Mogs, dogs, wolves - or even a whole zoo?


Moggies, doggies, Bambi, an entire zoo full of exotic creatures and a devoted wolf all feature in a superlative pet-fest of books for animal lovers.

Naughty Cat Dipping its Paw Into the Fish Bowl

Naughty Cat Dipping its Paw Into the Fish Bowl

First up is Under The Paw by Tom Cox (Simon and Schuster, £12.99), who declares that a house without a cat is a house without a soul. Unable to control his cat passion, he acquires seven of the filthy, dribbling, carpet-shredders - er, I mean lovable bundles of fluff. One glimpse of a kitten turns Cox and his wife to blobs of jelly.

Blobs of another sort soon spatter the carpets of various cottages after Cox quits his rock 'n' roll London life for the rural idyll.

'The secret dialogue of cats, the esoteric catiquette they thrash out, is one of the great fascinations of owning them,' he rhapsodises. His descriptions of regurgitated mice, fur balls, ripped-to-shreds duvets, mistaking a frantic 'miaow' for the fire alarm and scattered litter trays are certain to have you in stitches.

In The Devious Book Of Cats by Fluffy and Bonkers (Harper, £10.99), two stroppy feline rebels exhort pampered pussies to fight back.

Live fast, die young, climb the curtains, eat the goldfish, bite off that sparrow's head and leave it on a pillow, clean your bottom when humans are dining ... go for it, urge Fluffy and Bonkers who, incidentally, write rather better than the current crop of human celebrity autobiographers.

They'd doubtless gain top marks in E. M. Bard's Test Your Cat: The Cat IQ Test (Harper, £6.99). How smart is your mog? With this cat IQ test you can measure co-ordination, communication, social and reasoning skills.

Points are deducted if your cat falls off window ledges while snoozing, sits in his food bowl or jumps onto the loo when the seat is up and falls in. Top score goes to cats who can balance on their hind legs.

Did I hear the word 'walkies'? Dog fans will chuckle and blub over John Katz's A Dog Year (Ebury, £6.99), about Devon, a terrified rescue Border collie. No wonder he is a gibbering wreck, having been stuck in a crate, in the dark, deafening, cold hold of a jet for a long flight involving two take-offs and landings.

Shame. Shouldn't be allowed. No wonder it takes two baggage handlers and three police to catch the panicky pup after he bolts from his crate and rides the baggage carousel. It takes Katz months of TLC to win his trust and eventually transform him into a gentle therapy dog, visiting hospices where people in wheelchairs pat him and weep because they are missing their own pets.

More tears and laughter in Stephen Foster's Along Came Dylan (Short, £7.99), in which a destructive saluki enters the household and fails to bond with the resident lurcher. He fails to do most normal dog-type things, often hiding under a wicker chair, his head poking up through the hole where the seat used to be. 

Dylan's mishaps and funny little lolloping ways are equalled only by the mishaps and funny little lolloping ways of Martin Clunes's trio of mutts in A Dog's Life (Hodder, £20). Good grief. They must have set him back a merry bob or two, what with therapy sessions, training classes, special diets and vets' bills. Included are plenty of anecdotes about Clunes's childhood canine companions - 'We had a lot of time for Rusty until he ate a neighbour's Yorkie' - and a history of dogs who, be they pitbulls or chihuahuas, are nevertheless still 99 per cent wolf.

Mark Rowlands with his wolf Brenin at Lake Nicol.

Mark Rowlands with his wolf Brenin at Lake Nicol.

But hey! Why not own the real thing? The Philosopher And The Wolf (Granta, £15) is Mark Rowlands' extraordinary memoir about his cuddly wolf cub Brenin, who turns into a 150lb destruction machine.

'Wolves do not come cheap,' says Rowlands, unfazed after his pet rips out the air conditioning pipes, shreds furniture and trashes a car interior. Brenin licks him awake each morning with his sandpaper tongue and blasts of meaty breath.

'Much of what I know about life and its meaning I learned from Brenin,' insists Rowlands, who went everywhere with his pet for 11 years. Certainly, this is real literature, moving and profound, but Rowlands does, perhaps, dwell too much on Brenin's anal gland problems and final tragic weeks, and you wouldn't want the bizarre couple living next door.

Johnny Kingdom and his 3-legged deer Bambi

Johnny Kingdom and his 3-legged deer Bambi

If cats and dogs leave you cold, how about a red deer? In Bambi And Me (Bantam, £12.99), former gravedigger Johnny Kingdom saves a baby deer found hanging from a barbed wire fence and nurses her through a leg amputation.

Bambi struggles for life with Johnny bottle-feeding her. She settles happily into her paddock at Johnny's Exmoor home, lives for 12 years (eight being the norm in the wild), yet knows nothing of her own species frolicking across the nearby moors.

A few miles from Bambi's final resting place in a bluebell wood lives Benjamin Mee, whose family took on the challenge of saving a dilapidated zoo from demolition.

'We knew it was going to be tough,' says Mee in We Bought A Zoo ( Harper, £16.99). He whizzes around on his manure-laden dumper truck, sorting out such problems as decomposing offal bins, rat infestations, a puma with gingivitis and a bruised Brazilian tapir who peed on an electric fence and received 7,000 volts upstream.

Mee writes most movingly about his wife's fatal illness, his children coming to terms with this, his sprightly old mum and, of course, his 200wild animals in all their diverse glory.

These authors deserve praise for the respect, love and compassion they have bestowed upon our four-footed friends, and for sharing with us the inexpressible joy that animals can bring to our lives.

Benjamin Mee pictured with a tapir at Dartmoor Wildlife Park

Benjamin Mee pictured with a tapir at Dartmoor Wildlife Park

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