Book Review: How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You

As a Crazy Cat-Person who is currently without cats (and therefore feeling a profound cat-deficit in life) and as a longtime reader of The Oatmeal, of course I had to get my mitts on How to Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You.

I haven’t read Oatmeal creator Matthew Inman’s previous book, 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth, but supposedly this book has just as much or more original content. The “Bobcats” series, in which two asshole cats named Bob torment office workers, had already run on the site, but it’s one of my favorites. There’s a certain sort of satisfaction in seeing it printed, and Inman includes one bonus episode of the cats’ weekend activities that’s really funny.

Cat vs. Internet: Cartoon of a man sitting at a table using his computer while his cat makes a list and pie chart of "reasons to play with the cat"
Image via

Besides the title comic, other previous site content includes “Cat vs. Internet,” in which “a kitty tries to outperform a solid internet connection.” Both this and the “BOBRACHA!” Thursday episode of Bobcats are comics that my kids tend to quote all the time.

Yes, I do share The Oatmeal with my eight and five-year-old, within reason. My daughter sat down and read the whole book in one sitting this weekend, and I didn’t think too much of it, until I heard her read aloud the word “nardcopter” to her brother. Then she got to, “How to Tell If Your Cat is a Raging Homosexual.”

Me: “Um, you know there are some words in this book that you should not repeat in school?”
G: “I know.”
Me: “Also, do you know what ‘homosexual’ means?”
G: “I don’t even know how to read it right.”
Me: “It’s, like, the more scientific way of saying ‘gay,’ as in you like people who are the same gender as you.”
G: “Ohh, okay.”
Me: “And you know that this comic is meant to be silly.”
G: “I know. There’s no such thing as gay demons.”

PARENTING! *triumphant fist-pump*

Well, it’s one way to start explaining things, anyway. This is also the same child that has informed me that she doesn’t ever want to get married and doesn’t want kids because “they seem like a lot of work and are expensive,” and if there’s a way she can not have babies, sign her up. So… she might make life easier on me, while her brother thinks “kissin'” sounds awesome, and he’s disappointed we don’t let him have “grown-up drinks.”

Speaking of children, this book also has a handy chart called “Having a Baby vs. Having a Cat”:

[Baby] When they reach the age of 15, they get hormonal, pimply, and start blaring crappy music to cope with their “pain.”

[Cat] When they reach the age of 15, they die of old age. This sounds terrible, but it immortalizes them as being perfect. The flame of a cat’s life burns fast and bright – they’re like furry little cruise missiles.

There is some truth to this, though my cats unfortunately only made it to 8 and approximately 10.

How to Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You by The Oatmeal (cover)The pull-out poster is of the title comic is quite good, with my particular favorite image being the cat with his mouth hanging open: This is not a yawn. This is your cat’s war face.

Inman lives in Seattle, which is also currently the home of Justin Valmassoi, the creator of ANIMALS TALKING IN ALL CAPS – a site you best acquaint yourself with, if you haven’t already. He is also working on a book, since apparently Seattle is now a hub of hilarious people writing about/as animals.

How to Tell If Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You is not particularly long at 130 pages, but if you’re a big fan of The Oatmeal, it’s probably worth your $14.99. I’m a bit disappointed that I’m going to miss his book signing at Powell’s by one week when I visit Portland, but should he be coming to your neck of the woods, I’m guessing it will be a good time.

One last tip: if your cat sprints out of the room at light speed when you enter it, it’s actually a failed ambush. Proceed with caution.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

21 replies on “Book Review: How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You”

If that’s what Liza was referring to, I went and found his post. It’s rude, sure. And I’m sorry for what happened to him, and I’m sorry that people even feel like they need trigger warnings in the first place (meaning that I’m sorry that something awful happened to them), but I don’t particularly feel the need to use them either on my own site. HOWEVER, I totally respect that P-Mag has a policy of using them and it’s fine that anything I ever post that might need one here will get one.

But I’m still going to read ATIAC.

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