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The Fur Person

4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  689 ratings  ·  94 reviews
May Sarton's fictionalized account of her cat Tom Jones's life and
adventures prior to making the author's acquaintance begins with a
fiercely independent, nameless street cat who follows the ten
commandments of the Gentleman Cat—including "A Gentleman Cat allows no constraint of his person, not even loving constraint." But after several years of roaming, Tom has grown tired
Paperback, 112 pages
Published December 7th 1983 by W. W. Norton & Co. (first published 1957)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,484)
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Kris Sellgren
This story of how a Gentleman Cat from the rough streets of Boston becomes a Fur Person, living with not one but two spinsters, is utterly charming. One of these spinsters is the poet May Sarton, who infuses the narrative voice of the Fur Person with solemn dignity, feline calculation, and a love of making up songs to suit each situation. I particularly liked his curse of a Siamese cat who has the audacity to drive him away when he tries to beg for food at the Siamese's house: "May your milk tur ...more
Lisa Vegan
May 13, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who knows & loves cats, May Sarton fans
Shelves: fiction, reviewed, novel
She knows cats. ;-)

I read this when I was on a May Sarton kick. This was one of the few that was a relief from the emotional pain that’s present in so many of her books. It’s truly delightful and I especially recommend it to those who have known at least one cat well, but even cat neophytes or those who are ignorant about cats can appreciate it.
Greg Youmans
I picked up this book at a library sale on a whim, because I love cats and I knew just a smidge about May Sarton, but what I heard is that she was an East Coast analogue to Elsa Gidlow--a woman who lived a long openly gay life across the 20th century and whom younger woman gathered around for feminist and lesbian inspiration in the 1970s and 1980s. There's a picture of Sarton on the back of the book that couldn't be better. I looked at it all the time whenever my interest flagged and it spurred ...more
Sep 04, 2013 Lori rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: cat lovers, bedtime-story seekers
A charming first-purrson account of a tomcat's search for the good life, and his adventures and misadventures along the way, this thinly-veiled account of her own cat's life story comes from a writer who evidently has observed the behavior and sensibilities of cats with a careful and sympathetic eye. Sarton can turn phrases exquisitely, and her high regard for catly dignity shines through even her most humorous passages. Sentimental but not cloying, this story belongs on the insomniac bookshelf ...more
Jann Barber
One of the techs at my vet's clinic had this book when I was there on Thursday, and she loaned it to me to read. It is a small book, but much like a cat, small things can have big messages.

It is the story of one cat's journey from kittenhood to realization that he is a Fur Person. Anyone who has lived with and loved a feline will enjoy this story.

My favorite bit: "For a Fur Person is a cat whom human beings love in the right way, allowing him to keep his dignity, his reserve and his freedom. And
Wonderful book for cat lovers. I was able to read the book in one sitting so if you're looking for something deep, this isn't it. If you're looking for something fun to read, that will make you smile and laugh, this is the book for you. The book is written from a cats point of view. If you live with cats, you would definitely appreciate this book. It put me in a wonderful mood after reading it :-).
May 15, 2013 Ariel rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: adult
How I love this book by poet May Sarton about her Gentleman Cat, Tom Jones (because Tom Jones was also a foundling!) and his Ten Commandments, especially 3: "A Gentleman Cat does not mew except in extremity. He makes his wishes known and waits." I plan to buy several copies and send them to friends for birthdays.
My mother gave this to me for Christmas probably because I had cats and then I immediately read everything she had written. My mother told me years later that May Sarton’s father had come to Indiana University and lectured on the History of Science. She and my father met him. May Sarton came to Seattle in March 28, 1990, the day before my father died. I was lucky enough to be able to go see and hear her read. One of the more interesting questions that was asked of her was how she could reveal he ...more
This is labeled children's literature, but it is really for all cat lovers! The Fur Person is the story about a stray cat in Boston who decides he needs to find a housekeeper to make his life better. He eventually finds the author of this wonderful book. May Sarton writes the story of the Fur Person's life as a cat-about-town and later how he assimilates himself into Sarton's household. Of course, this is all from the cat's point of view. I love the cat's numerous commandments on the proper way ...more
In the middle of this book, two cats have a spontaneous rap battle. Worth the read for that alone.

