Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation, and GPS Technology was added to my to-read pile the week it went on sale, after I saw and was utterly charmed by the book trailer. If you haven't seen it yet, stop now and go do so. It took a while for me to actually get to it but it was a truly charming read. Caroline Paul was in an accident (a small plane crash to be precise), which left her rather house-bound in the San Francisco home she shares with her thirteen-year-old indoor/outdoor cats, Tibia and Fibula, while she recovered. (The names are funny on their own, but doubly so to Caroline when the doctors tell her those are two of the bones she broke in her accident.) Her girlfriend, Wendy MacNaughton, was new enough to the scene that Caroline was grateful Wendy stuck by (and since Wendy did the illustrations for this book, we're all very grateful, too). Wendy, not being a cat owner, did not get the Cat Thing, but found Tibby and Fibby to be nice enough.
Then Tibby went missing. He just disappeared one day from Caroline's San Francisco home... and then, after five weeks of searching, pet psychics, pound visits, and hysterical tears... Tibby came back. Entirely on his own, he showed up in Caroline's bedroom one night and meowed to announce his presence. He was completely healthy (even half a pound heavier) and totally silent on his whereabous, though even after reappearing, he stopped eating at home and yet must have been eating somewhere... Caroline, still recovering from her injuries, became obsessed with finding out where he'd been, where he was eating, and why he had gone.
This book is Caroline's and eventually Wendy's rather hilarious search for the answers to their questions as well as a very realistic depiction of the insanity of pet owners trying to understand the companions that we all think we know so well... but we really have no clue what goes on in their fuzzy little heads. It took me less than an hour to read it, as it's really more like a lengthy illustrated essay, but it will leave you thinking about your own pet relationships for quite a while. I can't definitively say that the artwork was my favorite part, as the writing is nuttily endearing (part of the charm is the manic, loopy descent into a spiral of feline obsession). I can't speak highly enough, though, of the artwork that depicts Tibby with his large eyes and various contraptions strapped to his collar or sitting calmly on a block of ice like Ernest Shackleton, exploring the world with a dish of kibble. Ultimately, the text and art are a heartfelt collaboration that perfectly present this very personal story which is completely relatable for anyone who's ever wondered what their pet was doing when not in their direct line of sight.
On a note of full disclosure for others who have a similar approach to/fear of books about pets, I picked this up because of the funny conceit and the adorable art, thinking it would be different from the others that I've shied away from. And for the most part it is... but then, there I was at 11:30 on a Monday night getting sucker-punched by sorrow about halfway through the book in an achingly realistic depiction of clinging desperately to an ailing pet... and having to let go. Just when I thought I was safe, the damn book got me. My poor cat's fur might still be wet from the tears.
Still, Lost Cat is a charming story of people loving and struggling to understand their pets. I particularly appreciated the sweet change in Wendy as she shifted from saying "cat" to "kitty"... the transition signaling that a cat lover was now born. It's good to be reminded that pets play a fascinating role in our emotional development and make-up, and while sometimes we take our love a bit too far and occasionally pass into the realm of "crazy cat lady," there's really nothing to compare with the emotional bond that comes with loving a pet. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to return to researching video monitors that will let me watch my cat sleep while I'm at work.