1800s POPULAR SCIENCE MAGAZINE ARTICLES ABOUT CATS
CATS AND THEIR FRIENDSHIPS.
By W. H. LARRABEE
Popular Science Monthly
Volume 37, May 1890
I HAD for ten years a cat whose intelligence interested me greatly and was considered remarkable by all persons who took notice of her. Her confidence in her master and mistress, her evident enjoyment of their society, her happy faculty of putting herself upon an understanding with them, her familiar interest in matters of the household, the shifts and devices of which she was master, and her sagacity manifested in ways as various as the exigencies she had to meet, evoked frequent admiration and praise. These manifestations led me to look into the subject of knowledge in cats, and I have found that she was not singular, or even exceptional, in the quality of her faculties. She appears to have been a type to which a great many of the more happily trained members of her race can easily measure up. My observations have been naturally extended to other animals, and have led to the conclusion that most domesticated species and many wild ones are capable of and often manifest equally high degrees of mental development. But cats and dogs too are more at home with us, have more opportunities to learn, and come under closer and more constant observation than the others.
The cat belongs to a large and highly specialized family; to one that is clearly distinguishable from the other families of animals, while the resemblances between its own members is so strong that even the careless, unprofessional observer will hardly fail to assign at a glance an individual of any of its species to it. All the members of the family are, according to Wood, light, stealthy, and silent of foot, quick of ear and eye. They are exceedingly graceful in form and movement, have flexible bodies and limbs walk, we might say, on tiptoe are alert and swift in action, and are exceedingly cunning. Between many of them and the cat itself there is hardly any prominently visible difference except in size. Curious resemblances in features of line or expression may be remarked between the portraits of the Felidæ in Wood's Natural History and cats with which the observer is acquainted. A copy of the photograph of the head and breast of a tiger at rest, in a portfolio by our side, might be easily mistaken, except for a few differences in the shading of the hair, for a life-size portrait of the cat that has given the occasion of this article. St. George Mivart recognizes fifty living species of the cat family, forty-eight of which he includes in the genus Felis.
The history of the domestic cat has been traced back to the ancient Egyptians, among whom the earliest notices of it appear on the monuments of the second empire of the twelfth dynasty (about 2400 c), at Beni Hassan. It seems to have appeared there just after the Egyptians had made considerable conquests in Nubia, whence it may have been brought, already domesticated, among the spoils of war. The mummified cats in the Egyptian tombs are not identical with our house cat, but seem to belong to a native species (Felis maniculata, Fig. 1) which is said to be still indigenous in Nubia, where it is found on the western side of the Nile, in a stony district in which brushwood grows.
Fig. 1. Egyptian Cat (Felis maniculata.)
Fig. 2. Wild Cat (Felis catus.)
The domesticated animal was slow in making its way from Egypt into the neighboring nations. The Hebrews were apparently without it, and it is not once mentioned in the Bible. No evidence has been found that the Assyrians and Babylonians were acquainted with it. According to authors who have investigated the philological branch of the history, these people possessed a binary nomenclature for animals, with generic and specific names, and included their lions and panthers among the dogs a thing they would hardly have done if they had been familiar with house cats. It was not known to the Greeks and Romans till a comparatively late period; and all the earlier representations of cats on their monuments are referred by the authorities to the wild cat or some other animal than the domestic cat. According to the most careful conclusions on this subject, the mouser of the Greeks and Romans was a weasel, and led an independent, not a domestic, life. The Aryans of India had cats at a very early but not at their earliest period; for while the names of the animal are all Aryan, it was not, according to Pictet, designated by any simple term such as would have been given it in primitive times, but by composite names, having such meanings as "house-animal," "rat-eater" and "mouse-enemy." The name of the wild cat (Fig. 2), however, embodied a root common to many of the European languages. It becomes in Persian, pushak; in Afghan, pishik; in Kurdish, psiq; in Lithuanian, pnijé; in Irish, pus and feisag; and in Erse, pusag and piseag; whence the English "puss." It is derived by Pictet from a Sanskrit root puchha or pitchha, that means "tail" and therefore points to one of the most striking external features of the animal. The name by which the cat was known to the later Greeks ailuros and which was originally applied to the weasel, refers to the same feature. It is compounded from two words that give the meaning of "wavy tail."
The Latin name of the cat tribe (Felis) appears to have been originally applied to the weasel and other mousers, and afterward to the wild cat. The word catus or cattus came into use in about the fourth century, and is found first in the agricultural writer, Palladius, who recommends that cats be kept in artichoke-gardens for protection against mice and moles, and remarks that men had previously been served for this purpose by weasels. The name catta is found later in the Greek church historian, Evagrius Scholasticus, about a. d. 594. Historical inferences have been drawn from the absence of the remains of cats in the ruins of Pompeii, and from the fact that the name common to all the other Romance languages does not occur in Wallachian. It is concluded that the domesticated animal had not become common when Pompeii was destroyed, in a. d. 79, or when Dacia was isolated from the rest of the Roman world by barbarian conquest, in the third century. Mr. W. Boyd Dawkins infers, from his researches in the caves in which the Celts took refuge from the Saxons, that cats were unknown in Great Britain before about the year 800.
Cats easily commended themselves as efficient vermin-destroyers to such extensive grain-raisers as the ancient Egyptians; and a people so ready to deify everything needed little prompting to put them in their pantheon. They may also have made themselves useful in killing snakes, an occupation in which, if the stories are true, they sometimes become very expert. Rengger, who has written of the mammals of Paraguay, declares that he has more than once seen cats pursue and kill snakes, even rattle-snakes, on the sandy, grassless plains of that land. " With their rare skill," he says, " they would strike the snake with their paw, and at the same time avoid its spring. If the snake coiled itself, they would not attack it directly, but would go round it till it became tired of turning its head after them j then they would strike it another blow, and instantly turn aside. If the snake started to run away, they would seize its tail, as if to play with it. By virtue of these continued attacks they usually destroyed their enemy in less than an hour, but would never eat its flesh."
Cats are represented on some of the Egyptian monuments as accompanying their masters on hunting expeditions. In a wall-picture on a tomb at Gurneh, a hunter is represented in his boat in the marshes as about to hurl his throw-stick at a covey of birds, while a cat by his side is on the alert to spring upon the game he is expected to bring down. Another picture (Fig. 3) represents the cat seizing a bird. This would involve going into the water, an act to which our modern cats usually have a very strong dislike. If the Egyptian cats had the same feelings, they must have come under the discipline of skillful trainers. But there have been fisher cats in modern times. Mr. Ross, in his Book of Cats, tells of one that lived in 1829, which caught fish with great assiduity, and frequently brought them home alive. She taught another cat to fish, and they used to go out together,
Fig. 3. An Egyptian Fowling Scene. 1. Sportsman using the throw-stick. 2. Keeps the boat steady by holding the stalks of a lotus. 4. A cat seizing the game in the thicket. 5. A decoy bird. 6. Fishes, the emblem of water.
Fig. 4. Cats' Tails.
sometimes taking opposite sides of the river. Another story is quoted by the same author, of a cat at the battery in Plymouth, England, that was in the habit of diving into the sea, bringing up fish, and leaving them in the guard-room for the sailors. She was seven years old, and "as fond of the water as a Newfoundland dog," and hunted regularly along the rocks at the water's edge for her game, "ready to dive for it at a moment's notice." A cat described by Mr. Lawson Tait was a remarkable fisher, and would wade into a small pond up to her shoulders to catch her game. She was " always fond of dabbling in the water." Mr. Harrison Weir [Our Cats and all about Them. Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co.] tells of a cat which used to go into the water up to her shoulders to bring in the fish which her master drew up with the hook, and which stole out the minnows that had been placed, for safe keeping, in a well of cold spring-water.
The domestic cat is not identical with the Egyptian cat, and, therefore, if descended from it, must have undergone modifications in the process. It is not known whether it has interbred with the wild cat; but it is possible that some of the varieties have originated in that way. The marks of difference between the species are very plain. The most obvious one is the shape of the tail (Fig. 2), which in the domestic cat is long, slender, and tapering, while in the wild cat it is shorter, stumpy, and bushy. The fact that no tendency has been observed in either of these
Fig. 5. Mrs. Scott's English Tabby "Coppa." First Prize at the Crystal Palace Cat Show, 1886.
Fig. 6. Manx cat.
Fig. 7. Mrs. Valance's Persian, "Fluffy II." Crystal Palace Cat Show, 1886.
Fig. 8. Mrs. Vyvian's Royal Cat of Siam. Prize-winner. By permission, from Harrison Weir's Our Cats and all about Them. Published by Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston and New York.
forms of tail to revert to the other is in favor of a permanent specific difference. The minor varieties of cats are numerous, but the important ones are not many. A line is drawn between the short-haired and the long-haired varieties. Of the former are the tabbies (Figs. 5 and 10) brown, blue, or silver; red and spotted tabbies of various colors, with their delicate stripings, cloudings, or spots; the Chartreuse, blue, or Maltese, which has long, slate-colored fur, and a bushy neck and tail; the Spanish, or tortoise-shell (Fig. 11) white, black, and reddish-brown, mixed, whose closer resemblance than that of the others to the Egyptian cat has suggested that the animal may have come to Europe by way of the Strait of Gibraltar; and the Manx (Fig. 6), a curious variety, says Wood, on account of the entire absence of a tail, the place of which member is only indicated by a rather wide protuberance. " It is by no means a canny animal, for it has an unpleasant, weird-like aspect about it. ... A Manx cat, with its glowing eyes and its stump of a tail, is a most unearthly-looking beast." The manner in which its peculiarity has been perpetuated has not been accounted for. The long-haired cats include the Persian (Fig. 7), a gray-blue and silky animal, having a tail of great length and covered with hair six inches long, which it carries arched over its back like a squirrel's; and the Angola, a beautiful animal, and knowing it "gorgeous in its superb clothing of long, silky hair and bushy tail." It is one of the largest of domestic cats, and one of the heartiest eaters. Then there are the Chinese cat, large, with fine, glossy hair and hanging ears; the royal cat of Siam (Fig. 8), clear tawny or buff, with black muzzle, face, ears, and feet, suggesting the figure of a pug dog; black cats, which belong among the tabbies; and white cats, concerning which the belief prevails that if they also have blue eyes they are deaf. This connection has been accepted by Mr. Darwin as an instance of correlated variability, and is explained by Mr. Lawson Tait the white color or albinism being regarded as a result of arrested development by the fact of the common origin in the epiblast of the three structures affected the fur, the iris, and the tympanic membrane.
