REASONED TREATISE ON DOMESTIC CAT TRAINING,
ACQUIRER OF DK RAYNAL LIBRARY FUND,
Rue de Seine St. Germain, No. 48.
(Original text was not illustrated.)>
Addressed to Madam Superior of the Visitandines Convent.
However strange the subject you ask me to deal with, I endeavour to undertake it with the intention of producing something agreeable to you. I will not hide the fact that I suspected your sincerity, thinking for a moment that you wanted to embarrass my mind as part of some cruel joke, but my bookseller allayed my suspicions and I now believe that your interest in this little animal, with its soft coat and soft paws, is the only reason for your requests.
I won't repeat everything Mr. A told me about the advantages of dealing with such a subject for fear of giving him a bad name among the fair sex, and that would be a disservice to him, but here is what concerns me.
"I come, Mr. A., to offer you a treatise on the physical, moral, religious and political education of man."
"I donít want your treaty," he answered courteously.
"But it is excellent," I said.
"Even if it is extremely excellent, I still donít want it! But here you are, like all authors, ready to make a panegyric to your work; well, maybe the subject is beautiful, magnificent, but to spare your useless arguments I must remind you that you are an author and I am a bookseller, and in this respect we have views so different that it is not possible to agree.
Authors love brilliant subjects which give room to their wandering imagination; we love books that sell, and consequently subjects that flatter the tastes and manias of the age; if you want to work for me, you must deal with happy frivolity, with some brilliant trifle; invent little things which amuse idleness and lull laziness to sleep. You want to talk about education? Educate cats, then I'm your man."
I confess, Madame, that I still believed that Mr. A. was just joking, but his compelling arguments proved to the contrary, and I left his house with the happy idea that I would have a bookseller to publish my work, and women to read it and applaud me.
Yet, however satisfied I was at being able to comply with the desires of both kinds of person, whose patronage so greatly influences the destiny of an author, I had a sad idea of my subject, thinking it dry, barren and without charm. I was already lamenting the difficulties that I would have to overcome to achieve my goal, and like all bad authors, I lamented the dryness of the language and the difficulty of applying the right word to a fleeting thought. These despairing thoughts took away all my hope, and in a moment of trance aroused by the fear of failing, I was going on a journey, when my lucky star led me to the vast reservoir of science in the Rue de Richelieu. I went in and saw a spectacle worthy of holding an observerís attention; I saw, around the drinking fountain, the textbook-writers, the compilers of abstracts and dictionaries in the capital. The example of so many parasites seduced me, I immediately referred to the Encyclopedia, to Moreri, Trťvoux, Buffon, Cuvier. Surrounded by savants and naturalists, hope began to smile on me; I read, I quickly ran through everything related to this illustrious animal and, as science seized me, I felt my courage reborn. And would you believe it, Madame, after two days of work, I was in a position to write a large folio on the feline race for you.
Oh, what a precious source of literary wealth; you who have given my contemporaries so many illustration and famous subjects, I am grateful to you for the eminent service you have just rendered me. It is you who have made me a writer of the Miaulic race; I know I will be accused of pulling chestnuts out of the fire with the cat's paw: but no matter, I don't want to sound ungrateful. Alcoranís version of the birth of cats in the ark is a dreadful anachronism, which among the learned made Muhammad look like a dotard. We offend Godís far-sighted wisdom if we assume that He forgot such an essential creature when He created animals. Besides, I am a Christian, and moreover, I come from a father who believes Turks to be ignorant fanatics; and I will certainly not break the law, nor will I contradict my father for that shrewd impostor of Mecca.
Cats, in the order of creation, are our elders. The one who, through his words, brought the Universe into being, gave them freedom to run in the fields and provided for their existence, and they cruelly abused this privilege. Born with voracious tastes, naturally unruly and clever, they refused to be bound by either social habits or any particular alliance. They spread in the forests, declared war to the death on birds and small four-footed rodents, and they soon became famous for murder and robbery.
The mice, rats, rabbits and birds all experienced this barbarous fury in turn, and what is more surprising, the stupid toad and the timid frog were not immune from this carnivorous rage.
It is not clear when cats alienated their freedom and returned to the domestic state. All I can tell you is that their insolence and plunder nearly brought about their downfall. Locked up in the ark with the other animals, they gave themselves up, as usual, in that asylum of salvation, to appalling disorder; they bit some, scratched others, plucked the birds, skinned the rabbits, pursued the rats, and finally they did so much nonsense that, having provoked the wrath of the good patriarch, he exiled them to the shipís deck during the greatest downpour of the deluge. That would have been the end of them if the tender and sensitive wife of the shipís captain had not energetically shown him that it was cruel. Finally, they were only made to receive the waters of the celestial gutters for a few hours. From that moment, gratitude returned to their souls; they were sensitive and devoted to Noah's wife and vowed an eternal attachment to her. This feeling of friendship in the original race of cats was so strongly imprinted on their souls that it became hereditary; in my eyes it constitutes the defining characteristic of the domestic cat.
The cats were not indifferent to the famous "Go Forth and Multiply," they multiplied when they left the ark, and when Noah's children were dispersed, their wives, who already considered cats a precious item of household furniture, took cats with them, and spread them far and wide. Since that time, cats can be found wherever there are women.
But their innate spirit of independence and indocility made them weak and fickle; they left the domestic hearth, they devoted themselves to a wandering, vagabond life, and undertook, like our valiant elders, lives of adventure; they made alliances with foreign races from need rather than love. The beauty and physical characteristics of the original race were altered by this monstrous fusion of animal natures; varieties and species were formed, the work of the creator thus became that of the creature (1).
(1 - The common domestic cat does not degenerate by its isolation in distant countries. Cats transported to different parts of Africa and America have, for several centuries, not experienced any physical change. I am dealing with the first generation of cats here.
There is undoubtedly an alteration in the genus, since the sacred text mentions only one species of each animal in the ark.)
Thus, Madame, the most beautiful species of the race saved by the Noahís good wife, among those called domestic are, according to Buffon, the Persian cat, Spanish cat and the Anatolian cat known as the Angora. These cats are remarkable for the size and strength of their body, their elegant head, their smooth coat, and a sweet character that soeaks of their more perfect state of domesticity. The other species and varieties are very numerous. Each country has its own, in Tobolsk the cats are red; in the Cape of Good Hope, they are blue; in China, they have hanging ears; in Japan, they are straight (2); in India, there are flying cats and cats with a pouch on their sides in which to put their young; Pallas recognized a species, in Russia, with a small, pointed muzzle, and a tail six times as long as the head.
(2 - Most domestic cats have straight ears, there is only the one from China, from the province of Pechy-Chily, which has them absolutely hanging down.)
This deformity, this degeneration of race, is due to their decided taste for plunder and vagrancy; to the spirit of freedom and absolutism which dominates them; for make no mistake, Madam, if cats have retained, like men, a germ of their primitive freedom, it is only because this freedom serves their desires and facilitates their insatiable voracity. It is their hedonism that makes them liberal, and we will not say that liberalism develops masculine and generous virtues in them; because the more the nature of their condition makes them free, the more versatile, cunning, skilful, clever, selfish and cruel they became, and the more they contracted these small flaws of rascality, which the need to live at the expense of others has made so familiar to a race of men too common on earth.
However, having gained influence over womenís minds, cats were soon to play a great role on earth. The priests of antiquity, who also knew how to take advantage of menís weaknesses, spread the rumour that Diana, to escape the fury of the giants, had hidden herself in the form of a cat. The coup d'etat of the pagan sneaks had the expected success, women were enchanted that the chaste lover of Endymion had taken the form of their favourite to escape her tyrants and cried out loudly for it to be deified. Hypocrisy and superstition are absolute and persevering in their willpower, they had to give in; and besides, Madam, you will agree that it was hardly possible to resist the combined union of cats, women and priests.
Cats, therefore, had altars; they were represented in their natural form and in that of a man with a cat's head. Very severe laws were made in Egypt against those who would kill or mistreat these animals; finally, time, which legitimizes even the most false and laughable things, made the cult of the cat so revered, that there was no house in Egypt which did not have its god cat, to which the family gave thanks each day. In this land of superstition, when a cat died it was nothing but weeping and lamenting for those who had lost it; they tore their hair, they cut their eyebrows, the deceased animal was carried ceremoniously to the sacred place, and there, after being embalmed, it was buried and received the honours of elevation to divine status. Would you believe it, madam, according to Herodotus, the Egyptians had so much veneration for cats, that when their houses were on fire, they would rather save these animals from the flames than put out the fire, and the first feeling that touched them on seeing their fortunes wiped out was the loss of their cats.
The cult of reason, which came after paganism, brought down the idol, but the creature remained, and we know how much it was cherished, loved and celebrated wherever there were women. In China, it is the happiest animal in the house, it never leaves the down and silks, it lives in soft carelessness and an impassive tranquillity; sleeping either at the foot of his mistress, or on a rich sofa; she puts adornments on him as one does to a child during holidays; his neck is surrounded by a silver necklace, his ears adorned with jasper or sapphire. In Turkey, there are hostels for them, and they return there for food, with stewards and servants to settle and serve these noble animals. In France, they enjoy the sweetest existence; faithful companions to their mistresses, they amuse them, they relieve them with their kindness and their nimble tricks, and with a thousand ingenious and clever turns, they help pass the time of sadness and boredom; but donít they also receive many sweets and caresses during the day, so much care and attention. Madam, I cannot relate this image without thinking of the cat I saw the other day in a certain house; lying softly on his mistress, this happy animal calmly received the tender kisses that one does not count when in love, and he had the unashamed boldness, or rather the adroit instinct, to respond to her precious outpourings.
I know that some bad jokers have made offensive allusions, have wanted to draw offensive comparisons. Calm yourself, Madame, the naturalists have avenged you, and nature has repelled all sarcasm. Cats never look you in the face, their slanted eyes and sideways glance indicate distrust and deceit. A woman stares nobly and has gentleness and sincerity in her looks and on her lips. Cats do not know how to love, they are deceitful and treacherous by inclination, wicked and cruel by habit. Women, ah! Madam, forgive an excess of zeal and neglect of propriety, it is not for me, who adores the blessings of the Creator in his companion of man, to make these comparisons, let us leave this ignoble pursuit to mindless stupidity and instead resume our narration.
The cat is pretty, light, playful, graceful and clean, qualities which attract the love of women who, naturally isolated in their house, need distraction and alleviation of boredom; their kindness and ingenious mischief have something that delights and pleases even when there is some criminal aim and a principle of selfishness, and their paws and roguish tricks are easily forgiven in favour of their social qualities. Not all naturalists have spoken well of cats. It looks like Buffon was in a bad mood when he wrote his eloquent lines about this quadruped; however little benefit they are to my method, I feel compelled to remind you of them so that I can combat anything that may harm your opinion of cats.
[Note: I use the version translated in 1781 by William Smellie]
That celebrated writer says: "The cat is an unfaithful domestic, and kept only from the necessity we find of opposing him to other domestics still more incommodious, and which cannot be hunted; for we make no account of those people, who, being fond of all brutes, foolishly keep cats for their amusement. Though these animals, when young, are frolicsome and beautiful, they possess, at the same time, an innate malice, and perverse disposition, which increase as they grow up, and which education learns them to conceal, but not to subdue. From determined robbers, the best education can only covert them into flattering thieves; for they have the same address, subtlety, and desire of plunder. Like thieves, they know how to conceal their steps and their designs, to watch opportunities, to catch the proper moment for laying hold of their prey, to fly from punishment, and to remain at a distance till solicited to return. They easily assume the habits of society, but never acquire its manners; for they have only the appearance of attachment or friendship. This disingenuity of character is betrayed by the obliquity of their movements, and the duplicity of their eyes. They never look their best benefactor in the face; but, either from distrust or falseness, they approach him by windings, in order to procure caresses, in which they have no other pleasure than what arises from flattering those who bestow them. Very different from that faithful animal the dog, whose sentiments totally centre in the person and happiness of his master, the cat appears to have no feelings which are not interested, to have no affection that is not conditional, and to carry on no intercourse with men, but in the view of turning it to his own advantage. By these dispositions, the cat has a greater relation to man than to the dog, in whom there is not the smallest mark of insincerity or injustice. Naturally averse to every kind of restraint, they are incapable of any system of education."
Everything the naturalist says is a little exaggerated as you will easily see it in the course of this letter.
