EXCERPTS FROM NINETEENTH CENTURY TEXTS ON DOMESTIC ANIMALS
The following are excerpts from Victorian era texts on domestic animals showing different views on cats.
HUMANE EDUCATION LEAFLETS No. 8. CATS
This piece was reprinted by George T Angell in educational leaflets produced for school children and for Bands of Mercy groups.
The comparisons which are sometimes drawn between the merits of the cat and the dog, as if we could only bestow a limited friendship on one or the other of them, are (to me) very odious; especially as the contrast seems usually designed to depreciate the merits of the less favored cat. But why can we not appreciate both? Or, if we must feel a partiality for either, can we not see that it is but a personal, individual preference, and not an absolute one? On this understanding, I would say a good word for the much maligned, ill-used cat.
How well we know all the stock phrases by which the cat is disparaged! The cat, forsooth, love places and not people. The cat cares only for her own comfort, and is not sufficiently grateful for kindness bestowed on her, whereas the dog is man's faithful friend and follower. The real difference, I take it, between cat and dog is this: The dog has become a wholly artificial and civilized animal, having been for centuries bred to man's order, and formed to meet his wants. He is a visible embodiment of gratitude and friendship, a flattering, tail-wagging testimony to the exceeding goodness and nobility of the human race. The cat, on the other hand, is less plastic and compliant, there being a feral element in her nature which has not lent itself so readily to the shaping hand of man. She is more obstinate, more independent, more self-centred. But that the cat does offer her friendship to those who possess the key of sympathy, who shall doubt? Even to propound such a question is laughable to any one who has ever really known a cat. Indeed, as Pierre Loti says, in his wonderful "Book of Pity and of Death," there is a "supreme confidence," in the way in which a cat will entrust her life and welfare to the human companion whom she loves.
The question, therefore, of preference for cat or dog simply resolves itself into this: Which sort of friendship do you prefer – the faithful, grateful, obsequious attachment of the dog, or the less accessible, less demonstrative, but not less genuine affection of the cat? Where both are true and valuable, it is no more than a matter of individual taste and choice. For my own part, I like the aloofness, the fastidious waywardness of the cat; and I think that the friendship which needs some effort for the making of it is, perhaps, better worth having than that which is offered almost ready made.
As to the statement, sometimes made by dog lovers, that the cat, being by nature a wilder animal, does not stand in such need of human protection against cruelty, it seems too absurd to call for serious refutation. I remember a countryman remarking to me, "They say a cat's not an animal, but vermin"; and I believe this view to a great extent underlies the common and widespread ill-treatment of cats. The real truth is more nearly expressed in the words of De Quincey, that "The groans and screams of this poor persecuted race, if gathered into some great echoing hall of horrors, would appeal to the heart of the stoniest of our race."
THE CAT PICTURE BOOK" BY MRS H PAULL (1880)
I have found a review of "The Cat Picture Book by Mrs H Paull (1880), but not the book itself. It was published by Routledge & Sons and as its name implies was heavily illustrated, with cats depicted on every page, often in the Landseer style, but accurate nevertheless. The text comprised simple moral anecdotes for very small children.
On page 21 is a picture of a very small cat basket, from which several longhaired tabby and tortoiseshell-and-white kittens were bursting. The gist of the story was that a farmer's wife, having an attractive litter of kittens, had promised to send the best one up to the Crystal Palace Cat Show, then organized by a lady called "Madame E" (it being etiquette not to use real names in stories). Unable to decide between the two prettiest kits, the farmer's wife asked a Farm-hand to pack the pair and send them to her brother in London. Very stupidly (a stereotype of farm workers), the man crammed all five babies into a basket intended for only two, and tied them down so firmly that it was not until they reached the brother's house in London that they finally broke the cord and forced their way out. Their little legs were terribly cramped and the runt which had been sat on by everyone else was in rather a squashed condition. But food and exercise soon revived them. Madame E was summoned. She selected the two best and took them to the Show where they made themselves so charming that they were both sold to good homes (one function of cat shows at the time was to sell the cats on display).
The author was obviously a genuine cat fanatic. The Crystal Show crops up throughout the book , so perhaps it was originally written as a souvenir or what we now call a tie-in). However, there is not one mention of a pedigree cat so it must have been much more of a household pet show (or the working men's class), where any pretty healthy specimen could win.
Towards the end comes the description of the foreign cats; this is conspicuous by the absence of the Siamese which did not arrive in Britain until 1884. The reader learns that a wild cat was shown at the first Crystal Palace show. It was entered by the Duchess of Sutherland and had been caught in the grounds of Dunrobin Castle in Scotland. Though only a young cat, it was necessary to label his pen : " Do not touch." (Shows were renowned for "finger pokers" and one wonders how many ignored that warning) . Manx cats were described next, together with a picture of a handsome Manx.
Several page separate the two types of longhair then extant: the Angola cat and the Persian cat. The Angola cat is mentioned first and the portrait shows a magnificent cat with a heavy long coat and fine plumy tail. It has a huge mane surrounding a shorthaired brow and muzzle, giving the effect of a lion. Its body is long, and the legs are fairly short. The author states that these cats originate in Angola on the East Coast of Africa (evidently there was an error in her sources, as this is the Angora cat from Turkey). She goes on to say that their coats are so fine and silky that they are spun into wool and used for stockings and other warm articles. Also that it is not a fierce cat but many are so spoilt because of their beauty that they are liable to become proud and selfish.
The next pictures show Persian cat "Tommy" and "Tommy's Mamma". Compared to modern Persians, their eyes are smaller and their faces are longer. The kitten has a grey coat with markings and a dark-ringed tail, but when he grows up his fur is expected to be "like chinchilla of which muffs and victorines (fur tippets) are made." Meanwhile, Mamma is a self-conscious looking white Persian wearing a blue bow. The accompanying text says that the coat of a Persian cat is beautifully soft, but it is obviously not nearly so long as that of an Angola cat..
