The Secret of Lost CatsDavidson, N. (2013). The Secrets of Lost Cats. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 264 pages. ISBN: 9781250006264

Reviewed by: Dorothy Luczak, Columbia University

The Secrets of Lost Cats is, first and foremost, a memoir. Specifically, it is the memoir of Core Energetics therapist Nancy Davidson through the lens of lost cat posters. The book records moments of her life and her growing interest in missing cats. Dr. Davidson provides a whimsical analytic point of view, with regard to pet loss and pet owners.

The book is comprised of twenty short chapters each preceded by an image of a lost cat poster, titled with a name, usually the pet’s, and tells of the author’s experiences as both a psychotherapist and a person. Some of these posters contain only text, most have photos, while one borders on modern art. However, each poster provides a different frame to the story that follows it. These are stories that speak to a diverse number of issues that might interest the psychotherapist, such as loss, homelessness or change.

One such chapter is titled “Mary,” but Mary isn’t the name of the lost kitten but its supposed owner. Mary is the possible owner because she refers to herself as Homeless Mary and is believed to have imagined the pet. Not only is the reader following the search of a lost pet but that of a human being. As Dr. Davidson sets out to locate Mary in Penn Station, a den of hundreds of thousands of travelers, she is essentially on a wild goose chase. Neither Mary nor the kitten are found, though more is revealed about Dr. Davidson: her life, her approach to psychosocial subjects such as homelessness, and her experiences. She is not unfamiliar with the gritty side of life. As a previous director of a battered women’s shelter, Dr. Davidson has already faced the ugly reality of poverty. There is a sense of the brutal struggles living without stability and the possibility of developing hallucinations and delusions ways to cope.

Another chapter that delves into psychosocial topics is the one titled, “Vancouver Joe.” Here is a situation that spans across generations and oceans. The story about a missing cat that is found from a family of Asian immigrants and their children locked in a neighbor’s garage. When Joe was found locked up in a neighbor’s garage, there was opposition in how to best rescue him. The younger members of the family were in favor of breaking into the garage while the older generation stated that would be a sign of disrespect to their neighbors. This situation brings up subjects such as ethnicity and culture and how they affect family dynamics. There is a different set of values between family members and Dr. Davidson provides a short examination of the topic using the text, Ethnicity and Family Therapy by Monica McGoldrick. Here Dr. Davidson briefly speaks of the difficulties of providing psychological care to those from a different cultural background.

The end of the book has a section devoted to a brief list of resources for anyone who is currently going through pet loss or has found a stray. These are lists of steps that Dr. Davidson has gathered through her journey in studying the lost pet and their owners, pet forums, and personal research. It is a fitting reminder that Dr. Davidson’s goal is not only to record her adventures but also to assist others. The steps are brief, logical, and reflective of the amount of forethought she has put into the subject.

As a psychotherapist, Dr. Davidson’s career clearly influences the way she approaches and reflects about her subject. She pulls from all of her different experiences, as a student of psychology, a family therapist, a couples’ therapist, and as a director of a battered women’s shelter. She is passionate in her discussion and attempts at pet relocation. Dr. Davidson reaches out to her audience from the position of a fellow cat lover and her energy is infectious. The text is simple, warm and personable which opens it to a wide scope of readership.

The Secrets of Lost Cats would be best gifted to anyone with a love of cats or who has recently lost a pet. It would also make a great companion for short trips or spare moments as the book reads like a collection of short stories. For psychotherapists, this text brings an intimate look into the life of a peer, as well as her approach to life. As Dr. Davidson said, “all people are captivated by stories – regardless of the medium” (p. 141).

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