New pet books offer everything from feline photos to poetry by dogs

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From giant coffee table books to perfect little stocking stuffers, here are 11 choices for holiday pet book gift-giving this year:

"The Life and Love of Cats," by Lewis Blackwell (Abrams, New York, NY, 2013; $50). Astonishing, breathtaking, stunning; I can't say enough about the 100 beautiful images in this coffee table tome. Flipping through the collection, you'll understand why cats are so appealing. Along with the obligatory photos of cute kittens, there are images you've likely never seen. You'll even get up close and personal with a cat's nose and tongue. Cat lovers will pounce for this lion-sized book.

"The Best Dog Tricks On the Planet: 106 Amazing Things Your Dog Can Do On Command," by Babette Haggerty (Page Street Publishing, Salem, MA, 2013; $19.99). Apparently, 100 tricks wouldn't be enough. Acclaimed dog trainer Haggerty begins with requisite behaviors such as "sit" and "dead dog" (playing dead), quickly moving on to "get your leash" (for lazy dog owners), "play the piano" (if you happen to have a children's piano) and the most valuable of all: "pick up your toys."

"Devoted: 38 Extraordinary Tales of Love, Loyalty and Life with Dogs," by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh (National Geographic Books, Washington, D.C., 2013; $14.95). The title says it all. From the YouTube-famous Faith, who has only her two back legs and walks vertically, to a hearing assistance dog named Hatti, the book is filled with inspirational dog stories that will touch your heart.

"Throw the Damn Ball: Classic Poetry by Dogs," by R.D. Rosen, Harry Prichett and Rob Battles (Plume, New York NY, 2013; $15). The poetic ditties in this stocking stuffer include such whimsical lines as: "From up here I can see all the places I like to go pee."

"Kittenhood: Life-size Portraits of Kittens in Their First 12-weeks," by Sarah Beth Ernhart (Abrams, New York, NY, 2013; $29.95). Award-winning photographer Sarah Beth Ernhart may win a few more honors for her work here. Dozens of kitties are featured, but my favorite is a Devon Rex named Marvin, who looks like a gremlin.

"The Perfect Dog: Raise and Train Your Dog the Mugford Way," by Dr. Roger Mugford (Octopus Publishing, London, England, 2013; $14.99). Raising the perfect dog (there's really no such thing) is far easier if you understand the dog's perspective and canine senses and sensibilities, which Mugford explains. And he's blunt in his (science-based) views: "Another horror is the choke chain that tightens around a dog's neck like a hangman's noose...choke chains should be banned from open sale," Mugford writes. The book also covers the basics on feeding, grooming and senior care.

"I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry, the Dog Who Was Toto," by Willard Carroll (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, New York, NY, 2013; $19.95). Well, if there are biographies on Judy Garland, Ray Bolger and other stars of the "Wizard of Oz," it's about time Toto got his due. You'll learn about the other dogs trainer Carl Spitz had in his kennel and there's tons of behind-the-scenes "Wizard of Oz" trivia. For example, the director says to Garland, "Look sympathetic." The director's instructions to Terry (Toto): "Don't eat the **** costume!"

"The Litter of the Law: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery," by Rita Mae Brown (Random House Publishing, New York, NY, 2013; $26). In the latest installment of this popular mystery series, Rita Mae and her intrepid feline partner-in-crime, Sneak Pie, solve another who-dun-it. This story, set at Halloween, is particularly spooky.

"Unconditional Love: Pet Tales to Warm the Heart," by Brian Lowney (BookLocker, Bradenton, FL, 2013; $13.99). The best of the author's newspaper columns (52, to be exact) fill this easy-to-read, enlightening book. Are cats really better problem solvers than dogs? There are even tips on keeping koi fish and a fascinating piece on how dogs' and cats' minds age similarly to those of humans.

"Does This Collar Make My Butt Look Big?: A Diet Book for Cats," by Dena Harris (10 Speed Press, Berkley, CA, 2013; $12.99). With New Year's around the corner, it makes sense that cats might also resolve to lose weight. I fact, over half of all cats are tubby tabbies. The bad news is, cats really won't lose weight following the instructions in this volume, a parody of diet books. Referring to the South Beach Diet, Harris writes: "Any diet with a title resembling a warm litter box gets a paws up from us."

"Why Do Bluebirds Hate Me? More Answers to Not-So-Common Questions About Birds and Birding," by Mike O'Connor (Beacon Press, Boston, MA; 2013; $12.95). The author also wrote, "Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Headaches?" Bird lovers are in for a fun ride. O'Connor answers queries with a sense of humor, yet the answers are interesting. For example, a birdbath will attract more birds than a feeder. Who knew?

(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)

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