In due course, and with the benefit of over a century's hindsight, we know that the longer fur of the Angola (Angora) would be combines with the stockier shape of the Persian ... and that the Angora name would be worn by a British imposter (Foreign/Oriental Longhair) until the Turkish Angora was reintroduced to these shores as a breed quite different to the short-faced Persian Longhairs.
THE CAT SHOW Birmingham Daily Post, 2nd December 1873
“The harmless necessary cat” has been the friend of man within the range of definite history for more than three thousand years. Whence the origin of the domesticated cat – whether a lineal descendant of the Egyptian cat, as that seems to have been from the wild cat of the earlier ages – is still a matter of dispute. The cat, however, is now too common to excite the wonder which Whittington’s cat caused on the Barbary coast; or our familiar hearth-rug friend would be looked on now as the very perfection of wildness and civilisation combined. A kitten-loving but cat-hating cynic has described poor puss as having the ferocity of the Red Indian and the sleekness of the traditional Quaker; but few will endorse so savage a view, and will welcome “at home” the cheerful purr, the sleek coat, the deep-bright eyes, the velvet deadly paws, the wondrous agility, the lithe and perfect form of our domestic cat.
All civilised countries whose languages we know have some recognition of the cat, some description of the voice, for the cat has a larger range of vocal expression, from the mew and the purr, to the wild shriek of pain and terror, than any other animal known to man. The aileura of the Greek, the felis of the Roman, the katze of the German, the chat of the French, the gatto of the Italian, the gato of the Spanish, have not only expressive names, but the cat-sounds are curiously given in the English “mew,” the French “miauler,” the German “miauen,” the Arabic “maoua,” according to the onomatopoeia , or look-now theory, as it is profanely called. Some have gone as far as to maintain that even our English “Puss” comes from the Egyptian “Pasht,” but this fanciful etymology must be dismissed, and the origin sought nearer home. Anyhow, the first historic mention of cats is in Egyptian story, and the walls of the Tombs at Thebes have revealed the first cat-name, and B.C. 2,000 Boulakiwna the favourite cat of some Egyptian Queen. In Egypt, especially, the cat had more honour than almost any other animal. The mummies of cats are common in all the great tombs. The curious pictures, which preserved so many details of Egyptian life, show cats being trained as the “retrievers” of the period, to fetch and carry birds among the marshes in Egypt when the Pharaonic spearmen went forth. Cats, however, are scarcely found with the Pyramids, but are pourtrayed in the tombs, and were held in honour sixteen hundred years B.C., or two thousand four hundred years ago. One curious picture represents an Egyptian sportsman armed with a schlot or boomerang, and his faithful cat at his feet ready to seize the prey.
The Egyptian goddess Pasht, the Bubastis of the Greeks, and the Diana or Artemis of Egyptian theology, is represented with a cat’s head, and the old legend records that Apollo, having formed the lion, Diana created the cat in derisioin of the nobler best. So great was the reverence of the Egyptians for cats, that they shaved their eyebrows when cats were killed by a fire, and Cambyses is said, when he attacked Pelusiam, to have given his soldiers cats instead of buckers, knowing that the Egyptians would not attack their favourite beasts. Many monuments to Egyptian women, evidently disciples of the goddess Pasht, have the inscription Teehan (the cat, or puss); and as Champfleury in his charming volume prettily says, few fond husbands in out days think of the old hieratic ideas when they use the endearing term of “Puss.” Many of the mummies of cats are found in rich cases, carefully painted and elaborately preserved, and in Egypt, at any rate, the admiration, if not almost worship, of the felis catus has been some compensation for the carelessness and cruelty of laterd days. Some thirteen hundre years B.C., a Cat’s House was founded at Cairo for needy and homeless cats, and this Gheyt-el-Quottah (the shepherd of the cat) near a great Mosque, and even after the uses had been questions and the land sold, an annual sum was given for the feeding of the hungry cats of Cairo.
All through the East, too, cats have had much honour, and the great Prophet Mahomet and his favourite cat “Muezza,” the second cat-name recorded in history, set the example of kindness to the feline race. The story is told of Mahomet that when meditating on a chapter of the Koran, his pet “Muezza” slept upon his sleeve, and rather than disturb the sleeping beauty he cut off his sleeve, and left “Muezza” in peace. Neither in Greek nor Roman history are cats recorded to have been held in special honour, but some curious references may be found by the classic student; and it was reserved for the Lower Empire and the sixth century of our own era to welcome cats at Constantinople, and to encourage them for their natural antipathy to rats and mice. While the vases and frescoes and medals scarcely show any drawings of cats, a gem has been preserved with the inscription Leuconine Felicula, “To Leuconia, the little puss,” – another, evidently endearing inscription, rebuking the old sarcasm of the analogue between cats and women, as jealous, cruel, false, for cats have one great distinction from all women – they have no imitative faculty, and have the noblest of all women’s instincts, a passionate care, and fondness for their young.
