Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Secrets of the Cat: Its Lore, Legend, and Lives” as Want to Read:
Secrets of the Cat: Its Lore, Legend, and Lives
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Secrets of the Cat: Its Lore, Legend, and Lives

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  141 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
“Smart, bright, well-written....A book about cats as good as this one is rare.”

“May be the most elegantly written, witty, perceptive statement about felines ever published.”
Philadelphia Inquirer


In Secrets of the Cat, author Barbara Holland engagingly explores the lore, legend, and lives of humanity’s much beloved furry companion, the often inscrutable feline.
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 23rd 2010 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published 1988)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Rating details
Sort: Default
Dec 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people with cats
Not a sentimental or sappy book about cats. This is a serious look at what cats and humans get from each other, and every cat owner will recognize his or her pet in these pages somewhere.
Not what I expected. The book is largely a collection of stories about the writer's cats, with a few tidbits of literature and history thrown in. Relatively little about the lore and legend, and lots about the lives of a few specific cats.
Nov 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've served the feline species for a while now and as such, believed that I knew all there was to know about them. How silly was I. If I can only have one book about cats, this would be the one.

Barbara Holland gets into the details about the history of cats, how they've been perceived, their relationship with humans, why they purr, and medical concerns that occasionally occur. After reading this, I felt I had a much better idea of why cats act the way they do.

I can't imagine a room of books wit
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really want to be best friends with Barbara Holland after reading this book. Witty, but not arrogant, knowledgeable, but not preach-y. I really wish we could have tea and talk about cats. Also the fact that she doesn't infantilize or glamorize animals, but is just respectful and accepting, is soooo refreshing.
Alexa Cascade
Dec 12, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who love cats
Shelves: cats, own-and-read
A very personal account of living with her own cats, along with often very opinionated views about cats, how we live with them and how they live with us.
Marlene McManus
Jul 18, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The tone of this book put me off. Half the time Holland is writing a charming, observant love letter to the 'secrets of the cat', with a running theme on how cats are wholly their own beings, who can never fully be understood or controlled by humans. These are the good parts. But interspersed throughout, Holland makes broad generalizations and snarky remarks concerning dog lovers, scientists, historians and people in general, mocking and disregarding anything these groups have said or thought ab ...more
2017 Reading Challenge
10. A book with a cat on the cover

It just boring, too much anecdote.
David Becker
More anecdotal that informational, but a charming read. Worth it just for the image of Persian soldiers marching into battle with a herd of cats.
Jan 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I may have two cats, but I am not a cat person. I do not dream of having a house of cats and living a lonely life. The two cats I have, adopted me. This book was recommended to me by a friend that thinks I am a cat lover....and I groaned (silently) as she looked so excited to recommend this book, I decided to test it out. I am happy to report that this book is not wishy-washy silly tidbits about is witty, but informational and interesting. I am not sure if I would take all of her infor ...more
By turns sentimental and scholarly, this exhaustively researched account of the cat is written in essayist Barbara Holland's trademark lucid prose, with unapologetic candor. The historical chapter on how and when cats came on the domestic scene outlasted my interest, while the chapter on cats' persecution in the Middle Ages was hard for this cat lover to read, but other than that Secrets of the Cat was enjoyable light reading.
Jan 27, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

It's a nice book about cat. A bit scattered. I feel like the chapters are not club together nicely. It is still entertaining though, and read this if you are cat lover


Kenton Monjon
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surprisingly interesting.

Surprisingly interesting.

This book contains both interesting and anecdotal information about cats and their history. The anecdotal stories are enjoyable as are the legends. She also covers diseases and different breeds. A very enjoyable read.
Dec 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The personal stories in this book are beautiful and heartbreaking. Every cat lover should own it (if there's one in your life, consider giving it for Christmas if you can find it). And if you don't like cats, this book just might change your mind about them.
Jun 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You can tell the author really "gets" cats - she has a great style, witty and opinionated.
Amber MacPherson
Sep 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cat folk
This book makes me want to go to the shelter and grab an armful of cats and run.

A nice read on cats. Nor deeply researched though.
Jun 03, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

Why a one? Because they won't let you give anyone a zero. This is the most ludicrous book I've ever not managed to finish.
So far I'm a third of the way through and her elitist writing is making me dislike cats, which according to her makes me just like Hitler.
Aug 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-all
A fun read with some interesting tidbits. And I do have one of "those cats."
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The best way to understand cats is to accept that you cannot understand them.
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit chatty and somewhat chaotic but still one of the better cats books.
Aug 01, 2015 rated it did not like it
I just couldn't finish this or get into it, despite trying twice. The authors opinions on various topics made me want to throw the book into the wall, completely overshadowing its main focus: cats.
Kathy Canova
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting book with stories and tips about cats.
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great cat stories for cat lovers from the woman who said she would never write a cat book.
rated it it was ok
Dec 26, 2014
rated it really liked it
May 20, 2014
Jeanne Arevalo
rated it liked it
Jan 01, 2018
rated it liked it
Jul 22, 2011
rated it liked it
Sep 27, 2010
rated it liked it
May 24, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Character of Cats: The Origins, Intelligence, Behavior, and Stratagems of Felis Silvestris Catus
  • The Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture
  • The Secret Life of Your Cat: Unlock the Mysteries of Your Pet's Behaviour
  • Plague: The Mysterious Past and Terrifying Future of the World's Most Dangerous Disease
  • Why Elephants Have Big Ears: And Other Riddles from the Natural World
  • Am I Boring My Dog: And 99 Other Things Every Dog Wishes You Knew
  • The Natural Cat: The Comprehensive Guide to Optimum Care
  • The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats
  • The Cat Behavior Answer Book: Practical Insights & Proven Solutions for Your Feline Questions
  • Sesame and Lilies
  • Tails of Wonder and Imagination
  • Particularly Cats
  • Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals
  • The Tiger in the House: A Cultural History of the Cat
  • Bad Cat: 244 Not-So-Pretty Kitties and Cats Gone Bad
  • Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life
  • After Cleo
  • Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time
Barbara Murray Holland was an American author who wrote in defense of such modern-day vices as cursing, drinking, eating fatty food and smoking cigarettes, as well as a memoir of her time spent growing up in Chevy Chase, Maryland, near Washington, D.C.