image It’s not often that we spot excellent technical communication products, especially not while taking our feline pal to the kitty dentist. But that’s exactly what happened on a recent excursion to our local veterinary office. While our domestic short-haired friend was being prepped for plaque removal (not very much fun, according to the cats we interviewed), we discovered two books displayed in the clinic waiting room that we couldn’t pass up. Both tomes are published by aptly-named Quirk Publishing, creator of “irreference” books (Irreverent + Reference = Irreference) and are designed like a product user guides, aimed at helping dog and cat owners take great care of their pets.

Cats and dogs are described as “products” that are of a certain “model” and that come with “features”, a “parts list”, a “brand” identity, and whose usage instructions include “warnings”, “cautions” and “expert tips”. The books are loaded with excellent graphic illustrations, well-written prose, and structured much like any “owner’s manual”—only better—much better!

The Cat Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Troubleshooting, and Advice on Lifetime Maintenance

Authors Dr. David Brunner and Sam Stall open this hysterically useful book by writing:

“Welcome to your new cat! Whether or not you just acquired a new cat or are contemplating getting one, congratulations. This product’s value as a companion and source of entertainment is lengendary throughout the world. Favored by everyone from ancient Eqyptian pharaohs to present-day-big-city apartment dwellers, the cat is one of history’s most popular, most recognized brands. With proper care and maintenance, it can become a favorite with you, too.

The cat is surprisingly similar to other high-tech devices you may already own. Like personal digital assistants, it is compact and portable. Like a home security system, it is capable of functioning autonomously for extended periods without direct human intervention. But, unlike virtualy any other product on the market, it is, for the most part, self-cleaning.

While most such highly developed consumer devices come with instruction manuals, cats do not. This is a major oversight, given that their operating system is bafflingly complex, and their mechanical functions are more finely tuned than the most expensive automobiles.It takes expert guidance not just to understand but to properly utilize the feline’s breathtakingly sophisticated software and hardware.”

A warning message at the beginning of the book makes clear the humorous approach Brunner and Stall employ.

ATTENTION: Before beginning this manual, please inspect your model carefully. If any of the standard parts shown on pages 16-17, appear to be missing or inoperative, consult your cat’s service provider immediately.”

The Cat Owner’s Manual table of contents will make you chuckle as well. Chapter 1, Makes and Models, includes sections on “top-selling models”, “non-standard and off-brand models” as well as a “kitten pre-acquisition checklist”. Chapter Two, Home Installation, discusses how to prepare a home for a new cat,and includes a recommended list of “accessories”—everything you need to take care of a cat, including the usual (water bowl, food, shampoo) to the unusual (bubbles, styptic powder). Chapter Three, Daily Interaction, helps humans understand audiio cues, affection, and purring and provides some ideas for preventing “unauthorized downloads” (pooping outside the little box). Additional chapters include: Basic Programming, Fuel Requirements, Emergency Maintenance, Advanced Functions, and three appendices: Troubleshooting, Technical Support and Glossary of Terms.


We could go on, but suffice it to say, if you have a pet lover on your holiday shopping list, this book is a great gift idea. It’s extremely useful, well-designed, and jam-packed full of information and humor, sure to bring a smile to any pet lover’s face. The Dog Owner’s Manual is also highly recommended (and equally useful and funny).