In the middle ages, generally, the cat plays a more important part, and was more generally known. In Gallo-Roman days sculpture is found representing girls with a favourite cat; and the cat appeared on many flags and armorial bearings, and families adopted the “bearing” whose names were Katzen in Germany, Della Gatta in Italy, and Chotatdier in France. The too, began the legends which have come down to our own day, such as “Puss in Boots,” “Peter and Cat,” and “Whittington and his Cat;” and one of the drollest of French legends is that of the Comte de Combourg, whose wooden leg and black cat were constantly found stumping and stealing down the turret-stairs at dead of night. In the first French Revolution with the cap of Liberty, a cat was introduced as the emblem of liberty and independence; but contra, in recording the crimes of the Popes, the cat was taken as the emblem of hypocrisy and treason. The witches and their cats played an important part in mediaeval story, and even in the pharmacopoeia of those days, medicines made in various odd ways from cats were declared to be cures for epilepsy, and blindness too. At the same era too, some of the most remarkable incidents in the history of cats occurred. The “cat-concerts” so often talked of were then a reality, for in 1540, at a fete in Brussels, one jean Christoval, a Spaniard, provided a novelty in a “cat-organ” played by a bear. Twenty unhappy cats were placed in boxes and their tails were attached to keys by cords, and Bruin’s paw produced unearthly sounds to gratify the brutal tastes of a barbarous age. A century later one Gaspard Schmit produced a similar diabolical machine, and it is pleasant to know that his brutal ingenuity was not rewarded with success.
The stern independence and obstinacy of cats has made them most intractable, but one Valmont de Bomarre, at Saint Germain, showed some well-trained cats who, with a monkey as conductor, performed some wonderful feats at a Concert Miaulique a century ago; and in 1789 a venetian appeared in London and exhibited some cats who were wonderfully docile and active and intelligent, but his many years of training and his scratched arms and hands showed that he had toiled long and patiently to achieve only a partial success. Cats, in fact, seem most untractable, and have never been trained to any great extent. That eminently practical people the Chinese are said by MM. Hue and Gabet to utilise the wonderful eye of the cat as a natural clock, and to note that at mid-day the pupil of the eye becomes a fine vertical line, and widens steadily as the light decreases with oncoming night.
Comparatively little attention has been given to the study and description of a creature so wonderful as our common cat, but still many books have been written and many facts recorded which are well worth study. The curiosity and sagacity, the domestic habits yet savage instincts, the perfect repose and yet wild fury, the results of some generations of kindly treatment, have been described by some enthusiasts like Mons. Champfleury and Mr C.H. Ross in his “Book about Cats,” and have all helped to popularise “poor puss,” and make her a greater favourite than ever. One enthusiastic naturalist declares that a cat is capable of uttering seventy-three distinct sounds, a far larger range than any other animal. Another contends that cats are even more sagacious and intelligent and reasoning than dogs. Another cynically says that cats spend as much time on their toilet as women and flies. The list of the lovers of cats includes some of the greatest names, Mahomet and his Muezza have already been mentioned, and later down we have Petrarch and his cat, whose mummy still remains in his old study, and near his old closet among the lovely Buganean hills. Buffon did not believe in cats, and described them savagely; but a host of illustrious Frenchmen have been devoted to their cats: Montaigne had his favourite; Richelieu had dozens, but he confined himself to kittens, which he dismissed when three months old, to enjoy the perpetual gambols of a younger race. La Bruyere and Rousseau, Baudelaire and Sr. Beuty Merrimeo, and Violet le Duc, and Chateaubriand, have all been passionately fond of cats. Even the Code Napoleon condescended to make special mention of these domestic pets, and to give them the protection of the law. Our own countrymen too, have been scarcely less fond of cats. “Dick Whittington” may be too mythical to be quoted, but our own Richelieu, Cardinal Wolsey, had a special love of cats. Old Dr. Johnson, too, is famous, in Boswell, for the touching tenderness he showed to his favourite “Hodge,” who, by the way, was a feline epicure, and delighted in the oysters, which the doctor himself bought, lest the servants should think too much of their trouble, and neglect his feline friend.
Cats crop up in all sorts of literature, and have been the pet friends of some of the greatest men, but few would expect to meet them in the realm of art, although Hogarth has his favourite cat. The Swiss artist, Gottfried Mind, was well called the Raffaelle of cats, for he devoted his life and genius to the studying of the habits and th forms of cats, and produced many remarkable and valuable drawings in water-colour and pencil, as true to nature as all Landseer’s dogs. The French painter Burbanck, was no less devoted, and no less successful, in his love of cats, and life sketches of their graces and beauties and ways. Conrad Wisscher, a Dutch artist, and Grandville, the French caricaturist, have also given special notice to the ways of cats. Mons [??] wrote some interesting chapters about cats, in answer to Buffon, and the Abbe Galiani made many curious observations on the Language of Cats. Professor Darwin also, in his Origin of Species, has recorded many remarkable facts about cats; and Professor Owen has discussed the question of the origin of our European races. In Japan, art has been curiously devoted to grotesque as well as natural “studies” of cats; and one Hoks’ai (or Bekot-say) has become very popular, even in France by his wonderful delineations of the cat tribes.
Half a column could easily be filled with cat proverbs, for the cat has become so common in Europe during the last few centuries, it has been do well-watched, so carefully studied, so constantly seen, that every European language has some “wise saying” whose illustration is drawn from cats.
Even in some remote parts of Great Britain wild cats are still found, and it is to be hoped that the few remaining may be left undisturbed to die out in peace. While the domestic cat has a pointed, the wild cat has a tufted tail, and the tame cats’ ears are more rounded, and the face, too, is rounder than the sharp angles of the wild cat.
The anatomy of cats is wonderful, their neck is so perfectly formed that the head turns readily in all directions; the joints are so loose to give immense agility; the eyes are wonderful beyond description; and the ears so large, so flexible, so clear, that the slightest unfamiliar sound is noted at once. The curious fact that a cat, even in a short fall, always falls on its feet, is a wonder, if never seen before; and when it is considered how perfectly the cat resembles the tiger, and that all its marvellous beauties are daily at our feet in perfect repose, it is not surprising how popular “poor pussy” has become in every good home.
