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Cat Culture

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Table of Contents

Preface: Why an Ethnography of a Shelter?Acknowledgments1. The Myth of the Solitary Cat2. The World of Whiskers3. The Homan-Cat Connection4. The Social Bonds among the Cats5. The Feral Cats and Shelter Solidarity6. Leaving the Shelter Community7. Culture and Self in the Domestic Cat8. Animals in the Future of SociologyAfterwordNotesReferencesIndex

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Understanding cats as social animals

About the Author

JANET M. ALGER is Professor of Sociology at Siena College. STEVEN F. ALGER is Associate Professor of Sociology at the College of St. Rose.


"This book, by two sociologists, demonstrates that cats are complex creatures, who reason, think, and above all, feel. They have friends, they show affection, and they accommodate other cats and people into their lives in ways that we consider 'almost human.' The authors have convinced me that humans need to be 'almost cat.'" --Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author of The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats: A Journey into the Feline Heart "Cat Culture is a marvelous book. As a sociologist, which I am, I found it to be an insightful, interesting, and sophisticated application of social psychology to the behavior of cats and of humans and cats. As a cat lover, which I also am, I found it to be amusing, instructive, and a very good read." --Richard H. Hall, Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology, University at Albany, SUNY and author of Organizations: Structures, Processes and Outcomes (8th Edition) "Turn two feline-loving sociologists loose in an animal shelter and you get a book that's part ethnography, part plea for interspecies understanding. The Algers' longterm study of the Whiskers Shelter in Albany, N.Y., demonstrated the "extraordinary social capacity of domestic cats as revealed in their everyday activities and relationships with the shelter volunteers and with one another" and how the cats--Bandit, Mr. Kitty and colleagues--actively helped create 'the social world of the shelter.'", 6 April 2003 "At first glance, this appears to be yet another feel-good book of stories about animals. It is, however, an academic study of the interactions between cats and their human caregivers at a no-kill shelter. The authors, both professors of sociology, based the book on four years of observations conducted while they volunteered at the shelter. They watched the cats form relationships, surveyed the socialization of previously feral cats, and both observed and interviewed the shelter volunteers. The Algers, animal rights activists and owners of multiple cats themselves, follow a model of participant observation, which allows researchers to develop close relationships with their subjects. The result is an interesting mix of academic protocol and illustrative stories. Within a scholarly framework the Algers discuss such subjects as cat friendships, how the resident cats deal with new arrivals, or how the cats "train" the volunteers, fleshing out their points with excerpts from their field notes. Copious chapter notes and a lengthy bibliography offer further research for interested readers. This highly readable work will appeal to all cat owners." -- Booklist "Janet and Steve Alger's book is quite useful, of benefit to academic as well as nonacademic audiences. I heartily recommend it." --Qualitative Sociology "[P]rovides an insightful and entertaining account of the complex social world of a cat shelter...[it] is an important contribution to the field of human-animal interactions, but also to animal behavior." --Anthrozoos

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