Animals / Book Reviews / Non-Fiction

Review of ‘Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs’ by David Grimm

My Rating (*****)

I received this book from Netgalley to read and review before it is published.

Dogs and cats play a very important role in people’s lives today. People not only love and pamper them but even treat them like their own children. In other words, these animals have become an inseparable part of our family. Now, these animals have more rights and protection than any other animal in the world. How did this happen? How these animals (which were once wild in nature) became humans’ best friends and companions? How these animals are on the verge of becoming legal persons? The book under review tries to explore these issues.

Today a large number of books and articles on dogs and cats are available (particularly on dogs). However, a large number of these are technical and scientific writings, and do not attract the laypersons. There was a long felt need of a book which treats the scientific and complicated subject on dogs and cats in a simpler manner. This book, I feel has somewhat been successful in accomplishing this need. Citizen Canines: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs by David Grimm is a remarkable book that succeeds admirably in its purpose of synthesising the emergence of domestic dogs and cats from their wild counterparts. There are very few scholars in the world who have presented such a broad overview of both dogs and cats as has been done by Grimm.

The book is divided into three sections: Family, Person and Citizen. The first section uncovers how dogs and cats became a part of our family. The second traces the legal evolution of dogs and cats from valueless objects to being on the precipice of personhood. And finally the third section tries to explore the future of these pets in present day society where social and legal revolutions are playing an important role. These three sections, when considered together, successfully trace the evolution of domestic dogs and cats from wild animals to quasi-citizens.

In writing serious scientific books, the major difficulty lies not so much in what to include as in what to leave out. David Grimm has chosen the subjects of the book very carefully. The author not only deals with the earliest archaeological evidences of domestic dogs and cats but also tries to understand the various processes that led to the domestication of these animals. This has been done in a lucid language. The topics like the deification of cats by the Egyptians, the mourning of dogs by the Romans and the mass slaughter of felines in Medieval Europe have been presented in a beautiful manner. The author also tries to understand the cognitive abilities of dogs and cats. This is an important inclusion in the book as studying canine cognition gives us a chance to understand how our own intellect evolved.

The author, however, finds that the journey of domestic dogs and cats from the wild to citizenship isn’t a smooth one. The author, in this fascinating exploration of the changing status of dogs and cats, finds that there is plenty of opposition to the raising status of dogs and cats. According to the author, humans are now entering a new stage of pet-ones that will not only change our relationship with these animals but also will transform the society itself.

David Grimm’s book provides a wealth of first-hand information on both dogs and cats. I am glad that I chose to read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and would highly recommend it. It is not only a valuable read for people who love dogs and cats but also for archaeologists, zoologists, historians and people who love to read about animals. What I liked most about the book is author’s use of real life events to explore the history of our relationship with dogs and cats.

5 thoughts on “Review of ‘Citizen Canine: Our Evolving Relationship with Cats and Dogs’ by David Grimm

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