I should start first with my own mystery reading preferences. I like the tone to be dark and the streets to be mean, with careful attention paid to the way humans really behave towards one another and what would drive them to murder. I like some social commentary, but not such that I'm hit over the head. I accept violence and sex as necessary ingredients of crime solving, but too much gore, combined with overly talkative, pseudo-intelligent serial killers, bores me.
And for the longest time, cat mysteries absolutely baffled me.
They were the antithesis to the mysteries I loved best. The murders were bloodless. The protagonists weren't psychologically complex. And the solution to the crime depended on the acumen of a cat or two, usually belonging to -- and a lot smarter than -- the hero or heroine.
I wasn't an outright hater, like some crime writers I know, who will point to the cat mysteries on the shelf in a bookstore and audibly mock them. But I'd never grown up with cats in the house. Most of my family was allergic, or professed to be. The cat I knew best, a tom named Natalie who belonged to my paternal grandparents, induced my brother's asthma by her very existence, and hid under my grandmother's bed when we visited. The only human she seemed to get on with was my grandfather, who never had allergies until Natalie entered his life.