The bent of the cat's mind was pleasantly defined a few years ago by a writer in the London Spectator, who said there could be no doubt as to the view Puss took of the philosophy of nature and life. She is quite satisfied that the world and everything in it were made and exist for cats. This appears in all that well-bred and cared-for cats do, and in every accent and tone of their voice. Puss possesses herself with the air of a proprietor of the best place and the best food; expects to be waited upon; demands a share of every dish; and looks upon us as at once her Providence and her servant.
Cats are not demonstrative like dogs, and do not submit to training like the horse. The dog has been credited with unbounded affections, and the horse with almost human sagacity; but the cat still suffers under the bad character that Buffon who can not have been acquainted with any reputable specimens of the race gave her. She is said to be selfish, spiteful, cruel, crafty, treacherous, loving places and not persons, and in every way unworthy of fellowship in the household. J. G. Wood answers these accusations by saying that the cats with which he has been most familiar "have been as docile, tractable, and good-tempered as any dog could be, and displayed an amount of intellectual power which would be equaled by very few dogs, and surpassed by none." To all persons who have given their confidence to Puss and received hers in return, they need no answer.
Numerous traits of the sort that make all the world kin appear in the cats human-like qualities and affections that bring them into sympathy with their masters. Such traits will be made manifest to any one who even partially takes Puss into fellowship; and whoever puts himself on good terms with her will find his association marked by wonderful examples of intelligence and affection, and will be ready to declare that there is no cat like the particular one with which he is dealing. The declaration will be true in a measure, for individuality is one of the most conspicuous traits of the species. A considerable literature has been written in demonstration and illustration of the more pleasing aspects of feline character, on which I have drawn for incidents from works that will be mentioned in course; and more freely from articles on animal intelligence in Nature and the Revue Scientifique, and from a Cat Competition, organized several years ago by the Republican Journal, of Belfast, Maine, in which many contributors gave the stories of their pets. Evidences are afforded in these observations of the habitual exercise by cats, in the ordinary course of their lives, of such qualities as recognition of their friends and attachment to them, capacity to form friendships with men and animals, exercise of self-denial, willingness to do favors or to help, understanding of language, ability to make their wants intelligibly known, humor, foresight, knowledge of right and wrong, the use of means to ends, capacity to adapt means to circumstances, the time-sense, and many other forms of intelligence. Lindsay, in his Mind in the Lower Animals, shows also that they, with other brutes, are liable to mental diseases not unlike those to which the human mind is subject.
Théophile Gautier, remarking on the difficulty of conquering the friendship of a cat, says that "she is a philosophical animal, orderly, quiet, tenacious in her habits, a lover of order and propriety, and one who does not bestow her affections blindly. She will gladly be your friend if you are worthy of it, but not your slave. In her tenderness she regards her own free will, and will not do for you what she judges to be unreasonable; but once she has given herself to you, what absolute confidence, what fidelity of affection!" Wood says that there is perhaps no animal so full of trust as a cat that is kindly treated, as there is none which, when subjected to harshness, is so nervously suspicious. Cats keenly recognize these distinctions in character, even among members of the same family, and govern themselves accordingly. Pertinent to this point is the newspaper squib of the maid who told her master that she knew Tom had returned from school, though she had not seen him, because the cat was hiding under the stove.
Fig. 9. Archangel Blue Cat. By permission, from Harrison Weir's Our Cats and all about Them. Published by Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston and New York.
Fig. 10. Finely Marked Spotted Tabby Cat. By permission, from Harrison Weir's Our Cats and all about Them. Published by Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston and New York.
Fig. 11. Finely Marked Tortoise-Shell Cat. By permission, from Harrison Weir's Our Cats and all about Them. Published by Houghton, Mifflin & Co., Boston and New York.
"Tad," of Burnham, Maine, used to meet his master, a night watchman, every morning at the store-door, and accompany him home. After the master died, "Tad" continued to go for him and wait; then, not finding him, would return home and wander about the house as if in search of him. "Hannah" of North Monroe, Maine, began to take care of the baby as soon as it came; increased its attentions when the child could walk; would go after him and call him back when he started to wander out of bounds, and then go to the house and mew for help till some one came to take the truant in charge. "Thomas," of Sandy Point, Maine, was accustomed to be fed with crumbs from the table by a single member of the family, and to go and call him to dinner if he was tardy. My cat in like manner used to look to her mistress and to no other person for tidbits from the breakfast-table. "Daisy," of Belfast, who stayed with her mistress during an illness, missed her from the room and went out to look for her. Meeting her unexpectedly, she looked up, says the mistress, "as frightened as if she had seen a ghost. My voice, however, reassured her, and, if ever a cat smiled, I am sure she did." Another cat of the Belfast group, not a favorite and shy toward all other persons, became attached to a sickly infant and its faithful nurse, never failing to respond to its cries by going to its cradle and soothing it by purring and caresses till it became quiet. The cat of M. Arbousset, a French missionary in Africa, refused food when the child to which it was attached died, sought and mourned for its friend in a marked manner, and in a few days was found dead on its grave. The suggestion has been made, and is worthy of consideration, that when pets die in this way soon after their human companions, it may be because they caught the disease from them rather than from intensity of affection. But this can not apply to the cat told of in the Leisure Hour, which, when the child its playmate died, refused food at first, but afterward, having found its companion's grave, spent most of its time there, going to the house for its meals. A critic, in the Saturday Review, claims to have known more than one instance of a cat, ordinarily constant to its own habits of comfort, breaking through its self-made rules to sit outside the door of an invalid as if waiting for news. The Rev. J. G. Wood's "Pret" was capable of the most earnest manifestations of gratitude. One day, when, having been forgotten, she had become very hungry, she flew "like a mad thing" at the meat and milk her master gave her; but hardly lapped a drop before she went to him purring loudly and caressing him to express her thanks; then went to the plate, "but only just touched her nose, and again came to thank me" actually refraining from enjoying the food she was so much in want of till she had repeatedly acknowledged her obligations for it.
A story is quoted by Mrs. Cashel Hoey from the London Spectator, of "Nero" who, loving all the family and showing his love for each in different ways, especially loved his master, and was usually the first to hear his step. He could distinguish the click of his master's door-key, and would run to answer it; was distressed if his master failed to return at evening, and would go look for his portmanteau, to see if that was gone too that being his sign that master was taking a journey. If the portmanteau was in its place, he was satisfied; if not, he would lie down and refuse food. If he knew the master was going away, he would try to hide himself in the cab; and if master appeared with his hat on in the daytime, supposing he was going out, would try to take it off; but if at night, was contented, for master had come home.
The cat's strong attachment to its home, and indisposition to change it, are not peculiar to it, but are common to all animals, including man. The trait is often manifested, and sometimes in remarkable ways, in dogs, horses, and cattle. In man it is frequently illustrated in the affection known as "homesickness." The ability which animals display under its influence in finding their way back to their old accustomed haunts from long distances and by difficult or tortuous ways, or even by roundabout roads, when return over the direct route (as when it includes the crossing of bodies of water) is impossible, is the wonder of naturalists, and up to this time one of the unsolved problems of animal psychology. It has received the name of "the homing instinct" and is regarded by some naturalists as constituting an additional sense. The dog seems usually to be more ready than the cat to follow his master in a change of home, and to reconcile himself to the new place, but this may be because he stands in a different relation toward him. The dog is sure of at least one fast friend wherever he lives, while the cat can not always reckon even upon that. In many families, where she is tolerated, as, according to Buffon, only because she is less objectionable than the rats and mice, she has no one to caress her or show affection to her. In this case, when her situation is barely endurable, she naturally fixes her attachment on the place where she has found cozy retreats and knows all the hunting-grounds, rather than upon persons who have given her no consideration, and of whom she perhaps stands in fear. Whether the cat will in the long run prefer its old home, deserted or inhabited by strangers, to a new home, along with the persons it has been accustomed to meet, may depend very much upon the treatment it has received from those persons. My cat was removed three times in ten years; and, aside from the temporary embarrassment caused by finding herself in a strange place, readily adapted herself to the new quarters, and showed no disposition to go back to the old haunts. Lindsay, in his Mind in the Lower Animals, refers to cases of cats following their masters from house to house, from place to place, and accompanying them on visits to other people's residences, as unconcernedly as a dog. Wood tells of a family on the coast of Scotland who removed to the opposite shore sailing around instead of crossing the country leaving their cat with a neighbor. But the animal followed them, and found them in some way, presenting itself after a few weeks at their door, "weary, ragged, and half starved." It had left its old home and gone out into the unknown to seek the family with whom it had lived. A case precisely similar, except as to the local topography, is related in Chambers's Journal, of a cat in a military chaplain's family at Madras. This animal also, having found its old friends on the other side of the city, several miles from their former home, went back and brought her kitten. Some of the incidents bearing upon this feature have an aspect of eccentricity. The young cat of a neighbor of the writer's disappeared from the house and was not found or heard of for six months. At the end of that time it returned and made itself at home at once, but grown and so changed that, though its familiarity was remarked upon as singular, it was not recognized till its identity was accidentally established by the discovery of a peculiar though obscure mark. Dr. A. Corriveau tells in the Revue Scientifique of a cat which was lost in a similar way. Five months afterward it was found in the house by the side of its companion, travel-soiled but plump, and recognizable by a red spot on its forehead. It had a very pleasant visit with its old mate and friends for a week, and then disappeared as unaccountably as it had done before. It is told in the Life of Sir David Brewster, by his daughter, that a cat in the house entered his room one day and made his friendship in the most affectionate manner-"looked straight at him, jumped on his knee, put a paw on each shoulder, and kissed him as distinctly as a cat could." From that time the philosopher himself provided her breakfast every morning from his own plate, till "one day she disappeared, to the unbounded sorrow of her master. Nothing was heard of her for nearly two years, when Pussy walked into the house, neither hungry nor thirsty nor foot-sore-made her way without hesitation to the study-jumped on my father's knee-placed a paw on each shoulder-and kissed him exactly as on the first day."
