume the macaron chef. Browse through letters, notes, and photos to learn about mystery cats from Svalbard and the Amazon. Follow a detective as he unravels the crimes of “Murder Kitties.”

The OOAK Cat Book is a grown-up picture book full of modern themes: a shameless search for fame (or infamy), an obsession with true crime, and our constant need for adventure and kawaii cats. The felines here will guide you to places like Paris, Varanasi,
Woodstock, and the Great Barrier Reef.”

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Front Cover

I was curious to find out more about the illustrated book and Ciye was kind enough to answer a few questions and elaborate on the story and style!

Q Why did you choose to focus on cats for this novel?

CC I have been fascinated with cats for quite some time. They are creatures of great whimsy, beauty, and majesty.

Q Is there anything any particular about the colors/style used in this novel?

CC I tried to create hyper-expressive, super kawaii cats. I’m also a devotee to all things whimsical, so there’s a lot of rainbow hues, pastel colors, busy patterns, and playful imagery.

Q What type of cat lover are you trying to appeal to?

CC All sorts. There are thirty-three different cats in this book, from murderous moggies to famous felines. I’d like to believe that there is something here for everyone. Oh, and there are also some exotic cats in the mix (there’s one in particular that should interest in you, since you often talk about conservation and wild cats).

Q What is the inspiration for the characters in this novel?

CC Firstly, I was inspired by the beauty and wonder of cats. However, on a much broader level, much of the book is a statement on pop culture. For example, modern-day society is obsessed with the concept of fame and the pursuit of fame at all costs. Catalina and tricky, who feature prominently in the book, are perfect purrrrsonifications of these issues. I would like to think that the OOAK Cat Book is a kooky reflection on our strange new world.

Q Is there a message you are trying to convey in your novel, or is
this purely for fun?

CC There are themes in this book (fame, infamy, crime, wonder, love, adventure) that should hopefully resonate with readers. But above all else, I just wanted to draw super cute, super whimsical cats. It relaxes me to look at pictures of fancy felines, and I know that many people feel the same way.

Q Do you have any cats of your own?

CC I was surrounded by cats when I was younger, but I currently don’t have any. However, if we’re counting imaginary pets, I probably have a dozen of those.

Q anything else you would like readers to know?

CC The One-of-a-Kind Cat Book is a story told through a unique mix of letters, postcards, emails, photos, and other clues. Many of these collected tales are mini adventures that you’ll need to piece together with your imagination.

Book reviews, The One of a Kind Cat Book, Ciye Cho, Illustrated books, Cat books, young adult fiction, Australian authors, Illustrated cat books,

Book reviews, The One of a Kind Cat Book, Ciye Cho, Illustrated books, Cat books, young adult fiction, Australian authors, Illustrated cat books,

Book reviews, The One of a Kind Cat Book, Ciye Cho, Illustrated books, Cat books, young adult fiction, Australian authors, Illustrated cat books,

More images from the book can be viewed here

The book is broken down into 16 “experiences” with each character, relaying their story via different themes such as a Magazine cover, written letters, an iPad, email, postcards and even song lyrics. The attention to detail that has gone into crafting unique themes is appreciated and shows that a lot of thought not only went into the stories and characters, but also the actual illustrations, which could clearly stand on their own as art pieces.

The beautiful and bold use of color help to capture your imagination and work perfectly to bring the sophisticated, intelligent and highly detailed stories to life. One of my personal favorites is the illustration below and the story behind this lovely exotic cat!

Book reviews, The One of a Kind Cat Book, Ciye Cho, Illustrated books, Cat books, young adult fiction, Australian authors, Illustrated cat books,The book is definitely fantasy but it also touches on moral issues and reflects many of our very human preoccupations, or obsessions, with aspects of modern life and pop culture. As I read through I immediately noticed that this book really does contain something for every cat lover. It would be nice to see this colorful work in print format  (like a coffee table book style) one day, but for now it can be purchased for your viewing pleasure on your computer, laptop or iPad in PDF format.

Overall, the book is a visually appealing, unique and fun read that will surprise you with its carefully thought out stories. It makes a great gift for the cat lover looking for something a little different, or that already has everything!

Ciye Cho is a graphic designer who lives and works in Australia and writes YA novels in his spare time. The One-of-a-Kind Cat Book is available in eBook format for $3 and may be purchased directly here.

Thank you to writer Ciye Cho for contacting me and providing a copy of the novel for review.

