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Review: Under the Paw

Under the Paw: Confessions of a Cat Man audiobook cover. A white cat with a black patch over its right eye sits beside a workman's boot with its front paws resting on the toe. Under the Paw: Confessions of a Cat Man by Tom Cox.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 6 hrs 35 mins.

Under the Paw: Confessions of a Cat Man by Tom Cox is part memoir and part Ode to a Cat. A biography of sorts told through the author's history of befriending moggies, we get to know Tom as he introduces us to the felines in his life. The Audiobook version that I listened to was provided by the RNIB and is narrated by Mark Meadows, who also gives voice to another cat-themed book by Tom Cox; The Good, the Bad, and the Furry , which is available on Audible.

As Tom's feline timeline progresses, he supplies vivid descriptions of each of his cats' characters, the way one might reminisce about a dearly-departed relative. (Though hopefully nobody reading this shipped their incontinent grandmother off to The Farm at the End of the Universe upon the arrival of their first child.) This familial fondness will come as no surprise to anyone who has found themselves owned by a cat or two in their lifetime, but we seldom get to hear about anyone else's in such detail.

Whether discussing a childhood pet or the shared-ownership of a then-girlfriend's cat, each animal has as much personality as any of history's most eulogised characters, and it does not seem at all strange that there is almost more in these books about the cats themselves than there is about their impact upon the lives of the humans they adopt. Tom Cox anthropomorphises his cats to such an extent that, when I had to stop the book halfway-through and couldn't return to it until 24 hours later, it took me several minutes to remember that Rory - the angry, white-van-man character who seemed ready to Hulk-out at any moment - was actually Tom's builder and not one of the cats.

Mark Meadows narrates the book superbly. I was initially a little disappointed to see that Tom did not narrate this one himself, given how much I enjoyed his reading of 21st Century Yokel , but that passed swiftly once I realised that it was Meadows instead. His soothing, friendly voice helps make this audiobook equally amusing, comforting, and charming in turn, and he does just as well reading this book as he did with The Humans by Matt Haig , which I also loved.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever been fortunate enough to be befriended by a cat, and anyone who enjoys Cox's other musings. Whilst the landscape does not feature to quite the same extent in this book as his more recent offerings, and I didn't have to keep adjusting the volume to accommodate his father's shouting, it does have the same sincerity and appreciation for the natural world and all the marvellous creatures in it. By the end, I felt like I knew Tom far better, and it was nice to reflect upon the animals which have shared - and helped to shape - my own life, too.

As Under the Paw is not yet available on Audible, this link will take you to Tom Cox's other books. Amazon does list used copies of Under the Paw as being available on Audio CD so it may also be worth consulting your local library who may still have a disc or two knocking around.

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