These incidents pertain to only one of the human-like traits that have been named as to be found in cats. The study to which they introduce us is an alluring one, and opens the more expansively the further we proceed in it.
by George John Romanes, 1882
From “The International Scientific Series”
CHAPTER XIV. THE CAT.
The cat is unquestionably a highly intelligent animal, though when contrasted with its great domestic rival, the dog, its intelligence, from being cast in quite a different mould, is very frequently underrated. Comparatively unsocial in temperament, wanderingly predaceous in habits, and lacking in the affectionate docility of the canine nature, this animal has never in any considerable degree been subject to those psychologically transforming influences whereby a prolonged and intimate association with man has, as we shall subsequently see, so profoundly modified the psychology of the dog. Nevertheless, as we shall immediately find, the cat is not only by nature an animal remarkable for intelligence, but in spite of its naturally imposed disadvantages of temperament, has not altogether escaped those privileges of nurture which unnumbered centuries of domestication could scarcely fail to supply. Thus, as contrasted with most of the wild species of the genus when tamed from their youngest days, the domestic cat is conspicuously of less uncertain temper towards its masters — the uncertainty of temper displayed by nearly all the wild members of the feline tribe when tamed being, of course, an expression of the interference of individual with hereditary experience. And, as contrasted with all the wild species of the genus when tamed, the domestic cat is conspicuous in alone manifesting any exalted development of affection towards the human kind; for in many individual cases such affection, under favouring circumstances, reaches a level fully comparable to that which it attains in the dog. We do not know the wild stock from which the domestic cat originally sprang, and therefore cannot estimate the extent of the psychological results which human agency has here produced; but it is worthwhile in this connection to remember that the nearest ally of the domestic cat is the wild cat, and that this animal, while so closely resembling its congener in size and anatomical structure, differs so enormously from it in the branch of psychological structure which we are considering, that there is no animal on the face of the earth so obstinately untamable.
As regards the wild species of the tribe in general, it may be said that they all exhibit the same unsocial, fierce, and rapacious character. Bold when brought to bay, they do not court battle with dangerous antagonists, but prefer to seek safety in flight. Even the proverbial courage of the lion is now known, as a rule, to consist in ‘the better part of valour;' and those exceptional individuals among tigers which adopt a ' man-eating ' propensity, snatch their human victims by stealth. That the larger feline animals possess high intelligence would be shown, even in the absence of information concerning their ordinary habits, by the numerous tricks which they prove themselves capable of learning at the hands of menagerie-keepers; though in such cases the conflict of nature with nurture renders even the best-trained specimens highly uncertain in their behaviour, and therefore always more or less dangerous to the ' lion-kings.' The only wild species that is employed for any practical purpose — the cheetah — is so employed by utilising directly its natural instincts; it is shown the antelope, and runs it down after the manner of all its ancestors.
Returning now to the domestic cat, it is commonly remarked as a peculiar and distinctive trait in its emotional character that it shows a strongly rooted attachment to places as distinguished from persons. There can be no question that this peculiarity is a marked feature in the psychology of domestic cats considered as a class, although of course individual exceptions occur in abundance. Probably this feature is a survival of an instinctive attachment to dens or lairs bequeathed to our cats by their wild progenitors.
The only other feature in the emotional life of cats which calls for special notice is that which leads to their universal and proverbial treatment of helpless prey. The feelings that prompt a cat to torture a captured mouse can only, I think, be assigned to the category to which by common consent they are ascribed — delight in torturing for torture's sake. Speaking of man, John S. Mill somewhere observes that there is in some human beings a special faculty or instinct of cruelty, which is not merely a passive indifference to the sight of physical sufferings, but an active pleasure in witnessing or causing it. Now, so far as I have been able to discover, the only animals in which there is any evidence of a class of feelings in any way similar to these — if, indeed, in the case even of such animals the feelings which prompt actions of gratuitous cruelty really are similar to those which prompt it in man — are cats and monkeys. With regard to monkeys I shall adduce evidence on this point in the chapter which treats of these animals. With regard to cats it is needless to dwell further upon facts so universally known.
Coming now to the higher faculties, it is to be noted as a general feature of interest that all cats, however domesticated they may be, when circumstances require it, and often even quite spontaneously, throw off with the utmost ease the whole mental clothing of their artificial experience, and return in naked simplicity to the natural habits of their ancestors. This readiness of cats to become feral is a strong expression of the shallow psychological influence which prolonged domestication has here exerted, in comparison with that which it has produced in the case of the dog. A pet terrier lost in the haunts of his ancestors is almost as pitiable an object as a babe in the wood; a pet cat under similar circumstances soon finds itself quite at home. The reason of this difference is, of course, that the psychology of the cat, never having lent itself to the practical uses of, and intelligent dependency on, man, has never, as in the case of the dog, been under the cumulative influence of human agency in becoming further and further bent away from its original and naturally imposed position of self-reliance; so that when now a severance takes place between a cat and its human protectors, the animal, inheriting unimpaired the transmitted experience of wild progenitors, knows very well how to take care of itself.
Having made these general remarks, I shall now pass on to quote a few instances showing the highest level of intelligence to which cats attain.
As to observation, Mrs. Hubbard tells me of a cat which she possessed, and which was in the habit of poaching young rabbits to 'eat privately in the seclusion of a disused pigsty.' One day this cat caught a small black rabbit, and instead of eating it, as she always did the brown ones, brought it into the house unhurt, and laid it at the feet of her mistress. 'She clearly recognised the black rabbit as an unusual specimen, and apparently thought it right to show it to her mistress.' Such was 'not the only instance this cat showed of zoological discrimination,' for on another occasion, 'having caught another unusual animal — viz., a stoat — she also brought this alive into the house for the purpose of exhibiting it.'
Mr. A. Percy Smith informs me of a cat which he possesses, and which, to test her intelligence, he used to punish whenever her kittens misbehaved. Very soon this had the effect of causing the cat herself to train the kittens, for whenever they misbehaved 'she swore at them and boxed their ears, until she taught the kittens to be clean.'
Mr. Blackman, writing from the London Institution, tells me of a cat which he has, and which without tuition began to 'beg’ for food, in imitation of a terrier in the same house whose begging gesture it must have observed to be successful in the obtaining of tit-bits. The cat, however, would never beg unless it was hungry; and no coaxing could persuade it to do so unless it felt so inclined. The same cat also, whenever it wanted to go out, would come into the sitting-room, and make a peculiar noise to attract attention. failing that mode being successful, it would pull one's dress with its claw; and then having succeeded in attracting the desired attention, it would walk to the street door and stop there, making the same cry until let out.
Coming now to cases indicative of reason in cats, Mr. John Martin, writing from St. Clement's, Oxford, informs me: 'I have a cat which a short time ago had kittens, and from some cause or other her milk failed. My house-keeper saw her carrying a piece of bread to them.' The process of reasoning here is obvious.
Mr. Bidie, writing from the Government Museum of Madras to ' Nature ' (vol. xx., p. 96), relates this instance of reasoning in a cat: —
In 1877 I was absent from Madras for two months, and left in my quarters three cats, one of which, an English tabby, was a very gentle and affectionate creature. During my absence the quarters were occupied by two young gentlemen, who delighted in teasing and frightening the cats. About a week before my return the English cat had kittens, which she carefully concealed behind bookshelves in the library. On the morning of my return I saw the cat, and patted her as usual, and then left the house for about an hour. On returning to dress I found that the kittens were located in a corner of my dressing-room, where previous broods had been deposited and nursed. On questioning the servant as to how they came there, he at once replied, 'Sir, the old cat taking one by one in her mouth, brought them here.' In other words, the mother had carried them one by one in her mouth from the library to the dressing-room, where they lay quite exposed. I do not think I have heard of a more remarkable instance of reasoning and affectionate confidence in an animal, and I need hardly say that the latter manifestation gave me great pleasure. The train of reasoning seems to have been as follows: 'Now that my master has returned there is no risk of the kittens being injured by the two young savages in the house, so I will take them out for my protector to see and admire, and keep them in the corner in which all my former pets have been nursed in safety.'
Dr. Bannister writes me from Chicago, of a cat belonging to his friend the late Mr. Meek, the palaeontologist, who drew my correspondent's attention to the fact: —
He had fixed upright on his table a small looking-glass, from which he used to draw objects from nature, reversed on wood. The cat seeing her image in this glass made several attempts to investigate it, striking at it, &c. Then coming apparently to the conclusion that there was something between her and the other animal, she very slyly and cautiously approached it, keeping her eye on it all the while, and struck her paw around behind the mirror, becoming seemingly much surprised at finding nothing there. This was done repeatedly, until she was at last convinced that it was beyond her comprehension, or she lost interest in the matter.
Mr. T. B. Groves communicates an almost precisely similar observation to 'Nature' (vol. xx., p. 291), of a cat which, on first seeing his own reflection in a mirror, tried to fight it. Meeting with resistance from the glass, the cat next ran behind the mirror. Not finding the object of his search, he again came to the front, and while keeping his eyes deliberately fixed on the image, felt round the edge of the glass with one paw, whilst with his head twisted round to the front he assured himself of the persistence of the reflection. He never afterwards condescended to notice a mirror.
