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A Cat Called Dog by Jem Vanston
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A Cat Called Dog

by Jem Vanston

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"Cats are not dogs. And dogs are not cats. Even two-legs know that.
But Dog was a cat, because that was his name; he was a cat - a cat called Dog - and he was happy with that too."

Dog is a kitten on the cusp of cathood and with a bit of an identity crisis. He yaps and wags his tail, and lets his tongue hang out just like a dog. Other cats find this behaviour more than a little peculiar; in fact, it's down-right undignified. After all, everyone knows that cats are the noblest of creatures; they do not behave like the lowly dog.

When Dog makes the acquaintance of a staid and cultured old ginger tom named George, the old cat takes it upon himself to tutor Dog in proper behaviour with a little help and encouragement from Eric, a stray with a cockney accent, poor hygiene, and a broad sense of humour.

George has a two-legs whom he loves dearly but not all is right in George's once perfect world. There's a new man in his two-leg's life and he's clearly up to no good. The cats must save George's two-legs from the evil machinations of this man while not abandoning the Holy Trinity of a cat's life: eating, sleeping, and washing. But the cunning two-legs has a plan of his own to thwart the cats and soon much slapstick mayhem ensues.

The cats are all quite likeable and surprisingly multicultural; along with cockney, Queen’s English, and dog speak, there’s French, and then there’s the single female cat who speaks only with her beautiful emerald-green eyes or maybe she just lacks a translator, I wasn’t really clear on her. At any rate, lots of cats, lots of different accents. And therein lies my problem with the book. It often tries so hard to be a gentle treatise on the feline (and human) condition that, at times, it walks a fine line between sweet and twee – as I read I kept envisioning an animated Disney movie with lots of treacly pop songs and Justin Bieber or some equally annoying young pop star doing the voice-over for Dog, sort of Aristocats only without the aristo part.

Still, cat people will find much to like in this story. And, honestly, I did enjoy it but felt that it seemed more suited to a YA or even children’s audience than as a adult novel. It’s cute and even, at times, charming. I didn’t learn anything profound about our furry friends or us but, then I suspect, if I could understand my two cats (both given to me because, I think, people believe all women of a certain age and marital status are crazy cat ladies), the only thing they would be saying is “FEED ME!” and the accent would be strictly carnivorous plant. ( )
  lostinalibrary | Oct 25, 2013 |
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