The Battle Cry of the Siamese Kitten, by Philipp Schott*****

Philipp Schott is a Canadian veterinarian, and he’s very funny. This meaty compendium of essays runs the gamut, and the overall effect is a calming one, like the fish tank in your doctor’s waiting room, but more entertaining. My thanks go to Net Galley and ECW Press for the review copy. This book is for sale now.

I came to Dr. Schott’s work through the back door, so to speak. A friend on social media recommended a mystery he wrote, Fifty-Four Pigs. While I was requesting the galley for that one, I saw that this was also available, so I put in for it as well. I am glad I did, because while the mystery is pretty good, this little gem is even better.

I have never said this before without intending it as an insult, but I do so now: this book is great for insomnia. Here’s what I mean. I’m tossing and turning and after half an hour of that, studies suggest that one must give the battle up and go do something for a bit in order to reboot the brain. When we cannot sleep, it eventually upsets us, and when we are upset, it’s even harder to get to sleep.

When I am sleepless, I am too groggy to do much. I’ve had a sleeping pill, and my motor skills make me unfit to clean house or do anything else that is useful. Once my eyes are able to focus on text, reading is the obvious activity to breach the difficult night hours, but I cannot be certain I’ll remember what I’ve read the next day, and I’m not with it enough to take in complex literature or nonfiction. Thrillers are completely out; they’ll wake me up further, once I’m coherent enough to understand what I am reading.

When all is said and done, short stories or collections of essays, are the best, and Dr. Schott’s are particularly congenial. Each is engaging; a few are tear-jerkers, and while some are persuasive or informational, most are humorous. Although Dr. Schott’s practice is almost entirely there for house pets that are mammals—so, cats and dogs—he has a handful of essays describing cases where he has gone far afield. The zoo wants an ultrasound of that pregnant snow leopard? He’s on it! Beluga whales? YES!

There’s one in which he waxes eloquent about the healing bond that occurs between the very elderly, particularly those in assisted living facilities, and elderly cats and dogs, and he decries the way most such facilities exclude pets; he advocates for a large scale effort to remedy this, including volunteer corps to assist with the extra labor that including these beloved beasties creates. He makes a strong case.

Funniest of all, however, is the title piece, in which he and his wife attempt to take their own cat to the office for shots and whatnot:

I don’t think we veterinarians appreciate how difficult it is to bring some cats to the clinic. Dogs are more easily fooled, only catching on once they get to the clinic door, but it is the rare cat who cheerfully saunters into their carrier, purring in euphoric anticipation of the double joy of a car ride AND a veterinary visit…

“Lucy, look! Extra treats today! And that special catnip mouse! Don’t you want to go in?                                                                                                      Her facial expression was clear: ‘How dumb do you think I am?’                         Play our cards wrong, and she could bolt for the cat sanctuary above the basement ceiling tiles.  The cats think of it as their secret rebel base; we know where it is, but we still can’t get them out of there.

 The pandemic has inspired countless previously petless households to seek out four-pawed companionship, and so, during the period when many businesses have suffered from a lack of customers, Dr. Schott has been even busier than usual. It’s lucky for us that he’s found the time to sit down and write these agreeable essays. In addition to aiding the sleepless, it’s a fine addition to a guest room or yes, the bathroom, because each entry is fairly brief, and the reader can be assured that they’ll have time to finish what they’ve started. Regarding the book, I mean.

Highly recommended.

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