The catís horror of slavery and of anything that tends to bind their will is so strong that the punishment they most fear is that of being hemmed in or forced to prompt obedience. In that state, the cat is no longer the same, it loses its invincible naturalness, it does not think of theft or hunting, and it would die of melancholy and hunger among abundant food; Lemery, after putting a cat in a cage made a few mice pass through the cage; the cat, far from hurting them, looked at them calmly with a kind of indifference, the mice grew bolder and provoked the cat, annoying it a little, but it only responded with silence and calm. Freedom would have restored its strength and voracity, and the mice would have been lost if the cage had been opened. Cats also fear punishment, when one is severe with them, not only do they become versatile, as Buffon says, but they become obedient and wise; I believe that these are two rather good means of subjecting them to certain social rules. Besides, these stories are not without examples: it is reported that monks from the island of Cyprus occupied themselves raising cats to chase away the snakes that infested that island, and that they succeeded so well that in a short time the hunting cats put an end to all those reptiles. Valmont de Bomare saw cats making music at the Saint Germain fair; these animals, he said, were placed in stalls with a piece of music paper in front of them, and in the middle was a monkey beating time, at a set signal, the cats made sad and pleasant cries or meows; this concert was announced to the people under the name of "Concert Miaulique." But why don't we breed cats, since we breed rats, snakes and the most stupid animals? And you know the story of the unfortunate man who managed to tame a spider in his prison. Nowadays we see wandering entertainers making hares and rabbits do manoeuvres, so, I repeat, having seen such training why not train the cat? It is said its character is indomitable, it is an animal endowed with great strength and will. However, I agree with a famous naturalist who says this animal is capable of recognition, and that, through education, it becomes a faithful friend; he even believes that one could succeed in raising the great breed of cats, in which we place lions and tigers. The traits of recognition and attachment in the lion, as recorded for us in Roman history, seems to corroborate the views of the French zoologist. From all these examples, it seems fair to me to not speak so harshly of cats, and to believe that with time and good principles, we can make them obedient and faithful subjects. I am sorry, Madame, for not sharing Buffon's opinion; in this matter he is a serious and very grave doctor, and I have no doubt that his follows regard this opinion highly, but I must not hide from you anything that the catís enemies have said against them so you will know that most men have not had the same affection for these animals as the Egyptians. Henry III hated them, and the sight of a cat made him faint. Our hunters, our forest guards do not hesitate to kill them or trap them, and I will tell you there is even a type of person among our citizen who keep watch near houses where cats are nobly and greatly fed, and when they can catch a few, they do him the honour of stewing him; the Russians, Danes and Cossacks go hunting cats, whose flesh they eat and whose skins they sell to Europeans who turn them into pretty furs. There was a law in the Kingdom of Aragon that punished thieves by whipping them with a cat tied around their neck. Ambroise, Pavť and Mathiole were the greatest detractors of cats that we have seen on earth, they claimed these animals were poisonous, that their breath was fatal and caused consumption; one of them said their brains were poisonous, and that Admiral Tromp was poisoned by eating a cat's brain. If all things on earth did not have both a good and a bad side; if everything subjected to manís investigation did not have both panegyrists and critics; everything said against these pets (however useful and cuddly), could not hold our attention. So, we will leave the satirical authors of the miaulic race to the indifferent and continue to discuss it with neither enthusiasm nor prejudice.
Philosophers and poets have long studied the catís character, its tastes, habits and combination of hunting tricks, how it defends itself, and its roguish tricks have always provided their genius with numerous moral subjects; it is above all through the ingenious cloak of allegory, or through biting satire, that poets of all ages have sketched the catís political and warlike life; it does not enter into my plan to examine whether Aesop, PhŤdre, La Fontaine and Florian are right to compare some of the catís actions to those of certain perverse men, but I must show that the catís perversity is less criminal than that of men; the cat is born with a savage disposition and a very marked taste for plunder; cunning, dissimulation and all the vices we accuse him of are a heritage of his race; left to himself, he surrenders to his natural inclinations, and this is nothing to be guilty about; a being unenlightened by reason has only nature for his guide; but this animal which, at birth, has only vices and no qualities, polishes itself, humanizes itself, and corrects its nature through instruction, we see it bow to our habits and whims, and do whatever it can to please and charm us. If it only had, as they say, the appearance of attachment, when all the social habits it develops only serve to mask the perversity of its character, that would still be a lot for him; but it has been said without proving it, that the cat loses none of its cruelty and savagery through training. It would be difficult to make me believe that the animal that stays next to its mistress all day, who obeys her commands, who hastens to run when she call, who is sad and sorrowful at her absence, who on her return runs to meet her, and gives her a thousand caresses, acts only through cunning and dissimulation. Flattery and versatility are the weapons of rascals, but rascals are not always versatile and flattering, and cats, when they have acquired social habits, keep them until their death. Well-behaved cats are sober, gentle and calm, they are not inclined to theft or plunder, they even disdain the pleasure of taking rats and mice by cunning and skill, being entirely occupied with pleasing their mistress. They have on their side the ardour of a lover and the complacency of a husband. The vices of their nature never show themselves in their household dealings and if, in play, they use their paws or teeth, we have no reason to complain, they always do so with prudence and discretion. We cannot say of them, like men:
Chase nature away and comes back at a gallop.
So, it is an advantage for cats to be raised, or rather it is for us, since we make them docile to our wishes; at least the cat does not catch any vices through training, but the perverse man, who born gentle and good, who, living in the forest would never have learned plunder, fraud, concealment and cunning, which independently of his natural disposition, has the strength, the example and the divine advantage of combining his ideas, of communicating them by voice, of transmitting them to posterity by his intelligence and his industry, subject to a system of education, with the sole aim of making use of its reason for its happiness and its preservation, abuses his God-given gifts and the enlightenment of civilization; he degrades his species, he becomes a civilized monster, in a word he becomes a cat; and while the cat through training develops his intelligence to correct his natural inclinations, the perverse man only acquires knowledge and instruction to abuse it and take advantage of all the mischief in the world.
Thus we can say that the catís perversity is a natural accident, an attribute of its destiny, while in man it is a premeditated crime, it is a voluntary moral monstrosity, that for the animal training is advantageous and honourable, but for the perverse man it is shameful and dishonourable; I will not tell you how harmful a perverted man is to society, how pernicious his vices are for it; I only wanted to show that a well-behaved cat better deserves our esteem than a vicious man, because the former has taken advantage of instruction to please us and to correct himself, while the latter has taken advantage of it to harm us. I maintain that the domestic catís faults are not harmful in a house. It is vicious, they say. I agree, but it only exercises its viciousness against dogs and cats, and against all strange animals who come insolently to provoke it; it never hurts its masters, and if it allows itself a few scratches or a few light bites, it is only when pushed to the limit, or when some stranger comes to bother it; thus its wickedness has two advantages, that of commanding the respect of animals and strangers, and that of isolating itself from everyone except from its masters to whom it is devoted, and to whom it becomes gentle and obliging. The cat is cunning and cruel, but its cunning and cruelty are exercised only against vermin which inconvenience us, and against which we must use poison and cunning; a well-behaved cat lives in its master's house with all kinds of animals when it is accustomed to consort with them and eat with them; it sleeps with the dogs, with the rabbits, with the chickens, and even if pressed by hunger it never exercises its cruelty or cunning on them; thus these two faults are not harmful in a domestic cat; birds that you raise have nothing to fear from a cat once it becomes accustomed to seeing them. Cats are also said to be sneaks and thieves; a cat given the necessities and given a few lessons in restraint does not steal, we can put meat, fish, or any sort of thing that it is very fond of beside it and it will know how to respect them; but if we starve him, if in his youth he was not taught to be honest and discreet, there is no reason he should not steal. Nature and need are laws, and theft is then a necessity which cannot be made a crime.
From all that I have just said, we reach the conclusion that the cat, born with a wild character and perverse tastes, naturally indulges all its inclinations when left to itself, but the more we takes care of its education, the more it loses the vices of nature, and becomes docile and civil. This truth applies to all types of domestic cat; the meanest and the sweetest alike, when tame and perfectly brought up. Cat-haters, dog-lovers, who are usually antagonistic to the Miaulic breed, will ask me "why take the trouble to breed cats, what are they useful for? what qualities do they have to become lovable?" Philosophically speaking, training the cat has a more useful, wiser, more human purpose, and I dare say it, is more social than training a dog; the cat's education serves to make it less cruel and less voracious, that of the dog, on the contrary, only serves to give it ferocious and barbaric manners; dogs are only raised to torment, destroy, devour in the forests the sweetest, most peaceful animals on earth, and also those which are the least harmful to man; cats are raised to be bent to our social habits, and to inspire terror in a race of vile vermin that seem to exist only to harm and to annoy. The dogís training has something which is repugnant to natural justice and to humanity, that of the cat offers nothing like that, on the contrary, reason makes us breed animals to make war on those who are harmful to us, and it does not reject our desire to raise them purely for our pleasure and distraction. In addition, I say that the word "teach" is badly applied to the methods used to train dogs to take game, because the word implies a levelling, a softening of an individualís manners and character, and not the concept of making it meaner and crueller. Besides, no one thinks that I want to put those who train dogs on trial here, nor those who give rules for raising dogs. Obliged to deal with the education of cats, I thought I should show that the subject is not so trivial as one might think, and that it has merits and uses like any other.
So far, Madame, we have only reviewed the bad points of the cat and I hope that our impartiality has earned us the application of Boileauís maxim:
I call a cat a cat, and Rolet a rogue.
In fact, while defending the cat, we have not denied its vices and faults, we have even recalled the diatribe that Buffon launched against them, and if we have spoken of some of its domestic qualities, it is was less to praise it than to support its rights of self-defence. To speak now of its natural qualities after having talked for so long about its faults, does not seem out of place.
Of all animals, the cat is the one which, due to its size, has the most strength and vigour, and with this, it is supple and sinewy, making it able to use its strength to advantage and to defend itself against animals much larger than it. It fears the dog, but the dog fears the cat in turn, and in order not to trigger disasters that are always bloody and murderous, they move away from each other, but if a dog enters a house where there is a cat, the latter does not hide its distaste at the dogís presence, but begins by circling around it or by getting under a chair, and there, with bristling fur, straightened tail and wild eyes, he begins a certain song that is more serious than pleasant, and if the dog persists in staying or is daring enough to attack it. The fight begins and still quite strangely. The cat, hiding under a chair or in some corner, boxes its enemy so rapidly that one does not wait for the other; the dog wants to bite and grab the cat, but is so afraid of its claws that he must fight with his eyes closed. Imagine a growling cat, a barking dog, and the two enemies grappling with such laughable contortions and manners, and you get the idea of a dog-and-cat battle; but the cat's defence and its stubbornness in repelling its enemy are astonishing. If the dog, out of fear or indifference, ceases to pursue the cat, the latter does not cease to provoke his enemy, it observes all his movements, it follows him, and runs from chair to chair, from cabinet to cabinet, and always as close as it can, in order to land some blows, in fact it only quietens down when it feels the enemy is gone. This natural animosity of dog and cat has never been well defined by philosophers, but it gave birth to the proverb: they fight like dog and cat, meaning two people who never agree.
The cat is very light, it climbs trees and jumps with unimaginable ease; it is extremely distrustful, anything new alarms it; a gesture, a slightly loud tone of voice frightens it and makes it hide. By shouting "Cat, cat," we are sure to scare it away. It is also very curious, sniffing out anything unfamiliar, and never eating or drinking anything without having first smelled it. Its sense of smell is very limited, however, it is the sense consulted most often, either to satisfy its natural delicacy or out of preference because it loves odours. People who perfume themselves and plants that have strong aromas particularly appeal to cats; catnip and valerian cause moments of delight, we like to see it, in its contentment, caress these plants with its muzzle, rub them with its whiskers, and lie down on them. A low, continuous murmur is the sign of a happy and satisfied cat. It has yet another way of expressing happiness and joy, it widens its fingers and alternately lifts and sets down its front feet as if kneading, but it only enters this state in warm places, such as on a bed or armchair, and sometimes on people. They were born for hunting and, as Buffon says, they know more than the best educated dogs. Their hunting method is in common with all species of the Miaulic genus, which M. Cuvier called digitigrade carnivorous mammals; it consists of crouching in a bush or hidden place, and pouncing on prey when it is within reach. A cat which smells prey waits with inconceivable patience for hours, for whole days, waiting for the right moment to seize it. Thus it has been said, when speaking of a man who observes the actions of another, that he watches him like a cat does a mouse.
