Cat Culture

The Social World of a Cat Shelter

Janet M. Alger and Steven F. Alger
Book Cover

PB: $25.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-998-2
Publication: Dec 02

Ebook: $25.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0772-6

256 pages
5.5 x 8.25
10 halftones

Understanding cats as social animals

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).


Even people who live with cats and have good reason to know better insist that cats are aloof and uninterested in relating to humans. Janet and Steven Alger contend that the anti-social cat is a myth; cats form close bonds with humans and with each other. In the potentially chaotic environment of a shelter that houses dozens of uncaged cats, they reveal a sense of self and build a culture—a shared set of rules, roles, and expectations that organizes their world and assimilates newcomers. As volunteers in a local cat shelter for eleven years, the Algers came to realize that despite the frequency of new arrivals and adoptions, the social world of the shelter remained quite stable and pacific. They saw even feral cats adapt to interaction with humans and develop friendships with other cats. They saw established residents take roles as welcomers and rules enforcers. That is, they saw cats taking an active interest in maintaining a community in which they could live together and satisfy their individual needs. Cat Culture's intimate portrait of life in the shelter, its engaging stories, and its interpretations of behavior, will appeal to general readers as well as academics interested in human and animal interaction.

Table of Contents

Preface: Why an Ethnography of a Shelter?
1. The Myth of the Solitary Cat
2. The World of Whiskers
3. The Homan-Cat Connection
4. The Social Bonds among the Cats
5. The Feral Cats and Shelter Solidarity
6. Leaving the Shelter Community
7. Culture and Self in the Domestic Cat
8. Animals in the Future of Sociology

About the Author(s)

Janet M. Alger is Professor of Sociology at Siena College.

Steven F. Alger is Associate Professor of Sociology at the College of St. Rose.


In the Series

  • Animals, Culture, and Society edited by Arnold Arluke and Clinton R. Sanders

    Animals, Culture, and Society, edited by Arnold Arluke and Clinton R. Sanders, is concerned with probing the complex and contradictory human-animal relationship through the publication of accessible books that consider the place of animals in our culture, our literature, our society, and our homes.