Book Review: Dancing with Cats

From The 2006 Archives, We Bring You The Ancient Practice Of Cat Dancing

By Vernon Felton

WHAT: Dancing with Cats
HOW MUCH: $16.95
WHERE: Garden-variety, left-leaning bookstore

I'm struggling to find the words. Groping and bumping my head against a thousand walls. How, exactly, can I relay just how disturbing Dancing with Cats truly is? For instance, I was planning to use that as my first sentence: Dancing with Cats is truly the most disturbing book I've laid eyes on....but nah, still doesn't convey it.

I guess I'll just back up and explain the book's premise. I'm going to rely heavily on the book's own text here, because, honestly I still don't have a fuckin' clue as to what the authors were trying to do here. So, let me re-print a snippet from the inside leaf. Ahem....

"While researching their groundbreaking book, Why Cats Paint, Burton Silver and Heather Busch discovered another phenomenon that seemed to merit further investigation--people who dance with their cats. Or, more accurately, cats who dance with their people. All around the world today, people are rediscovering the ancient practice of cat dancing, tapping into this remarkable method of channeling feline energy... A brave leap forward in the history of human-feline relations, Dancing with Cats will have you and your cat jumping for joy--and cutting a rug--in no time."

Point Number One: I have a hard time getting publishers to bite off on sensible, marketable book ideas, and some jack ass has gotten a publisher to pony up the cash (4-color throughout, heavy card-stock pages...this thing must have cost a bundle to produce) for not just one, but two, books with utterly insane premises (cats who paint and cats who dance). Okay, I'll admit this is pure envy on my part. My grudge here, as the hip hop crowd would say, is just pure hating. I'll move on.

Point Number Two: There is no world-wide trend of cat dancing. If there was, the nightly news would play reels of it non-stop. We'd never see another shark or pitbull attack again. No more coverage of the war in Iraq. There'd be no Brad Pitt-just-knocked-up-Angelina Jolie coverage. Just lots of manx and tabbies fox trotting into TV eternity. If Ted Turner and the combined satanic forces of NBC, ABC and CBS haven't already fabricated this story, it simply doesn't exist. Seriously.

Point Number Three: There is no such thing as "the history of human-feline relations". There is no relationship with a cat--if by the word "relationship" we mean a give and take between two partners who either care for each other or provide one another with services. Here's the deal: cats are the Ike Turners of the animal kingdom. They use you for food and shelter. They ride on your coat tails. They don't love or even like you.

Yes, cat owners, try hard to construe certain actions as signs of affection, but the same cat owners invariably come into work every other week with a gash on their face or arm, blubbering "I must have done something wrong. I was cuddling with Mr. Paws and suddenly he got up and flayed open my cheek. Now I have tetanus and the doctor is going to have to cut off half of my jaw. I'm so worried about Mr. Paws! Why did I have to anger him? Why didn't I give him more space?" Something along those lines.

Cats don't love people. They are just biding their time. Eating your food, fucking the neighbors Siamese, spraying your favorite couch because, shit, why the hell not? It's not like they care about you. The moment you grow weak, they're on top of you. Eating you alive. I'm dead serious here.

True story: when my wife was doing her ER residency in Buffalo they brought a woman into the hospital whose toes had been nibbled clean off by her four cats. The old lady suffered some kind of stroke while on the crapper and sat there for two days, with her pants around her ankles and her cats gnawing on her feet. It wasn't like it took a month for the cats to turn on her--we're talking about less than 48 friggin' hours! Think about it.

You may take my ranting as just pure cat-hating rhetoric. While it's true that I'm a fan of dogs, it's not that I actually hate cats. I just respect the fact that they've never allowed themselves to become entirely domesticated. They're basically small versions of mountain lions. If they could take you down, they would. Minus the opportunity, they'll just eat your food and destroy your house. I've got in-laws like that. I don't hate them for it; I just don't invite them to live with me. Know what I mean?

But I've strayed again from the topic. This book. Well, let's just say it's got some of the most disturbing images this side of German fecal porn. It's tough stuff to look at, though I'll admit that the production values and photographic lighting are absolutely top-notch (which only rubs salt to the wounds, so to speak).

I've seen several copies in local bookstores, but I live in a place where colonics and oxygen bars do a brisk trade, despite the fact that 30 percent of the population is in-debt or flat-out broke. I think Howard Dean would have made a great president and I'm considered to the right of Ghengis Khan in this town. Accordingly, you might have to head for the absolute hippiest/new age town in your state to find the book. Consider yourself warned.

Finally, you could argue that this book is intended to be humorous and that I’m just being a bit dense about the whole thing. Yes, yes…I’ve considered that possibility, but I’ve scoured each page for the slightest hint of tongue-in-cheek. While the contents are ludicrous, I think this is, in fact, an earnest enterprise–some people are just that f-ed up in the head.

If this book is meant to be humorous, then it is the most subtle, ingenius work written to date. A strange conclusion, yeah, I know. Sort of like thinking, “That’s either the next mother of my children or that’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever met.” Odd. Disturbing. There you have it.