The cat has a short muzzle, straight ears, a small tail, a protruding nose that is rough to the touch, it does not have a fine sense of smell, it can smell things some distance away, that's what makes it give up prey when it is out of sight. On the other hand, it hears very well; the slightest movement, the slightest noise puts it on the alert. It is a very light sleeper, and if a mouse has the misfortune of scratching or gnawing nearby, we are sure to find the cat ready to surprise it, however we must except the moments when it is asleep, after a long chase, then it sleeps deeply. One of its particular qualities is seeing at night, something attributed to the conformation of its eyes, whose pupils contract lengthwise during the day, and become round during the night; his eyes are large and close together. Cats' eyes are blue when young, green in older cats, and usually grey in adults. History records that Tasso, in one of his moments of destitution and misery, having no candle to write by, begged his she-cat, with a pretty sonnet, to lend him the light of her eyes during the night. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the catís eyes gave rise to a very lively dispute among scientists, which provided material for several memoirs collected in academic annals. It had been discovered that by immersing a cat in water and turning its head so that its eyes were directly exposed to strong light, it happened that, despite the harsh light, the pupil of the eye did not shrink, but on the contrary it dilated, and as soon as the living animal was withdrawn from the water its pupil narrowed, which could be seen distinctly in the water in the depths of its eyes, but which one may never see in the air. It seems that the explanation of this phenomenon was very important in the anatomical history of the cat, for the famous Haller showed great zeal for this affair and devoted himself to a great work to give it a reasonable solution. What is certain is that this faculty of seeing at night is very favourable to the cat for watching and catching mice, which usually only run about at night or in the dark.
You may not know, Madam, how a cat watches for a mouse; yours are so well fed, so well cared for, that they hardly bother hunting these animals, they just inspire fear in them, and they know too well that their very presence scares the mice away. When a cat notices a mouse hole, it first sniffs it to be certain it is frequented. If its nose reveals to him the existence of mouse nest, it does not take care of it during the day, but as soon as the night arrives, it creeps and crawls near to the hole, and there, in silence and without discernible movement, it waits patiently for its prey. It always puts itself at a certain distance in order to be able to launch itself without inconvenience. After a few hours of watching, if the mouse does not appear, it moves away, not out of impatience, but to go and make a round of the apartment, and inspect all the corners. When it sees that everything is quiet and hears no provocative cries or noises, it returns to its observation post until daylight, then, if the mouse has still not appeared, the cat will go about its ordinary business which, as you know, are cuddling and soothing its mistress, and eating sweet and light things, but when night falls it sets out again, continuing the same activities until the mouse falls into its claws, which usually does not take long.
The cat walks noiselessly, he does everything skilfully and with great delicacy, he climbs on the chimneys, goes into the cupboards and runs along places where we put the most random and fragile things without breaking anything, unless you surprise and scare it. It is very clean, spending hours cleaning and licking itself, it never voids its wastes in the apartments, it covers its wastes. It is picky and delicate in its tastes, so we say of a fussy person: she's a cat. Spoiled meat, or meat that is too gamey, dishes that are too mixed, and fatty sauces are unsuitable for cats; they need fish, birds, little mice, milk, and in general light and delicate food. What is strange is that when cats are accustomed early to eat everything, they are neither greedy nor picky; they eat salad, chestnuts, potatoes, cooked carrots, they are satisfied with a simple mash made with soft bread and a little minced meat. Cats in Paris and in the big cities, are fed beef lung, it is good food for them, but it makes them voracious and carnivorous.
This ease of feeding a cat as we want when we raise it is proof that it easily takes up social habits, but if we make it agree a kind of life, and accustomed it to a kind of food as it is growing up, it is necessary to continue these habits during its life, otherwise it suffers, it pines and often dies. The ancients believed that cats lived six years, that was Pliny's feeling; Aldrovande stated the life of a cat to be ten years, but there is evidence that, when properly cared for, it can live to twelve or even fifteen years. The cat matures and grows bigger for up to eighteen months, it is during this time that one must begin its training if one hopes to make it flexible and obedient. After its growth, it is no longer susceptible to training, its developed nature will be the same throughout its life. Cats fear fears the cold and although they often seek out resting places by the fireside, it also fears the heat, its voluptuous and indolent temperament makes it hostile to all extremes. When you want to play a trick on a cat, you only have to dip it in water at whatever temperature it is; it is said that a scalded cat fears even cold water; a reminder that anyone who has escaped danger fears everything of the same nature.
The Cat, when carefully raised, likes to be cuddled, soothed and caressed; it does not easily forget whatever one says, or the hand which caresses and feeds it. It is arrogant and proud to be cossetted by its mistress, which made Regnier say "I am becoming as proud as a cossetted cat," but as much it is charmed by being caressed by those who take care of it, it hates being picked up by strangers, it scratches and bites to escape and flee, which gives rise to the proverb: a cat is not easily taken without mittens.
The cat has a very pretty body; here is how M. Cuvier describes all its virtues. The calm, patient and cunning nature of the cat is in perfect harmony with its physical qualities, there are no animals whose shapes and joints are more rounded, whose movements are more flexible and gentle, and all species are similar in this respect, anyone who has seen a domestic cat can get an idea of the physiognomy, shape and gait of another cat; all, like him, have a round head, furnished with strong whiskers, a thick neck, an elongated body, are almost as big in the belly as in the chest, and which can be narrowed if necessary, very short toes and strong, low legs, especially the front ones, and most of them have a rather long and very mobile tail, they walk slowly and cautiously, bending the hind legs, bending them back on themselves very easily, they make use of their limbs and especially of their paws with a deftness that one loves to watch; they do not make harsh movements, when they run, it seems they are gliding, when they leap, they seem to be flying. The same naturalist observed that they are the only ones among predators who have four molars in the upper jaw, one tubercular, one carnassial and two false molars, and three in the lower jaw, one carnassial and two molars, they have two canines and two incisors in each jaw. The upper and lower jaws are each armed with thirteen teeth.
They are also the only ones whose nails rise up and hide between the fingers so as to retain their points and edges.
Although this animalís teeth are very white, but not very strong, the same cannot be said of its nails, they are dirty white, and although they donít appear so, they are very strong and sharp, and are the catís most formidable and useful weapon. These claws help it climb the largest trees, defend itself against the strongest animals, and make war on all others. It is with these that it pulls meat from the pot, unhooks hanging game, draws the fish from the market out of a basket, and does the many other petty thefts that we must not complain about if allowed to live in vice and in ignorance; but its claws, which do so much harm and facilitate so many criminal desires, are never used against the mistress who feeds it; it hides them as much as possible when amusing and soothing her; at these times it makes, as they say, velvet paws; in fact, nothing looks more like silk and down than a cat's paws. The catís voice is not beautiful, there is something sour and discordant about it, hence a vocal concert that has neither chord nor harmony is said to be catís music. The catís head is beautiful, it is regular and well characterized, it has something masculine and pleasant, like that of its larger relative, the lion. Although the shape of catsí heads has, as M. Cuvier has said, a generic identity, there are species such as those recognized by Pallas, in Russia, whose particular conformation make anomalous exceptions in the species.
The females have four teats, very short, a little wrinkled, but which kittens know well and easily suckle; they can feed four to five young, but it is better to let them raise only two; we will explain the reasons in the chapter on training. Cats always fall on their feet due to, as Parent demonstrated in the history of the Academy, their ability to curve their backbones when they fall; this lets them make a mechanical movement resulting in a half-turn which, letting gravity control their body, makes them fall on their feet. What is special is that they rarely get hurt when falling, unless they fall onto something sharp or pointed; it is a fact that I have seen cats fall from a great height and have never seen them die from the fall; a cat that falls from the fifth floor to the street is initially stunned by its fall, meows for a moment and then flees.
This animal does not swim as well as a dog, and it also runs much slower; according to the zoologist I have previously quoted, this is the only one of the developed strengths their bodies are not suited to. However, although it does not run fast, it is quick, forceful and light-footed, and its promptness in escaping from a place has given rise to the pretty saying "he passes over it like a cat on hot coals," when describing the shiftiness of a man who glosses over a dishonourable fact.
Regardless of their disposition to devour rats and mice, there are instances where their natures become humane, where they become affable and complacent to them, and sometimes even more. Boyle reports that in England in 1684, a big rat mated with a cat and this bizarre union produced little monsters that resembled both cats and rats; these animals were placed in the Kingís menagerie. If, after such an alliance, Madame, there are still detractors of cats who tell us that cats do not lose any of their savage habits through education, that they are remain cruel and bloodthirsty killers who take their innate cruelty to the point of catching animals for fun and slowly and barbarically tormenting and killing them, we need not exhaust our inquiries to answer them, the King of Englandís cats will answer for us. But we must admit that she-cats are softer and more lovable than he-cats, that they bend more easily to the domestic yoke. They roam less and are less wild, and they sometimes feed young animals of a completely different kind, such as dogs or squirrels. Sonnini reports several examples of this kind.
There are certain types of he-cat that are unruly and all the canes of the Ignorantine brothers, like all the patience of a nun, cannot overcome this. We cannot say the same of all types of domestic she-cats, with care we manage to make them docile and faithful. Although both love the house, the she-cat is more home-like and she does not like to remove herself from her mistress's petticoats except at certain times of the year when she allows herself some business in the neighbourhood, commanded by nature, and when she is satisfied, she withdraws to her own home to again become occupied with pleasing and entertaining her patroness. She is a much better mother than the he-cat is a good father; the latter has no qualms about imitating ancient Saturn in devouring his children, which is what makes the she-cat fear his presence when she has just given birth, so that she seeks some hidden place, some inaccessible hole, to protect the little ones she has brought into the world from their father's voracity. But she does even more, as soon as they are born, she grasps them, caresses them, and forces them to take the teat. She is a vigilant guardian, woe to any reckless animal that comes near to her nest, it is sure to experience her protective fury.
[Ignorantine Brothers: a religious fraternity devoted to giving free education, especially in religion, to poor children (Brethren of the Christian Schools).]
I cannot help recalling here Sonnini's image of a nursing cat, when an unwelcome dog arrives to alarm her maternal tenderness.
She takes the greatest care of her young, says this author; when they start to walk, she accompanies them everywhere, calls them to her with a gentle and peculiar meow, and when they do not answer, she meows again, her face takes on a worried expression, she takes a few steps along the path she wishes them to take and returns to them, she tries to carry them away.
If a dog appears, she goes into ferocious fury, rushing forward and standing bravely between the dog and her dear offspring, her eyes open wide, her pupils dilate widely, she opens her mouth, shows her teeth, her brow furrows, her whiskers bristle with rage, she forcefully exhales an odour of spoiled cabbage or bad musk, and seems to spit at the object of her hatred. Her fur bristles, and at the same time her ears flatten, her tail swells, her back arches upwards, her legs stiffen and, in this state, she performs a few small jumps as if to frighten her enemy and urge it to flee. She presents herself sideways to it as if to show off her puffed out tail and the other signs of her rage, and further intimidate it. If it advances, she jumps on it and often gives it a bad beating; if it stays still, she sometimes has the courage to approach it; if it flees, she runs after it, with no other purpose except to ensure it has gone away and to prevent its return. After doing sentry duty for a while, she returns to her kittens. She often finds them hidden in different corners, where they have taken refuge, she calls them to come out of their hiding places and approach her, and then she lavishes a thousand caresses on them, licking them and letting them suckle.
Not only does the she-cat raise her young with care and tenderness, but, as they grow up, she gives them little lessons in cunning and dexterity: she carries them mice, beetles and other small animals that are still alive in order to teach them early on how to become independent and be loved by those who raise them.
The male is tender and affectionate only at the moment of mating, even though he is often indifferent to the caresses of the female, which means that there is sometimes inner turmoil at the sweetest moment of their life, and that the she-cat, stung by the coldness of her savage husband, bites and scratches him, finally provoking his desires by acts of force and despair.
At this time, the males leave home and roam the fields looking to satisfy the need that torments them. Often, they remain absent for fifteen or twenty days; we may believe they have been trapped or killed, when they return with their bodies covered in scratches, their ears torn, the bloody marks of their amorous battles. Apart from this time, the male lives in perfect indifference to the female, but is usually wilder and more rapacious than she is, he often makes excursions to the neighbours, often staying there during his excursions, especially when is young and beautiful.
