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Arts in Review

Book Review: How to Tell if Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by Matthew Inman

Yes, it’s a comic. And yes, there is something funny about your fuzzy friend plotting your demise. But between the lines, like any great comedy, we see meaning. And you know you have a book that was written by one of the greats if it has a pull-out poster.

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By Sasha Moedt (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: March 13, 2013

How to Tell if Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill YouAnyone who has a cat knows the complexities of his or her character. Cats aren’t just creatures of one mould. Even an individual cat – one day you think you know her, the next she’s a completely different creature. I’ve known many cats in my day. I’ve known scheming cats, frisky cats and curmudgeonly cats – I know a cat that thinks she’s a person, a cat that has a strong attraction to being near my face, a cat that bullies his owners. The only thing I can take away from knowing them is that you can’t know them.

But even if you can’t truly know your cat, there are ways of reading what he or she is thinking. The Oatmeal guides you through learning these important skills that might save your life in his new book, How to Tell if Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You.

Yes, it’s a comic. And yes, there is something funny about your fuzzy friend plotting your demise. But between the lines, like any great comedy, we see meaning. And you know you have a book that was written by one of the greats if it has a pull-out poster.

The Oatmeal’s real name (I know, his name isn’t actually The Oatmeal. What a downer.) is Matthew Inman. He started out by designing websites, but moved to drawing web comics. His website features comics on cats, grammar, food, animals, technology and a lot in between. But this book is based solely around that marvellous creature – the cat.

The Oatmeal’s humour can be described as crude and random, and I’ve never read one without actually laughing. And that’s saying something, considering internet humour, where you flip through hundreds of comics or memes with a dopey half-smile on your face but no real reaction for hours on end.

Anyone who doesn’t like Family Guy humour, you’re safe with The Oatmeal. It’s a sanctuary for people who like crude humour but not irritating, gross or offensive material – and I find crude humour is often crossed with all of those elements, which is unfortunate.

A few of the comics featured in How to tell if your cat is plotting to kill you are posted on his website (theoatmeal.com), but there are quite a few originals in the book. Not sure if you want to buy it? Go to the website and see if it’s your cup of tea.

How to tell if your cat is plotting to kill you is an essential book for new cat owners. I strongly believe the SPCA should give out copies with adoptions. In the table of contents, we have guides on “six ways to tell if your cat thinks it’s a mountain lion,” “How to pet a kitty,” “The three ways of dealing with cat litter,” “How to tell if your cat is a raging homosexual,” and so forth. I had no clue about my cat until I thumbed through these pages. Of course, now I can read the signs and interact accordingly – but she’ll always be unpredictable. The Oatmeal doesn’t pretend he can understand the impossible.

The Oatmeal’s style is a mix of whimsicality and bluntness – of fancy and cold, hard reality. Like the experience of petting a cat’s fuzzy tummy and cleaning out his or her stinking, clumped up poo, The Oatmeal truly captures what life is like with a cat as your roomie.

So how do you tell if your cat is plotting to kill you? I’m not going to give any spoilers. But reading The Oatmeal’s insights, I realised I am in grave danger. And almost worse – there’s no comic called “what to do if your cat is trying to kill you.”

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