The following is communicated to me by a correspondent whose name I cannot obtain permission to publish. I am sure, however, that it is communicated in good faith, and the incident can scarcely be supposed to have been due to accident. After describing the cat and the parrot in their amiable relationship, my correspondent proceeds: —
One evening there was no one in the kitchen. Cook had gone upstairs, and left a bowl full of dough to rise by the fire. Shortly after, the cat rushed up after her, mewing, and making what signs she could for her to go down; then she jumped up and seized her apron, and tried to drag her down. As she was in such a state of excitement cook went, and found ‘Polly' shrieking, calling out, flapping her wings and struggling violently, ‘up to her knees' in dough, and stuck quite fast.
No doubt if she had not been rescued she would have sunk in the morass and been smothered.
I shall here introduce two or three cases to show the ingenious devices to which clever cats will resort for the purpose of capturing prey.
Mr. James Hutchings writes in ‘Nature' (vol. xii., p. 330) an account of an old tom cat using a young bird, which had fallen out of its nest, as a decoy for the old birds. The cat touched the young bird with his paw when it ceased to flutter and cry, in order that, by thus making it display its terror, the old cock bird, which was all the while flying about in great consternation, might be induced to approach near enough to be caught. Many times the cock bird did so, and the cat made numerous attempts to catch it, but without success. All the while a kitten had to be kept from killing the young bird. As this scene continued for a long time — in fact, till terminated by Mr. Hutchings — and as there does not appear to have been any opportunity for errors of observation, I think the case worth recording.
The following case is communicated to me by Mr. James G. Stevens, of St. Stephen, New Brunswick:—
Looking out on the garden in front of my residence, I observed a robin alight on a small tree: it was midwinter, the ground covered with about a foot of light snow. A cat came stealthily along, with difficulty making her way through the snow until within about three feet of the tree where the bird was; the robin was sluggishly resting on a twig distant three feet from the ground or surface of snow; the cat could not well, owing to the softness of the snow, venture to make a spring. She crouched down and at first gently stirred herself, evidently with the purpose of causing the bird to move. The first attempt failed. She again more actively stirred herself by a shaking motion. She again failed, when she stirred herself vigorously again and started the bird, which flew about fifty feet away, and alighted on a small low bush on the northern side of a close boarded fence. The cat keenly watched the flight and the alighting of the bird; as quickly as she could cross through the snow, she then took a circuit of about one hundred feet, watching the place where the bird was all the while, and covering her march by making available every bush to hide her. When out of range of vision of the bird she more actively made for the fence, leaped over it, came up on the southern side of it, and jumped on it, calculating her distance so accurately that she came within a foot of the hush where the bird was, and at once sprung. She missed her prey, but I thought she proved herself a cunning hunter. If this case is worth relating you may use the name of Judge Stevens, of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, as a witness to the same.
Again, I quote the following case communicated to ‘Nature' by Dr. Frost, because, although it shows an almost incredible amount of far-sighted stratagem, I cannot on the one hand see much room for mal-observation, and on the other hand it is, as I shall show, to some extent corroborated by an independent observation of my friend Dr. Klein, and another correspondent: —
Our servants have been accustomed during the late frost to throw the crumbs remaining from the breakfast-table to the birds, and I have several times noticed that our cat used to wait there in ambush in the expectation of obtaining a hearty meal from one or two of the assembled birds. Now, so far, this circumstance in itself is not an 'example of abstract reasoning.' But to continue. For the last few days this practice of feeding the birds has been left off. The cat, however, with an almost incredible amount of forethought, was observed by myself, together with two other members of the household, to scatter crumbs on the grass with the obvious intention of enticing the birds.
Although this account, as I have said, borders on the incredible, I have allowed it to pass, because up to a certain point it is, as I have also said, corroborated by an observation communicated to me by my friend Dr. Klein, F.R.S.
Dr. Klein satisfied himself that the cat he observed had established a definite association between crumbs already sprinkled on the garden walk, and sparrows coming to eat them; for as soon as the crumbs were sprinkled on the walk, the cat used to conceal himself from the walk in a neighbouring shrubbery, there to await in ambush the coming of the birds. The latter, however, showed themselves more wide awake than the cat, for there was a wall running behind the shrubbery, from the top of which the birds could see the cat in his supposed concealment, and then a long line of sparrows used to wait watching the cat and the crumbs at the same time, but never venturing to fly down to the latter until the former, wearied with waiting, went away. In this case the reasoning observation of the cat — 'crumbs attract birds, therefore I will wait for birds when crumbs are scattered' — was as complete as in the case of Dr. Frost's cat, but the reasoning in the latter case seems to have proceeded a stage further — 'therefore I will scatter crumbs to attract birds.'
Now, in the face of the definite statement made by Dr. Frost, that his cat did advance to this further stage of reasoning, I have not felt justified in suppressing his remarkable observation. And, as lending still further credence to the account, I may quote the corroborative observation of another correspondent in 'Nature,' which is of value because forming an intermediate step between the intelligence displayed by Dr. Klein's cat and that displayed by Dr. Frost's. This correspondent says: —
A case somewhat similar to that mentioned by Dr. Frost, of a cat scattering crumbs, occurred here within my own knowledge. During the recent severe winter a friend was in the habit of throwing crumbs outside his bedroom window. The family have a fine black cat, which, seeing that the crumbs brought birds, would occasionally hide herself behind some shrubs, and when the birds came for their breakfast, would pounce out upon them with varying success. The crumbs had been laid out as usual one afternoon, but left untouched, and during the night a slight fall of snow occurred. On looking out next morning my friend observed puss busily engaged scratching away the snow. Curious to learn what she sought, he waited, and saw her take the crumbs up from the cleared space and lay them one by one after another on the snow. After doing this she retired behind the shrubs to wait further developments. This was repeated on two other occasions.
Taking, then, these three cases together, we have an ascending series in the grades of intelligence from that displayed by Dr. Klein's cat, which merely observed that crumbs attracted birds, through that of the cat which exposed the concealed crumbs for the purpose of attracting birds, to that of Dr. Frost's cat, which actually sprinkled the crumbs. Therefore, although, if the last-mentioned or most remarkable case had stood alone, I should not have felt justified in quoting it, as we find it thus led up to by other and independent observations, I do not feel that should be justified in suppressing it. And, after all, regarded as an act of reason, the sprinkling of crumbs to attract birds does not involve ideas or inferences very much more abstruse or remote than those which are concerned in some of the other and better corroborated instances of the display of feline intelligence, which I shall now proceed to state.
In the understanding of mechanical appliances, cats attain to a higher level of intelligence than any other animals, except monkeys, and perhaps elephants. Doubtless it is not accidental that these three kinds of animals fall to be associated in this particular. The monkey in its hands, the elephant in its trunk, and the cat in its agile limbs provided with mobile claws, all possess instruments adapted to manipulation, with which no other organs in the brute creation can properly be compared, except the beak and toes of the parrot, where, as we have already seen, a similar correlation with intelligence may be traced. Probably, therefore, the higher aptitude which these animals display in their understanding of mechanical appliances is due to the reaction exerted upon their intelligence by these organs of manipulation. But, be this as it may, I am quite sure that, excepting only the monkey and elephant, the cat shows a higher intelligence of the special kind in question than any other animal, not forgetting even the dog. Thus, for instance, while I have only heard of one solitary case (communicated to me by a correspondent) of a dog which, without tuition, divined the use of a thumb-latch, so as to open a closed door by jumping upon the handle and depressing the thumb-piece, I have received some half-dozen instances of this display of intelligence on the part of cats. These instances are all such precise repetitions of one another, that I conclude the fact to be one of tolerably ordinary occurrence among eats, while it is certainly very rare among dogs. I may add that my own coachman once had a cat which, certainly without tuition, learnt thus to open a door that led into the stables from a yard into which looked some of the windows of the house. Standing at these windows when the cat did not see me, I have many times witnessed her modus operandi. Walking up to the door with a most matter-of-course kind of air, she used to spring at the half-hoop handle just below the thumb-latch. Holding on to the bottom of this half-hoop with one fore-paw, she then raised the other to the thumb-piece, and while depressing the latter, finally with her hind legs scratched and pushed the doorposts so as to open the door. Precisely similar movements are described by my correspondents as having been witnessed by them.
Of course in all such cases the cats must have previously observed that the doors are opened by persons placing their hands upon the handles, and, having observed this, the animals forthwith act by what may be strictly termed rational imitation. But it should be observed that the process as a whole is something more than imitative. For not only would observation alone be scarcely enough (within any limits of thoughtful reflection that it would be reasonable to ascribe to an animal) to enable a cat upon the ground to distinguish that the essential part of the process as performed by the human hand consists, not in grasping the handle, but in depressing the latch; but the cat certainly never saw any one, after having depressed the latch, pushing the doorposts with his legs; and that this pushing action is due to an originally deliberate intention of opening the door, and not to having accidentally found this action to assist the process, is shown by one of the cases communicated to me (by Mr. Henry A. Graphaus); for in this case, my correspondent says, 'the door was not a loose-fitting one by any means, and I was surprised that by the force of one hind leg she should have been able to push it open after unlatching it.' Hence we can only conclude that the cats in such cases have a very definite idea as to the mechanical properties of a door; they know that to make it open, even when unlatched, it requires to be pushed — a very different thing from trying to imitate any particular action which they may see to be performed for the same purpose by man. The whole psychological process, therefore, implied by the fact of a cat opening a door in this way is really most complex. First the animal must have observed that the door is opened by the hand grasping the handle and moving the latch. Next she must reason, by ‘the logic of feelings' — If a hand can do it, why not a paw? Then, strongly moved by this idea, she makes the first trial. The steps which follow have not been observed, so we cannot certainly say whether she learns by a succession of trials that depression of the thumb-piece constitutes the essential part of the process, or, perhaps more probably, that her initial observations supplied her with the idea of clicking the thumb-piece. But, however this may be, it is certain that the pushing with the hind feet after depressing the latch must be due to adaptive reasoning unassisted by observation; and only by the concerted action of all her limbs in the performance of a highly complex and most unnatural movement is her final purpose attained.