For the male cat to be docile and complacent, he must be castrated early, He will then he acquires all the qualities of the female but, for the first few years after this operation, he has terrible moments of rage which should be avoided. He becomes fatter, stronger and more beautiful than a tomcat, which is why he is always preferred in a house where cats are raised only for luxury and fun.
Among the domestic cat species, some are very small, and they are neither the best, nor the least wild, nor those with the finest hair and most beautiful skin; but they are excellent for catching mice.
The cats most esteemed in France, as objects of luxury and pleasure, are those that are strong and well-made, with long, shiny and silky hair, large heads, large and uniform eyes. The most beautiful cats in Europe are Chartreux, Angoras and those of Spain. The coats of these cats are generally highly esteemed; their fur has a very marked electric property, one has only to pass a hand quickly over their fur in the dark to release numerous sparks. All these types of cats love laziness and are very voluptuous. They spend half-days in the sun or in a sleeping nook and only seem to come out of their apathy to meet pressing needs. When they wake up, they show the signs of their extreme laziness; they stand up nonchalantly, yawning and stiffening their legs, they remain in one place for a long time without being able to move, as if emerging from a deep lethargy, such are pretty much the manners and habits of domestic cats. There are nuances in the character of different breeds which have escaped my narration and which I will point out in my treatise on their instruction.
When the catís usefulness is not recognized, when their eternal war against mice and rats, with they eliminate from our homes, is no longer a precious advantage for us, we would still want to breed them for our own pleasure. They have two essential qualities, which charm and console man in private and solitary life, they are soothing and cuddly. When we are isolated from the world, and all its amusements, we like to have some living beings around us who, in pleasant ways, distract our troubles and dispel our melancholy. They are animals, I agree, that cannot respond to our speeches, or rekindle our courage, but they respond to our caresses and do not betray us - we are sure to have the fidelity and attachment that often abandons us even in the midst of greatness and riches. And the sensitive man, who knows the price of friendship, does he not count for nothing the pleasant pastimes that the cat gives to someone that a rigorous duty obliges in a quiet, retiring life? Should he regard with indifference an animal which, every moment of the day, comes to soothe, stroke, distract a wife isolated from all society? And then aren't these little animals and their pretty offspring, for the children, graceful and clever monkeys who, by their kindness and little tricks, create amusements and games as pleasant as they are enjoyable.
Yes, Ma'am, I don't like cat-haters because their indifference to these animals is groundless, and it seems to discover a principle of culpable selfishness. Usually those who do not like cats are fond of dogs, and it is to give these all the domestic advantages that they repel the miaulic kind. They forget that if they train dogs for their own pleasure and approval, while cats are raised for the pleasures of their wives and mothers, and nothing is more unfair in the domestic state than wanting everything for oneself and nothing for others; that tyranny, in someone with strength and authority, is a dreadful barbarism that nothing in the world can legitimize.
However numerous the enemies of the miaulic race, they will not prevent us from giving some rules on training for rearing it: we will consider the cat from its cradle until the time when death delivers its mortal remains to the earth or the crows. We will correct his inclinations, we will tame his savage character, we will give him gentle, polite and social manners; and, finally, we will try to make it worthy of the attachment of the sex that protects and sustains it.
TREATISE ON THE EDUCATION OF THE DOMESTIC CAT,
CHAPTER ONE. THE WILD CAT AND THE DOMESTIC CAT.
The lion, tiger, leopard, panther, and many other ferocious animals, all of which inhabit the warm regions of Africa and Asia, are placed in this genus of predator; there is no genus, it is said, more cosmopolitan than that of cats. It is found in all temperatures, if not one species the another; the large species of cats are likely, despite their ferocity, to bow to a kind of domesticity: we see more than one example of this in lions and tigers; moreover we must believe that any animal capable of feeling and recognizing the benefits must necessarily submit to the influence of man.
All these species, once so common in both hemispheres, are becoming rarer every day, travellers cite a few corners of the ancient world where they are still found in fairly large numbers.
Lions once populated the vast regions of Asia, and from the confines of Asia Minor to the Ganges, only these animals were seen, today they are relegated to a few cantons of Arabia and to the regions between India and Persia.
The panther or African tiger is found in Arabia and Africa. The leopard is even rarer than the panther, with which it has some physical similarity; the tiger is the most widespread of all large species, found from the equator to the polar circle. The American continent also has some large species of cats, such as cougar, jaguar, etc. All these animals like in thick and solitary forests, they live solitary lives, relying only on themselves.
According to Desmarest, this antipathy for society, this penchant for solitude, derives from yet another necessity. Feeding only on living prey, the cat as well as the hunter must exploit of a large area, any neighbour close enough to share this area becomes an enemy. This feeling is so indelible that when they eat, the captive lion and tiger, like the domestic cat, roar or growl at the approach of any living being. The voice varies greatly from species to species, the lion roars, the jaguar barks and the panther gives a cry like the sound of a saw.
Europe has long lacked large species of cats, most commonly only the wild cat and the domestic cat are found there.
The wild cat (catus Buf. Felis linn.) Is a third larger than the cats we raise. From the tip of the muzzle to the tail it is from twenty-two to twenty-four inches long, its muzzle is light yellow, its head four inches long, its body eighteen to twenty inches, and its tail nine to eleven. The background colour of its coat is a slightly yellowish-grey brown uppermost. Black bands contrast slightly, longitudinally along the back and vertically on the sides. The shoulders, thighs, chest and top of the belly are a greyish-white; the paws have a yellow tint on their inner sides and the soles of the feet are black. The tail is ringed. These characteristics, says Cuvier, vary according to age and to the region where the animal lives. The only constant features are the grey of the coat and the black colour of the soles of the feet and tip of the tail.
These animals live in the most barren and rocky parts of the forest and isolate themselves from all individuals of their race except when the breeding season obliges them to come together to satisfy an urgent need. After this time, they disperse and find the most inaccessible places for their home, finding shelter between a few rocks or in underground cavities, often they are content with a fox's earth or the burrow of a rabbit whose offspring they devour. They are great game eaters, they climb trees to devour birds, they spring out to surprise rabbits, young hares, stupid quails and docile partridges. They huddle in various corners or in a thick bush, and wait there, feigning sleep, for the arrival of the first prey.
These wild cats would depopulate our forests if they ran as fast as hunting dogs. They have the drawbacks of being unable to run well and having a poor sense of smell, so that, when they do not see their prey they no longer pursue it, and when it has escaped them, they cannot reach it. These animals never leave the canton which they have adopted, in this respect they are like all others of their kind. In the domestic cat, this urge is stronger than training. When its master or mistress leave a house, it prefers to remain there rather than follow them. Wild cats spend their lives sleeping or hunting; the care taken by hunters and rangers to destroy them has made their species rare, however, we see some in the forests around Paris. The forests of Senart and Fontainebleau still harbour them. This animal is found almost everywhere in the old world. It is found in Asia and Africa; Pietro Della Valle claimed they were found in the New World during its discovery. He reported that a hunter took one to Christopher Columbus; this cat was of an ordinary size, had grey-brown hair and a very long, strong tail. Although there were no domestic cats, Buffon believed this story and reported it. Desmarest maintains that there are no wild cats native to the New World, that he made this mistake himself in the first edition of the Dictionary of Natural History, and that the term Wild cat is used by Anglo-Americans for the lynx, and that we wrongly apply it to the real wild cat, which is an animal specific to the Old World. The blue or slate cat of the Cape of Good Hope and the Siberian manul are also wild species. Their species are too numerous to bother describing them, and besides, it is beyond our scope to do so. Their flesh is tough, leathery, and tasteless; however, the peasants of Guinea and Siberia find it delicate and make dainties of it. In the northern countries, in Russia, Lapland and Norway, wild cats are especially hunted for their skin. Their pelts are used by the natives to make furs for winter and they also trade many to Europe.
Domestic cats descend from this breed; their habits, tastes, their predominant penchant for freedom and solitude, reveal a wild origin. Although the Greek naturalists did not mention any domesticated cats, one should not infer from their silence that training domestic cats is very modern. The Egyptians, who are the most ancient civilized people, prove to us, by numerous examples, that the domesticity of these animals is as old as that of man; however, in the varieties of domestic cats are some which resemble the wild species; the one that is reported to have black lips and soles, is remarkable for its resemblance to its ancestors by its pelage, its tastes and its habits; it is smaller and less coarse, but its coat is dark grey and it is marked like the wild cat with black bands from the nape of the neck to the end of the body; it is suspicious, wild and unfriendly, it prefers birds, mice and live food, to the sort of food that we give it; it fares better in isolated houses and on farms than in villages. Cats of this variety, when raised in cities, become much more versatile and friendlier than those in the countryside, they are also larger.
This breed of domestic cat has the incorrigible vice of often going hunting in the forest. It mates with wild cats and sometimes ends up following their way of life; it is, they say, the closest to the original type and it is also that which gained the first effects of domesticity, and the white colour is the first trait that manís influence has developed and which mingles with the grey of the species.
Moreover, according to this system, all domestic cat breeds descend from the wild type via the species I have just mentioned. They are distinguished by colour and coat and it is these two physical qualities which form the different varieties. Thus, with regard to colour, the Spanish cat forms one variety, the Chartreux and the Angora cat form two others, and from the cohabitation of these three breeds, common cats are born, its varieties are very numerous and may increase.
Here an objection arises which appears to be well-founded. It is said that domestic cats do not degenerate, that, when transported to distant lands they retain their integrity and specific form. If by degenerate we mean losing particular characteristics of the genus an animal belongs to, I also believe that the cat is always a cat whatever country it is transported to, but the degeneration takes place by a colour change, by a decrease in biological strengths or by a reduction in size. By comparing wild cats with the different domestic varieties, we see that this degeneration is visible and one can certainly do no better than to use for point of comparison, the one who is the prototype for all the others.
Wild cats are only grey, domestic cats are grey, white, red, blue, black, and the different colours diverge, divide, or rather change in various ways over time. The domestic cat no longer has the strength, courage or size of the wild cat. Everywhere I see degeneration in domestic cat breeds, but it is embellished and polished by the industrious care of men.
However, where do these various colours come from, these shades and very varied tints which we find in domestic cats, when the wild species does not vary in this respect. Buffon believes this problem is solved by the influence of climate; this is what he says:
"It is probable, therefore, that the cat of Chorazan in Persia, the cat of Angora in Syria, and the Chartreux cat, constitute but one race. The wild cat, like most other animals in a savage sate, has coarse colours, and hard hair. But, when rendered domestic, the hair softens, the colours vary; and, in the favourable climates of Chorazan and Syria, the hair grows long, fine, and bushy; all the colours become more delicate; the black and red change into a shining brown, and the greyish brown is converted into an ash-coloured grey. By comparing the wild cat with the Chartreux cat, it will be found, that they differ only in this degradation in the shades of colour. As these animals have always more or less whiteness on the sides and belly, it is apparent, that, to produce cats entirely white and with long hair, like the cats of Angora, nothing farther is requisite, than to join those which have the greatest quantity of white."
This is undoubtedly a very ingenious system for varying the coat colours. A painter mixing his colours could not bring out the nuances better.
But I don't believe that nature lends itself so easily to so many modifications. I see in every animal species that the colours and shapes are always more or less the same. It may be, however, that the different coat colours of the domestic cat come in part from the trouble that man has taken to vary them, but I will always say that it will be doubtful that all breeds of domestic cats have a common origin, for it would be strange if this animal was still wary and cunning, that it still had a taste for solitude, that it remains in its adopted territory, finally that he has lost little of his savage inclinations, and yet only his colour has been changed.
To come back to the divisions of our animal, it should be known:
1. that the Spanish cat, which forms a variety, usually has a red coat or consists of a mixture of white, or red, or black, and that its lips and the soles of its feet are flesh-coloured, that it is never marked with more than two colours, and that it is a large, strong cat.
2. that the Chartreux cat is slate grey, a little bluish, that it has very fine, very uniform hair, and has black lips and soles; the Angora is distinguished by its long, silky hair, it is usually white, but its colour can vary from blue to slate grey, or from white to red.
The common cats that are born from these three principal races are various colours and shades; we see all black, all white, red, grey, grey-and-white, grey-black-and-white, and white-red. Finally, the Angora, Chartreux and Spanish cats must be raised for luxury and pleasure rather than hunting mice. Common cats are almost all good mousers, but some are better than others, greys are preferable for farms, hamlets and any places where there are a lot of rats. They are very good hunters and are strong and hardy, but grey-whites and small size black-and-whites are also excellent, and when properly bred both are good rat killers.
