I don’t hate cats, but neither do I love them. I can take them or leave them, if the truth be told; that is, liking particular individuals whilst disliking others – a bit like one’s attitude to people, I suppose.
Cats are what they are: animals, which – especially around farmyards and warehouses and food-stores and other such places – have some utility, as mousers for the most part and, sometimes, the takers of young rats. They are equally boon companions to many people; a species they have very cleverly domesticated for their own race’s betterment, and there’s nothing wrong with that either, as most would agree. No, the problem I have with cats is that there are simply too many of them abroad and they are an environmental disaster to boot, especially for birds. It’s a view I share with T. Lionel Cartwright, the main character of The Glaring, a man who - if anything - was something of an ailurophile in his youth.
The purpose of this (hopefully) arresting story then is not to demonise cats and to denigrate their species but to raise awareness about their health and, because they harbour several zoonotic diseases – cat-scratch fever, Pasteurellosis, Toxocariasis and Toxoplasmosis – human health as well. And I cannot emphasise that too much.
The central idea, then, is that something peculiar to cats, not exclusive to cats but singularly important with respect to cats, starts to change and with very dramatic consequences: consequences on a societal scale as well as highly personal ones for the ex-librarian, T. Lionel Cartwright. Indeed, the fast-evolving crisis is largely seen through the prism of Lionel’s life. It is a dystopian vision of a world gone wrong in which one of the favoured species of pets (it might easily have been dogs I suppose) becomes a real threat to its owners. And I chose cats because there is some actual science behind this and because an arresting newspaper headline got me going – just as it does Lionel!
The Glaring, if it becomes well known, will probably bring down some considerable opprobrium upon my head from certain cat lovers, but – I repeat – I do not hate cats. I just don’t love them in the way that adoring legions of ‘cat-owners’ do, and I only like them in the singular, and the very particular at that. But that is neither here nor there really. I simply want this issue of cats’ health and their interactions with humans brought out into the public domain much more than it is and, hopefully, for a more informed debate about it all to ensue. I also wanted to write something scary and I hope that I have achieved that too.
But in truth, the old adage of never judging a book by its cover (or its blurb) was never so apt as it is with this publication and readers should keep that in mind at all times. And I simply advise any instinctively hostile readers and those struggling with the rising action of the story-line to read it right through, right through to the very end.