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The Lion in the Living Room

How House Cats Tamed Us and Took Over the World
Narrated by: Arden Hammersmith
Length: 7 hrs and 18 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (2 ratings)

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Summary

A lively adventure through history, natural science, and pop culture in search of how cats conquered the world, the Internet, and our hearts.

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 upward of 10 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.

To better understand these furry strangers in our midst, Abby Tucker travels to meet the breeders, activists, and scientists who've dedicated their lives to cats. She visits the labs where people sort through feline bones unearthed from the first human settlements, treks through the Floridian wilderness in search of house cats on the loose, and hangs out with Lil Bub, one of the world's biggest feline celebrities.

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. The appropriate reaction to a cuddly kitten, it seems, might not be aww but awe.

©2016 Abigail Tucker. All rights reserved. (P)2016 Simon & Schuster

Critic reviews

"A thoughtful look at the illogical human love of felines." ( Publishers Weekly)
"Dig deep into the history, biology, and science of house cats in this charming, highly informative read that explains how cats came to rule." ( B&N Reads)
"[An] intriguing history.... Read this entertaining book and you will be convinced that house cats are 'the most transformative invaders the world has ever seen.'" ( Kirkus Reviews)

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Profile Image for Rebecca Camp
  • Rebecca Camp
  • 20-10-16

Ignores any positive data about cats.

I kept waiting for the author to contrast all the negative data about cats effect on the environment, and potentially on health, with some inkling of positive information on our relationship with them, and the bonds we are able to form. Instead, this read like a cat haters manifesto, highlighting the bad and never touching on the good. At times it even felt like she was advocating whole scale cat slaughter. After all, cats are terrible for the environment, and for our physical and mental health, and according to this book, apparently don't like or bond with us in any way at all. Some interesting science, but overall a shortsighted and shallow interpretation of cats relationship with humans in the modern world.

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • ShirleyC
  • 18-11-16

A Disappointment

Narrator was the best part, otherwise....Meh. A definite downer, although I'm sure it's all too true (casts cats as ultimate, unchangeable villains, responsible for entire species being wiped out, or nearly so, by predation -- a given if you allow cat(s) free, unlimited/"unchaperoned" access outdoors). No "on the other hand", good news, implying that cats aren't "capable" of bonding with humans, merely tolerating being kept, fed, etc. No example (s) of feline/human bonding, we're expected to believe cats are incapable of it. As I said above -- a disappointment (and waste of time). But it IS just one person's take on "cats" in general.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Elisabeth Carey
  • Elisabeth Carey
  • 14-10-17

A disappointing, negative view of cats

Such a promising title.

And such a disappointment.

Tucker says she's a cat lover, and I think she probably is. Yet she conveys an impressively negative tone in this book, as if she feels guilty about liking our favorite little carnivores. She's very insistent that cats serve no real, practical use in human settlements, citing for instance studies that seem to show that cats are not very effective ratters. Nowhere does she mention that in fact cats are primarily thought of as mousers. For serious rat killing, yes, you mostly want the smaller terrier type dogs.

Yet mice are a significant threat to grain stores, and volunteer mouse control would have been welcome in early farming communities.

She much later in the book mentions that rats are apparently strongly repelled by cat urine, and avoid areas where it is present. At no point does she comment on how unlikely this is if cats have never been a threat to rats, or how useful this might be to farmers regardless of whether or not cats actually kill rats.

She also credulously recites tales of cats devastating nearly every other small animal except mice, including claims that they kill "billions" of birds annually in the US, without ever citing the sources for the reader to follow up on. It's a figure that initially came from the initial hypothesis that was the beginning of a study, not from the conclusions of the study. The conclusions are not nearly so popular with cat haters.

She mentions, in passing, but does not highlight, junk science from a Smithsonian researcher later convicted of animal cruelty after trying to wipe out an entire managed cat colony via poisoning.

Tucker's discussion of the essentially solitary nature (she says) of the cat doesn't mention the studies that show feral and semi-feral rural cats voluntarily form colonies, including females sharing kitten care and even nursing of young kittens, in areas where they could easily form exclusive territories if they wished. Shared kitten raising is a behavior limited to two members of the cat family: lions and house cats. As such, it's a pretty interesting behavior, and one you'd think would be worth mentioning.

In discussing control of feral cats, she trots out all arguments supporting the claim that Trap-Neuter-Release is of limited effectiveness. PETA is cited as an animal welfare organization to quote its anti-TNR position. PETA in fact favors killing all cats found outside a home, whether ferals, free-roaming pets, or indoor pets who have accidentally gotten out. Their goal is no domestic animals at all.

Eventually, after many paragraphs of similar nonsense, she gets around to mentioning, in passing, that trap & kill, as a method of controlling feral cat populations, is even less effective.

It really is an interesting book, but should be read, or listened to, with a healthy dose of skepticism.

I bought this audiobook.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Randy Abbott
  • Randy Abbott
  • 23-02-17

Good, I guess

I thought the book would talk more about how why cats behave the way they do. Instead it spends too long talking about the politics of TNR. Maybe I had incorrect expectations for the book

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Apis Mellifera
  • Apis Mellifera
  • 19-02-18

Cats are not dogs and their owners are different also

Very biased review if information about cats. The author clearly knows little about animal behavior and evolution

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Mary Ellen Heath Castello
  • Mary Ellen Heath Castello
  • 20-09-17

Couldn't Get Through It

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

It drags and drags . . . if cats themselves were as uninteresting as this book, they wouldn't have survived until now!! I only wish I had read the Amazon reviews BEFORE I bought this. I had purchased it after seeing the documentary, thinking it would be along those lines. NOT.

What was most disappointing about Abigail Tucker’s story?

TOO academic.

What didn’t you like about Arden Hammersmith’s performance?

Dry. Dull. Droned on and on.

What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

Disappointment. Wish I hadn't bought it.

Any additional comments?

Should be classified as an academic textbook.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • BDHumbert
  • 18-05-17

Thought this was

A unique combination of awful and disappointing. What was the point of all the attention devoted to the POSSIBLE impact of the parasite? Then we have a chapter devoted to the cat version of a team show.

Expected more - better

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Robert Hutton
  • Robert Hutton
  • 03-02-19

Great Catbook!!

A great book about cats, I learned quite a bit, but then I'm prejudiced, I love cats and dogs also!!!!!!!we

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Profile Image for Alex
  • Alex
  • 04-01-19

Disappointing

The author lost me early on when she claimed cats didn’t provided any usefulness to mankind. Don’t think the author bothered to do any research at all for this book.

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Profile Image for Amazon Customer
  • Amazon Customer
  • 13-09-18

Pessimistic

Such a negative look on cats. The writer suggests she is a cat lover. Really?