CHAPTER II. THE LOVE-LIFE OF CATS.
The invisible force, or rather the provocative charm, that nature employs to cause living beings to reproduce is unique and unchanging, but the power of this charm acts in a manner relative to species and to individuals, which is what makes every being operate in an arbitrary and absolute manner in the act of love, I mean, that if need is a general law for all creatures, the means of satisfying it are not.
No-one that I know of has had the good patience to compile in a body of work the various coquetries and ingenious incitements that animals make at the time of their coupling, and it seems to me that such a work would be interesting and useful, above all it would be useful because it would save great blunders by those who speak or write without having seen. The proof of what I am saying is in the natural history of bees. For three thousand years, more or less absurd fictions were written regarding the way these animals reproduced; a blind man came after this series of centuries to throw some light on this subject, and proved that the fertilization of the queen bee took place in the air, and with the co-operation of the male, but he could not tell us how the act took place, and the most interesting part remains to be seen.
We are a rather better educated on the voluptuous ardours of cats, and how they are satisfied, and I dare say that this is not the least curious or least pleasant part of their story. While nature did not give them the indecent shamelessness of dogs, while she decided that the veil of night would hide their amorous developments from curious eyes, she completely denied them the modest advantage of being discreet and silent. A terrible din announces their encounters. A duet lasting several hours is the prelude to their union, cries like those of cats being tormented, is their bouquet. Most often, cats only mate twice a year, in spring and autumn, but sometimes the desire or need to mate comes to them a third and even a fourth time. It is claimed that in India cats are in heat all year round, it matters not, as soon as the mating period arrives, the female is tormented by it and becomes wilder and less friendly, her fur falls out, she is uneasy and distracted, she walks and prowls around the apartment, she tries to escape, she meows from time to time to make it clear that she has needs to satisfy.
But her meows are soft and rhythmic, they are nothing like those elongated, shrill and resounding cries that she makes in the middle of the night when, in some garden or courtyard, she calls the male to her. Finally, either the need to soothe her masters, which has become her habit, or rather a feeling of gratitude, or the fact that the desire that torments her has not yet reached its full intensity, she becomes doubly affectionate, but her manners are no longer kind or lively, they have an unusual feeling of languor and sadness.
It seems that the animal acts only by force or by dissimulation, and all can be explained by these words: give me freedom. Then, no doubt, it must be let free, first for its health, then, because there is nothing crueller than forcing oneís the animals to suffer deprivations as severe as denying their natural needs. So, the first piece of advice I will give to those who have cats is to give them freedom during their period of heat. If they are well fed in their master's house and they are not mistreated, then regardless how long they are absent, however far away they may be, they will return; these animals naturally love the place of their birth, they are grateful, and when the burning desire that drags them from their home is satisfied, they hurry to return there. The males often seek the female in the countryside, in the middle of the forests; they stray several leagues from their home, and never become strays except when they want to.
But since these animals are quite common in homes, they usually find a mate in their own neighbourhood; during the year, the male and female encounter each other as neighbours and the habit of seeing and meeting each other makes an amorous rendezvous easy in the season of pleasures, and besides, cats do not need to act with ceremony in satisfying an imperious and overpowering need. As long as they feel caught up in the heat, they look for each other, and if they can't find each other, they call each other, and they do so in a way that would wake a regiment of monks.
Once a male and female have managed to get closer by this means, their approach is really laughable, shyness and fear hold them back, they remain at a certain distance from each other, sitting on their four paws. They seem to utter long moans and complain of their ardour; their music often varies in tone and voice, but is always jarring and obnoxious, and that is perhaps what we least like to hear when in bed. Finally, after this concert, which often lasts several hours, they approach each other very slowly, creeping on the ground as though ready to pounce on a mouse. By now ready to couple, the male turns on his heels and starts to flee and the female pursues him; they make only twists and turns in this little escape, especially if they are near some isolated house or in a garden, which makes me presume that this kind of escape is an accessory to happiness, a secondary means of nature. Their chases are neither fast nor long, they are a sort of hide-and-seek, they stop from time to time, always keeping a certain distance between them; finally, this flirting comes to an end; ever more ardent and eager, the female rushes forward, launches herself at the male, biting and scratching him; this stimulant irritates the modest husband and he feels it necessary to act or to compromise his reputation; his fury becomes equal to that of the female, they couple, and holding each other tight between their four legs, they satisfy nature rolling on the ground and making terrible cries.
The female, once fertilized, no longer seeks the male, she returns to her masterís house, her tail between her legs, acting as if nothing has happened. As for the male, his ardour is not extinguished by that moment of pleasure, he seeks other adventures and that is why he is sometimes absent for so long. Mating does not always take place on the same day that the encounter takes place, it seems that the moment is distressing and painful, and that these animals sense this. That is why they try to master their needs rather than satisfy them.
You sent me a pregnant Angora cat, so that I can raise the young as I see fit, I thank you for your kindness, I will keep this kitty since she comes from you, and she is sweet and pretty; but she will be no use to me in fulfilling my promise to you. I do not want to take on students, nor to present myself in public as a trainer of cats: I only intend to establish some rules of training for these animals, and that is what I will undertake. Indeed, I noticed when I received the little kitty, that she had already suffered the approaches of the male, her languid and modest air, her eager caresses, her graceful manners, her sweet and pleasant meows, her great appetite, her purring which reveals her contentment and shows her happiness. My first concern for her was to make her a lodging in a corner of my room, with a round basket in the bottom of which I put a coarse feather cushion, and I made her lie down there. She was difficult at first, which is because she was a little spoiled, as are all convent cats.
Cats are naturally stubborn, they have difficulty correcting bad habits, and the important thing is not to let them get into such habits. Fortunately, kitty is docile and obedient. After gently making her understand that it was not appropriate to lie on chairs or people, she decided to go and fall into her bed and now, when she wants to sleep or rest, she does not choose anywhere else.
Her pregnancy, as you know, will be about two months, and during this time, if she is not sick, she will eat and sleep a lot, she will be very quiet and very gentle, she will not try to nose about the neighbourhood, but shortly before sunset she will walk in the garden to perform her wastes, and to breathe the pure and light evening air. I will take care to regulate her food and the number of her meals, which will be two per day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, if, during the day, or in her nocturnal rounds, she catches prey, I will take no account of it; she will always have the same food and the same meals. I will care for her this way until the birth, which will take place in the same bed that I prepared for her. I must tell you that she-cats don't always bear young in their first year; but the state of the one you sent me is unambiguous.
This kitty, blessed by nature as are all female wild animals, will need no help to give birth to her young, and in less than two hours, she will produce five to six beautiful creatures that will be born blind and deaf, but which will have a sense of taste sufficiently developed to latch on to their mother's teats, and savour the nourishing liquid they contain.
I donít know, Madam, if naturalists will reproach me for putting forward a hypothesis, when I tell you that the sense of taste is well-developed in new-born cats; it could be that these animals stick to their mother's breast only by natural attraction, or by the instinct of need; for any animal that suffers some privation tries to be satisfied without being driven by reason, which judges and evaluates, or by some combination of ideas, the effect of which is to smooth over any obstacles. But why would it seek if not for some affinity between the urge that drives it and the external object that can satisfy it? How would it find this object if instinct was not itself an appraising sense? However, whatever preservation instinct directs the first movements of the new-born animal, it is sublime in its consequences and results, and it fully deserves our admiration.
Now that this kitty has given me six little miaulers, what should I do? Should we raise them all, or sacrifice some of them? I am, Madam, a partisan of nature, I mean that I am never disposed to doubt its works, even those that seem the most bizarre to me, since the cause of their perfection and their usefulness may be hidden from me. Thus, if she has produced six kittens, it is because she has enough strength to feed them. I wouldn't hesitate to let her bring them all up, if that could be of some use; but, when we raise animals, such as dogs and cats, we are concerned only with utility or pleasure and fulfilling that purpose must be our sole concern. For, although we have some philosophical feelings, and the sight of the blood or the murder of a creature is not pleasant for us, we do not think we are outraging nature by destroying part of its work so that the ones we keep will prosper. Now, regardless of the fact that a flock of young cats is not always a pleasant and useful thing, it is evident that these small creatures, which are always after their mother's teats, ae less well-nourished than if there were only two; on the contrary, their continual needs force them to continually squeeze and suck dry the breasts of their tender nurse. The production of milk does not go as well, the secretory organs become exhausted, the infants suffer, and they grow much more slowly than they should; all these reasons should make us pass a law to never let a cat keep more than two infants, or three at the most. For me, when kitty gives birth, I will keep two, one for you and the other for the great Lama, who has long been asking for a cat that was raised in France. However, I must choose among the six; I will take those which appear to me the most vigorous and prettiest, and I will leave them to their mother to raise.
When some of her offspring were taken from her, she first showed her displeasure with a rather loud meow and followed the kidnapper with an angry air; but soon the sight of those remaining to her appeased her, and half an hour later she no longer thought of the loss. Fully occupied with her two infants, she licks them, she encircles them tenderly in the circumference of her body, which becomes rounded when lying down. She arranges them and places them so that they can suckle more easily. For the period of time, usually four to five weeks, that the young remain suckling, there are no concerns for their physical education, their mother provides for everything with astonishing diligence and uncommon tenderness; but cats and dogs must not be allowed to visit them: the former would devour the young, and the latter would send the mother into such a rage that she sometimes becomes ill. This loving mother often cannot defend her little children from their father's voracity, but as soon as she realizes his murderous plan, she carries them away. Here is, according to a shrewd observer, how she performs this transport. (Dictionary of Natural History) "First she licks them under the neck as if to prepare them to be grabbed by the same part, she then squeezes them with her mouth, so they do not escape, but not hard enough to make them scream. Thus, loaded with a burden that is dear to her, she walks with her head raised so that the little one does not bump on the ground, and the little one makes no movement, but lets its body and legs hang down as if dead. The mother, on setting them down, licks them again."
Thus, by taking precautions that no individual comes to disturb her tender work of motherhood, the cat will raise her young under your eyes, and where you have placed her. She will protect and feed them quietly in the cradle, until the moment they open their eyes, which happens on the ninth day after their birth. Their ears, which are not visible at birth, develop a few days later, grow rapidly and straighten, then the nursing mother makes them to come out of their cradle, for walking exercise to develop their strength and stretch their legs. She herself traces the route they must follow; she follows them meowing and stroking them. During this walk, her prudence watches over their safety, she looks all around to see that no enemy can surprise her. If one of her kittens goes astray, she calls it; if it doesn't arrive fast enough, she will look for it; if she sees that it is tired, she carries it to her basket. As the little cats grow, the outings are more frequent and longer, the amusements more varied; to exercise them walking, to develop their strength and stretch their legs she falls to the ground, so that her little ones climb on her, one bites her ear, the other takes her leg, sometimes she gets rid of them, and starts running, with the sole intention of being chased. All these maternal manoeuvres soon give young cats the suppleness, agility and strength necessary to act and to govern themselves without any outside help. When she sees they are strong enough to eat small animals, she leaves them to go hunting and rarely returns without bringing either a mouse, or some other animal that she feeds to them.
If the mother is not separated from her young, she retains this tenderness for them for a long time; but in order to be more free to raise a young cat, and fearing the mother will set a bad example in matters of domesticity, when a kitten has stopped sucking, is alert and in good health, it is separated from its nurse. This is what, Madam, I will do with kittyís children after their adolescence.
Young cats are pretty, light, clever and mischievous, they have quite pleasant manners; they are leisurely and playful, they never tire of making mischief, and sometimes their comical tricks brighten the face of the darkest and most silent man; but, in its youth, the cat feels all the vices with which nature has endowed it developing within it: it is curious, it sniffs everywhere, it goes into cupboards, baskets and the most hidden places; it climbs on all the furniture, on chairs, petticoats, beds, and wherever it can imagine itself. It is suspicious and fearful, it does not start eating until it has consulted its nose, and it only eats when the food pleases it; it has a decided taste for raw meat, when it smells this it does not fail to come running, but as its teeth are still weak, it only gnaws while growling, it is distrustful and skittish, the slightest thing either astonishes or terrifies it, and when it does not remain motionless as if stunned by an unexpected object, it flees and hides, but it soon reappears when its spirits are reassured, to resume the game, something an adult cat does not do, because as long as it is terrified, it has to be called for a long while before it comes. As it does not yet know how to use its claws, with regard to the people who raise it, he scratches as much as he can, and uses them to take anything that intrigues it. It greatly covets the caged birds and approaches their metal very slowly, and after considering them for a long time with curious eyes and an air of envy. It searches around the cage, and if it cannot find any holes or any way to enter, it tries to put its paws through the bars to catch the bird. Anything amuses this animal and excites its voracity; a fly or a piece of paper makes it run or puts it on the lookout. It is usually clean and hides away to do its business, however, if it does not find a convenient place such as fireplace ashes, it pisses in the apartments and does his messes there. It is less cunning and less shifty than an adult cat, but he is also less cuddly and soothing, its friendliness is only childish, and its flirting is not at all tender or endearing. It is in this state that it is necessary to teach it some rules of domesticity in order to make it useful and lovable. As you know, cats are fully grown at ten months old.
