This 1950 novel by Paul Gallico tells the story of an eight-year-old military brat named Peter Brown who loves cats. Unfortunately, Peter's Scotch Nanny (his primary caretaker, as his father is a colonel in the Army and his mother is often absent as well) hates and fears cats, and won't allow the boy to have one (he gets in trouble all the time for bringing home strays, which are hard to keep hidden in his family's London flat). All this changes when Peter, oblivious to everything but a particularly charming kitten across a busy street, crosses it unsafely and is hit by a truck. In a coma following the accident, he dreams that he is a cat and is chased out of his nursery by Scotch Nanny. The streets of London are terrifying at first, but he eventually finds a true friend in a scrawny tabby alley cat named Jennie Baldrin. Together, they share many adventures as Peter learns basic feline behaviors like "When in doubt, wash!" and "Pause on the threshold, linger on the sill", how to hunt mice and kill rats (the latter two skills come in handy during the pair's brief career as ship's cats) and, ultimately, how to fight for survival in an all-too-often cruel world.
This is a charming book. It's been years since I read the whole thing, but it's definitely up for a reread, especially now that writing this has me reminiscing. The Abandoned was one of my very favorite reads in fourth and fifth grades, and I lent it to many friends, with whom I discussed the ending at great length---it's disappointing to some people on a first read, but almost always makes sense the second time around). I think it would be a great book to read aloud, although I haven't yet had a chance to test this hypothesis.
Gallico, Paul. The Abandoned. New York, Avon Books, 1950.