Cats are affectionate and intensely interested in humans. Nevertheless, they are somewhat remote and mysterious, and their comings and goings follow more their own whims than human logic. Oscar, the socialite cat, travels across town just to watch the antics of humans during a weekly card game, and Debbie, a little stray, carefully seeks out a home for her kitten before she dies. Sometimes their likes and dislikes of humans are unpredictable and cannot be forced. Several of the stories in this volume deal with Dr. Herriot's own relationship with two stray kittens, whose trust he does not seem to be able to earn. Affection and love are freely given but only when the cat chooses to do so.
A secondary theme is the values that pet cats offer to lonely humans, especially the old and the infirm. Alfred, the sweetshop cat, almost duplicates his owner's gregarious personality, and when he is stricken by illness, his master quickly deteriorates himself. And in "Emily and the Gentleman of the Road," a small cat makes the life of a destitute and homeless man bearable.