Education, in animals as in men, goes reaches its goal when we note the young pupilís innate propensities or inclinations; by flattering or pretending to satisfy its tastes, one imperceptibly corrects its vices, and when its tastes are somewhat depraved and perverse, one further corrects them by useful lessons in due course. There is nothing less useful than reprimanding animals that you raise long after they have made a mistake; the intelligence of unreasoning beings is very obtuse, their understanding is very limited, and a moment after doing some action they no longer think about it, and if we correct them late, they do not understand our motive. The cat especially is distinguished by its limited intelligence, by a lack of discretion which often makes it ungrateful and indifferent towards its benefactors. It is also this lack of intellect that gives it a suspicious, harsh, obstinate and callous character. The cat that is hit or mistreated forgets why it has been hit, but remembers the mistreatment, it runs away and doesn't come back. If it is beaten too much and no one seems to welcome it, it hides in a corner and would rather die of hunger than return home.
From all these truths, I draw the reasonable conclusion that whenever you want to raise a young cat, you should not mistreat or rush it, nor frighten or upset it. We must prevent its faults, in order to avoid them.
The cat is clean, but necessity can make it dirty, it is necessary to reserve it a corner in the fireplace to prevent it from messing in the apartments. If, despite this attention, it develops bad habits, we seize it at its moment of need and transport it to the corner designated for it; we must sometimes repeat this action, and the young pupil will soon understand your intentions, moreover, the place you give it is favourable to its intentions, it finds everything necessary to satisfy its cleanliness and natural delicacy, and through either obedience or satisfaction, it bends to your will each time, because, though a cat is hard to understand, it learns its lessons well, and the qualities it acquires through education are as tenacious as its natural inclinations. The cat, after weaning, has, so to speak, completed its physical education, it knows how to walk, run, climb, its strength has developed unhindered, and its organs grow and mature without difficulty or help; we must now begin its social education, because, once we know how to act and move, we must learn to govern ourselves and to live well.
The cat, as you know, Madam, needs lessons and good examples more than any other animal; it is born voracious, predatory, and therefore always willing to devour whatever it finds suitable to its appetites. We must therefore teach it to be sober and discreet; if you let a cat get away with this devouring inclination, it will torment you all day long to give it something to eat, and when you have satisfied it twenty times in a day, it will then steal from you; its cunning will surprise you if you are imprudence or inattentive; if you forget to close a cage, it will catch your bird, if you put a fish on a table, it will take it away, if you leave a leg of meat hanging, it will gnaw or bite it if it cannot carry it away; you may believe chastising or terrifying it will correct it, but on the contrary, you just make it more fierce and no longer reserved, and it is when you can no longer approach it that you must always watch it because then, the need to live makes it a more cunning plunderer and it will seize every opportunity to surprise you. A young cat does not yet have this voracious defect developing in it, when it needs food he meows and follows you. We must feed it at certain set times to accustom it to be restrained early on, not always eating, and to behave like the people who care for it. Usually this animal asks for food in the morning, so make it an economical mash with a little meat and bread crumbs, make it wait a while, put up with it asking you several times, only feed it when it is hungry, but then give it what it needs and it will eat quickly and with gusto the food you put down for it. If, at intervals during the day, it begs, pretend not to hear it, or make it understand that meal time has not yet arrived, but be prompt when meal time arrives; you will soon see your cat accustomed to its two meals and not asking you for anything during the day; but it is not enough to have regulated its meals, it is also necessary to prevent the petty thefts, to satisfy its natural inclination, rather than to satisfy its needs, so leave raw meat, fish and anything tempting exposed to its curiosity; it will not fail to run to smell and sometimes to bite them and, when you see it in action, separate it from the object of its desire by scolding, but without beating or mistreatment. You will gradually instil a salutary fear in it, which will become obedience. With things like that, it won't take long to make it restrained and honest, and when it has acquired these two qualities, it will be three-quarters reared.
If you want to make a cat obedient, to come to you when called, then be gentle and obliging towards it, tolerate it sometimes sleeping on you, respond to its affection, pet it, and never abuse its attachment. If you always have it in your arms, if you stroke it too often, it will tire and no longer come to you. The thing cats love least is being held too often. Thus, by not tiring it too much, by letting it be with you when it wants to of its own accord, you will make it extremely obedient, and your invitation will become a command that it will never fail to obey. And further, soon it will study your tone of voice, it will know if you are angry, or are in a good mood, and depending on whether it sees you are badly or well disposed, it will act to not displease you. A cat is usually lovable, cuddly and affectionate, qualities that make it loved by ladies, and it must be said, it is also because of these qualities that most men get attached to it; one cannot view with indifference such a small animal leaping on you, showering you with caresses, petting you with its tail, stamping with pleasure at being considered, and circling around your back with pride, as if wanting you to understand that its sovereign happiness is to be loved. We must not neutralize the catís eminent virtues, which some dismiss as dissimulation and cunning, and we would do this if we always pushed it away, or inspired fear of ill-treatment in it.
I have already said that the bad habits which cats develop are difficult to correct. Your young pupil must not be allowed to run in the neighbourhood, such continual escapes would make it lose the fruit of your lessons, it would become rebellious, greedy and a thief. A cat must only leave the household for two reasons, to mate or to find food; in the first case, it is left free unless it finds the means to satisfy itself in its own home, and again if it is a female, it is better to select a male for her, in order to have a beautiful race; in the second case, it goes out because it is hungry, and you must know that a cat that goes out to get the rest from strangers and engage in public pity is no longer susceptible to education; this villainous trade makes it familiar with the faults of wandering and begging, and if it leads this kind of life for a long time, there is no longer any hope of moulding it and making it honest; we must rank it as a scoundrel of its species and abandon it; but often a cat leaves the house for no other reason than to roam and be amused.
Born with innately savage manners, it is easy to understand that natural freedom is still the strongest stimulus which torments the cat, and the frequent outings it can make are less the effect of disobedience than of the irresistible force of the inclination which calls it; you must therefore not only provide the necessities, but also get it used to staying at home, by opposing its going out, and in order to make it lose the habit, allow it to freely roam all the apartments of the house, as well as the gardens and backyards. A free-roaming cat loses weight, gets dirty, and gets covered with fleas and you must constantly clean or de-flea it. It also loses his friendly qualities, and is only useful for attics and backyards; moreover, what is the use of having a cat in one's house for others, a cat that we only see as a thief and a looter: we only keep this animal to keep us company, to distract and soothe us, we must accustom it early on to a life of retirement; it is perfectly suited to a monastic life. In the wild you have seen them just looking for food or sleep; in the social state, it easily gets used to such habits, and the beautiful breeds are even more home-loving than others. When a young cat has developed a taste for solitude, laziness and indolence these become its main faults, but these are faults that must be kept so that we may govern it as we want. Cats are like those men who are not dominated by a love of work and industry, they sacrifice their independence for a life of idleness and laziness. Despotism and chains, which are calamities and hardships for those who have great mobility in matters of intelligence, are for cats a boon to the policies of those who govern them. The slave peoples of Asia would no more want to break the chains binding them to servility and laziness than a fat tomcat; this horror of work, which is innate in all creatures, seems even stronger in those who are narrow-minded and obtuse. Because in things that concern the education of domestic animals, we see that the more intelligent the animal raised, the more active and vigilant it is; such are the dog and the horse. The less it has, the more incompetent and cowardly it is; if we did not force the donkey to work, it would never do anything. But make no mistake, despotism and nature fit together perfectly to satisfy the dominant taste of living beings. Freedom, in the natural state, does not prevent slavery of the soul and the body, on the contrary, it favours it, because being free to do what they want, living beings do what they want best; as stability and rest are their delight, they remain ignorant and lazy out of taste and inclination. Thus, Madame, the kind of despotism that you will exercise over your young pupil, while favouring the plan you propose, will satisfy its inclinations, you will make it lazy by providing stability and when it loses its appetite for nocturnal outings and plunder, it will submit to all your wishes so as not to lose its supreme happiness, which is indolence and rest. However, it is not in the teacher's interest that the pupil only sleeps or eats, which is all a cat would do in a house where it is looked after and comfortable, it must be made to do a few fun little exercises, such as chasing a Chafer or piece of paper, to play dead, offer a paw, jump, stand upright, or to keep his claws in his fingers, and be stroked without biting or scratching. You can't get him to do all of these manoeuvres without some trouble and diligence, but we do it by frequently repeating the same kind of exercise each day. You will understand that I only want to speak of skilful tricks, such as offering a paw or jumping through your crossed arms, because when it comes to chasing a paper, a chafer or a fly, it does these things naturally without being told to do so.
The cat is clean, as we have said, it licks itself and looks for its fleas; it wipes off the slightest drop of water that falls on it and sometimes spends whole days cleaning itself. This is no reason not to comb it sometimes and remove any fleas, a small procedure that it allows with a truly surprising complacency. This animal, which does not allow itself to be handled easily, seems to appreciate the service we want to render it by ridding it of a nuisance insect; it pretends to be dead and casually abandons itself to the hand which unburdens him, it purrs, it extends its paws to show its satisfaction; but this is not the case when you want to wash it, it barely tolerates water, and as soon as it feels the water, whether it is hot or cold, it tries to escape you, and if it does, you wonít it for a long time.
Often the cat's cuddliness reaches the point of importunity. You are in a chair and it gets up on you; you get into your bed, it runs there; you dine and it jumps on the table. Only allow this familiarity to reach the degree you want; as master, you have only to make a sign of disapproval or raise the voice a little, and the cat leaves and abandons you. In 1807, I was in a town in Prussia, lodging with a grand lady who was crazy about cats. She had a tomcat whose training had been very careful. This animal was obedient and faithful, and his docility made him noticed by everyone; he followed his mistress like a dog follows his master, and he had studied her voice so much that, from a great distance, he judged whether she was angry or in a good mood; to make him obey all she had to do was say the name she had given him.
Calino, that was the animal's name, could do nothing wrong without being suddenly reprimanded, and the only punishment he really feared was hearing his name spoken in anger. Someone, jealous of the lady's happiness, stole Carlino, and no doubt held him tightly locked up. Four months passed without him reappearing, and the good mistress was inconsolable. One day, while going for a walk, she heard the voice of a cat which seems to be that of Carlino. She raised her head and indeed saw her beloved animal on the edge of a window, calling his mistress by meowing, and making every effort to be recognized by her. You can imagine that no trouble was spared to retrieve the tomcat, and that the lady was very satisfied to have found him. Such cats, you will tell me, are not common, I know; but it must be admitted that cats who know how to appreciate the sound of their masters' voices, who know how to recognize them after a long absence, are not rare. It is the way they have been brought up that makes them grateful and loyal.
The cat has a fault that is very difficult to correct, and which time alone, rather than lessons, makes it lose. It cares much more about the house it was brought up in than the people who feed it, and when it is transported to another place, it returns every night to the old family home, although it is well convinced that it will find only strangers there. What is more, if they treat it well and give it food, it stays with the new occupants, and completely forgets its masters, on whom it formerly lavished so much affection and who it was so attached to.
This absence of a sense of gratitude in the domestic cat is the fault of its wild origin. The wild cat adopts a rocky nook and never moves, after it has hunted the immediate surroundings it goes farther to look for prey, but always returns home to rest and sleep. The wild cat and the domestic cat have yet another reason which obliges them to stay where they were raised or which they chose themselves, and that is their acquired knowledge of all the places and locations which surround them, knowledge which facilitates their ability to ambush prey and easily provide for their existence. However, we observe that this attachment to their birthplace, which we call love of the fatherland, is motivated by natural needs and is innate in the domestic cat as well as the wild cat, because, except for those cats that we breed for pleasure or as objects of luxury, this whole species is obliged, by the nature of its social status, to hunt mice and the other domestic rodents that are harmful to us.
