In the hugely popular New York Times bestseller, Dogs Never Lie About Love, provocative psychoanalyst Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson brilliantly navigated the inner landscape of "man's best friend." Now he delves deep into the secretive, playful world of cats, revealing emotions, debunking myths, and honoring the feline's evolution from solitary jungle creature to human companion.Drawing from literature, history, animal behavioral research, and the wonderful true stories of cat experts and cat lovers around the world, Jeffrey Masson vividly explores the delights and mysteries of the feline heart. But at the core of this remarkable book are Masson's candid, often amusing observations of his own five cats. Their mischievousness, aloofness, and affection provide a way to examine emotions from contentment to jealousy, from anger to love.Consider the question: Are cats selfish While human egocentricity is defined by how little a person cares about others, the cat's narcissism is not like that at all.
Prevailing wisdom holds that cats are aloof, smug, quintessentially distant especially when compared to dogs but Masson, in his latest exploration of feelings in the animal world, argues otherwise: cats, he says, are almost pure emotion. He establishes nine basics (narcissism, love, contentment, attachment, jealousy, fear, anger, curiosity and playfulness) and, in nine casual and sometimes digressive chapters, suggests when and why cats feel each of them and how we humans might better understand our pets as a result. In the tradition of his bestselling Dogs Never Lie About Love, Masson's exploration is a warm fuzzy to the feline world: in observing the antics of his five cats (Miki, Moko, Yossie, Megalamandira and Minnalouche), Masson's tone never fails to convey his wonder for these perfect beings who briefly and softly grace my life. He draws desultorily on history, scientific research and correspondence with cat experts and owners, but most of his book is dedicated to a highly subjective study of his beloved five, who live with him in a New Zealand paradise. Though Masson strains to establish evidence for cats' sophisticated emotional landscape (and in doing so exposes himself to accusations of anthropomorphism), cats are still mysterious creatures, and even a former psychoanalyst such as he must occasionally admit (though with a certain kind of glee) that he cannot entirely figure them out. One thing Masson is sure of: because cats, unlike humans and dogs, have never been pack animals, much of what comes naturally to us guilt, apology, even rage is absent in cats. In the end, this appealing book is as much a portrait of Masson as it is of his enchanting cats. (Nov.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
Very different from that faithful animal the dog, whose sentiments are all directed to the person of his master, the cat appears only to feel for himself, to live conditionally, only to partake of society that he may abuse it. --Buffon
The frustrated woman in The New Yorker cartoon who asks the cat on her chair, "Am I talking to myself?" expects a laugh because the obvious answer is, "Yes, you are," since cats have no interest in what we say to them. But is this really so?
Many people are convinced that cats are indifferent to us. Some even go so far as to use the word cold, which is not really descriptive but evaluative. Most cats (of mine, only Minna Girl is a partial exception) will not come when you call them, or rather, they will come sometimes, if they feel like it, and not other times, when presumably they don't feel like it (unless there are other factors, as yet unknown to us, that decide whether a cat comes or not). This supposed indifference to humans leads some people to conclude that cats are narcissistic-in fact that narcissism is the cat's defining characteristic. Not only are cats supposed to be narcissistic, they are commonly called haughty, egotistical, egocentric, self-centered, selfish, self-absorbed, egomaniacal, smug, distant, unsociable, and aloof. As for their indifference, the phrase is usually "calculated indifference," but I doubt anyone would insist that it is calculated at all.
Narcissists lack the capacity to think about other people, to take the needs of others into consideration, to subordinate their own wishes to those of someone else. They are entirely self-involved. When I was a boy of fifteen, on an ocean liner from New York to London, I somehow struck up a friendship with a man of this description, a well-known American literary critic who was on board-the young admirer and the literary lion-and I spent much of the five days en route in his company. He spoke nonstop, always about himself, his accomplishments, his books, his admirers. It was good talk, fascinating to me at fifteen and evidently to others, for he always had a crowd. However, I knew then, though I did not know the word, that the man was a complete narcissist. He had zero interest in the ideas of anybody else around him or in anything but his own thoughts, which did indeed seem at the time more interesting than those of anyone else present. However, his fine mind could not encompass the one thought that everyone else could not avoid: He was a fool.
A cat's narcissism, if that is the word we choose to use, is not like that at all. Cats watch us all the time. Obsessively. Coldly, some would say, or at least with some detachment. They see us; they notice us. Their eyes grow big watch- ing. They do it, some say, because they have to: we represent a superior predator, someone who might do them harm. But no, even when perfectly content, satisfied, completely out of danger, they do it. Cats take us in. We will probably never know what goes through their minds at those moments. What- ever it is, though, it is not self-absorption. The assertion, then, that cats think only about themselves is clearly wrong. Cats watch us so carefully that clearly they are thinking about us. But if we ask whether they think about us in preference to themselves, the answer is probably no.