Cover image for The nine emotional lives of cats : a journey into the feline heart
The nine emotional lives of cats : a journey into the feline heart
Masson, J. Moussaieff (Jeffrey Moussaieff), 1941-
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxv, 259 pages ; 22 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
SF446.5 .M38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
SF446.5 .M38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
SF446.5 .M38 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Jeffrey Mason lives by the sea in New Zealand with his five cats who accompany him every night on his evening walk. This title reports on his close observation of their emotional lives in nine areas - narcissim, love, contentment, attachment, jealousy, fear, anger, curiosity and playfulness.

Author Notes

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson is the author of "Dogs Never Lie About Love: Reflections on the Emotional World of Dogs"; "When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals"; "My Father's Guru: A Journey Through Spirituality & Disillusion"; "Final Analysis: The Making & Unmaking of a Psychoanalyst"; & "The Assault on Truth: Freud's Suppression of the Seduction Theory", among other books. After receiving his undergraduate degree & a Ph.D. in Sanskrit & Indian Studies from Harvard University, he completed a full clinical training program in psychoanalysis at the Toronto Psychoanalytic Institute from 1970 to 1978. Masson served for one year as Projects Director of the Sigmund Freud Archives in London.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Prevailing wisdom holds that cats are aloof, smug, quintessentially distant-especially when compared to dogs-but Masson, in his latest exploration of feelings in the animal world, argues otherwise: "cats," he says, "are almost pure emotion." He establishes nine basics (narcissism, love, contentment, attachment, jealousy, fear, anger, curiosity and playfulness) and, in nine casual and sometimes digressive chapters, suggests when and why cats feel each of them and how we humans might better understand our pets as a result. In the tradition of his bestselling Dogs Never Lie About Love, Masson's exploration is a warm fuzzy to the feline world: in observing the antics of his five cats (Miki, Moko, Yossie, Megalamandira and Minnalouche), Masson's tone never fails to convey his wonder for "these perfect beings who briefly and softly grace my life." He draws desultorily on history, scientific research and correspondence with cat experts and owners, but most of his book is dedicated to a highly subjective study of his beloved five, who live with him in a New Zealand paradise. Though Masson strains to establish evidence for cats' sophisticated emotional landscape (and in doing so exposes himself to accusations of anthropomorphism), cats are still mysterious creatures, and even a former psychoanalyst such as he must occasionally admit (though with a certain kind of glee) that he cannot entirely figure them out. One thing's for sure: because cats, unlike humans and dogs, have never been pack animals, much of what comes naturally to us-guilt, apology, even rage-is absent in cats. In the end, this appealing book seems as much a portrait of Masson as it is of his enchanting cats. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Anyone who lives with five cats will understand--or, at least, is familiar with--the mysterious and playful world felines inhabit. Masson's credentials are impeccable, since he's examined animals in all shapes and sizes (in When Elephants Weep, 1994, and Dogs Never Lie about Love, 1997). The nine emotions he mentions in the title are based on both scholarly research and observation as well as no small amount on philosophical musings. Witness, for example, the chapter on narcissism, which concludes "Not so much egocentric as self-involved, cats have depended for centuries on themselves, not on the pack as dogs do." He tells tales, including one about the four cats that jog with him on a New Zealand beach, and about the fear more prevalent in older cats. Worth reading and reading again, accompanied by a purring lap cat. Barbara Jacobs