Book Review: Lost Cat

Lost Cat A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul is a  perfect vacation read. Fun, easy, entertaining, humorous and colorful (yes there are pictures and diagrams!)

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The story chronicles the real life experience of author Caroline Paul, who upon recovering from an accident must also search for one of her cats who goes missing, making an already unpleasant situation even worse. Not yet fully recovered, Caroline enlists the help of her friends to flyer her neighborhood in San Francisco imagining the worst, she even consults a pet psychic to aid in the search and help ease her mind that Tibby is alive and well…moonlighting as another families cat.

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After a fruitless search and five weeks later Tibby comes home, sending a determined Caroline on another mission – to find out where her cat had been. She comes up with the idea to attach a small GPS device to Tibby’s collar to track his movements when he is outside but becomes frustrated when the device returns images of maps that are full of crazy lines, making it impossible to see where he has been. Next comes the CatCam, which is able to take a series of photos of Tibby’s outside adventures, however it reveals no details about his other life.

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The author also experiences the loss of her other cat Fibby, which in a way becomes a catalyst for going back to Tibby’s GPS maps, her partner then devising a system to finally make sense of all the crazy lines narrowing the cats whereabouts down to a few suspect homes.

cats, Lost Cat A story of love desperation and GPS Technolgy, Books, Caroline Paul, Missing Cats, Outside cats, Book review, vacation reading, San Francisco

The authors final attempts to find out who the suspect “catnappers” are pay off as she is forced to knock on doors and speak to neighbors.

Lost Cat A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology is a brilliant book full off great illustrations and pictures that are funny and witty, a perfect accompaniment to a story cat owners the world over can relate to. The book brought a smile to my face and it’s guaranteed to do the same for any cat lover.

I admit to reading Lost Cat A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology in one day, and it has very easily earned a place on my Favorite Cat Themed Books List, be sure to pick it up.

Book Review: Making Rounds With Oscar

Making Rounds with Oscar The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat is a book by Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician who works with dementia patients at Steere Nursing Home in Rhode Island where a cat named Oscar resides and became known for his unique abilities to predict the death of a patient.

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Before Dr. Dosa wrote this book he had written an essay on Oscar that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. After a huge amount of public interest and media blitz, I remember reading about Oscar in People Magazine, Dr. Dosa decided to write a book about his experiences working with the intuitive Brown and White Tabby.

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Dr. Dosa and the staff at the nursing home realize that Oscar is not just randomly picking patients to visit, but has a clear motive.

The book chronicles the experiences of patients at the nursing home and the interactions they have with Oscar, who foretells their passing with a visit. While the idea of death is not a happy one, the story is very uplifting and positive in its message which is made clear as you read. Some patients and families embraced the comfort that Oscar brought to them in their final hours or days, and some wanted him shut out of the room. Oscar wasn’t right every time, but his presence was a predictor of death so many times that the media created headlines like “If Oscar’s in your bed, you’re dead!”

The story demonstrates the benefit of animal companionship to elderly people and how animals are aware of much more than we give them credit for. A biological explanations is offered as to how a cat could know someone is dying, that Oscar is simply able to detect the chemical compounds given off by the body as an odor as cells die.

While a cats sense of smell is amazing I also feel they poses a different level of awareness and like most animals, are in touch with abilities that humans have long-lost or pushed aside. In this case I see Oscar providing patients with his own brand of treatment one that included comfort, compassion with his presence and a purr.

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Making Rounds with Oscar is a lovely book and is on my Favorite Cat Themed Books List. You can also see an interview here highlighting Oscar at work.

Book Review: My Life With Leopards Graham Cooke’s Story

First published by Penguin Books South Africa in 2012, My Life With Leopards – Graham Cooke’s Story, by Fransje van Riel was a much anticipated read for me, and as soon as it became available online I ordered it, I must admit it sat on my shelf for a while before I could get to it…practically screaming at me to pick it up. What drew me to this book initially, other than the obvious, is that other than Joy Adamson’s Queen of Shaba – The Story of an African Leopard, I am not aware of many other instances where a wild Leopard cub has been raised and released successfully back into the wild.

My Life With Leopards Graham Cooke's Story, Africa, Leopards, Big Cats, South Africa, Zambia, Fransje van Riel, South Luangwa Valley

The story begins in the private Game Reserve of Londolozi, South Africa May 1993 where 22 year old game ranger Graham Cooke is assigned to take care of two 6 week old leopard cubs who had been born into captivity in Zimbabwe.