Again, several very similar cases are communicated to me of cats spontaneously, or without tuition, learning to knock knockers and ring bells. Of course in both cases the animals must have observed the use to which knockers and bells are put, and when desiring a door to be opened, employ these signals for the purpose. It betokens no small amount of observation and reasoning in a cat to jump at a knocker with the expectation of thereby summoning a servant to open the door — especially as in some of the cases the jump is not a random jump at the knocker, but a deliberate and complex action, having for its purposes the raising and letting fall of the knocker. For instance, Mr. Belshaw, writing to 'Nature' (vol. xix., p. 659), says: —
I was sitting in one of the rooms, the first evening there, and hearing a loud knock at the front door was told not to heed it, as it was only this kitten asking admittance. Not believing it, I watched for myself, and very soon saw the kitten jump onto the door, hang on by one leg, and put the other forepaw right through the knocker and rap twice.
In such cases the action closely resembles that of opening thumb-latches, but clearly is performed with the purpose of summoning someone else to open the door. Wonderful, however, as these cases of summoning by knockers undoubtedly are, I think they are surpassed by other cases in which the instrument used is the bell. For here it is not merely that cats perfectly well understand the use of bells as calls [Note 1], but I have one or two cases of cats jumping at bell-wires passing from outside into houses the doors of which the cats desired to be opened.[Note 1] My informants tell me that they do not know how these cats, from any process of observation, can have surmised that pulling the wire in an exposed part of its length would have the effect of ringing the bell; for they can never have observed any one pulling the wires. I can only suggest that in these cases the animals must have observed that when the bells were rung the wires moved, and that the doors were afterwards opened; then a process of inference must have led them to try whether jumping at the wires would produce the same effects. But even this, which is the simplest explanation possible, implies powers of observation scarcely less remarkable than the process of reasoning to which they gave rise.
[Note 1: Some of my correspondents tell me of pet or drawing-room cats jumping on chairs and looking at bells when they want milk — this being their sign that they want the bell pulled to call the servant who brings the milk; and Mr. Lawson Tait tells me that one of his cats — of course without tuition — has gone a step further, in that she places her paws upon the bell as a still more emphatic sign that she desires it pulled. But Dr. Creighton Browne tells me of a cat which he has that goes a step further than this, and herself rings the bell. This is corroborative of Archbishop Whately's anecdote. [Note 2] ‘This cat lived many years in my mother's family, and its feats of sagacity were witnessed by her, my sisters, and myself. It was known, not merely once or twice, but habitually, to ring the parlour bell whenever it wished the door to be opened. Some alarm was excited on the first occasion that it turned bell-ringer. The family had retired to rest, and in the middle of the night the parlour bell was rung violently; the sleepers were startled from their repose, and proceeded downstairs with poker and tongs, to intercept, as they thought, the predatory movements of some burglar; but they were equally surprised to find that the bell had been rung by pussy, who frequently repeated the act whenever she wished to get out of the parlour.' The cases, however, mentioned in the text are more remarkable than any of these, which, nevertheless, all tend to lead up to them as by a series of steps. Dogs attain to the level of asking by gesture their masters to ring bells. One instance will be sufficient to quote. Mr. Rae says in ' Nature ' (vol. xix., p. 459): 'A small English terrier belonging to a friend has been taught to ring for the servant. To test if the dog knew why it rang the bell he was told to do so while the girl was in the room. The little fellow looked up in the most intelligent manner at the person giving the order (his master or mistress, I forget which), then at the servant, and refused to obey, although the order was repeated more than once. The servant left the room, and a few minutes afterwards the dog rang the bell immediately on being told to do so.'
It must also be added that dogs sometimes attain to the level of knocking knockers — though I should think this must be very rare with these animals, as I have only met with one case of it. This, however, is a remarkably good case, not only because it rests upon the authority of a famous observer, but also because it is so very definite as proving an act of reason. Dureau de la Malle had a terrier born in his house. It had never seen a knocker in its native home, and when grown up it was taken by its master to Paris. Getting fatigued by a walk in the streets, the animal returned to the house, but found the door shut, and it endeavoured vainly to attract the attention of those within by barking. At length a visitor called, knocked at the knocker, and gained admittance. The dog observed what had been done, and went in together with the visitor. The same afternoon he went in and out half a dozen times, gaining admittance on each occasion by springing the knocker.
Lastly, Dr. W. H. Kesteven writes to ‘Nature' (xx., p. 428) of a cat which used to knock at a knocker to gain admittance, in the way already described of so many other cats; but as showing how much more readily cats acquire this practice than dogs, it is interesting to note that Dr. Kesteven adds that a dog which lived in the same house ascertained that the cat was able to gain admittance by knocking, and yet did not imitate the action, but ' was in the habit of searching for her when he wanted to come in, and either waiting till she was ready to knock at the door, or inducing her to do it to please him.' ]
[Note 2: Consul E. L. Layard gives in Nature (xx., p. 339) a precisely similar case of a cat habitually and without tuition ringing a bell by pulling, at an exposed wire.]
As further instances corroborating the fact that both these faculties are developed in cats to a wonderful degree, I may add the following. Couch ('Illustrations of Instinct,' p. 196) gives a case within his own knowledge of a cat which, in order to get at milk kept in a locked cupboard, used to unlock the door by seating herself on an adjoining table, and 'repeatedly patting on the bow of the key with her paw, when with a slight pull on the door’ she was able to open it; the lock was old, and the key turned in it ‘on a very slight impulse.'
As a still further instance of the high appreciation of mechanical appliances to which cats attain, I shall quote an extract from a paper by Mr. Otto, which will have been read at the Linnean Society before this work is published. After describing the case of a cat opening a thumb-latch in the same way as those already mentioned, this writer proceeds: —
At Parara, the residence of Parker Bowman, Esq., a full-grown cat was one day accidentally locked up in a room without any other outlet than a small window, moving on hinges, and kept shut by means of a swivel. Not long afterwards the window was found open and the cat gone. This having happened several times, it was at last found that the cat jumped upon the window-sill, placed her fore-paws as high as she could reach against the side, deliberately reached with one over to the swivel, moved it from its horizontal to a perpendicular position, and then, leaning with her whole weight against the window, swung it open and escaped.
To give only one other instance of high reasoning power in this animal, Mr. W. Brown, writing from Greenock to 'Nature ' (vol. xxi., p. 397), gives a remarkable story of a cat, the facts in which do not seem to have admitted of mal-observation. While a paraffine lamp was being trimmed, some of the oil fell upon the back of the cat, and was afterwards ignited by a cinder falling upon it from the fire. The cat with her back 'in a blaze, in an instant made for the door (which happened to be open) and sped up the street about 100 yards,' where she plunged into the village watering-trough, and extinguished the flame. ‘The trough had eight or nine inches of water, and puss was in the habit of seeing the fire put out with water every night.' The latter point is important, as it shows the data of observation on which the animal reasoned.
THE INTELLIGENCE OF CATS.
By W. H. LARRABEE
Popular Science Monthly
Volume 38, January 1891
QUESTIONS concerning the quality or faculty in animals comparable with human reason and the extent to which it is developed in them are much discussed. Mr. Romanes discriminates between those ideas of quality that spring from mere sensuous impressions and those elaborated notions that arise from the more complex associations supplied by mental reflection, and assumes that brutes have a power of thought of the former or inferior order. The Rev. George Henslow admits that they reason as we do, but always in connection with concrete phenomena, whether immediately apprehended by the senses or present to consciousness through memory; but that they have no power of conveying truly abstract ideas. Prof. Exner regards them as capable of certain determined combinations in view of specific ends which are variable within very narrow limits. Some of the recorded instances of the exercise of thought by animals suggest that the sphere of their action in this line is often capable of considerable enlargement.
In a former article were considered some of the friendships which cats appear to form with human beings, particularly with the members of the families in which they live. The discussion might be continued indefinitely, and illustrated by incidents without number. Of equal interest are the associations which they are capable of forming with other animals.
We have only an imperfect knowledge concerning the relations of different animals toward one another. We can conceive the relative feelings of an animal that pursues and one that is pursued, and can comprehend that there should be jealousies and disputes between rivals for the same prey. We perceive animals of social habits mingling across the lines of species without much difficulty, and also, perhaps, without much real intimacy. But there are a large class of other animals that are naturally neutral as toward one another, concerning whose mutual attitudes an ample field for inquiry is open. Cats belong to a family of solitaries. In a state of nature they form only passing relations, and have more quarrels than friendships with members of their own species. We should hardly expect them to be particularly sociable, or even friendly, across the line. Yet they can be made to form companionships when brought into association with other animals under the same roof, and some that seem very strange to the superficial view. The term " cat-and-dog life " is frequently used to describe a condition of discord ; but cats and dogs often dwell very harmoniously together. Lindsay regards the phrase as implying an insult to both animals. Both he and Wood assert that the two can be trained to be very good friends, and that when this occurs "the cat usually behaves in a tyrannous manner toward her canine friend," and treats him most unceremoniously. " She will sit on his back and make him carry her about the room ; she will take liberties with his tail, or bite his ears, and if he resents this treatment she deals him a pat on the nose, and raises her back at him or retires till his good humor returns to him. The description will be recognized in thousands of families as acurate. Wood supplements his observation with a story of a cat and dog who had become great friends, when the dog was taken away. He afterward returned, with his mistress, on a visit. " Pussy was in the room when the dog entered, and flew forward to greet him ; she then ran out of the room, and shortly returned, bearing in her mouth her own dinner. This she laid before her old friend, and actually stood beside him while he ate the food with which she so hospitably entertained him." [This story was told to Mr. Wood by the owner of the cat.] The natural attitude of the dog and cat may be regarded as one of rivalry for the same food and attention, and therefore of jealousy. The dog, being usually the larger and stronger animal, is likely to look upon the cat as his victim. This excites distrust and hostility in her, and the foundation of a feud is laid, which can be repressed or cultivated. An unnamed cat in Belfast, Maine, became attached to a pig, and was its constant companion sleeping with it at night and following it about by day. When Piggy was slaughtered, Pussy's grief was " pitiful to see. She watched by the lifeless body all night, and was found there in the morning; and could never be persuaded to eat a mouthful of its pork."
