We are unabashedly cat people, so we were thrilled when editor Diana Ventimiglia of Sounds True asked us to contribute an essay to this book about cats as spiritual teachers. Our essay, "Radical Respect for Cats" (see excerpt), chronicles what we learned from a household of rescue cats.

We and our cats are in good company in this delightful book, which would make a great gift for any cat lovers on your list.

"Our cats come to us," writes humanitarian activist Seane Corn in the introduction. "They show up in our little human worlds to teach us essential life lessons. And if we allow these lessons to permeate our awareness, they will change who we are, and we will be better for it." She adds that cats can be loving, tender, and gentle — and also dismissive, rude, and indifferent. "We must learn to be present, responsive, aware, and unconditionally loving with these independent beings." When a cat comes to us, she suggests, we establish a karmic bond. "That is the karma of cats: to lead us into our purpose by teaching us how to love unconditionally."

What else have the essayists here learned from their cats? Mystic Andrew Harvey shares how his cat Purrball showed him that "in the depths of ordinary life, where there is love, there is God present." Karla McLaren, known for her books on empathy, tells how empathetic relationships with two cats helped her survive pain, abuse, and loss. Rachel Naomi Remen, who has Crohn's disease which limits her diet choices, learned to have more gratitude for what she can eat from her cat Orange. Sandra Ingerman, teacher of shamanism, admits that she loves black cats and goes on to tell the story of how her cat Smokey would attend shamanic healing sessions. Brother David Steindl-Rast shares memories of cats he's loved, including Clopatra in 1940s Vienna, Mietzi in 1980s New York City, and Smokey in 1990s Big Sur, California.

If you have a cat, you'll enjoy comparing your experiences of the human-cat relationship to those described here. And if you don't have a cat, you'll discover multiple reasons to open your home and your life to one.