Cat Books

Book Review: Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats


Dr. Richard H. Pitcairn is a leader in the rising movement of veterinarians who wish to provide homeopathic alternatives to their patients. Like any profession, there are those who follow what they've been taught in programs funded by big business and there are those who think for themselves. Fortunately for our pets, the latter category is growing rapidly.

Veterinary medicine began as a way to keep farmed animals alive long enough to make a profit off of them. There was little or no concern for the core health and well being of those animals. These days, we frequently see cats who live more than 20 years - a case unheard of in the wild. These companions need more than "feed" and antibiotics in order to thrive. Just like us humans, they need a more natural approach to health care. Yes, there are times when manufactured medicines will be needed, but more often than not, maladies can be treated naturally using natural herbs and supplements from reliable sources.

Which brings us to this wonderful book. Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats is one of the go-to resources that we use here at Kitty Help Desk on a daily basis. Its 466 pages are overflowing with great information. Most animals in the western world are over-vaccinated, over-medicated and under-nourished. Dr. Pitcairn seeks to change all that with the simplest of tools - information.

The book is divided into two sections. Part one covers all of Dr. Pitcairn's recommendations for how to care for your pets on a daily basis. From food to exercise to dealing with neighbors, he's covered all of the bases for both dogs and cats.

Part two is the quick reference section that covers a full array of maladies from identification to treatment, including treatments for chronic conditions. Of course, Dr. Pitcairn is quick to indicate when professional veterinary advice is needed.  He also gives the caregiver ammunition to use when encountering less progressive vets. For example, when diagnosing bladder crystals, many vets will refuse to examine a urine sample brought in by a caregiver because it isn't sterile. They think they're looking for bacteria when, in fact, bacteria may not be the real culprit. Crystals can still be identified under the microscope and a caregiver facing this situation would do well to know that.

The entire book is very well done, written with the tone of a knowledgeable friend. Information about relevant topics is easily found, and Dr. Pitcairn usually gives multiple alternatives for treatment along with indications for their preference. It's important that the reader understand how to use the quick reference section prior to digging in to treatment suggestions, so the first chapter of the quick reference section should not be overlooked. In addition, most treatments refer to either the Schedule For Herbal Treatment chapter or the Schedule for Homeopathic Treatment chapter. These should be referenced any time these schedules are noted. 

We highly recommend this book. If you only have one book on treating the ailments of your feline friends, this is the one. We also recommend that you follow Dr. Pitcairn's blog at  It's no exaggeration to say that the information in this book may be a lifesaver.

Review: The Royal Treatment: A Natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets

I have no doubt that Dr. Barbara Royal is a fantastic veterinarian. She clearly embraces the best of both traditional and alternative treatment methods in order to help an animal's own body heal itself. I wish I lived near her and could bring my feline friends to her for treatment. Unfortunately, her book, The Royal Treatment, lacks the clear focus present in Dr. Royal's veterinary practice. It's a mashup of treatment philosophies, autobiographical storytelling and a few bits of very useful info. Some chapters are a single page while others are a little long-winded. All in all, the book could certainly benefit from a clearer objective.

From the subtitle, you might infer that this book was going to present a clear method that can help you to aid your pet in becoming the healthiest animal that she can be. I know I thought as much. But there isn't very much in the way of advice here, and what is here is mainly focused on dogs. Yes, there are a few sections devoted exclusively to cats, but they are few and far between. I'd estimate that less then 1/6 of the book is feline-centric.

The bulk of the 400 pages is a veterinary memoir. The stories are well-told and entertaining and I enjoyed Dr. Royal's writing style, but I wasn't particularly interested in reading her biography. I was more interested in learning about her care model. Her basic philosophy is clearly communicated but much of her advice is presented anecdotally here in the form of stories. I'd personally prefer clear, species-specific advice even if it wasn't as entertaining to read.

The biggest problem I have with the book is the fact that much of the care advice given is written without a clear indication of exactly what species the advice applies to. This is a frequent occurrence in the book and an awful oversight for someone who is looking for help with caring for a particular kind of animal. It's clear that Dr. Royal likes all animals, but she loves dogs. In many cases where no species is mentioned, it's safe to assume she intends the advice for dog caregivers alone.

As a reader who is primarily interested in cats, I found this and a few of her offhanded cat criticisms a tiny bit off-putting. Not enough to hamper my enjoyment of the book, but disappointing because I hoped to actually learn something new that I could apply to my work here at KHD.

If you're looking for a good, non-fiction book to read for pleasure, I can certainly recommend this one. If you're looking for specific cat care content with a focus on holistic care, I'm afraid you'll need to look elsewhere.

Book Review: Iris Grace

Iris Grace is the auto-biographical story of Arabella Carter-Johnson and her struggles and triumphs with her daughter, Iris Grace.  Iris is autistic and the book chronicles Arabella's efforts to find ways to successfully relate to her.  One method involved the adoption of a Maine Coon kitten who they named Thula.