(Note: Goodreads page count is wrong on the paperback.)
The Ten Commandments of the Gentleman Cat
I. A Gentleman Cat has an immaculate shirt front and paws at all times.
II. A Gentleman Cat allows no constraint of his person, even loving constraint.
III. A Gentleman Cat does not mew except in extremity. He makes his wishes known and waits.
IV. When addressed, a Gentleman Cat does not move a muscle. He looks as if he hadn't heard.
V. When frightened, a Gentleman Cat looks bored.
VI. A Gentleman Cat takes no interest in other people's affairs, unless he is d
Oct 19, 2010 Susan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Cat Lovers
Recommended to Susan by: I know some one person gave me my first copy but I can't recall 2when or who.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This slender volume made me wonder what my six cats might be thinking. Do they like me or do I annoy them? Are they content to watch birds from the sun porch or do they feel like prisoners being forced to live their lives indoors? May Sarton gets us into the mind of a former Tomcat About Town as he navigates through dangerous territory. And she's correct. A cat that willingly surrenders some of his wildness in exchange for the love of a human is not getting a bad deal.
This was a delicious little book that gives voice to a knock-about Tom cat who ingratiates himself to two spinster ladies, one of whom is the writer of this tale. As he comes to know love and stability, he turns into the remarkable "fur person" of the story. I have labeled this a talking cat book, but our cat is only given a voice through personification; we hear his thoughts and feelings expressed, but there is no fantasy involved for him to truly communicate with humans.
I really enjoyed reading this book even though the title threw me off at first. It is a story about a cat living on the street who decides he wants to live in a house, be a house cat. The entire story is told from his point of view. The fur person in the title is actually the cat not a human person. I think if you are a cat lover you will enjoy this book. The author did an excellent job of describing a cat's viewpoint...or to me it seems very close as to what I think my cats might be thinking wh ...more
Sarah Sammis
is a delightful book by a person who has clearly lived with cats. The 10 cat commandments are a cute way to outline basic cat behavior. I especially liked watching the cat protagonist's progression from Cat About Town to Gentleman Cat to Gentle Cat to finally Fur Person.

This book's cat, later named Tom Jones, reminds me a great deal of one of my grandmother's cats, a young stray we named Oliver (for Oliver Twist). He too went through the transformations outlined in the this book and after my gra
May Sarton has always been one of my favorite authors. I thought I had read all her books, but to my surprise I missed this one. This book was an absolute delight. Ms. Sarton manages to capture very well the personality of a cat. Though I did think at times she projected some of unwarranted selfishness on to this cat's personality. Cats aren't selfish, they're just cats. Still I laughed at the antics of Tom Jones, and paused to think whether my cats could possibly have any of these thoughts. Any ...more
"A Gentleman Cat becomes a Fur Person when he is truly loved by a human being." My life has been immeasurably blessed by the many fur persons who've agreed to share their lives with me.
David Edmonds
#15. The Fur Person is a book that I think any cat lover will cherish. I reread it every couple of years and can always see so much of my cats in Tom Jones (even though my cats are girls). We follow Tom Jones on his journey from a Cat About Town to his discovery of a loving family, and his evolution with his new family, Brusque Voice (May Sarton) and Gentle Voice (Judy Matlack), from Gentleman Cat into a Fur Person. I would imagine that May Sarton took some literary freedom in relating Tom's ear ...more
Picked this up when actually after Journal of a Solitude (who am I to say no to cat books). Incredibly charming. Very true to cats.
Williston Library book sale Summer 2014. Read this year's ago - my copy is the 1957 first edition. Will be keeping this to re-read.
Jessica Beaubien
If you have ever loved a cat. If you have ever hated a cat. Read this adorable little book. I dare you not to be enchanted.
Dawn Rutherford
Adorable, yet sharp and clever. A must read for cat owners and lovers.
One of my favorite books. I've given many copies to the cat people I meet.
A very cute read for anyone who likes cats.
Such a very sweet, enchanting and perfect read.

Sarton's observations of cat behavior are so perceptive, endearing and funny – even if they are not backed up by scientific research, they do perfectly explain some of the odder cat behaviors we’ve all witnessed. I love the idea of cats ‘reading the newspaper’ and ‘doing cat yoga’ – this makes so much sense...and all us cat lovers know that cats could use some ‘splainin’. Sarton captures all the ridiculous and silly – yet aloof and dignified – actio
Mary M Birnbaum
One of my favorite little books
Excellent tale of a Gentleman Cat and Cat About Town, who decides it's time he found a housekeeper. Eventually he finds two--Sarton ("Brusque Voice") and her partner ("Gentle Voice"). After one too many fights with the neighbor toms, Tom Jones (as he's now known, named for another foundling) is altered and becomes a Philosopher, a Cat of Peace. He also discovers the 11th commandment of the Gentleman Cat--that in choosing to share his life with humans he becomes a "fur person," half-cat and half- ...more
Sue Cowing
This book is more than fifty years old, but it's still around for a reason. May Sarton engages all her skill to create her cat character from a convincingly feline point of view. She cherishes and empathizes with her Tom Jones without sentimentalizing him. By the time this small book is done, you feel as though you and Sarton have become the cat, just as the cat has become a "fur person." Recommended as a gift not only for cat lovers but for people like me who simply find cats sort of interestin ...more
It's hard not to have a soft spot for a book written in the 1950s about the inner thoughts of the author's cat as he searches out a home while adhering to cat rules like "When addressed, a Gentleman Cat does not move a muscle. He looks as if he hadn't heard," and "When frightened, a Gentleman Cat looks bored." Still, I can't say this was the most funny or touching cat story I've ever read, and the "poetry" scattered throughout kind of made me cringe. Overall impression? "Hm. Well that was intere ...more
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May Sarton was born on May 3, 1912, in Wondelgem, Belgium, and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her first volume of poetry, Encounters in April, was published in 1937 and her first novel, The Single Hound, in 1938. An accomplished memoirist, Sarton boldly came out as a lesbian in her 1965 book Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing. Her later memoir, Journal of a Solitude, was an account of h ...more
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