The Norton (the cat) Books

Peter Gethers wrote 3 books about his Scottish Fold cat Norton: The Cat Who Went to Paris, A Cat Abroad, and The Cat Who'll Live Forever. For me, this series was extremely welcome easy holiday reading. It was also pertinent because my parents had my childhood cat, Tristan, put to sleep on Dec. 26, 2006. He lived to be almost 21. During my teenage years it meant the world to me to have one creature in the house who didn't blame or judge me, who accepted me as I was. He was a very shy creature, but after much coaxing I was able to teach him to nap on my belly. Last I saw him was last Christmas, when he looked very frail. He got sweeter as he got older, and loved to be held and petted.

But this is supposed to be about books, not about my childhood cat. The three books by Gethers are must-reads for cat lovers. That said, the writing is choppy, and the stories typically focus more on Pete, the human, than on Norton, the cat. In my mind, Pete's saving grace is his love for Norton. He's a reasonably entertaining person (and I love that he gets explicit in the 2nd and 3rd books about not being religious), and his gags about how Norton gets more attention than he does are funny for awhile. The books themselves are somewhat repetitive. All that said, they were wonderfully soothing holiday reading.

Be warned: the last one is about Norton's death. It's cathartic if you're suffering a loss yourself, and it was the book of the three that made me really like Pete after all. The care he showed and his capacity to grow in love as Norton needed him were really touching. I sobbed openly through most of the last 3rd, partly over the loss of Tristan but more over remember our last days with Ben's cat Cinnamon. We still have a photo of Cinnamon in our kitchen. He was one of those extraordinarily, almost eerily intelligent cats. His personality was quite different from Norton's, but Cinnamon did exhibit some of the patient behavior around his medical care at the end that made me feel that he trusted me and even understood, at times, that I was helping him by giving him medications. Norton apparently hated pills too, and would only take them with peanut butter. Gethers describes him hiding them in his mouth and then spitting them back out in some obvious place, as if to say "so there!" After Cinnamon died, Ben and I found that he had been hiding his pills in his mouth and spitting them quite regularly into one of the heating vents in the floor. It made us laugh and cry to find a stash of maybe 30 pills, each of them carefully cut into little half moons, down in that vent.

You see how cat lovers can't stay on the subject of the books without talking about their cats? If you've ever owned and loved a cat, you'll enjoy reading these with all their flaws, because they honor an extraordinary feline creature.