Smart Animals


I read a blog post today about how animals might be smarter than we think.

Read these two posts from Suzanne about her doggie woes, then come back for my thoughts about the intelligence of animals …

–> Is My Writing Career Going to the Dogs?

–> News From the Dog House

The Comment I Left

I left a long comment at the “dog house” post, and copy most of it here:

“Well, I’ve decided that animals are a lot smarter than humans give them credit for.

“Lately, I’ve been really ‘irked’ by writers who put animals into their stories and then make a comment ‘it’s as if they might understand what I say.’  It’s not ‘as if’ — they do!  It’s just a matter of how willing they are to let us know they understand.  Most, I think, prefer to let us think they are dumb and stupid, so that we don’t make too many demands on them.  But … they understand.

“We also had a cat who watched TV.  101 Dalmatians was one of her favorite movies — she would carefully watch the parts that involved animals and often wandered off when it was basically just humans on the screen, then come back just in time to watch the animals again.  One day I put in the tape of the original Disney cartoon version.  I was sure she would ignore it. Well, I was wrong!  She did the same exact thing with that movie — watched the animals intently and ignored the human interactions.

“One day, as I was leaving the house, a hummingbird buzzed up trying to get to the feeder close by.  When I moved, it began to fly off.  I called after it, “I just wanted to take your picture.”  It came back, hovered as they do and after I had taken about half a dozen shots flew away to wait for me to get out of the way so it could get to the feeder.

“And last, one day a couple of Septembers ago, I was driving down the road, heading to the grocery store.  I saw a cat huddled on a bank along the side of the road.  I was just about a mile from home.  I did a u-turn, then another and pulled up beside the cat.  I put down the passenger side window and told her, ‘I know it is getting cold out at night and the coyotes are often in that field above you and that is a badger hole above your head.  We live down the road about a mile.  My husband just put up a shed and left an opening so cats can get in there to be out of the cold.  Be very careful when you cross the road, but you are quite welcome to stay there if you want.’  I put up the window and drove away.

“She didn’t show up and I was sort of relieved.  Then one morning, I pulled into the driveway and there were four kittens playing in front of that shed.  A little bit later, as I sat watching the kittens, I finally saw the cat I had talked to. 

“She stayed about 3 weeks, until she was sure her kittens were welcome to stay with us and she left.  Haven’t seen her since.  She was a gorgeous Himalayan and her kittens were the cat equivalent of mutts.

“They are still with us …”

Books You May Enjoy About Animals

Now, to be honest, I can’t think of titles of the books where I got irked at the writer for having a character say “It’s like they understand what I say.”  However, I do remember some books about intelligent animals that I think you might enjoy.

The Cat Who …

First, I must start with Koko from The Cat Who series of books by Lilian Jackson Braun.

The series features James Qwilleran, a newspaperman.  He gains a cat, Koko, in the first book of the series, The Cat Who Could Read Backward, that helps him solve a murder.  Yum-yum joins them in the second book of the series, The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern.

There are 29 books in the series.  The first three came out between 1966 and 1968;  new books began appearing in the series in 1986.  To be honest, when I began reading the series in the mid-1990’s, I believed that a committee of people were writing under Braun’s name.  Books contradict one another and seem unaware of events from books earlier in the series, especially the original three. 

I’m still not sure whether they are all written by Braun.  However, I enjoy them.

I also have to admit that I was among those who wrote comments about the 29th book of the series, The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers, claiming that Qwilleran’s action were not true to his character.  Then I went back to the beginning of the series to try to finally read all of the books, and in order.  And, now I must admit, Qwill’s behavior in this book fits his original personality quite well.

For a list of all of the books in the series, and for information about Ms. Braun, check out

The later books in the series are set in Pick Ax, a place that is “400 miles from everywhere.”  I thought I had found a possible location for Pick Ax on Google Earth, near Houghton, MI in the Yooper, but wikipedia suggests that it is Bad Ax, MI.

