3 out of 4 stars
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If you’ve ever spent an inordinate amount of time watching cat videos on YouTube, you may want to check out Clive Lilwall’s The Virgin Cat: A Feline Fantasy. But don’t expect fun and games. Not all kitties are created equal, and as the ironically named Happy, a Tabby Point Siamese cat, will tell you himself in this faux-autobiography, he is a grumpy cat by nature.
Happy tells his story in three parts — his kittenhood, his adventures in middle age, and his retirement years. Adopted by the couple M and Jill from an animal shelter in Toronto, Canada, Happy moves to a suburban neighborhood in Ontario with his new human family. Life is simple, and like all cats, Happy likes to “stick to the basics.” Sex is another matter though. Happy wants to have sex, but after a sudden visit to the vet, Happy remained a “virgin cat” for all eternity. Despite this, there are other “firsts” in store for him: his first kill, his first adventure, and his first love. He grows up, tests the boundaries of his domain, learns more about the world beyond his backyard, and forges new relationships. Through it all, Happy waxes philosophical about the usual issues of feline existence: sex, freedom, love, family, death, and yes, the meaning of life.
For the most part, The Virgin Cat provides a candid look on the inner world of a precocious character coming of age. Ignore the species of the narrator for a moment, and it will be easy to imagine that — at different points in the narrative — the thoughts belonged to an emo teenager, a man in the midst of a midlife crisis, and a grouchy old bloke. Between descriptions of the daily grind of life and commentaries on the things he sees around him, Happy also goes in tangents with some feline fun facts. (Do you know of the fearless cat who survived a descent in Niagara Falls inside a barrel in 1901?) Happy also addresses some common myths about his kind. Are black cats bad luck? No, that’s superstitious nonsense. Do cats really have nine lives (or seven, if you ask the Germans)? No. Cats are just clever. When they fall off a building, they don’t scream. They plan how to land.
It may be difficult to reconcile Happy’s thought processes to the cute and furry image that we’ve come to associate with domestic cats. However, his dispassionate logic is refreshing, and his take on topics like prejudice (“But how can you hold the colour of a cat’s fur against it?”) feels profound in its simplicity. At only 86 pages, there’s really not much room for a plot, and apart from his encounter with a colony of feral cats, Happy’s life is — from an entirely human perspective — very uneventful.
As a cat owner myself, I enjoyed Happy’s perceptions of the human world and all that come with it. The illustrations of Happy and his posse also add a charming touch to the story. However, the book could still benefit from another round of proofreading to check for a handful of punctuation issues and typographical errors.
I rate The Virgin Cat 3 out of 4 stars. The preoccupation with sex, especially in Happy’s younger years, may be unsuitable for young readers and may throw others off. Still, cat lovers may want to dig into this book for a rarely seen serious and philosophical side to their favorite feline.
The Virgin Cat
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