While the means by which the cubs were secured may not be ideal, this soon becomes unimportant as you read this very personal, passionate and beautiful story. The cubs, one male (Boycat) and one female (Poepface) are entrusted to Graham to be rehabilitated back to the wild once old enough to fend for themselves. Together they embark on a unique and very special journey and for Graham it would be one that changes him forever.

My Life With Leopards Graham Cooke's Story, Africa, Leopards, Big Cats, South Africa, Zambia, South Luangwa

Graham with the cubs after a morning walk –  Image My Life with Leopards Book by Fransje van Riel

Graham took his responsibility of caring for the two cubs very seriously, and without a doubt loved and cherished their lives and the time they had together. He demonstrates an extreme amount of patience, understanding, respect and kindness towards these amazing and would be potentially dangerous predators never forgetting that his ultimate goal is to ensure they stay wild enough to one day return to the wild.

Grahams work with the cubs is not easy at first but his perseverance and gentleness allows him entry into their world and slowly he learns to communicate with them understanding their needs and behaviors. Along the way he learns the cubs unique personalities, Boycat the more relaxed outgoing of the two and Poepface the more reserved, and you see the cubs trust in Graham develop in wonderful ways, in turn this bond opens up a world of experiences and insights on leopards for Graham.

Finally the cubs are moved to Zambia’s South Luangwa Valley, the place where Graham makes final preparations to let his cubs go forever.

My Life With Leopards Graham Cooke's Story, Africa, Leopards, Big Cats, South Africa, Zambia, South Luangwa

Poepface – Image from My Life with Leopards book by Fransje van Riel

My Life With Leopards is a great read, it is powerful story of a bond between human and animal and the trust they share. The story is filled with highs, lows, humor and “wow” moments, it will leave you with a unique perspective on an experience that only a few individuals have been blessed with. It is also a reminder that nature is amazing and at times very unforgiving, it truly chooses no favorites.

I found myself turning the pages wanting to know what was coming next, and I admit at times getting choked up and teary eyed. Having been fortunate enough to have visited the South Luangwa Valley, many years after this story takes place, I wondered if any of the Leopards I saw there were the descendants of Grahams Poepface.

My Life With Leopards Graham Cooke’s Story is on my Favorite Cat Themed books  list and is available online from Amazon.com in traditional Paperback or for Kindle. If you love the big cats, Leopards and wildlife be sure to pick this book up.

Book Review: My Name Is Bob

Cat, My Name Is Bob, Book, kids, James bowen, street cat named bob                          Authors: James Bowen and Garry Jenkins Illustrated by: Gerald Kelley                          Publisher: Barron’s Educational Price: $16.99 US/$19.50 CAN

If you are a cat lover like myself, you may already know of the books A Street Cat Named Bob and sequel The World According To Bob.  Both are based on the real life stories of how a serendipitous encounter changed the lives of street musician James and a stray cat named Bob. The famous duos presence on the streets of London would be the basis for an amazing and inspiring tale.

Being a huge fan I jumped at the chance to review the newest addition, a prequel of sorts, called My Name is Bob which is geared for young children and is smartly told from the point of view of Bob the cat! The book introduces a whole new generation of readers to Bob and what his life was like before he met James. Bob is a house cat who is very much-loved and well cared for by his elderly owner, however a series of unfortunate events lead him to experience some unhappy times as a stray cat on the streets of London.

Readers journey with Bob as he encounters people, other cats and the perils of the big city before finally meeting James. Once they meet their lives are changed, a beautiful and life long friendship ensues and the rest is history.

My Name Is Bob makes a wonderful gift for any young child, it is fun to read, entertaining and well illustrated. It also includes some wonderful pictures of the real life Bob and James along with a synopsis of where the pair is at now. It is a story of hope and perseverance that will be sure to engage and inspire a young person.

I also appreciate that the story brings awareness to the plight of stray cats by highlighting real life challenges they face on the street, making it a positive tool for teaching kids about compassion towards animals.

My Name Is Bob is a great introduction to the world of Bob and James and it will make a purrfect stepping stone for reading the other books later on.

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Bob and James

Release date is early May and can be purchased online from Barron’s Educational. It will also be available at most major and independent booksellers which include Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com in the US and retailers like Chapters Indigo, Amazon.ca, and Target here in Canada.

Did you know In real life James and Bob raise money for the Blue Cross animal charity in the UK giving back to the organization that helped them?

A copy of the book was supplied by the Publisher and the review was done for love not money 🐱