Another Cat Who Story

Ah, this is a fun and wonderful children’s story.

The Cat Who Wanted to Go Home, by Jill Tomlinson, tells the story of a little French cat who falls asleep in the basket of a hot air balloon and finds herself in England.  Susie wants to go home!  And she has a few adventures along the way.

Amazon has this version of the book.  However, I suggest an audio version from  Susie meows French words and unless a parent wants to attempt that when reading the story to their child(ren), a good audio version is a better option and is very inexpensive too.  :-)

Audible actually has two versions of the book, read by different readers and published by different companies.  The one I got and listen to from time to time when looking for a short “pick-me-up” that makes me smile, is the one read by Maureen Lipman

I did listen to the sample provided at Audible for the other version, read by Sophie Aldred.  There are wave sound effects and music that, to me, detract from the story.  AND the text is different from the version I’ve listened to.  This version matches the book available at Amazon, though. 

But, I prefer the Maureen Lipman audiobook.  (And it is less expensive by a whole 50 cents — LOL!)

Sneaky Pie Brown — Co-Author

Sneaky Pie Brown supposedly helps her person, Rita Mae Brown, write the Mrs. Murphy Mystery series.  I don’t know, though.  Seems to me, if Sneaky Pie was really helping, Mrs. Murphy would have featured a bit more in the one book in this series that I listened to:  Wish You Were Here

It was a good book, but I was disappointed, initially, because the description of the story seemed to indicate that the cat and her friend (a dog!) were “one step ahead” of their human, Mary Minor “Harry” Haristeen, the town post mistress who has a bad habit of reading the back of postcards before she puts them in their correct boxes.

There are 20 books in this series.  Ms. Brown has written many other books.  A listing can be found at

Four More Books for Children

Yep, I love children’s books.  :-)

Here are four I’ve enjoyed:

Whittington, by Alan Armstrong, is one of my favorites.  It is the story of two children, their grandfather who has a “farm” of acquired animals, and a tom cat that wanders in and asks to be allowed to stay.  He has a ragged ear from fighting and an engaging story of the history of his name.  He tells a tale about Dick Whittington, a historical London mayor, and his adventures. 

Check out wikipedia and not much is really known about the real Dick Whittington.  This is a tale with a twist — how a cat made his fortune.  :-)

Hobart, by Anita T. Briggs, is about a litter of piglets.  Hobart wants to dance!  He and his littermates perfect their performances and show off to the farmer.  Wonderful results.

Now for the series of books about The Bed and Biscuit, by Joan Carris.

Starting with Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit, we meet Grampa Bender who runs an animal boardinghouse with the help of Ernest the pig, Gabby the mynah bird and Milly the cat.  He comes home one day with a mysterious bundle and these three loyal friends begin to worry.

In Wild Times at the Bed and Biscuit, the three friends are trying to train Sir Walter, a Scottish Terrier puppy who has joined them, while dealing with some interesting boarders, including a cranky muskrat, at the animal boardinghouse run by Grampa Bender.

And, I just found out that there is a new book in the series, Magic at the Bed and Biscuit.  Apparently, an ornery chicken, Malicia, is now staying at the animal boardinghouse.  The four friends are having a hard time dealing with this newcomer!  This book is on my “read soon” list, for sure.  :-)

Tell me —

1)  Are animals smarter than humans say they are?  (I’ve got more stories I could tell about that — mostly ones my husband has told me …)

2)  Have you read any good books that feature some intelligent animals?

Have Great Reads!

[Once again I am forced to say that WordPress is funky and adding extra lines between paragraphs in ways that I can’t seem to control!  ARGH!  Sorry about that … and on my screen, when I preview the final post, there is a combination of fonts on screen.  One font shows here in the “write the post” box and another usually shows up on the final post page, but today, both fonts are taking turns showing up on the post page.  **shrugs shoulders and plans to go off to blogger to begin working on setting up the blog there instead of here …**]


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