Book Review: Under The Paw – Tom Cox (Simon & Schuster 2008)

Think there are too many cats on the internet? Then look away my friend, this review is not for you.

Many of you may already know Tom Cox via his magnificently witty Tweets under the name of @mysadcat. These are simply some of the best Tweets around and reason enough to check out Twitter. If you’ve never seem them, go and take a look.

Tom was formerly a rock critic and now writes regularly for national newspapers and magazines. This is the first of three books he has written so far that focus on his life as a massive cat enthusiast.

His writing is very funny and easy to read and I did laugh on several occasions. I’ve been caught out before by books whose cover blurb promises that it is ‘unputdownable’ and will have you in uproarious fits of laughter, only to find that they have been all too ‘putdownable’ and as funny as scabies. It’s nice to read a book that is genuinely warm funny and compelling.

Tom writes about his life as a cat lover. From being a furtive feline fetishist he develops into an unabashed ‘cat man’, a beer drinking, golf playing, music loving antithesis of the stereotypical crazy cat lady of contemporary folklore.

We are introduced to all of the cats that he and his wife Dee have owned and their personality traits, real and imagined. There is Janet, a male cat named in a period of confusion as to his true gender – well, it can be hard to tell with all the fur. Brewer, a bird-loving risk-taker who was sadly killed in a road accident. Bootsy, a tiny cat who seems quite timid but soon has Tom and the other cats marching to her beat. Ralph, a seemingly hormonal cat whose tendency for depression may be linked to the fact that he was originally named Prudence (yes, very furry down there). We briefly meet Raffles, who may have been responsible for some of the urban sightings of panthers over the years. And then there is the grand old man of the bunch, known as The Bear, who is the star of the @mysadcat tweets.

Moggy life in all it’s loving, funny and stomach-churning glory is revealed and cat owners will smile and nod when reading about spraying, puking and dead mice.

As a cat owner, I would find it difficult to say if this book would appeal to non-cat owners. Leave a message and let me know. Readers who do not own cats may finish the book wanting their own little furry bag of neuroses. Conversely, tales of toilet errors and cleaning up amorphous blobs of blood and guts may put them off for life.

We get glimpses of Tom and Dee’s life. Their decision to move out of London to Norfolk could probably make a good book on its own. The challenges they face include sociopathic techno neighbours and dawdling old-people in Post Office queues (a universal phenomenon which has developed into a competitive level sport in Norfolk).

I particularly enjoyed the appearances of Tom’s dad, a man so loud that lower case letters are not needed when transcribing his prophetic and sage like utterances such as the advice to ‘watch out for nutters’. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

If you like cats and like reading , you will enjoy this book.