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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 305

In James Herriot's Cat Stories , the narrator Herriot is less prominent than in his earlier books. He is still the observer of human behavior and foibles, but in these tales about cats and their owners, he is less interactive, and lets the patients and their owners speak for themselves....

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In James Herriot's Cat Stories, the narrator Herriot is less prominent than in his earlier books. He is still the observer of human behavior and foibles, but in these tales about cats and their owners, he is less interactive, and lets the patients and their owners speak for themselves. Most of them are townspeople, and their animals are companions, unlike the more utilitarian, and often business-like relationships the Dales farmers have with their livestock. What interests Herriot is the relationship between pet and owner, which often takes on a mirroring quality. Thus, the owner of a little sweetshop who is quite a salesman, is supported by his cat Alfred. "And it had always struck me forcibly," says Herriot the observer, "that he was exactly like his master in that respect. They were two of a kind and it was no surprise that they were such devoted friends." A similarly close friendship is also found between an old man and his pet cat Frisk, an animal that seems to have the proverbial nine lives. When he finally succumbs to a recurring, mysterious illness, his owner soon follows him into death.

Besides the sometimes scurrilous humans — and a few are quite reminiscent of Dickens's characters — there are the cats. They are noble, friendly, generous, sociable, and smart. They, too, are sometimes observers of the strange human beings that own them, especially Oscar, the socialite cat, who enjoys attending and viewing various social events in the life of the small town.

Three of the cat stories involve Herriot's own felines, a pair of kittens that come to stay at his rural home. In spite of his proficiency as a vet, he finds it difficult to tame these two feral strays. They are the essential cats, who are free, independent, and make contacts with humans on their own terms.

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