The common notion that cats are all alike and too common to be esteemed will be dispelled on looking at the wonderful collection now “on view.” Very rarely, if ever, are two ordinary cats exactly alike, and the varieties are very wonderful. Among the varieties, most of which may easily be seen, the Angora is one of the best, and the fine silky hair, very long on the neck and tail, are curiously beautiful. One Angora is notable for having peculiar tastes, being fond of almond biscuits, gin and water, curry, asparagus, broad beans, and green peas. The Persian cats are somewhat similar, with long hair, silken, glossy, and gray, and generally lighter underneath. Chinese cats vary in colour, black and yellow chiefly, and with hanging ears [note: these were not cats, but martens, the author is evidently getting his information from books]. The Spanish or tortoise-shell cats, especial favourites in England, are mixed black-and-white, including a reddish orange, and while male tortoise-shell cats are almost unknown in England, they are common in Egypt and the South [again, incorrect]. The Manx or tailless cats are very curious, not only from the absence of tails, but from their long hind legs and close fur, and of these, examples are very generally seen, coming from the small island known as the “Calf of Man.” One of the most remarkable of the cat tribe is the tiger cat, and example of which was brought from Sumatra by Sir Stamford Raffles, and which although nearly six feet from nose to tail, was as gentle and domesticated and an ordinary home pet. Many more and very curious details might be given, but our space allows no further description of the beautiful and useful and graceful and sagacious creature, the home pet of all children, and the favourite friend of many a lonely and tender-hearted senior all the wide world over.
CATS. Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph - Saturday 01 January 1881
A modern essayist has written “Concerning people of whom more might have been made.” Lovers of cats would be inclined to ask [for] their favorites in this list. In modern days a cat is certainly an over-looked animal. Dogs have their enthusiastic admirers, nearly every one has good word for them; but how few are champions of cats. Charity has never founded a home for the “lost and surving” of their species ; the Legislature does not think them sufficiently valuable to be worth taxing. It is even no uncommon thing to find persons with so strong an antipathy to this animal that they could detect its presence if in a cupboard in the room they enter. A witch’s “familiar” generally assumed the form of a “black cat,” according to ancient tradition. Mr. Ward, in his “Natural History,” published in 1775. speaks in hard terms of the domestic cat. He describes it as at best a faithless friend, a useful but a deceitful domestic. The dog’s caresses are sincere ; the cat too often gains confidence only to abuse it, and has but the appearance of attachment. Nothing discovers the natural malignity of the cat as its fondness for sporting with its living prey before killing it and so on for several pages.
Cats were differently regarded in ancient days. In Egypt they were looked upon as sacred animals. To kill one was offence punished by death; and when a cat died in the course of nature all the inmates of the house went into monrning. A cat-headed deity is familiar among Egyptian statues, and mummies of the sacred animal are abundant. Wild cats existed in England as late as the time of Richard II, they are mentioned by name in a charter granted to the Abbot of Peterborough permitting him to hunt game in the Royal forests. Cat-skins (probably of the wild cat) were a favourite fur trimming in the Middle Ages, and restricted to the use of certain ranks by the sumptuary laws of the period. According to Hone's “Everyday Book,” cats were introduced into England from Cyprus by merchants who come to trade for tin. Ancient Welsh laws fix the value of cats and kittens, which was considerable. A new born kitten was valued at penny, at two-pence later on, while a good mouser fetched fourpence, the same price as a calf. It is only in later days that cats fell low in popular estimation. Cats, like dogs, have had their admirers among poets and authors. Tasso has left sonnet addressed to his cat in which, being too poor to afford candles, he begs the light from her eyes to write by. Dr. Jortin wrote a Latin epitaph on favourite cat, and Huddesford has a long poem praise of his pet, “Dick," and describes the happy shade of Whittington’s famous Grimalkin descending to welcome his deceased favourite to realms
”Where the worthies of the whiskered race,
Elysian mice o’er floors of sapphire chase,”
A cat was the only animal allowed kept by the “Ankers" of the Middle Ages - recluses, who lived in little cells built against the walls of a church or cathedral, without any opening except into the sacred building. A singular survival of the Egyptian cat worship was said to have lingered in Provence. At the festival of Corpus Christi the finest tom cat the country was wrapped in swaddling clothes and exhibited on a magnificent shrine. But John's Day a number of these poor animals were enclosed in baskets and thrown into a large fire kindled in the public square, in the presence of the bishop and clergy. Many a poor puss met similar fate as the accomplice of witch or wisard.
Cat admirers tell as that their favourites are most justly depreciated, and that kindness and training will develop many admirable qualities in these despised animals. Cat shows are now frequently held, and very beautiful specimens of the race are exhibited at them; while it is certain that cats can be as effectually trained for performing purposes as dogs. Most Londoners are familiar with the two cats who box so cleverly, and who have been exhioited for some years in the streets. A concert of cats was once exhibited in f'aris, the animals being arranged in rows, and mewing in turn to a monkey, who beat time for the performers. This was called a “Concert Miaulant." It is said that the animals were trained by having had their tails pulled every time a certain note was struck, and that the disagreeable remembrance caused them to mew each time they heard the sound again. Stories abound of feline intelligence, but the ordinary modern cat can hardly be said to be a generally popular animal. As a rule its owners know ittle about it. As Mr. Ward remarks, “It is tolerated for its services, and taken under human protection to guard its masters against a more insidious enemy.” The dog is a drawing room favourite and associates with his proprietor; the cat remains in the basement, and is expected to earn its living by its warfare against the rats and mice. It naturally finds existence dull, and solaces itself by slipping out at unholy hours to enjoy the society of its kind. London cats live a strangely separate life. We know all about our dog’s movements, but who can tell from what errand our cat returns as he slinks rapidly down the back steps at about eleven p.m.? As little does he reveal of hie plans and intentions when when encounter him sallying forth on some private stroll. Few of us could identify our own cat at all. The cook is in his confidence to a certain extent; at least he is generally punctual in returning to the hours when that functionary furnishes his meals. Cats are always regular at feeding time. There is a wellknown large distillery where a number of cats are kept, and where the animals assemble at dinner time at the sound of a bell with the punctuality of hungry gourmands.