[The cat stories from Maine are cited from the Belfast Republican Journal. VOL. xxxvin.]
Tabby, of Belfast , who had a kitten, became interested in a pig which had been brought half frozen to the house to be taken care of. She was found in his box trying " to quiet him and get him to accept her as his mother. Her kitten would cry, and she would leave the pig for a few minutes and go and quiet that, and then she would go back to the pig and try her best to make him comfortable. At last she took her kitten into the box with the pig. Rosy, an excellent ratter on a Belfast schooner, made friends at once with a pet rat that was brought on board, slept and played with it for two weeks, and allowed it to take many liberties with herself. Don Pierrot de Navarre and Seraphita, cats of Theophile Gautier, lived on the most friendly terms with their master's troop of white rats. Don Pierrot was especially fond of the rats, and would sit by their cage and watch them for hours together. If the door of the room where they were kept happened to be shut, he would insist, by scratching and mewing, on its being opened to him. Tabby, of Hyde Park, near Boston, having lost her kittens, took a brood of motherless chickens under her care. Knowing of them, she begged to be admitted to them. The experiment was tried. She looked at them a moment, then sprang into the box and, purring, nestled down among them. This was the beginning of a constant service of six months, during which Tabby would play with the chickens ; would try to carry them by the neck as she would her own kittens ; and persisted in licking their feathers the wrong way.
Mr. J. M. Coffinberry, of Cleveland, Ohio, writes to us that when, some forty-three years ago, he took possession of a certain house in Findlay, Ohio, the attention of the family " was called to a brood of young chicks by a cat who seemed to devote her time and attention to them. The ground being covered with two or three inches of snow, my wife fed them regularly, so that we saw much of them. The cat frequently purred to them, and they came at her call and followed her as closely as young chickens follow the mother hen. They lodged together in a wood-shed adacent to the house for about three months, but in the early spring the chickens, being well fledged, abandoned their winter quarters and flew into the higher branches of a fruit tree to roost. The cat purred and mewed, and seemed much disgusted at their change of lodgings, but soon accepted the situation and climbed to the tree-top and roosted with the chickens." This continued during the few months that the family occupied this house. Mr. Coffinberry asks some questions as to what was in the cat's mind or heart that prompted her to this parental act. It is easily explained if the qualities which he and many authors claim for cats are conceded to them. A correspondent, M C , of Nature, tells of a cat and dog who, having been brought into the family at about the same time, grew up friends and fast companions. They ate out of the same dish and slept on the same mat. The dog took the cat under his protection, and was particularly assiduous in defending his ward from a vicious black cat that troubled it. A correspondent of the London Spectator wrote concerning tomcat Blackie's interest in a dog who had been blinded by a carter's whip and had been nursed by his master. Observing that " Laddie " (the dog) had difficulty in finding his way to the door, and sometimes struck his head against the posts she became accustomed to go for him when he was called and guide him in.
Wood gives, in his Natural History, an account of two cats called the " Mincing Lane Cats," who lived in a wine-cellar, and, one being old and the other young, appear to have agreed upon an interchange of services. "Senior" taught "Junior" to avoid men's feet and wine-casks in motion, and pointed out the best hunting-grounds, while " Junior " employed his youthful activity in catching mice for his patron. In consideration also of the mice, Senior gave up to Junior a part of his share of the daily rations of cat's meat. It is represented that the curious compact was actually and seriously carried out. This had the air of a commercial transaction, but another story told by Mr. Wood exhibits pure benevolence. A cat in a Norman chateau had every day more food than she could consume, and the waste of the surplus " seemed to weigh on her mind." So one day she brought a less well-fed cat from a roadside cottage, and, having satisfied herself, gave it what was left. Her master, observing this, gave her larger platefuls, when she brought in another cat from a greater dis- tance. The master then determined to test how far the cat's hospitality would extend, and kept adding to the platefuls from time to time, as new cats were brought in, till Puss's dinner-party included nearly twenty guests. "Yet, however ravenous were these daily visitors, none of them touched a mouthful till their hostess had finished her own dinner." [Mr. Wood's informant had this story from the owner of the chateau.] An Angora cat belonging to M. Jumelin would often bring a poor, half-starved cat home with him, and then would see that it was fed. On the last occasion of his doing this, " Master Cat seemed nervous and excited, and behaved as though he thought the case was urgent. He became more quiet, however, as soon as the dish was set down for the strange cat, and contentedly observed what was going on while the visitor was taking his meal. As soon as the dish was emptied he showed his guest to the door, bade him good-by with a friendly but lively stroke of his paw, and accompanied him down the stairs, addressing him a succession of friendly mews." [Revue Scientifique.]
Cats appear taciturn in ordinary life, but every one knows that they can upon occasion, and that often, speak forcibly enough. They also have a language for their friends, varied and expressive enough to convey their wants definitely, and make intercourse with them pleasant and lively. Those who know them best may readily say, with John Owen, in the London Academy :
" Thou art not dumb, my Muff;
In those sweet, pleading eyes and earnest look
Language there is enough
To fill with living type a goodly book."
Montaigne observed, some three hundred years ago, that our beasts have some mean intelligence of their senses, well-nigh in the same measure as we. " They natter us, menace us, and need us ; and we them. It is abundantly evident to us that there is among them a full and entire communication, and that they understand each other. Dupont de Nemours, who undertook to penetrate the mysteries of animal language, recognized that animals had few wants, but these were strong, and few passions, but imperious, for which they had very marked but limited expressions. He thought the cat was more intelligent than the dog, because, being able to climb trees, she had sources of ideas and experiences denied to him ; and, having all the vowels of a dog, with six consonants in addition, she had more words. The Abbe Galiani pretended to have made some curious discoveries respecting the language of cats, among which were those that they have more than twenty different inflections, and that " it is really a tongue, for they always employ the same sound to express the same thing." Champfleury professes to have counted sixty-three varieties of mewings, the notation of which, however, he observes, is difficult. The sign and gesture language of the cat is even more copious and expressive than its audible language. As Mr. Owen has it :
" What tones unheard, and forms of silent speech,
Are given that such as thee The eloquence of dumbness man might teach ! "
Lindsay enumerates, as among the elements of the non-vocal language of cats, capers or antics, gambols, frolic, and frisking in the kitten ; prostration, crouching, groveling, crawling, cringing, and fawning; hiding, flight, sneaking, skulking, slinking, shirking, or shrinking ; rubbing against the bodies of other animals or against hard substances; licking; touching or tapping with the paws ; scratching ; head-shaking, tossing, or rubbing ; and tail-movements, of which there are many. Dr. Turton says that " the cat has a more voluminous and expressive vocabulary than any other brute : the shprt twitter of complacency and affection, the purr of tranquillity and pleasure, the mew of distress, the growl of anger, and the horrible wailing of pain." Besides these, the expressions of the countenance, as Mr. Owen teaches in his poem, are as lively and varied in the cat as in any other animal. The well-bred cat can put these diversified means of expression to uses commensurate with nearly all her wants ; and the sagacious and sympathetic master can with no very great difficulty learn to translate them as accurately as he responds to the wishes of his child.
Romanes gives several instances illustrating the applications of this sign-language. A cat, observing that a terrier received food in answer to a certain gesture, imitated his begging. Another would make a peculiar noise when it wanted a door opened, and, if its wish was not attended to, would pull at one's dress with its claws; then, having secured notice, would walk to the door and stop with a vocal request. Another cat, having found its friend the parrot mired in the dough, ran upstairs to inform the cook of the catastrophe, "mewing and making what signs she could for her to go down," till at last " she jumped up, seized her apron, and tried to drag her down," and finally succeeded in getting her to rescue the bird. Other cats are mentioned which would jump on chairs and look at bells, put their paws upon them, or even ring them, when they wanted anything done for which the ringing of a bell was a signal.
The extent of the cat's understanding of human language must depend considerably on the treatment and training it receives. An animal that is treated unkindly or is neglected can not be expected to learn much beyond the knowledge which its natural instinct confers upon it. Another animal, not necessarily brighter, but having better opportunities and more encourage- ment, may readily acquire knowledge of all the things that it is important one of its kind should know. Cats having appreciative masters and playmates will gain a really remarkable degree of knowledge of the tones, gestures, words, thoughts, and intentions of their human friends. Many of the well-authenticated stories on this point reveal faculties of perception that must seem astonishing even to persons well informed respecting the mental powers of animals. Careful observation of his own puss can hardly fail to convince any one that they understand more of ordinary conversation, as well as of what is said to them directly, than we are apt, at first thought, to suspect. Lindsay has shown that, in common with other tamed and domestic animals, they understand one or more of the modes in which man expresses his ideas, wishes, or commands, as well as those ideas, wishes, and commands themselves, however expressed, particularly the calls to receive food, and their own names. They also, in common with a smaller number of animals, appear to know the names of the different members of the family, and of articles of domestic use. An instance is cited from Clark Rossiter of a cat that knew the name of each member of the household, and, his seat at the table. If asked about an absent one, she would look at the vacant seat, then at the speaker, and, if told to fetch him, would run up- stairs to his room, take the handle of the door between her paws, mew at the key-hole, and wait to be let in.
