As an avid reader and someone who loves animals, I have picked up my fair share of books whose featured main character is a cat or a dog. These stories are meaningful to us because they illustrate the bond between us and our furry friends, or the hardships that many of them endure, the joy and laughter we have spending time with them, and the heartbreak that inevitably – through one way or another – touches each of us who have lost a pet. Animals are a subject matter usually of interest to mankind; we’re entertained by or learn from their stories. In this list you will find some classics as well as some you may not have known about. Stories aimed for young readers and some for adults, but ultimately these are stories we can appreciate and enjoy at any age.
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson – the story of a dog who finds a home with the Coates’ family, proves his loyalty by rescuing them in various dangerous incidents, and becomes the devoted friend of the young boy, Travis. Gipson leads us to an ending where Travis has to make a difficult decision when his loyal canine friend becomes in danger of succumbing to rabies after being bitten by a rabid wolf.
Dewey the Library Cat by Vicki Myron – found as a kitten shivering in a book return box, Dewey finds his way into the hearts of the librarians and the whole town. This is an excellent read to lift your spirits after shedding tears for the canine protagonist of the aforementioned book above.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo – one summer and one dog change everything for the protagonist of this beloved children’s classic. The story involves a young girl and Winn-Dixie, and how our animal companions can help us through the hard times in life, and help us to be brave.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls – the story centers on a young boy who lives in the Ozarks and his close bond with two hounds. The trio grow up together and gain recognition as good hunters until a tragic incident with a mountain lion.
Warriors book series by Erin Hunter – a series of children’s books about the harrowing adventures of feral cats. Makes me wonder about my neighborhood’s own feral cat colony and what they get up to.
The Call of the Wild by Jack London – a famous book detailing the life of Buck, a St. Bernard mix, who, through one way or another, passes from one person to another, each presenting challenges for the canine protagonist, until he finally reverts to a life in the wilderness, closing the gap between the domesticated sheltered life of a pet and the ancient natural instincts of his wolfish ancestors.
The Fur Person by May Sarton – based on the author’s own cat, Tom Jones, this is the story of a vagabond kitty who takes up a life as a housecat and his adventures along the way.
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot, illustrated by Edward Gorey – a collection of feline-centric poems written by the very same man who wrote The Wasteland and the poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” I recommend the edition with illustrations by Edward Gorey. Eliot’s collection of poems is also the source of inspiration for the musical Cats.
Marley & Me by John Grogan – this story is autobiographical, about Grogan, his family, and their relationship with their destructive, lovable Labrador Retriever Marley. It is often recommended to read this with a box of tissues!
Simon’s Cat comic series by Simon Tofield – also a Youtube series, this comic shows the zany daily antics of the cat, Simon, as he tries to get his owner to feed him right after he just ate, sneaks food from the table, squabble at a bird who laughs at him, or innocently wrecks havoc on his owner’s belongings. It’s chuckle-inducing and very reminiscent of what any cat parent goes through on a daily basis.
She and Her Cat by Makoto Shinkai – a story about a young woman living alone through adulthood, told from both the cat and the human’s point of view.
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford – a children’s book about two dogs and a cat who, after their family leaves them with a caretaker to travel to England, go in search of their owners and their home, which is miles away. They face various challenges along the way until they finally reach home. Burnford’s book was the inspiration for the beloved movie Homeward Bound.
What are some of your favorite cat or dog-centered novels?
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