But no servant is such stickler for “evenings out” as a cat. It is difficult fur any one living in the suburbs to feel very warmly attached to cats as a species. He may like his own Grimalkin; but the cats of a suburban neighbourhood are generally pests. They swarm in local back gardens, and destroy the fairest flowers by rolling on the beds. They sometimes commit acts of petty larceny, burglariously entering the dwelling-houses, and carrying off stray tit-bits from the larder. Their voices in joy or sorrow disturb light sleepers at night. They generally indulge their serenades at just such a distance from the windows as to secure themselves from the application of cold water or other missiles, and squeal in triumph, to the wrath of the “sleepers awakened." Sometimes families in the neighbourhood remove, and their cat generally elects to remain behind and appeal to the charity of the next-door people for subsistence. He turns ap lank and miserable at your garden door, and you are obliged in common humanity either to take charge of the wretched animal or see it mercifully destroyed. Sometimes the vagrant is a lady, and repays your hospitality by adding to the population of yoar house. Kittens are a sad burthen to tender-hearted people, who find it difficult to order their execution. After providing friends are tradesmen, a balance frequently hangs on hand, and we find our cats multiplying inconveniently below stairs.
All housekeepers know well that a convenient scapegoat is a single cat in the kitchen, and when “them kittens" are added on, it is surprising what misdeeds are laid to the charge of the feline family. Cruikshank once drew an amusing sketch of the domestic cat engaged in the ravages often attributed to that falsely-accused animal; and remarks that “from what I hear I believe a cat would make nothing of stealing tne chimes from belfry." Poor puss certainly bears a bad character - especially in lodgings - but we fancy that most of these “cats" walk on two legs instead of four. – Globe.
PROFESSOR MIVART ON THE NATURAL HISTORY OF THE CAT. Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press, 26th March 1881
The Times notices the recent publication of a work by Professor Mivart in a leader, from which we make thefollowing extract:- “So rapid has been the progress in the study of all branches of natural history in recent years that a considerable number of readers is always ready to welcome and appreciate every new work of value on biological science. England may be behind Germany in fertility of investigations in this field. We do not publish, perhaps a tithe of the monographs on biology produced by the savants of that country. But have a band of vigorous labourers who are doing good work of the same kind, and we must in fairness say that there is a considerable body of the public perfectly able to appreciate such works as Darwin on Climbing or Carnivorous Plants, or Owen’s work on the Fossil Reptilia of South Africa. Of a somewhat similar kind is Professor Mivart’s long expected work, just published by Mr. Murray, on the history, the anatomy, the psychology, the pedigree, and origin of the cat. No-one need suppose that the familiarity of the subject is incompaible with novelty in treatment. All the common facts of life are being subjected at the hands of modern science to re-examination. The oldest and most trite phenomena are being interrogated afresh, and a book such as that which is just published opens up a vista of novel views. Professor Mivart has not merely brought toeether the labours of other students. He has minutely examined every aspect of the subject for himself, and his investigation respecting the anatomy of the cat show that he has been at immense pains to verify by dissection and observations each assertion that he makes.
The book is written for biologists, and is intended to serve as an introduction to the study of vertebrate animals. But those who know little of anatomy will consult it out of curiosity. They will find much to interest them in many matters, such, for instance, as the difficult and obscure history of the animal of which it treats. It supposed often that the common or domestic cat is only the ancient wild cat tamed. That not Professor Mivart’s view. He thinks, in common with most naturalists, that contention altogether improbable. The domestic cat was long rare and precious. Instead of being a descendant of the wild cat, with thick, bushy tail, ringed and tipped with black, which is still met with in parts of Rosshire and Invernesshire, where gamekeepers are not too zealous, and which exists many parts of Europe, the domestic cat is of the lineage of the old domestic cat of Egypt. The latter is of an ancient family. It is mentioned in inscription dating sixteen hundred years before Christ. Tabby cats figure in representations of almost the same antiquity. Then it was a sacred animal, the emblem of the sun, the course of which was supposed to be indicated by the variations in the eyes the cat. The goddess of cats had temple dedicated to her; sacrifices were offered to them. How they came us is uncertain; but Professor Mivart is pretty sure that they must have been introduced into Greece, and that they became common in Rome about the time of Augustus.
Widespread though the cat now is, the varieties of it not differ much, and such differences as exist are chiefly in colour and length and quality of fur. There is, course, the true Manx Cat, with short tail and long hind legs; and for a time it was supposed that there existed in China a peculiar breed of cateswith pendant ears. But cats proper do not differ to the same degree in size and form as dogs do; and the only very remarkable variety not familiar to most of us, which Professor Mivart mentions, is a race found in South America, and well worthy of being introduced elsewhere, which does not give utterance to midnight cries. Of wild cats, the other hand, there is an immense variety, of all shapes and sizes. In this book fifty species of living cats are enumerated; and though it is, of course, hard to say what is a variety and what a species, it may be taken for granted that upwards forty well-marked species exist. Then, too, there are many extinct kinds. In the meiocene and pleiocene strata are found the remains of cats with enormous upper canine teeth. Some had tusks so large that the jaws could not be opened to allow of their being used for biting, and the teeth could be employed only as daggers. Professor Cope, of Philadelphia, who has made the fossil animals of the West of America a subject special study, has found some new genera, with strange peculiarities their skulls, in the meiocene deposits on the banks of the White Rivers of Colorado, Nebraska, and Oregon. In these days the history of any animal is written much like that of a man. The family tree of the latter is described; his ancestors are traced out; and it is the biographer’s business to show the connexion in character between him and his predecessors. That is just the way in which a modern naturalist treats of a bird or an animal such the cat. He hunts out distant relations of huge size in the Eocene deposits. He detects remote cousins tin the meiocene and pleiocene beds. It is his business to construct the pedigree of the cat or other animal which he investigates. Cats of all sorts bear resemblance to the large family of civets and to the family of which the Madagascar foussa is an example. The first step in the problem is to discover the ancestors of the cat family in forms of carnivora most nearly related to the cats and civets. The next step is to detect still remoter ancestors among carnivorous amimals of more and more generalised structure. Professor Mivart’s view is that cats belong to the civet family.
