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The Character of Cats: The Origins, Intelligence, Behavior, and Stratagems of Felis Silvestris Catus

3.86  ·  Rating Details ·  194 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Simultaneously affectionate and suspicious, adaptive and intractable, dependent and aloof, cats are the least tamed and yet the most successful domestic species. Drawing upon new research into cat genetics, brain chemistry, evolution, social behavior, and interaction with humans and fellow felines, acclaimed author and scientist Stephen Budiansky explores the mysteries of ...more
Paperback, 227 pages
Published May 27th 2003 by Penguin Books (first published June 3rd 2002)
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Feb 12, 2012 Allison rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: animal lovers who don't know much yet about animals
Recommended to Allison by: goodreads
Shelves: animals
I love reading about cats. The title of this book made me think it would be really interesting and enlightening, but it was misleading. From the author's note and the book itself, I cannot tell whether the author is an animal researcher himself, an animal lover, or merely someone who combines other people's research to talk about something he himself is not that interested in. For someone who has read other cat books, this provided hardly any new information. I did find the discussion on the evo ...more
This is such a good book to read and written clearly, though dealing with a difficult, scientific orientated subject. It traces the cat's history, from the first domestication right through to modern day, and discusses who its evolution has effected its behaviour and learning. The author's love of all things animal comes through the writing so well and everything is presented is a way that helps you understand what he is trying to say. I love all the line drawings throughout the book as well. We ...more
Jun 23, 2009 J.M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Okay, seriously? If you love cats, or even if you're just mildly interested in them, this is THE book to read. I devoured it and learned so much about the feline species while doing so that I went out and bought a second copy just so I could keep one. It's that good, honest (this from a woman who has to pass on every book she owns because she's out of space!). But yeah, this book rocks. One of the best I've read in years.
Interesting information but clunky reading. Full review here.
Jessica T.
Aug 23, 2015 Jessica T. rated it liked it
Long winded.
Dan Downing
Nov 16, 2016 Dan Downing rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first read this book it was a just published volume and I was pretty new to living with cats. It was a delight to learn about their history, genetic entanglements, habits and foibles. I came away grateful that the few annoying behaviors of our cats were quite minor and I learned a few ways to manage them.
Jumping ahead 14 years and evaluating the volume after observing feline behavior during that time, Stephen Budianshy's effort seems even more engaging. Stuffed with studies, anecdotes, fa
Dec 11, 2016 Cindy rated it it was ok
2.5 - the beginning was much more I tweeting than the ending of this book. Some of the writer's personal experiences made me laugh out loud. And learning about why cats are the way they are is intriguing.
Katie/Doing Dewey
Feb 18, 2012 Katie/Doing Dewey rated it it was amazing
This book took a very scientific approach to describing cat behavior. This might indicate how geeky I am, but I loved learning about cats' behavior this way. The author starts by talking a little about how cats evolved and how interesting it is that (unlike dogs, horses, and many other domesticated animals) cats can still breed with their wild counterpart. It is also true that wild cats can survive without us, much better than wolves or the nearly extinct ancestors of today's horses. You can rea ...more
Sep 23, 2012 Edward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: general
This falls somewhere between fluff and technical so it's just the right speed for someone that has a curiosity about the domestication of cats and their behavior. I use it as a go to book when ours asks a question that we don't know the answer to. The chapter on feline genetics is interesting but there may just not be enough material there to better appreciate the technical aspects. Chapters dealing with specific behavior and its sources i.e. inherited, ecological, or learned provides convincing ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Jen rated it it was amazing
Stephen Budiansky, author of The Truth About Dogs, takes a look at the scientific data as to why cats behave the way they do. Budiansky explains that cats are the domesticated animals that are most closely related to their wild ancestors. Budiansky argues that the cat is actually not domesticated, but in-stead an “exploited captive.” Physically, cats do not differ from their wild counter-parts. Unlike domesticated cows, dogs, and chickens that have changed physically to be dependent on humans fo ...more
Oct 14, 2007 Christine rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Cat fanciers
The most interesting thing I learned from this book is that house cats are not considered truly domesticated, rather they share with "domesticated" camels and elephants the classification of "exploited captive."

One reason for this is that unlike most domesticated animals like dogs, sheep cattle, etc, the cat's wild counterpart is still alive and well (the wildcat of Asia, Europe and Africa) and differs very little from the house cat genetically.

This is not a cutesy cat book, but a user-friendly
It's been a while, but I ran across this book at work today, and thought I'd include it, because it really was a great book on cats and cat behaviour. Stephen Budiansky writes well on the feline, incorporating scientific explanation along with personal experience on cats. Definite must for anyone who loves cats.
Jul 09, 2010 Kayleigh rated it really liked it
Shelves: animals
This was a great book! I learned a lot about cat behavior, evolution, history, and a ton of other things. Some parts of it bothered me (like references to studies where electrodes were put into cat's brains), but overall I feel like I understand my cat much better! Definitely an entertaining read...
May 09, 2011 Narrelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A great guide to understand your cat as a cat rather than through anthropomorphy. Drawing on a range of behavioural and physical studies of cats, and written with a good deal of biting humour, Budiansky's book offers insight and even some practical tips for dealing with our furry and very independent friends.
Although the author owns cats, he does not over sentimentalize the character of cats. He refers to experiments carried out on cats without reference to any cruelty actual or perceived. A much more objective book than Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson's "The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats", which should have been subtitled The Emotional Life of Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson.
Nov 09, 2007 Erin rated it it was amazing
A great book combining my interest in brain science and behavior & my love of cats. My favorite line, "Cats do, then, form a mental map of their environment, but in an interesting sort of way, one with the cat in the middle".
Mar 06, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok
I was hoping for a cat counterpart to Alexandra Horowitz's Inside of a Dog, but this one felt more like a cat book for people who don't know much about cats. It was a quick read and the historical sections were quite interesting.
Jul 03, 2011 Seana rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this book, explained do much about cat behavior and people/culture's perception of them. Enjoyed it more than the author's book about dogs cause he wasn't 't so preachy. If you love cats, you should DEFINITELY read this book!!
Nov 18, 2013 Yvensong rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up to use as a reference book for a character I am writing about. I found the information I wanted and lots more.
Jul 20, 2009 Christie rated it it was ok
The book was full of information, but it felt really dry, so only parts of it were enjoyable to read. Tim and I enjoyed discussing the more interesting parts.
Sep 14, 2008 Felicia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, own
Good stuff for a cat lover--maybe tedious if you don't love cats.Some of it got a little boring and repetitive, but overall, not bad.
Mar 24, 2011 Emma rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
Interessting, no sweet pictures, but lots of useful facts. Wonky index and one big gap - nothing on cat's ability to navigate and find their way home.
Jan 20, 2013 Kennedy rated it liked it
Just like honey badger, your cat doesn't give a shit.

I found this pretty interesting in showing how different cats really are.
Jun 22, 2016 Cheryl rated it liked it
Some good information here, but I found it very dry and laborious to read.
Mary rated it really liked it
Jun 27, 2012
Lisa W.
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Aug 12, 2015
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Historian and journalist STEPHEN BUDIANSKY is the author of twelve books about military history, science, and nature.

His latest book is THE BLOODY SHIRT: TERROR AFTER APPOMATTOX, which chronicles the struggles of five courageous men in the post-Civil War South as they battled a rising tide of terrorist violence aimed at usurping the newly won rights of the freedmen.
More about Stephen Budiansky...

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