Library Journal Review

Masson, who has traveled an interesting path from Sanskrit to Freud to animals, considers his own five cats in this study of feline temperament. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-"Too many people tend to see cats as uncomplicated creatures with few emotions- I am convinced that, on the contrary, cats are almost pure emotion," asserts Masson, a psychoanalyst. In nine chapters, he examines how cats might really be experiencing what we see as "Narcissism," "Love," "Contentment," "Attachment," "Jealousy," "Fear," "Anger," "Curiosity," and "Playfulness." However, although he refers to other experts and includes an excellent bibliography, all this seems more like memoir than science because the author is mostly relating, in a conversational style, his family's experiences with five young cats in their home in New Zealand. Accompanying Masson on daily walks on the beach, having mysterious adventures in the rain forest, or interacting in surprising ways with rambunctious children, the felines are a rich source of fascination, information, and insight. Given the small number of subjects and the short period of observation, Masson arrives at some conclusions and generalizations that many readers are bound to question or disagree with, but the spirit of inquiry is part of the charm of this book. Anyone intrigued by psychology or animal studies should enjoy this title and be inspired to look more closely at the creatures around them.-Christine C. Menefee, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Narcissism Moko Very different from that faithful animal the dog, whose sentiments are all directed to the person of his master, the cat appears only to feel for himself, to live conditionally, only to partake of society that he may abuse it. --Buffon The frustrated woman in The New Yorker cartoon who asks the cat on her chair, "Am I talking to myself?" expects a laugh because the obvious answer is, "Yes, you are," since cats have no interest in what we say to them. But is this really so? Many people are convinced that cats are indifferent to us. Some even go so far as to use the word cold, which is not really descriptive but evaluative. Most cats (of mine, only Minna Girl is a partial exception) will not come when you call them, or rather, they will come sometimes, if they feel like it, and not other times, when presumably they don't feel like it (unless there are other factors, as yet unknown to us, that decide whether a cat comes or not). This supposed indifference to humans leads some people to conclude that cats are narcissistic--in fact that narcissism is the cat's defining characteristic. Not only are cats supposed to be narcissistic, they are commonly called haughty, egotistical, egocentric, self-centered, selfish, self-absorbed, egomaniacal, smug, distant, unsociable, and aloof. As for their indifference, the phrase is usually "calculated indifference," but I doubt anyone would insist that it is calculated at all. Narcissists lack the capacity to think about other people, to take the needs of others into consideration, to subordinate their own wishes to those of someone else. They are entirely self-involved. When I was a boy of fifteen, on an ocean liner from New York to London, I somehow struck up a friendship with a man of this description, a well-known American literary critic who was on board--the young admirer and the literary lion--and I spent much of the five days en route in his company. He spoke nonstop, always about himself, his accomplishments, his books, his admirers. It was good talk, fascinating to me at fifteen and evidently to others, for he always had a crowd. However, I knew then, though I did not know the word, that the man was a complete narcissist. He had zero interest in the ideas of anybody else around him or in anything but his own thoughts, which did indeed seem at the time more interesting than those of anyone else present. However, his fine mind could not encompass the one thought that everyone else could not avoid: He was a fool. A cat's narcissism, if that is the word we choose to use, is not like that at all. Cats watch us all the time. Obsessively. Coldly, some would say, or at least with some detachment. They see us; they notice us. Their eyes grow big watch- ing. They do it, some say, because they have to: we represent a superior predator, someone who might do them harm. But no, even when perfectly content, satisfied, completely out of danger, they do it. Cats take us in. We will probably never know what goes through their minds at those moments. What- ever it is, though, it is not self-absorption. The assertion, then, that cats think only about themselves is clearly wrong. Cats watch us so carefully that clearly they are thinking about us. But if we ask whether they think about us in preference to themselves, the answer is probably no. Of course, in some sense, all animals, human or other- wise, are narcissistic to a certain degree, if narcissism can be equated with selfishness. Selfishness is built into every living creature, for none would survive without a healthy dose. Are cats more keen on survival than any other creature? It would be a strange claim. Yet cats certainly seem less altruistic than dogs, for example. I would not want to think my life depended on any of my cats. I seriously doubt that they would jeopardize their own safety to save my life. Why should they? (It seems that only dogs will risk their lives routinely, possi- bly because they can understand when a life is in jeopardy, whereas cats do not seem to realize this.) However, sometimes they do seem concerned. When I swim far out to sea at the beach outside my house, the four cats have a tendency to stand at the shoreline and wait for me, gazing out. Are they truly concerned, contemplating a lifesaving maneuver, or just curious? If I began to wave and shout, I doubt my cats would alter their stance. The willingness to do something for others may be an inherited trait, common to dogs and humans but unknown to cats, having nothing to do with notions of selfishness. Why have we never heard of a service cat, like a service dog? Ma-jor economies have been driven by almost all the domesti-cated species--dogs (as herders and drovers), goats, sheep, pigs, cattle, water buffalo, horses. Only cats are economically insignificant--probably owing to resistance. Resistance seems an essential characteristic of cats. They resist us. Cats resist even size reduction, which we have practiced with such success on dogs. You do not find cats much bigger or smaller than other cats. They are all more or less the same size. They also resist our calls to come, to move, to obey, to present themselves, to do all the things that dogs do so easily. This drives some people crazy. Cats do not even care that it drives us crazy! This is what some people mean when they call cats narcissistic: they will not alter their program to fit ours. It is very difficult to force a cat to do what we want. This seems to be one of the main reasons that many men in particular do not like cats: they cannot be controlled. They will not obey. Even the best-natured cat has an agenda of her own at almost all times. Even when she is doing nothing (although sleeping is hardly nothing), she does so on her own terms. Minna Girl will invariably come when I call her. Except when she will not. I call, she looks back, and then she continues on her way, not the least bit embarrassed or in any other way concerned that she has not done what I have asked. This could never happen with a dog, except under extraordinary circumstances. But for even the best-natured cat, it is an everyday experience. They hear us, they see us, they take in the request, and then they blink it away and to all appearances are completely indifferent. Yossie never does anything I ask; yet he expects me to do everything he asks. He is insistent about his food; "I want it now!" is his usual refrain. My cats are a lot like my five-year-old son, Ilan. "Fair's fair" is a point of view utterly beyond their grasp. I will wake up to see one of the cats and call out, "Miki!"--hoping that he will come bounding to me, rub his nose against my face, purr madly, and in other ways proclaim his pleasure in seeing me. I love morning greetings--two beings demonstrating the joy they feel in seeing one another again after a period of separation. But Miki walks past me without even pausing. All of the cats do this at some point or other. They act as if I were not there, as if I hardly mattered in their lives. Later in the same day, they will be running and playing with me on the beach, their eyes shining with pleasure, clearly delighted we are all together. I am learning to leave my expectations behind and take what comes as it comes. I seem to have no choice with cats. Is what looks to us like studied indifference really that, or is it just that we do not entirely understand cat rules of behavior? Cats might assume, for example, that we can read their minds: "Can't you see I am thinking of something else entirely?"--in which case for us to insist on our own agenda would be impolite from the cat's point of view. They have something they are intent upon, a place they would rather be, a task they would rather perform, and our insistence that they conform to our plan is simply irrelevant to them. It does not occur to them to obey any request they do not themselves wish to perform or that is not self-generated. From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats: A Journey into the Feline Heart by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
1 Narcissismp. 3
2 Lovep. 27
3 Contentmentp. 61
4 Attachmentp. 81
5 Jealousyp. 103
6 Fearp. 127
7 Angerp. 155
8 Curiosityp. 179
9 Playfulnessp. 205
Epiloguep. 235
Afterwordp. 241
Notesp. 244
Recommended Readingp. 249
Indexp. 252