Domestic cats learn all about the places they inhabit early on. They know where to find mice and rats, they know where to bed down and sleep, and when they have their bearings in this way, it is difficult for them to decide on a change of residence. We see cats returning from two and three leagues away to the house they were made to leave, and, inconceivable in animals which have so little instinct, after a month or two of confinement after their move, they still find their old sanctuary.
Madame de P.'s tomcat behaves rather pleasantly. This lady, who is crazy about her cat, took this animal with her when moving home, but the cat has returned to its old home. They did him the service of retrieving him three or four times, but the cat kept going back and no-one paid any attention to him. As no-one there feeds him, he decided to go to his mistress to eat, and to return to his old home to rest and sleep. For several days now, he has been doing this routine, and we don't know when he will stop. In any case, when a cat is forced to leave its usual home, it must be shut up for a while, and forced to browse the various apartments that one now occupies, it ends up orienting itself and forming home-like habits in its new home, and it gradually forgets its old home; only this method and time can correct this defect.
To make the male cat more sedentary, more malleable and friendlier, and to preserve his looks, he is castrated. Castration takes place in spring and autumn, two or three months after weaning. It should be remembered that the younger a cat is when it undergoes this operation, the smaller it stays, so it is important not to castrate him until his strength is somewhat developed.
The castrators, a type of men who travel the countryside to perform this operation on several other domestic animals, take care to choose good weather for the operation, and, a day before, they put the animal on a severe diet, and sometimes a starvation diet. In an adult cat the operation is more dangerous, and much more care is required. The great castration masters, when they have to operate on strong and vigorous individuals, have no difficulty in making a small bloodletting on the jugular, and as this animal is not easy to treat it responds to the lancet with claws or teeth, so one man holds it by the paws, and one puts a cord muzzle on it: this is a kind of ring which goes round the whole circumference of the cat's mouth.
As soon as castration is over, the patient must be put to bed, and given light food little by little: broths and a little milk should suffice for the first few days. The male cat who has gone through the experience of castration is called a tomcat ["matou"].
No matter how well brought up a cat is, however much it is softened by its mistress, it retains natural instincts that recall its vices. The smell of meat makes it leave the rich and sumptuous apartments of its mistress to browse in the kitchen or pantry, and pay court to the cook or butler and despite the kindness of both of them, it still uses his tricks of its trade, taking advantage of the moment when their backs are turned to steal a tasty morsel that was reserved for its Patron. A moment later they notice the theft, and without having seen the cat flee, or without having caught it in the act, they do not fail to say: it is the cat. They look for him to beat or smack him, wasting much chasing him, they neglect the dinner, the chicken burns, the sauce sours, the dinner is spoiled, and everyone says itís the catís fault. Not at all, I would answer, the cat has forgotten its lesson, but the cook has also forgotten his: a cat in a kitchen is, for a cook, an animal all the more to be feared because it tries to deceive and betray him while being affectionate, so as soon as he sees the he must chase it away, or expect to be robbed.
As for the cat, Madam, however guilty it may seem to you, it must be forgiven. Education can never entirely extinguish its natural inclinations. Who, in the social world, never blames himself for becoming carried away by the illusions of his senses? Who does not sometimes satisfy the voice of nature, even when the law of duty tells him to ignore it? Chase the cats out of your kitchens, but donít make it a crime to go there, and donít think them badly brought up if they commit petty theft.
What I don't forgive a cat is chasing after a scented fop, or a woman who has the unfortunate habit of smothering herself in scents. It thus shows itself to be quite contrary to the taste of most men. Indeed Madam, we do not like, and I speak to you here for men in general, to approach ladies who cover themselves in perfumes. This sort of grooming is unpleasant for us, and not favourable to her. Thatís because we usually judge that nothing resembles the lily and the rose less than those people who paint themselves with their colours and cloak themselves with their aroma. It seems cats don't judge people this way, because as soon as they smell perfume on a person, they jump on them, caress them, stroke them, and knead their clothes to show their joy.
In the days of the unbelievable, it is reported that one of these eccentrics, who was only occupied with inventing novelties to put them into practice, having conceived the idea to get his cat to follow him, perfumed his head and clothes, and lined his pockets with valerian and with the plant known as catnip. He thus managed to get his cat to follow him and was also followed by others who were attracted by it and came down from attics or from their mistress's room to sniff at this scented creature. He attracted the attention of many people in this way; the curious watched him from a distance and everyone covered their noses as they passed him. He realised that his trick was not pleasant for everyone and he stopped walking his cat.
I have tried to correct the cats I have had for their taste for odours and have never been able to do so. However, by putting a little valerian root on a table or on a fireplace, forbidding the animal I am raising from approaching it, the cat ends up looking at it with indifference, but during the first days, it sniffs at it with relish, rubbing it with both cheeks and lying down around it. Even when you sternly forbid it, the cat seizes a moment when no-one is paying it attention to approach the plant again and satisfy its sense of smell.
Finally, when the domestic cat, intended amuse children and ladies, has received solid lessons of obedience and honesty in its youth, it is kind, considerate and never intrusive, its manners are gentle and polite, and there is something delicate and refined about its attentions. When an educated cat jumps on you, it seems to know all your desires and to read your mind; it lends itself, with singular complacency, to your amusements and whims, and it inspires a true attachment in you by its docility and versatility. It then only uses its malicious assets to distract you or make you laugh: it pretends to bite you by squeezing you with its mouth, it pretends to scratch you by blows from clawless paws; it only uses his cunning to defend himself against any tricks you try to play on it, and only uses deceit to surprise you with some pleasant playfulness.
The better the education of the domestic cat, the more care has been taken to make it secluded, sober-minded and discreet, and the less trouble you will have to take to get it used to following you to another home.
However, cats are not always raised for fun. The main purpose of instructing them is to make them fit to catch mice, and that is why most people keep them. It would be interesting to know if the men who civilised this animal did so with a view to pleasure or to utility. It is always certain that the Egyptians did not raise them to earn a living, since they regarded them as gods. However, if we stick to the traditional history of cats, we must believe that they were never considered, among our good ancestors, except for their ability to take mice. Even in the annals of our fabulists we see that this faculty was considered their only merit, and that this may develop their natural cunning and the malice.
It is no less true that, except in high society and among the gentility, the miaulic race is destined to spend its life making war on rats and mice, and that when it does not fulfil these functions as necessary, in the houses where it is raised, it is not well regarded. Furthermore, I say, we burden it with mistreatment, we reject and abandon it, and often we make it lose its good dispositions.
When you want a good cat for catching mice, you should not look for one among the three beautiful breeds of domestic cats, although they are not indifferent to the pleasure of the hunt, and one of them, the Chartreux, is even good for this purpose, these breeds are not the best. Half-breeds or common cats are the best, and from among them I choose for preference the grey cat with black soles and lips. This cat, as we have seen, is wilder and fiercer than any other, but it is more carnivorous and more of a hunter, it prefers a rat or a piece of raw meat to all the sweets delight the angoras; hence they often despise domestic mash and prefer to seek their living in cellars, attics or in the fields. After them we must rank first the half-bred Chartreux who are distinguished by a coat marked with slate-blue and white; the white and blue markings are unevenly arranged in these animals, making their coats varied. This breed of cat has less fine hair than the Chartreux, but it also gets fat, it should be preferred for the city as it is sweeter, quieter, and more solitary. It is a rabid hunter, running after anything alive and moving: a fly, a piece of paper, anything that stirs puts it on the lookout; but this race is very sensitive, the slightest roughness, the slightest bad treatment makes it flee, and if it is frightened, it does not come back. This is also this race that is most attached to the house where it was born. To keep the half-bred Chartreux, they must be well looked after and not beaten.
After that breed of cat, we must single out black cats, white and black cats, and white, black and yellow cats [tortoiseshell]. A cat marked with three colours and which is also small is a lion to mice. Larger cats, regardless of breed, are not as good hunters as those that are small, they are also more prone to diseases and nervous ailments.
The cat, either male or female, which cannot be satisfied at the times of their heat, experiences continual discomfort which often degenerates into a fatal disease.
To raise a cat for domestic use, it is necessary, from weaning, to subject it to only one type of food, and to regular meals, and to allow it the leisure to roaming the apartments, the gardens, courtyards and attics. It should not be caressed or handled in order for it to retain the degree of savagery necessary to chase vermin. A domestic cat of any good species, too cossetted and too well fed, soon loses its appetite for the hunt; finding his necessities whenever it wants them, it spends all its time sleeping; we must therefore be careful not to give it too much to eat, it is much better in this case that it suffers a little from hunger, which is not a great evil, since when the deprivation is too much it always finds a way to let you know. One should not castrate a domestic cat intended for hunting mice, because this operation makes it lose the desire to run and hunt and, like the eunuchs of the East, it becomes cowardly, lazy and effeminate.
Expect a cat intended for domestic service to be more of a rogue and thief than those raised for pleasure, but they should not be considered criminals for their thefts; it is up to you to be on your guard. Many people think they are doing the right thing by thrashing their cats for stealing from them, however this is the worst method they can use; the cat does not correct its vice, and it deserts the house. The main method, which I have already described, is to leave something in front of it which it is very fond of, and to surprise it when it is about to perform the act; if you make some signs of dissatisfaction it will understand you easily and become less of a thief due to the sole intention of pleasing you, because it does not forget that you are the person who feeds it. But is it not more natural, instead of using cunning and correction on cats destined in part to live by their good luck, not to put anything under their noses that could tempt them? Is it necessary to blame this animal for taking what it finds, and because its theft, which in this case is from need, resembles the crime of domestic theft? The cat does what we did before them, when reason had not emerged from our natural matrix, and it does what all animals do when they are hungry. To make them responsible for their rascality, we would have to attribute the power of reason to them for conceiving the idea, and I do not believe that Descartes ever told us anything to assure us that cats have reached this level of intelligence.
However, it is because of these small faults of cunning and deceit, that nature has given them to make their lives easier, that we scream after them; faults which, without exception and without even excepting our reasoning race [man], all animals possess to some degree.
Domestic cats are likely to be given a certain amount of education, which they benefit from throughout their lives, as much as possible; but to demand that they deny all their natural inclinations, when man violates social laws at any time to satisfy his own inclinations would be an injustice which does not set an example. Why, then, are cats hated, detested by most people, why are they kicked, beaten with sticks and shouted at "Cat! Cat!" just as one shouts "Thief! Thief!"? It is because they are not rational like ourselves, or rather they are more so, for most cats die of hunger and mistreatment after serving us well, and this animal does us no small favour by hunting mice.
In Paris and in all the big cities, these rodents multiply in the houses with incredible speed, and quickly do terrible damage; the presence of a cat in a house scares them off, and when it has caught some, the others are careful not to show themselves. This is much better, a cat that does not chase them is enough to keep them away.
And in the countryside, on farms, arenít these animals really useful? At hay time, field mice, mice and moles swarm everywhere in the wheat; a good cat will soon cut down the number for you, and often get rid of vermin that would cost you a great deal of time and trouble. To get an idea of the considerable number of mice and rats that inhabit farms, it would be necessary to be present when we empty a store of old fodder or a granary, we see hundreds of them fleeing everywhere and seeking shelter from the cats and dogs chasing them.
I find that the usefulness of cats is not yet fully appreciated in cities and in the countryside; the carelessness and brutality with which they are treated are proof of that. If we behaved with a little more moderation towards them, they would be more versatile, more obedient and less like thieves, and we would get more out of them. Most of these animals die of hunger or lack of care, their illnesses, their poor appearance, their lack of weight often result from the mistreatment they experience. Certainly, I do not want the animals we raise for their usefulness to us in driving out noxious creatures to be raised as they are in China, or in our convents; nor that they be venerated as they were by the ancient Egyptians; but since we know they are useful, since they are good at something in the domestic state, let us show them the same consideration we show to other animals whose education is less generally necessary.
I do not know, Madam, if this letter might seem rather long to you, if the reasons which I have developed in it will appear correct to you, if at last I will have fulfilled your views concerning the education of cats, I can assure you that I have done my best to make my instructions pleasant and useful to you, that I also tell you that the naturalists and philosophers who have dealt with the education of domestic animals have hardly taken any notice of that of cats; that materials are lacking on this interesting subject, and that we must wait for the time and the disposition of a few cooks, a good educational treatise on these animals.