THE DOMESTIC CAT. Various (reprinted from “The Field”), 31 December, 1881
The coloration and markings of the domestic cat, as might be expected from its mixed origin, vary exceedingly. The wild felidae, which range size from that of the lion and tiger down to the pretty rusty-coloured or rubiginous cat of India, which is only some 16 inches in length, excluding the tail, vary very much in colour, and also in the disposition of the marks not only in the different animals, but also in the same species. So much is this the case, that no less than four or five supposed species have been made out of one, namely, the American ocelot; and the leopard and panther, though regarded by most naturalists as mere varieties of the same species, are popularly regarded as being distinct. As such variations take place in well-defined species, it is not surprising that they should occur in the mixed progeny of the smaller race which constitutes our domestic variety. Thus, we have the tawny colour of the lion in the small Siamese domestic cat; tbe stripes of the tiger are reproduced in many tabbies, these stripes breaking up as they do more or less perfectly, into spots, not only in many wild species, but also in those cats that are shown as spotted tabbies at our cat shows.
From the vagrant nocturnal habits of cats, there is more difficulty in breeding them true to any particular colour and marking than occurs in the case of most other domestic animals; but, nevertheless, much has done in determining the transmission of colours, and some exceedingly interesting facts have been ascertained. The true tortoisesball, distinguished from the tortoiseshell and white, occurs only in the female excepting in very rare instances; on the contrary, the red or sandy tabby marking, which is common in the male, is rare in the female. In fact, the sandy tabby male may regarded as the mate of the tortoiseshell female; by due care, however, both of these markings can be produced in the two sexes. In what is called the tortoiseshell and white, which occurs frequently in both sexes, the sandy and black are not mixed together, as occurs in the pure tortoiseshell, but separated into large patches of pure colour. In some pied cats there is a tendency to a symmetrical arrangement of colours; this is most noticeable in the black and white. Another singular mixture of colours, which may be noticed occasionally, is the combination of grey tabby, red tabby, and white, the last being irregularly and variously distributed. The long hair of the Angora breed is analogous to the natural variation sometimes occurring in wild species, as the woolly cheetah from South Africa, and the long-haired tigers of tbe north of Asia. The more erratic forms of domestic cat that have been perpetrated by breeding from variations occurring spontaneously, such deformed animals as tail-less Manx cats, six-toes cats, etc, are deformities that have only been perpetrated byi the interference of man; and, like ail other such monstrous variations, they would soon be lost if the animals were allowed to relapse into a state of nature.
EXCERPTS FROM "TRUE STORIES ABOUT DOGS AND CATS"
In a pretty, quiet village in New England lived Mary Chilton. She was a widow. She had two sons; and it was the occupation and the happiness of her life to do all she could to make her boys good and happy. I should say to help and teach them to be good and happy; for boys and girls must make themselves good; and then, of course, they will be happy; and no one can be made good or happy against his will.
I hear some boy or girl who reads this say, "How old were they, and what were their names?" No boy can get along with another boy till he knows his name and age, and so, that you may be sure that they were real, live boys, I will tell you these important facts. The eldest was called Frank, and was nine years old. His brother was called Harry, and was seven. They were very much like other boys, somewhat disposed to have their own way in every thing, and a little vexed when they could not do as they pleased; sometimes really wishing to do right, and be obedient, and make their mother happy.
The little fellows were fond of saying to their mother that when they grew bigger they should take care of her; and the idea that she depended upon them for her happiness often made them stop and think when they were disposed to do a wrong thing. When Harry said to Frank, "Mother will be so sorry if we do it," Frank would stop and think, and that was enough. Stop and think. Grand words, and worth attending to. I believe that, if boys and girls would only keep these words well in mind, there would be only a small number of really naughty children.
It was a custom with this good and faithful mother to have a little talk with her boys, every night before their bed time, of what had passed during the day. Sometimes she told them stories, sometimes they repeated poetry.
[...]"I must say something in favor of the much-abused cat. Doubtless she would be a much better member of society, if she were better treated, if she had a better example set before her. Sportsmen are very angry because she catches birds, and because she is sly. They will themselves lie down in the grass so that the birds may not see them, and be as sly as the very slyest old puss, and yet they cannot forgive her for watching noiselessly for birds. Has not she as good a right as any sportsman to a little game? She takes only what she wants to eat. She does not kill them in order to boast to another cat of how many she has bagged.
They say she must be bad, for she kills singing birds. Do not sportsmen kill larks and thrushes? Were you once to see a lark rising up into the blue sky higher and higher, and hear him singing as he rises louder and louder, as if he saw heaven opening, and wanted to tell you how beautiful it was, and call you up there; and then to think of killing and eating him, you would say, What cat can be so unfeeling as a man? Who, with any music in his soul, could do so? Yet men do eat larks for dinner, and then scold at the poor cat who treats herself with only one perhaps. Why should she not be a little dainty? Men, women, and hoys and girls are often cruel and unreasonable, not merely cats. The cat is as good as she knows how to be."
