Beadle's prose lacks the inborn grace of her feline subjects, so this probably won't reach that vast audience of ailurophiles who rejoiced in The Cat Catalog (1976). But she certainly has clone her homework. Methodically, diligently, scrupulously, Beadle has reviewed all the cat literature from Konrad Lorenz to T. S. Eliot to Edward Topsell. And who, you ask, is Edward Topsell? He's the author of Historic of Four-footed Beasts (1607), As the subtitle indicates, the book is made up of a little bit of everything: ""claw design and function,"" the cat's charmed life in Egypt, homing ability, legal status, neurophysiological peculiarities, feline body language, and the findings of cat census-takers from London to Shanghai to the Antarctic. Most definitely, this isn't a care-and-feeding manual, though some conventional material--on cats as exterminators of mice and rats, on breeding and feeding habits--is included. Cats in fable and folklore have gotten very mixed reputations and Beadle nicely balances old wives' tales with modern ethology. Among the more pleasing oddments: the history of British Post Office cats and the internal disputes within that august institution re the mousers' stipend. With drawings by E. John Pfiffner, this is destined for the family that believes that a cat in the lap is worth two in the alley.