It is rumoured that a certain Mart., head chef of a cat hotel in Asia Minor, has collected a great deal of material on the different miaulic breeds, and that he may, in his retirement, put them in order for the gratification of the public. I want it to be during our lifetime that such a production appears, maybe we will find ways to prevent cats from being greedy and thieving, which would reconcile them with everyone.
I am, Madam, your obedient, etc.
CHAPTER II. DISEASES OF CATS.
Although cats are most useful in the house to destroy vermin, they are not highly esteemed by man and, as domestic animals, they occupy the lowest rank.
This is undoubtedly a reason for motivating doctors of all centuries and all countries to remain silent regarding the catís infirmities and illnesses. Yet another reason is that these animals are difficult to handle, and it is not possible to subject them to regular treatment; moreover, the progress of their diseases is usually rapid, and death is almost always the result.
Be that as it may, the diseases of these animals are little known to most physicians, and those who have dealt with them at greatest length have dared neither to presume their basis nor give them a name. These diseases, it is said, are either inflammatory or nervous; there are cutaneous ones, the psoric [itchy, scabies, mange] and scaly virus sometimes attacks cats. Some diseases of these animals are contagious, and almost all are epidemic for the species, unless they are accidental od due to a local cause. For example, I observed on several young she-cats, that if one lets them go through their period of heat without having congress with the male, they fall into a state of depression and languor which often causes what is called dementia.
Cats become sick as a result of teething, they suffer loss of appetite and often die.
Accidents, such as fractures, the loss of an eye or loss of fur from their skin, are difficult to cure, and are not epidemic. But all their internal diseases and some of their skin diseases are communicable. The latter are very rare and very few in number.
Most modern authors speak of a skin disease which, in 1673, killed almost all the cats of Westphalia, and which seems peculiar to the types of diseases of domestic cats. This is what Hurtrel díArboval, to whom we owe most of this article regarding cat diseases, reports.
"One of the most dangerous is a scabies that first manifests itself around the ears by a few pustules that invade the nose and then cover the head; in four or five days the disease spreads to the legs if we do not counter its progress in time. This disease is so intense that the animal does not stop scratching." According to the same author, the phenomena that arise are: the patient's drowsiness, his head and especially his ears are covered with a crusty rash, the eyes are covered with a kind of membrane and suppurate. That it is contagious is not doubted.
As soon as we discover the first pustules, it is good to detach the crusts, and soften the skin which is thickened. Salve the affected places for four to five days with a decoction of common mallow and marshmallow or flax-seed followed by washing and light rubbing with tobacco leaves boiled with lye, or a solution of dioxide of potassium (potash). Expose the animal to strong sunlight and a few moments later rub it with an anti-psoric composition. Whale oil was believed to be of some use. Rigot made known the following recipe: linseed oil, two ounces; melt a sixth of citrus ointment in it; the whole being well mixed, spread a sufficient layer of it over the affected parts, and it is very rare, according to Rigot, that a second application is necessary, especially if one has not neglected to give the animal infusions of elderberry, fumitory and milk. We maintain that we must ultimately purge the animal with a few grains of jalap, diluted in a little honeyed water, or in which a little manna [ash sap?] has been melted.
In reporting M. d'Arboval's long treatment of scabies in cats, we have intended to give a good method of treating it, but we do not know if it would ever be followed, either in the city or in the countryside.
The doctors of the dogs and cats which have also become our most precious domestic animals, without being veterinarians [i.e. livestock vets] or doctors, go about their jobs faster, and also quickly know how to dispatch or heal the animal.
Do you think they have fun operating slowly and gradually, as the nature of the disease and its routine progress require? Not at all.
First they make the cat vomit with staphisaigre [stavesacre, Delphinium staphisagria], tobacco or spurge; they soak it in a decoction of Helleborus foetidus or tobacco; they repeat rubefacient baths twice a day, and if the patient is not dead within five days, which is rare, then, strictly speaking, he is saved as the crisis of the disease has passed and, at the same time, nature has resisted both the efforts of disease, and even more cruel efforts of incompetence.
[Rubefacient - produces redness of the skin by dilating of the capillaries increasing blood circulation.]
I saw two or three cats that were affected by this scabies, and I had fun treating one according to my idea. Here is how I operated: I made the patient vomit with a grain of emetic dissolved in a little milk, I salved it during the first days of the rash with an emollient decoction made with the leaves of Verbascum thapsis and common mallow, and I then rubbed it twice a day with an ointment made with two ounces of pork fat, a scruple of red mercuric oxide, and half-gros [5 grammes] of hemlock powder. I cured the patient, but I do not consider the remedy infallible; in terms of illness, I am a bit of a sceptic. Moreover, as regards skin diseases, or rather scabies and sores in cats, if I allow myself to give an opinion, here is how I would like them to be treated; when the disease is declared, when the rash is well developed, I would keep the animal in a warm place, I would make it swallow a few spoonfuls through the mouth of a sudorific [sweat-causing] and slightly laxative drink hourly, and I would rub it with a lotion composed of molten nitrate of silver, four gros [40 grammes], common water, one pound.
I have used this remedy on dogs and sheep, and it has worked very well for me, but in the country the methods and recipes for curing animals are as common as the charlatans, traces of which are found everywhere in the villages. Each shepherd in the outskirts of Paris is an animal-doctor, and has almost the casting vote when advising a farmer when the latter has some patient in his stables, so that the veterinarian's advice does not always prevail, and the shepherds, of whom there are at least three or four in each village, have their recipes and their particular secrets which they claim to be infallible. A few years ago, one of these doctors had ordered twenty-four grains of spurge, to purge a sixty-year-old man, he maintained that the remedy would make him return all the matter: we see that he was not mistaken and that, like the Oracle of Libya, he knew how to use the metaphor. However, we must not forget that it is the diseases of cats that we wish to talk about; internal diseases of cats are all inflammatory or nervous in nature. M. Hurtrel dīArboval recalls, in his dictionary of veterinary medicine, an epidemic disease which, in 1779, killed some of the cats in France, Germany, Italy and Denmark. I have seen the description of this disease by several authors: this is how Mr. d'Arboval describes it: it is, he says, catarrhal in nature, it is a pharyngitis, a coryza, the same as the so-called dog disease; its main symptoms are depression, loss of appetite, vomiting of a substance resembling phlegm, convulsions and prostration. The animal constantly sneezes or snorts, coughs, swallows only with difficulty, has a heavy head, becomes dull, lazy, sensitive to the cold; its head swells; sero-bloody mucus flows from the nose and eyes, the animal becomes unsightly, disgusting, foul smelling and perishes within a few days, often in some remote corner of the house where, in the end, it has taken refuge. This disease, of which I have never seen an example, is generally fatal, and the remedies which one could employ, are fruitless compared to the rapidity of the disease. He writes: I would agree with several vets who advise killing cats with it and immediately burying them a few feet underground.
We are also obliged to relate the description of the so-called cat disease, which, according to M. d'Arboval, is somewhat analogous to the contagious typhus of horned animals. It is taken from his dictionary and belongs to Doctor Guersent. Some time before being overwhelmed by fever, cats that affected by this disease flee from the approach of everyone, even from their master, and drag themselves slowly, they hide in the darkest places, and neither drink nor eat, they are restless, weak, sad and cowardly: their claws no longer retract, they do not react to the smell of valerian or the most aromatic labiate plants [sage, mint etc]; it is very difficult to draw electric sparks by rubbing their fur; they then lose all their muscle tone and famous agility. In the first period, the tail droops, the head tilts, the neck is stretched, the ears are limp and cold, and the limbs are stiff. The animal experiences repeated yawning, sometimes nausea and even vomiting. There is drowsiness and even stupor, the head and extremities tremble, the voice changes and the pulse is shallow and frequent. It has hot, very dry skin and stubborn constipation. In the second phase, the animal is insensible to the voice of its master, the eyes are small and teary, the pupils usually narrow, sometimes, however, they dilate. Then the tongue becomes dry and covered with a yellowish coating, a greenish frothy mucus comes out of the mouth, and sometimes a similar discharge comes from the nose; diarrhoea often occurs, breathing is short and difficult and the animal coughs. During the third phase, restlessness and convulsions combine with the preceding symptoms, the stomach becomes distended with gas, the body takes on a yellowish tint, and the patient dies in a state of prostration in the midst of convulsions on the fourth or fifth day. The changes observed on the corpse, adds the doctor, prove that this disease generally affects almost all the mucous membranes. The nostrils, the mouth, the oesophagus, the windpipe, the bronchi, and especially the intestines are usually partly filled with a serous mucus, whitish, yellowish, or bloody, extended to the surface of the internal membrane that lines all the organs.
This disease, whose symptoms are so frightening and the progress so rapid, is almost always fatal; it is also advisable to kill cats that have it, for two reasons: to prevent them from suffering, and to avoid contagion. However, as the author observes, we must have some consideration for animals that are useful to us, and however difficult their treatment, it seems reasonable to me to undertake it, especially since more than one patient may recover from it. We recommend, as the cure of this type of plague, emetics, bitter herbal teas, mercurial salts, Theriac, ammonium sulphate. The large number of recipes which swarm through all the countryside for diseases of dogs and cats, diseases which are more or less similar, gives rise to suspicion about their effectiveness, so we must stick to treatments of those who, more skilful that we in the art of treating animals, have the experience of. So Mr. d'Arborai wants the sick animal to be treated with an emetic, bled a little, and given bitter drinks. Treated in this way and in a timely manner, most affected cats can recover. In some cases, buckthorn syrup is also required. All these methods of treatment, I repeat, are excellent, but will hardly be followed by the inhabitants of the countryside, who prefer big trouble no better than big expenses; a more simplified treatment, which means it is more convenient, is more likely to be followed. We are told that we do not do therapeutics as we do geometry, that we must proceed according to the course and nature of the disease; this is another reason to make me believe that almost all cats affected by the disease will die in the countryside, because I am convinced that they are not so attached to them that they will give them regular treatment; we must therefore limit ourselves to giving a short and beneficial treatment to those who want to treat their cats. At the first sign of the disease, the animal is given, in a light medium, an ounce of buckthorn syrup, the next day it is purged with a grain of emetic tartar, and during the course of its illness it is continuously given bitter drinks made with a pinch of centaury or germander [Teucrium chamaedrys], and if you want you can add a scruple or twenty-four grains of powdered gentian to the decoction.
Cats are also prone to rabies. Fortunately, this disease rarely attacks them, for they are liable to cause great harm in the rabid state; they are used to hiding, and only going out in their fits of rage to bite and eat anything they come across. A few years ago, the cat of a famous professor of medicine from Montpellier became rabid and bit his master on the leg in two or three places, at the very moment when it was being fed. The clever doctor believed he could not do better than burn the wounds with a hot iron, so he did this on the spot. This painful operation caused him to fall seriously ill and he stayed in bed for several weeks.
The best treatment for rabies in cats and dogs is to cauterize the head and administer alkalis, either liquid or solid, internally. When this disease is caught on time, I mean before the development of the first attack, it almost always heals, but when the animal has already had rabid attacks, there is no way to treat it anymore as the enterprise has become too dangerous; in this case, it is better to kill it rather than risk being bitten.
[Cauterize the head: an old practice of cauterizing the middle of the head down to the bone to let out the infection.]
In a part of Bas-Languedoc and in the Cťvennes, where rabies is very common among domestic animals, there are women and men who are involved in treating people bitten by rabid animals. Their method of treatment is all the more astonishing, as it is both simple and infallible; also, in those regions, one never hears of anyone dying of rabies, although not a year goes by without there being rabid cats, dogs and wolves, which cause a lot of devastation. The entire treatment consists of taking, in the morning on an empty stomach and without any prior preparation, an omelette made of three eggs and a certain dose of powdered dry bones. This disgusting remedy is taken three days in a row; we must say that all those who deal with rabies meet the patient and stay with him until such time as the disease is likely to develop. To many serious doctors, this method of treating this dreadful disease will appear an absurdity worthy of appearing among old wivesí recipes. However, we can certify that a hospital sister has healed over three thousand individuals in this way, and that for over thirty years she has been involved in treating people bitten by rabid animals and has never seen any of them die.
These, moreover, are all the documents which we have been able to obtain on cat diseases. It is to be hoped that in this enlightened age when we are especially occupied with the medical sciences, the resources of art of healing such interesting animals will increase and we will not have to knock them out to heal them.