"So you are, pussy," said Harry, taking up his pet cat in his lap, and stroking her. "You never do any harm, but catch the mice in our mother's barn. But you are a little sly, and, if you should catch birds, right or wrong, I'm afraid I should box your ears. You must learn to do without birds for your dinner."
"When I was in England," said Mrs. Chilton, "I saw, exhibited in a cage about five feet square, rats, mice, cats and dogs, a hawk, a guinea pig, a rabbit, some pigeons, an owl and some little birds, all together, as amiable and merry as possible. Miss Puss sat in the midst, purring. The others ran over her, or flew upon her head. She had no thought of hurting them, and they were not afraid of her. I found, on inquiring, that the way the keeper establishes such peace and harmony is by systematic and constant gentleness, and by keeping the animals all well fed. They are called the happy family. The cage was always surrounded by a crowd of people curious to see such natural enemies so happy together. Nothing but the law of kindness could make all those creatures so civil and well behaved to each other. But I must not forget my anecdotes of that respectable animal, the cat.
You need not smile; I mean to make you respect, as well as love cats. There are some men, and many boys who say they are domestic tigers, that they are sly, that they steal, that you cannot trust them; that the cat heart is bad, and that there is no harm in boys' teasing them, since it is no more than cats deserve; that they were made for us to plague; and that the only good thing they do is to catch rats and mice. Now, if this were true, and they were really ever so bad, they ought never to be treated cruelly, never teased and tormented. None but the meanest boy will ever torment any animal.
He who created us created also the little fly that crawls upon the window pane. I am not now thinking of those boys who do not remember, or have never learned this truth, but of those who have a cruel prejudice against cats, of those who are kind to dogs and horses, but unkind to cats. I shall speak to you of the poor cat with almost as much respect and seriousness as if I were talking about any of my fellow- creatures who were injured and ill treated.
We take it for granted that cats have no love in them, and so we never act towards them as if they had any; now I believe they have, on the whole, pretty good hearts, and, if they were treated with justice and kindness, would be far more respectable members of society than they are. To show this I will mention some facts of which I have heard, and, some which I have witnessed.
In the first place, the cat is accused of never caring for the inhabitants of a house, but only for the house itself. Now I knew an affectionate cat who manifested much disturbance when the family were making preparations for moving; at last, all was gone from the house except herself and the cook. The cook, in order to make sure that the cat should not escape from the carriage on the way, put her into a cage and fastened her in. When they arrived, the cat walked quietly out of her cage, looked at her old friend the cook, went into another room where she met another friend, and began forthwith to purr her satisfaction.
Two years afterwards, this family moved again. As soon as the cat saw the preparations making for moving, she showed great uneasiness, and went down into the cellar, where she remained during all the confusion. When all else was gone, the cook went to the cellar stairs, and called her. The cat came up directly. The cook stroked her, and showed her a basket just big enough to hold her, and said, "Get in, get in, pussy, and take a pretty ride!" The cat got in, and, without the least resistance, allowed herself to be shut into the basket by a cloth tied over it. As soon as she saw the different members of the family in the new house, she manifested her contentment. In six months the family moved again. The cat again submitted herself, and showed her preference to her friends over their house.
A cat has been known to nurse and bring up a rat with her own kittens. I once took a little rabbit who was starving to death from the neglect of its own mother, and placed it before the same cat who preferred the people to the house. She had just come from nursing her kittens, and when she saw the little trembling rabbit before her, her first thought was, evidently to make a good meal of it. I took up the little thing and caressed it, and then put it down again. She now approached it in a motherly way, and looked at it; its ears seemed evidently to puzzle her. After a while, she tried to take it up as she did her kittens, but saw she could not safely; then she went to her nest and mewed, and then came to me and rubbed herself against me; and then went to the rabbit and licked it tenderly; I now ventured to put the rabbit in with her kittens, and she nursed, and took the best care of it.
A friend of mine who killed a squirrel not knowing that she had young ones, took all the little squirrels, brought them into the house, and put them before his pet cat who had lost all her kittens but one. Pussy looked at them for a while; probably her cattish nature thought a little of eating them; but her better nature soon prevailed, for she took them, one after another, and carried them all to her nest, and proved a faithful nursing mother to them, and ere long there was no part of the house in which the old cat and her roguish adopted children were not to be found.
What will not cats submit to from a loving child? I have seen a child lie down with a cat for its pillow, and the cat merely move herself a little, so as to bear the weight as easily as possible. A cat can be taught to stand and walk on her hind legs, which seems at first very disagreeable to her. I remember, when I was a child, seeing a Maltese cat come in every morning and wait till my father had finished his breakfast, then, at a certain signal, rise up on her hind legs, and beg for her breakfast, and take just what was given her with the utmost propriety, asking for nothing more.
I will tell you a well-authenticated anecdote which I read the other day. A cat had been brought up in close friendship with a bird. Now birds, you know, are the favorite food of cats. One day she was seen suddenly to seize and hold in her claws her feathered companion who happened to be out of the cage. The first thought of those who saw her was that, at last, her tiger nature had come out, and that she was going to make a meal of her little trusting friend; but all the cat did was to hold the trembling bird still, and, on looking around the room, it was discovered that another cat had come in, and that catching the bird was only the means the friendly cat used to keep it safe till the intruder should leave the room. As soon as the other cat was gone, she let go the bird, who it was found was not in the least hurt.
