BOOK REVIEW: Listen to Your Kitten Purr

Listen to Your Kitten Purr

Despite being published 30+ years ago, Listen to Your Kitten Purr is progressive in its humane message, and offers a stronger lesson about pet welfare and responsibility than some much newer books.

While not graphic, Listen does deal with the subject of pet neglect and abandonment, and for that reason very young or sensitive children may find it hard to deal with. It’s best suited for the older elementary or middle school set.

The beginning of the book shows a litter of kittens being rescued from a burlap bag, where they have been bundled and tossed in a lake to drown. Thanks to some kind citizens and the local humane society, this sad fate did not occur. The text notes that these kittens were adopted but it also acknowledges that most abandoned pets don’t find homes.

How could such a thing happen in the first place? The author says the kittens’ story began with a neglected cat called Mindy. Mindy’s owners are living examples of How Not to Care for a Pet, and in describing their neglectful and irresponsible behavior, the author imparts many pet care facts to young readers.

Unspayed and allowed to roam, Mindy quickly ends up with a litter of kittens. Black and white photos and text show their birth, which can be offered up as an alternative to the hated excuse for letting pets produce unwanted offspring: “so the kids can learn about it.”

As the kittens grow, they become more and more of a burden to the family that owns them. The family hopes to make a buck and tries to sell the litter. However, they learn what countless others have learned before them: there’s essentially no market for unwanted, mixed-breed cats. The author shows a succession of pictures of the kittens being marked down from $5 to Free. Unable to sell or give away the animals, they try an ad in the newspaper. However, they are competing with all of those other “free to a good home” litters, and have no luck. Finally, the kittens are tossed in a bag and out of the irresponsible owners’ lives for good.

Meanwhile, the owners decide to move and leave the mother cat, Mindy, behind. She fights to survive as a stray pet, and is eventually rescued by the new family moving into the empty home. Thankfully, these responsible caretakers are everything the old family was not. Happily,

Her new owners liked her so much that they had decided to keep her, but they did not want her to have kittens. They knew about the hundreds of thousands of homeless and unwanted cats, kittens, and dogs that roam the streets, parks, and alleys, starving and breeding in an endless chain. They felt responsible for their pet and decided that Mindy should be spayed.

As the text earlier explained the birth of kittens, it also explains the spay procedure.

The ending shows Mindy as a happy, well loved cat who is valued and cared for properly by her family. Great modeling of responsible attitudes here.

My only concern about Listen is that at one point it shows kittens playing with yarn. Yarn is actually quite dangerous for cats, especially young kittens. This incident happened while Mindy and her brood were living with the irresponsible family, so the access to yarn could be seen as another manifestation of their cluelessness about cats, but the text does not indicate as such.

(review originally appeared at goodreads.com)

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