So, ok, not EVERYBODY needs to read this book, just those of you who have, or might someday have, cats. And you should not read it blindly, because as good as this book is, it could trip you up if you're not careful. I'll tell you what to watch out for in a minute, but first I want to tell you what a great book this is.
The new natural cat is a comprehensive introduction to holistic cat care, and by extension holistic medicine generally. Holistic medicine means looking at the patient's life as a whole rather than focusing in on a particular disease or health risk. From this perspective, physical health begins with a good diet, protection from environmental toxins, and protection from excessive emotional stress. Any particular diseases are usually seen as symptoms of an underlying imbalance in the patient's life--not that a holistic vet (or doctor) won't prescribe antibiotics and so on, but he or she will also ask about lifestyle. This book is not a veterinary manual, of course, but it is an introduction to a philosophy of health and the kinds of issues a holistically-minded cat-person should be aware of.
If you're not already interested in holistic medicine, you may be wondering why you should care. The short answer is that this philosophy makes a lot of sense to me, therefor I'm recommending it. The slightly longer answer is that I more or less followed its advice with my cat, Gertie, who was a rescue cat and had several severe health problems. She did not quite get cured--she died of cancer at about nine years of age--but her initial prognosis gave her only three years, and for most of her life she probably did not know she was sick. I know, no self-respecting science geek should draw any conclusions whatever from a sample size of one, but she was my cat, ok? Her story made an impression on me.
This book is also works well as a basic cat care book, by the way--it covers feeding guidelines, how to deal with matted fur, how to give pills, how often to clean the cat box, and plenty more, all illustrated with engaging stories about real cats the author has known. A book like this can't replace a good vet (though it did help me find a good vet), but it can be the voice of experience for a first time, or even third or fourth-time, cat person. We all need one of those.
The things to watch out for begin with the fact that Frazier sometimes over-states her expertise; she's not as reliable as she things she is. For example, she categorically states that declawed cats loose the ability to walk, balance, and even stretch and exercise properly. All this is plausible, since declawing actually involves the amputation of the last joint of each toe; a human missing the ends of all ten fingers would be genuinely disfigured. While I agree with her that declawing a cat is wrong (it's possible to trim, or even cover, a cat's claws, by the way), my mother's cat, another rescue, came to us already declawed and she shows no ill effects whatever. Basically, Frazier is like the cat lady next door; she's not a vet, and she doesn't know everything, but if your cat turns up with a problem she's a good place to start because she does know more than you do.
The other thing to watch out for is trickier. Frazier talks about so many great ways to give the cats we care about great lives that it's easy to read her book and fall into a sense of responsibility for a cat's great life. It's easy to believe that if you feed the right foods, offer the right fun and games, keep a home really free of toxins, and follow all her other suggestions, that your cat will never suffer. He or she will live long and joyfully and die quickly and painlessly. And maybe that will happen for your cat. But the sad fact of the matter is that we can't actually promise anyone a long, meaningful life free of suffering--not ourselves, not our kids, and not our cats. And watching a cat die is hard enough without blaming yourself for it.
But that's no reason not to read this book.
Frazier, A., Eckroate, N. (1990). The New Natural Cat: A Complete Guide for Finicky Owners. Plume: New York, NY.