A cat who had been petted and always kindly treated by a family of children, was present one day when the mother thought it necessary to strike one of them for some bad action; the cat flew violently at the mother and tried to scratch her, and from that time she never could strike one of the children with impunity in the presence of their faithful, loving friend.
A friend related to me that they had a cat in her father's family who was a great favorite, and who was particularly fond of the baby; that one day this child was very fretful, and sat for a long time on the floor crying, and that nothing would pacify her. The cat was by her side on the floor, and finding herself not noticed, and perhaps wearied at the noise, she suddenly stood up on her hind legs and boxed the child's ears in exactly the same way in which she was in the habit of boxing her kitten's. It seems that this cat was not so amiable as the other, and did not object to giving a box on the ear to a naughty child.
I have another story from a good authority which is still more in favor of poor pussy, and puts her upon a par with the most faithful dog. During a hard snow storm last winter, a kitten with a broken leg and almost frozen hopped into the hall door of a gentleman's house in Brooklyn, New York, and set up a most piteous mewing. The master of the house ordered the servants to throw the kitten into the street, when his little daughter, a child eight years of age, caught up the poor little creature, and begged to be allowed to keep and nurse it. The father, at first, refused. The child, however, begged so earnestly that he at last allowed her to keep the kitten.
The little girl, whom we will call Emma, nursed her pet until it got quite well. The kitten returned, in full measure, all the love of her gentle nurse, and was never quite happy away from little Emma. Some time afterwards, the loving child was taken severely ill, and was confined to her bed. Kitty had grown into a cat. It was found impossible to keep her away from the bed of her suffering friend. The cat would watch at the door when turned out of the room, dart in again, and mew, and jump upon the bed where little Emma lay. There Kitty was quiet. As the child grew more ill, it was impossible to get the cat out of the room; until, at last, when little Emma was dying, pussy stretched herself out near the bed, and seemed to be dying too. The cat was taken into the next room, and put gently upon a rug.
"Take care of my poor kitten!" said the kind little Emma, as she saw them take it away; and her loving spirit went to the land of loving spirits. When the sorrowing friends went into the adjoining room, the life of her "poor kitten" had departed too.
Does not the fact that love and kindness can make such an irritable animal as the cat so loving and grateful, teach us all their heavenly power? Ought we not to do all which we can to bring out this better nature? We have made cats our slaves. We have taken them from the woods, that we may have them to catch our rats and mice. We make them do just as we please, and ought we not to make them as comfortable and happy as we can?
Can we not be patient with their bad or disagreeable qualities, and encourage all their good dispositions? We never know the true character of any living being till we treat that creature with entire justice and kindness. I therefore am the friend of the poor, despised, abused, neglected, suspected, calumniated cat. I confess she is sometimes a little disposed to thieving, that there are strong reasons for supposing that she is somewhat addicted to selfishness, that she may justly be suspected of occasional hypocrisy, and that she is to blame for too readily using her claws.
These are, all of them, human as well as cattish faults; but, if pussy has in her the capacity for something better, for self- forgetting and devoted affection, we must treat her with such patient, enduring kindness and perfect justice as may cherish all that is good in her nature. In short, can we not overcome her evil by our good? Let us try, boys!
One thing I have not yet told you in relation to cats, and that is what pets they are made in France. No drawing room seems complete without a beautiful cat. The cats are well trained and are very gentle. The Angora cat is most prized. She is fed with the greatest care, and, in all respects, is treated like a respected member of the family; and noticed, of course, by visitors. I have seen a beautiful cat go from one guest to another to be caressed like a little child. These pet cats are playthings. They are not expected to catch rats and mice, but are idle creatures, and only amuse themselves and others. It is considered a special attention for any gentleman or lady to make a present of a pet cat."
"What's the use of cats who can't catch rats and mice?" said Frank. "Do the French pet the mice, too? I wonder what comes of the bread and cheese?"
"O, the people have another set of cats, whom they call gutter cats, who catch rats and mice. The gutter cats never come into the drawing room; but they are treated well in the kitchen, and made as happy as possible. I was told that these working cats were far more intelligent than the pets of the drawing room. I knew a French seamstress who had a gutter cat, of which she was very fond. One day the cat fell from the roof of the house. She seemed dead, but her faithful friend put her upon a soft bed, gave her homoeopathic medicine, and watched all night by her to put a drop of something into her mouth if she moved. At last the cat gave signs of life, and by good nursing her life was saved.
I saw once in Paris a man carrying about a splendid large mouse- colored cat, dressed up with ribbons. The creature was twice the common size, and gentle as a lamb. He was for sale; the price, sixty francs, which is twelve dollars. Every body who was not too busy, stopped to stroke Master Puss."
"He would have done to wear boots," cried Harry. "I should like him right well. Such a big cat would be worth having."
"The French are very humane to animals, and never inflict unnecessary pain upon the meanest. In the street in which I lived in Paris, there was a hospital for cats and dogs."
"Is not a hospital a place where sick folks go to be cured, Mother; and do they like to have dogs and cats there?"
"This was a hospital devoted to sick cats and dogs."
"Do they have cats and dogs for nurses?" said Harry, giggling as he spoke.
[...]"The Exquimaux employ their dogs as we do horses. The dogs are made slaves; but are docile and faithful, particularly to the women, who manage them by kindness and gentleness. In Germany you often see dogs drawing carts; and in London dogs are harnessed into little carts to carry round meat for the cats."
Here Harry expressed his opinion that this was abusing the dogs.
"I am told," continued Mrs. Chilton, "that when the driver of these dog carts cries 'Cats' Meat,' all the cats look out from their holes and hiding-places for their accustomed piece."
"We," said Harry, "give pussy something out of our plates all cooked and nice, and so I suppose she is a better cat, and less cattish."