More than a therapy cat, Thula became Iris' best friend.  She has a sixth sense when it comes to Iris Grace, always knowing just the right thing to do to assuage her and prevent what Arabella calls "meltdowns".  Those on the autistic spectrum can have great difficulty with filtering sensory input and become overwhelmed in situations that most of us cope with quite easily.  Thula is able to instinctively intervene in those situations and provide just the right kind of distraction to help dissipate Iris' ticking time bombs.

As I read story after story about ways that Thula intervened and helped solve Iris' problems, I was reminded of the fact that most cats probably experience the world in a way much like Iris.  Cats have much sharper vision, much keener hearing, and much higher sensitivity to the things that surround them than most people do.  It really should come as no surprise that Iris and Thula would become thick as thieves.  Thula even swims with Iris and goes on bike rides with the rest of the family!

While much of the book speaks to the fact that an animal like Thula can be more than a pet, it also shows us how differences should be valued.  It's a welcome message in a world that often seems to thrive on sameness.  Iris not only took to Thula, but also to painting.  Her works of art inspire everyone who sees them.  Most are amazed that such mature renderings can be accomplished by such a young artist, let alone one on the autistic spectrum.

I've followed Arabella on Iris' Facebook page for quite some time, so I knew how wonderful her photographs are, but I had no idea just how beautifully she's able to transfer her thoughts to the page.  This is a highly articulate and emotionally transparent account of some very trying times in her life and she places the reader right in the middle of it all.  I find it incredibly brave of her to expose her family in this way and I sincerely hope that her efforts will not only help to pay for Iris' education but will also help those of us who do not have anyone with autism in our lives to better understand them.

Seeing the photos of Iris, Thula and Tree Stump remind me of the 100 Acre Wood and of just how lucky Iris is to have a mother like Arabella.  She's created an idyllic setting for her daughter and works endlessly to help prepare Iris for a happy and healthy life.  Her dedication and tirelessness moved me to tears.

As to the physical book, it's a work of art itself.  Packed full of reproductions of Iris' paintings and Arabella's photos (plenty of which feature Thula), it was a joy to read.  Also be sure visit the Iris Grace Painting web site for more of Iris' artwork, including prints!

The book, Iris Grace, comes very highly recommended! 

Review: Homer - The Ninth Life of a Blind Wonder Cat

This book is the sequel to Gwen Cooper's 2009 story about how her adoption of a blind cat named Homer turned both their lives around.  That book, Homer's Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned about Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat,  went on to become a bestseller, and for good reasons.  It's a wonderful read for anyone, but is especially poignant if you love cats.  If you haven't read it, we suggest you start there first.  Go ahead.  We'll wait.

Those of you who enjoyed Cooper's first book know that she's a fine writer who isn't afraid to put her feelings for her animal friends onto paper in a very real way.  It's refreshing when so many people tell us, "It's only a cat."  Homer, The Ninth Life of a Blind Wondercat tugged at our heartstrings again and again as Cooper told the stories of all that has happened since the publication of the first book.  From the publication of the first book to the present day, she covers all the ups and downs of life with her menagerie.  We don't want to go into great detail as we don't want to spoil the book for anyone, but suffice it to say, you need to have some tissues handy as you read.  

What's here is really great, but at only 116 pages, this book just isn't equal to Cooper's first volume about Homer.  These stories would have made a great addition to a second edition of the first book, but they don't really stand alone.  If you haven't read the first book, you'll be somewhat lost in this one.  Fortunately, the Kindle version is significantly cheaper than the printed book, but the pictures are all the size of postage stamps on my E-reader.  Perhaps this book could have been a sort of introduction to a longer book about the successes of Homer's Heroes, the rescue group that grew out of Homer's fame.  At any rate, we're sad to say that we'd only recommend this book to hardcore Homer fans while we still highly recommend Homer's Odyssey.

Have you read Cooper's books?  What did you think?  Please tell us in the comments!


Thula & Grace


If you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Grace and her cat friend, Thula, you're really missing out.  Grace is a five year old girl who lives in England with her Maine Coon partner in crime.  What sets Grace apart is the fact that she's an amazing painter whose work has sold to collectors all over the world.  Her gift for color choices is amazing.  Oh, and by the way, she's also autistic.  That's where Thula comes in.

Thula was chosen as a therapy cat for Grace.  They'd tried other pets before, but none had bonded with the little artist the way that Thula did.  Now Thula is Grace's constant companion, guardian, and art critic.  The right animal companion can bring a child like Iris out of her shell in amazing ways!

To learn more, visit the Iris Grace website and their Facebook page.  And don't forget to check out their book, Iris Grace, available from Penguin on 2/25/16.