The mistress of Topsey, of Belfast, an invalid, expressed a desire to have a partridge or a chicken for a broth. Some one spoke of having seen a flock of young birds in the morning, and immediately afterward Topsey sprang into the window with a partridge and laid it at her mistress's feet. The mistress commended the cat, and added, " If you will go and get another, you and I will have a nice dinner to-morrow." She w T ent out, and shortly brought in another bird, which she also laid at her mistress's feet. Although very fond of birds, she declined to eat these herself. She was told not to catch any more birds, and brought no more to the house.
Dollie, of North Monroe, Maine, had one of her legs torn off by a railroad train. Her mistress, believing her case a hopeless one, begged two boys, in her presence, to take her away and kill her. " Instantly," says the teller of the story, " the look of patient trust with which she was regarding her mistress as she pitied and petted her, changed to one of terror as she got up and rushed out of the house." She was found, and fed, but would not return to the house till her wound was healed. Daisy, of Belfast, persisted in laying her kitten in her mistress's bed till the lady, looking her in the eye, told her if she did so again the kitten should be drowned, when she ceased offending. June, of Stockton, Maine, behaved in such a way as to lead the family to suppose that her kittens, which she had hidden under the floor of a back room, had died. The matter was talked about in the presence of the cat, who seemed to be sleeping on a lounge, and the relator of the story remarked that she " would give ten dollars in a moment if the kittens were out from under the floor." June rose at once and went to the door. It was opened for her, and she went up the stairs. After going up and down several times, she rattled at the door-knob ; when the door was opened she looked into the lady's face and mewed. Three of her dead kittens were lying on the floor. The lady said : "Well done, June ; go and get the other one." She went and brought it, then looked into the lady's face and mewed again. Spot, of Camden, Maine, answered when she was asked if she wanted anything to eat ; and if her answer was negative, she would not eat, even if she was fed. Coonie, of Belfast, when directed in the morning to " go call the children," would go up the stairs, into every room, jump upon the bed and wake up each one ; and, if it was early, would stay in the rooms a little while, but, if it was late, would hurry downstairs. A cat at Poor's Mills, Maine, would hold up her right or left paw, or both, correctly, as she was directed, previous to receiving her food. The'ophile Gautier's Eponine, a " delicate, lady-like cat," was allowed to sit at the table at dinner. Although she preferred fish, she would eat her soup first, when reminded, in polite language, that a person who had no appetite for soup ought to have none for fish.
Some of these acts may be only coincidences ; but observation for ten years of my own cat, concerning whom it has often been remarked that she seemed to understand what we were talking about and was listening to it, has satisfied me that more of them were done with knowledge. The story of the adventure of Theophile Gautier's Madame Theophile with the parrot, on first being introduced to it, indicates a comprehension of the significance of language, and has its humorous side also. The cat, looking upon the bird as a " green chicken," stealthily approached it as with the intention of seizing it. The watchful bird, at the critical mo- ment, asked her, in good French : " Have you breakfasted, Jockey ; and on what on the king's roast ? " and broke out into song. The astonished cat retreated hastily, and hid for the rest of the day, but renewed her attack on the morrow, to be rebuffed in the same manner. From that time she treated the parrot with the respect due to a being having the power of speech.
Montaigne says : " When I play with my cat, how do I know whether she does not make a pastime of me, just as I do of her ? We entertain ourselves with mutual antics; and if I have my own times of beginning or refusing, she, too, has hers." The sportiveness of kittens is exuberant, and makes them the most delightful of pets. Lindsay's remark is superfluous, except that it has to be made for the formal completeness of his treatise, that dogs and cats take part in the fun and frolic sometimes rough or boisterous enough of their child playfellows. They give every evidence, in fact, that such fun and frolic are the most enjoyed features of that period of their lives. As the animal matures it becomes more sedate, and even assumes a meditative air, but the taste for sport does not die out till infirmity begins to wear upon it. A cat mentioned in the Animal World would allow itself to be rolled up or swung about in a table : cloth, and seemed to enjoy the fun ; and Wood's dignified Pusset would let his friends do anything they pleased with him lift him up by any part of the body, toss him in the air from one to another, use him as a foot- stool, boa, or pillow, make him jump over their hands or leap on their shoulders, or walk along their extended arms, with perfect complacency. At the same time he was keenly sensitive to ridicule, and, if laughed at, would walk off with every manifestation of offended dignity.
Lindsay names the cat as one of the animals that perpetrate practical jokes on each other or on man ; that enter thoroughly into the spirit of the joke or fun, and enjoy and exult in its success ; and cites in illustration of his principle an instance of a cat teasing a frog, seemingly to hear it cry. Tad, of Burnham, Maine, seems to have had the humorous sense in a more refined degree. He would sit in the yard, and, calling the neighboring cats together, would manoeuvre as though giving them orders, till he got them to fighting ; then would withdraw to one side, or to his seat upon the window-sill, and look on in evident amusement, swinging his large, bushy tail forcibly against the window-pane ; but, when called into the house by his mistress, he always obeyed.
Knowledge of the ways in which certain common things are done and the capacity to apply it are so frequently shown by do- mestic cats that it is almost superfluous to mention particular instances of its exhibition. Most cats know how doors are opened, and can open them for themselves if the method of handling the latch comes within the compass of their powers of manipulation. Romanes asserts that, in the understanding of mechanical appliances of this character, they reach a higher level of intelligence than any other animals, except monkeys, and perhaps elephants. He thinks that the skill of these animals may be due to their having, in their flexible limbs and trunks, instruments adapted to manipulation, which they learn to use. This may be so, but it should be remembered that horses can open doors and gates with their teeth and noses, and cows with their horns. The behavior of cats before a looking-glass, when, failing to find the image palpable in the face of the mirror, they look or feel around behind it, is familiar. Having once satisfied themselves that there is nothing there, they recognize the fact, and cease "to take any further interest in the phenomenon. So they and other animals know that they can go round a wall and reach a point on the other side of it ; or can go round after the mouse which they have heard rustling behind the door. A noteworthy feat of door-opening is recorded by Mr. Romanes of his coachman's cat, which, having an old-fashioned thumb-latch to deal with, sprang at the half-hoop handle below the thumb-piece, hanging to it with one paw, depressed the thumb-piece with the other paw, and with her hind legs pushed at the door-posts till the door flew open. Mr. Romanes interprets this and another similar action which he records as involving a deliberate purpose, combined with a mental process which he treats as complex and very near akin to reason- ing, and as involving definite ideas respecting the mechanical properties of doors. Mr. A. Petrie's cat would climb up by some list to the click-latch, push it up, and, hanging from the door, similarly push it away from the posts. The cat of Mr. W. H. Michael, of Queen Anne's Gate, St. James's Park, London, jumped four feet to the crank-latch of a casement window, caught hold of the crank with her fore feet, and pressed the window open with her hind feet. A cat belonging to Parker Bowman learned to open a window by turning a swivel and bearing upon the sash.
Some equally curious incidents, showing powers of contrivance and a degree of understanding of the relation of antecedent and consequent, are connected with cats striking door-knockers and ringing bells, or, if unable to do so themselves, asking to have them done. Mr. Belshaw tells, in Nature, of his kitten jumping upon the door and hanging by one leg while it put the other fore paw through the knocker and rapped twice. A London cat is de- scribed in Nature which by standing on her hind legs would reach the knocker and rap once ; if this was not answered, she gave what is called a ' postman's knock ' ; and if this was not responded to, " tried a scientific rat-tat that would not disgrace a West End footman." It is added that she held the knocker in her paws as we would hold it in our fingers, and did not simply tip it up. Mr. J. J. Cole's cat, of Maryland, Sutton, Surrey, having observed that a servant went to one of the windows after hearing the flap of a letter-box attached to it moved by a post- man, learned to have herself let in when shut out by also rattling the flap. Some alarm was excited at Mr. Lonergan's house in London by a mysterious knocking at a door which could not be reached from the outside except by climbing over a wall. At length, Mrs. Muffins, the cat, was detected as the author of the sounds, and it was found some time afterward that she had learned to produce them by pulling at the loose lower end of a strip of board running down at the side of the door, and allowing it to rebound. There is perhaps nothing very remarkable in an animal, having observed that the striking of the knocker or the pulling of the bell-knob was usually followed by the opening of the door, learning to imitate the act. But some cats have gone further than this, and have learned the connection between the wire and the bell, and to avail themselves of it in order to be let in.
Other acts are related of cats that give us a much higher conception of their mental powers, and even go a little way toward lifting them into the order of beings capable of real abstract reasoning. Kitty, of Belfast, Maine, having given a mouse to her kittens to play with, watched the sport for a while as if to see that the mouse did not escape, but at last bit it so as to disable it, and then went away. Two kittens, neighbors of Kitty's, disagreed over a squirrel which had "been given them. Their mother cuffed them, then bit the squirrel in two, and gave half of it to each. Coonie, of Belfast, sitting on the window-sill by the side of the ladies of the family when the glass was much clouded, put up her paw and wiped off the mist. This act may be matched by animals breaking ice to get at the water, and horses scraping the snow from the ground to reach the grass beneath it, but it also shows capacity for adaptation to circumstances. The same Coonie usually had to suffer the loss of all but one of each litter of her kittens. She finally seems to have determined to choose the one that should be saved. She selected one, carried it away, and left the rest to their fate. A Scotch cat, of Greenock, where the family were in the habit of throwing out crumbs for the birds, hid in the shrubbery to catch one of the birds when they came up. One afternoon the crumbs were not eaten, and were covered with snow during the night. In the morning, Puss was observed picking the crumbs out of the snow and putting them on top, after which she retired to her hiding-place. This was noticed two or three times ; and at last Puss's success in catching the birds forced the family to cease feeding them. Dr. G. Frost, of London, found his cat in the habit of waiting m ambush for the throwing out of crumbs for the birds. The practice of feeding the birds was left off for a few days ; and Dr. Frost avers that he and another member of the household saw the cat herself scattering crumbs on the grass, " with the obvious intention of enticing the birds."
