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Cat Sense: The Feline Enigma Revealed, by John Bradshaw, Allen Lane, RRP£20, 336 pages

Following in the paw prints of his bestselling In Defence of Dogs, John Bradshaw, a biologist, traces the evolution of felines from wildcats into the world’s most popular pet.

Our relationship with cats hasn’t always been easy. Four thousand years ago, the Egyptians, despite venerating them, sacrificed cats in huge numbers. And in Europe, millions were killed (some along with their female owners) after Pope Gregory IX issued a 1233 bull, Vox in Rama, identifying them with Satan. In 1648, Louis XIV presided over one of the last cat burnings in Paris, dancing gleefully before the flames.

Some of Bradshaw’s points seem obvious – that cats all have individual personalities, or that they can’t use tools. And he notes several times that “pet foods are of much better quality than they were half a century ago”. Yet the combination of folklore and scientific research offers some illuminating insights.

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