THE LION IN THE LIVING ROOM
How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World
House cats rule back alleys, deserted Antarctic islands, and our bedrooms. Clearly, they own the Internet, where a viral cat video can easily be viewed upwards of ten million times. But how did cats accomplish global domination? Unlike dogs, they offer humans no practical benefit. The truth is they are sadly incompetent rat-catchers and pose a threat to many ecosystems. Yet, we love them still. Witty, intelligent, and always curious, Tucker shows how these tiny creatures have used their relationship with humans to become one of the most powerful animals on the planet.
Tucker, an award-winning science writer on staff at Smithsonian, investigates how house cats and human civilization shaped, and continue to shape, each other. She addresses the downfall of the great cats that hunted humans as food for much of prehistory, theories of the origin of cat domestication and Egypt's famous cat culture, including the cat mummies which scientists continue to use for genetic studies. Chapters will cover health and disease, from how cats helped save humans from the Black Death to modern work on toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease spread by cats that some researchers now think is responsible for conditions like schizophrenia. The book will address ecological issues: house cats are a devastatingly invasive species, responsible for some 14 percent of all modern bird and mammal extinctions. It will discuss the psychology of cat ownership -- why some people prefer cats to dogs and vice versa, which countries love cats and why others don't, how culture and gender affects our fondness for cats (or lack thereof), and more. It will discuss modern cat breeders (some of whom have a Frankenstein-like quality), modern cat skeptics (including the bird people who have come to view sparrow-devouring house cats as mortal foes), and end with a discussion of how cats colonized the internet, with the smashing success of LOL Cats and more. A book for cat people, people who know and love cat people, dog people, and anyone who wants to pause and admire the charms of the cold-blooded apex predator that millions of us cuddle every night.
Abigail Tucker was the first ever staff writer for Smithsonian magazine, where she remains a contributor. She previously wrote for The Baltimore Sun. Her work has been featured in the Best American Nature and Science Writing. The first word of both of her daughters was “cat.”
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