Mr. James Hutchings tells, in Nature, f of a cat which, finding a young blackbird fallen from its nest to the ground, spent several hours in keeping a strange kitten away from the young bird, and at the same time herself teasing it, in order to entice the parent, which was hovering around, within her reach. The cat showed wonder- ful persistency through several defeats, and played a variety of tricks to deceive or attract the parent bird, till Mr. Hutchings forcibly put an end to the cruel sport. A cat living in a hospital in Massachusetts is described in Nature, which discovered the blindness of one of the inmates, and regularly took advantage of the fact to steal a part of her meal from her. Mr. Lawson Tait relates that a mutual dislike arose between a visitor at his house and his family of unusually intelligent cats. Although the cats had always been scrupulously neat and clean, they regularly left a noxious mess at the guest's room door so long as he stayed at the house. Just as the slaughter of the whole tribe as nuisances had been determined upon, the visitor went away, and the objectionable deposit ceased.
A story is told in the Hartford Times of a cat which became very uneasy one summer midnight and ran from one bedroom-door to another with earnest mewing and crying. Having attracted the attention of one of the family, she led the way, watching carefully to see that she was followed, down the stairs and through the kitchen and cellar to the outside cellar-door, which had been left open. A house between Belfast and Hollywood, Ireland, taking fire one night, the cat ran upstairs to the servant-maid's room and pawed her face. The girl, only half aroused, turned to sleep again. After a few moments the cat returned and scratched the girl's face till she woke in earnest, and now smelling the smoke, aroused the rest of the family. The cat already mentioned, that went and brought help to deliver the parrot from miring in the dough, evidently realized the nature of the danger the bird was in, and how it could be remedied. Mr. James K. Gilmore's (Edmund Kirk's) cat, finding one night, when she came home from her rambles, that the door leading to the veranda was open, took pains to give notice of it to the family. The same animal, when the family were all in other parts of the house, ran up to her mistress and demanded to be followed. She led the lady directly to the kitchen, and there was a strange man who had intruded himself into the vacant room. Mr. Gilmore relates several other anecdotes of this cat, which show that she under- stood the value of human help in emergencies particularly in cases where her kittens were in trouble and upon whom to call. She also understood that whatever demands she might make upon her master in the daytime, his night's rest must not be disturbed. At that time she always went to her mistress.
A cat is told of in the Boston Post which was accustomed to go in the summer with the family to the country. On the occasion of one of the vacations she appeared anxious about her kitten, and at last put it in one of the trunks.
A cat and a starling belonging to Mr. Dupre", of Kensington, England, were great friends and almost constant companions. One day the cat suddenly pounced upon the starling, but, instead of making an end of it, took it carefully up and set it upon a table ; then rushed out of the room to chastise a strange cat which had stolen into the house. The forethought it exhibited in securing the safety of its friend before going into the fight seems to justify our attributing to it the highest degree of intelligence which any of the authors we have quoted are willing to accredit to animals.
A cat of Mr. Brown, of Greenock, Scotland, having had some paraffin accidentally spilled upon it and set ablaze by a cinder from the fire, at once rushed out of the door and up the street for about a hundred yards ; plunged headlong into the village watering-trough; and then stepped out, shook herself, and trotted quietly home. She had been accustomed to seeing the fire put out with water every night. Mr. J. Harvey Gibbons's cat, of University College, Liverpool, when indisposed at one time, wandered strangely about the house, with an evident inclination toward the coal-bunkers. They were left open for her, and she went to them at once, and searched among the coals till she found a piece covered with pyrites. She licked this vigorously, and afterward returned regularly to the bunkers for more of the medicine. Some powdered sulphur was given her, and was accepted as a substitute for the pyrites. Under this regimen she recovered her health.
A most remarkable story illustrating this trait is told in the Revue Scientifique by Dr. Cosmovici, of Roumania, concerning his cat Cadi. We may remark that this gentleman appears to have been a keen observer of intelligence in all animals. The winter of 1880 was very cold, fuel was high, and our doctor had to be economical. He was accustomed, therefore, after his morning fire had burned out, to work during the rest of the day wrapped in furs, while Cadi sat at his feet. On one of the cold days, Cadi would every once in a while go to the door and mew in a tone quite distinct from that of his usual requests. Dr. Cosmovici opened the door, and Cadi went half-way out, looking at him the while. He shut the door and Cadi came back and mewed. At last he gave himself up to the cat's desire and followed her. She led him straight to the kitchen, and thence to the coal-box, and got upon it without ceasing to look at her master. He got coal. Cadi next showed him the way to the wood-box; thence led him back to his room, and, once within it, to the fireplace, where she lifted herself up and arched her back. The fire was made, while Cadi looked on, manifesting her approval of the operation by caresses. When it began to burn, she stretched herself before it, satisfied.
A TORTOISE-SHELL WILD CAT.
By WILLIAM H. BALLOU.
Popular Science Monthly
Volume 51, August 1897
The cat described by Ballou is now called the Pantanal Cat and is considered to be a sub-species of the Colocolo.
THE cat family has given naturalists quite as much trouble as it has the ordinary citizen in his efforts to repose at night. The wild type (or types) of the domestic animal has never been located, although various views have been advanced to account for the household pet. As far back as we can distinguish man arising on the horizon of history, we find him accompanied by certain domestic animals, the origins of which are quite as involved in problems of transition conditions as is man himself. The late Dr. J. S. Newberry was wont to exhibit to me a mummified alleged cat from Egypt, to show that the domestic animal of the Egyptians was really a civet. The late Prof. Cope thought that perhaps all living species of wild cats had been defined, until Felis bracatta was sent him from Brazil; he thought it probable that there were no more extinct Felidæ, to be discovered until, just before his death, a pocket containing several new types was opened in a Philadelphia quarry not far from his laboratory.
I have always taken an interest in the origin of the domestic cat, not the least diminished by these two lamented paleontologists, who could find no technical basis for any theories that have been advanced. No wild cat has been tamed in modern times, and years of confinement and kindness have wholly failed to soften the savage nature of these denizens of the forest and jungle, some representatives of which will instantly attack man or beast, oblivious to overwhelming odds, and fight to the last gasp. I have always inclined to the multi-origin of various types of domestic cats, holding that wild types in various parts of the earth gave origin to the domestic types therein found. It is impossible for me to reconcile to a common existing wild ancestor the domestic cat of the Isle of Malta, the stub-tailed Manx cat of the Isle of Man, and the tortoise-shell cat of Brazil-all well-known domestic types.
It was therefore with great interest that I viewed in the late Prof. Edward D. Cope's laboratory at Philadelphia, during the past winter, the Felis bracatta from southern Brazil. The size of the animal is that of the domestic type, and its coloration is very near to that of the tortoise-shell pet. Prof. Cope would tell you that its only structural resemblance was to that of Felis jaguarondi, a common Brazilian wild cat of similar size. It would seem that color and size might be at least suggestive, when structural variation might possibly be accounted for by long years of domestication, changes in environment and food. But this is mere theorizing, an approach to venturesome ground, of which the paleontologist has a natural horror. At another time and in another article I propose to point out certain interesting resemblances between types of domestic and types of wild cats, even at the expense of being criticised by my friends who stand by teeth, skull, vertebrae, and claws. I propose to assume that the ancients had patience and good methods of reducing wild animals. The origin of the cat is as much of a mystery as the north pole, and entitled to the same venturesome exploration. Paleontology can throw no light whatever on the domestication of animals. Zoölogy has so far rendered no material assistance.
Only one specimen of the new Brazilian wild cat is in existence. Not long since Prof. Cope found the skin in a musty old box, where he had labeled it Felis bracatta, and hurriedly placed it long ago. He had this skin mounted, and the new work of taxidermic art became a favorite on his wide writing desk, together with the skull of a primitive Japanese, the femur of a camarasaur, a live Gila monster, and a live turtle. The bracatta was found in the great forests of southern Brazil. Its chief value lies in the fact that it is the only specimen in existence, and mod- ern values are based on the rarity of the commodity. Bracatta has a protective advantage in its colors, which are such that it would scarcely be distinguished, even in motion, from the dead leaves, soil, or rocks, accounting for a ready escape from enemies and an easy capture of prey, presumably small birds and mammals. Its general color is brown and shades of brown, suggestive, on the whole, of tortoise shell. The shading extends obliquely down the back toward the hind legs. The hair is long and very fine. The beautiful, dark, striped tail is nearly the length of the body, exclusive of the neck. Underneath the cat is spotted after the manner of leopards, and the legs have dark bands and boots. It is a slender, tapering, and graceful animal. Its markings are plain, suggesting the beautiful in simplicity, which aid in its general harmony with surroundings and to conceal it from the eye. It has black and gray ears of moderate size, with long inside hairs of a buff color. The whiskers are long and buff-colored, with black bases. Below each nostril and above each eye are buff spots ; the cheeks are yellowish brown ; the chin is a pale buff, and the throat has three rows of brown spots ; the tip of the tail is black ; the feet are small.
Prof. Cope pronounced the animal new to science because it was allied to only one species, Felis jaguarondi, and was possessed of characters which appeared to him to be distinct. The jaguarondi is a wild cat of similar size from the same locality, but its structural differences are notable. These structural differences are visible at almost every point of comparison, applying to feet, toes, claws, tail, ears, fur, and coloration. The aggregate of these characters indicates the specific differences.
Accompanying this article is a drawing of the bracatta as he probably appeared in life and environment. A mounted skin is necessarily more or less contracted and distorted. I think, however, the artist has effected the proper catlike proportions and markings with much fidelity to Nature.
It will be noted that the harmony of all this coloration is best expressed by the general term of tortoise shell. Its love of small birds and mice further suggests the domestic cat. Perhaps future capture of the species and a study of its habits in the wild state may disclose its relations, if any, with the tortoise shell of the fireside. At least it has the merit of being the nearest approach yet found to this particular domestic type.