I was so excited when this book arrived in the mail, not only because I was dying to read it, but also because the photos on the cover and back of the book were taken by me! You may not know this, but I am also a freelance photographer. I have so far kept the animal health and photography worlds apart, but it seems the time has come for them to merge. The cat is out of the bag, so to speak. My photos have been in books, advertising etc. before, but since this is something that is all about my other passion – natural health for animals – it’s really quite a thrill for me.
After that piece of shameless self-promotion: back to the book! This is the second edition of Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure, by Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis, founders of Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute, and it is set up very similar to Acu-Dog. In short, it gives you an introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine, meridians and acupoints, acupressure, and how to do an acupressure session with your cat.
It opens with a short history of cats, the ups and downs of their popularity through the ages, and how they came to be the companion animals we know them as today. The first chapter talks about the nature of cats and the challenges they face as indoor house pets, and the second is a short introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), with a very helpful chart of the key theories behind it.
Chapter three explores those theories more in depth, talking about the major types of Chi, Yin-Yang theory and how imbalances can present themselves. It also covers the Five-Element and Zang-Fu theories, again with helpful charts mapping out each. As I said in my Acu-Dog review, TCM is a very different way of looking at disease (from a Western medicine point of view), and it can be a bit tricky to grasp, but this book explains it really well, and once you do get the hang of it, you’ll start to notice signs you wouldn’t have before gaining this knowledge. For example, an acquaintance of mine has had the most horrendous cough for several months now, nothing she has tried helps (she is not open to alternative therapies; she has only seen allopathic doctors about this). Well, she lost her Mom right after Christmas, so from a TCM perspective, it is obvious why she is coughing: the lung meridian is connected to grief. I wish she would try acupressure.
Chapter four is a big chapter; it talks about the Zhang-Fu organs and goes into the meridians in detail – describing what each does, physical and emotional issues connected to them, how to find them on your cat, and outlines important points along each, shown on photos and illustrations of cats.
Chapter five covers acupoints and their classifications (Master, Association, etc.), talks about what they do, and again outlines them on cat illustrations and photos.
Chapter six teaches you how to assess your cat with the help of the TCM diagnostics methods “The four examinations” and Association and Alarm points, in order to figure out where there are imbalances.
Chapter seven takes you, step by step, through an entire acupressure session with your cat, from picking a spot to work in to post-session observations. There are lots of tips for how to set your intention, stay focused and in the present, figuring out which points need to be worked on, point work techniques, and also gives pointers on how to work with cats, who have their own strong opinions on when and how you may touch them.
Chapter eight lists many common physical and emotional cat conditions, talks about how each is viewed in TCM (for example, vomiting is the result of stomach chi going the wrong way – up instead of down – and is called “rebellious stomach chi”, love that term!), and shows acupoints that can help the issues. The book ends with a glossary, which lists both anatomical and TCM terms.
Throughout the book, there are charts, illustrations, photos and “real life” examples of a variety of health situations and which points you might want to try (and why), which is a huge help when trying to remember all the things you need to take into consideration and figure out what’s going on.
While a book can never take the place of real life learning, Acu-Cat is a great introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine in general and acupressure in particular. I would absolutely recommend this book to cat owners who want to learn a new way to help their pets stay healthy, and, just as with Acu-Dog, if you are thinking of taking one of Tallgrass’ acupressure classes, I would definitely suggest reading this ahead of time and practice on your cat(s).
All images © Cattie Coyle / Tallgrass Animal Acupressure