BEETON'S BOOK OF POULTRY AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS: SHOWING HOW TO REAR AND MANAGE THEM IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH.
(And also in BEETON'S BOOK OF HOME PETS: SHOWING HOW TO REAR AND MANAGE THEM IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH.)
LONDON: WARD, LOCK & CO., WARWICK HOUSE, DORSET BUILDIKGS, SALISBURY SQUARE, E.C.
SAMUEL ORCHART BEETON
LONDON: WARD, LOCK & CO., WARWICK HOUSE, DORSET BUILDIKGS, SALISBURY SQUARE, E.C.
[Samuel Orchart Beeton, publisher, was the husband of Isabella Beeton and he published Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. Following the success of his wife’s book, Samuel Beeton published a series of self-help textbooks including this one and “Beeton’s Book of Home Pets.” The same chapter on cats is found in both books.]
The wild, 641; antiquity of as a home pet, 646; origin of the domestic, 651; varieties of, 654; stories of remarkable, 657; diseases of, and their cure, 669.
THE WILD CAT.
That the wild cat was in ancient times plentiful in Britain, and moreover set down in the category of beasts of chase, is proved by the fact that in a charter granted by Richard II. to the Abbot of Peterborough, permission is given him to hunt the hare, fox, and wild cat. Except, however, in certain forests in Cumberland and Westmorland, it is now seldom or never met in England; and even in the districts mentioned, and where some few centuries back it abounded, it is a rare thing to meet a wild cat. In Scotland, however, and certain parts of Ireland it is still occasionally found. The following narrative, furnished by Mr. St. John, will demonstrate the sort of creature it is to encounter:-
"Once, when grouse shooting, I came suddenly, in a rough and rocky part of the ground, upon a family of two old and three half grown wild cats. In the hanging birch woods that bordered some of the highland streams and rocks the wild cat is still not uncommon; and I have heard their wild and unearthly cries echo afar in the quiet night as they answer and call to each other. I do not know a more harsh and unpleasant cry than the cry of the wild cat, or one more likely to be the origin of superstitious fears in the mind of an ignorant Highlander. These animals have great skill in finding their prey, and the damage they do to the game must be very great, owing to the quantity of food which they require. When caught in a trap they fly without hesitation at any person who approaches them, not waiting to be assailed. I have heard many stories of their attacking and severely wounding a man when their retreat has been out off. Indeed, a wild cat once flew at me in a most determined manner. I was fishing at a river in Sutherlandshire, and in passing from one pool to another had to climb over some rocky and broken ground. In doing so I sank through some rotten moss and heather up to my knees, almost upon a wild cat who was concealed under it. I was quite as much startled as the animal herself could be when I saw the wild looking beast rush out so unexpectedly from between my legs with every hair on her body standing on end, making her look twice as large as she really was. I had three small sky-terriers with me, who immediately gave chase and pursued her till she took refuge in a corner of the rock, where, perched in a kind of recess out of reach of her enemies, she stood with her hair bristled out, and spitting and growling like a common cat. Having no weapon with me I laid down my rod, cut a good sized stick, and proceeded to dislodge her. As soon as I came within six or seven feet of the place she sprang right at my face, over the dogs' heads. Had I not struck her in mid-air as she leapt at me I should probably have got some severe wound. As it was, she fell with her back half broken amongst the dogs, who with my assistance dispatched her. I never saw an animal fight so desperately, or one so difficult to kill. If a tame cat has nine lives a wild cat must have a dozen."
The colour of the wild cat' is more uniform than that of the domestic species. On a ground colour of pale reddish-yellow are dark streaks extending over the body and limbs, forming pretty much the sort of pattern exhibited on the tiger's robe. From the back of the neck to the spine a line of very dark spots extend to the tail, which is short and bushy, and has a black tip. The feet and insides of the legs are yellowish grey. In the female - which is smaller than the male - the colours are not as distinct. The medium size of a full-grown male wild cat is as follows:- Length of head and body, 1 foot 10 inches; length of head, 3 and one-half inches; length of ears, 2 inches and an eighth; length of tail 11 inches. The wild cat affects rocky and densely wooded districts, living in holes or in hollow trees. According to Mr. St. John a wild cat will sometimes take up its residence at no great distance from a house, and entering the hen-houses and out-buildings carry off fowls or even lambs in the most audacious manner. Like other vermin, the wild cat haunts the shores of lakes and rivers, and it is therefore easy to know where to lay a trap for it. Having caught and killed one of the colony the rest of them are sure to be taken, if the body of their slain relative be left in some place not far from their usual hunting ground, and surrounded with traps, as every wild cat who passes within a considerable distance of the place will to a certainty come to it.
The wild cat of Ireland would seem to be quite as savage a fellow as his Scotch cousin. In Maxwell's "Wild Sports of the West" is a story of one of these animals which was killed after a severe battle. It was of a dirty grey colour, double the size of the common house cat, and with formidable teeth and claws. It was a female, and was tracked to its burrow under a rock and caught with a rabbit net. So flimsy an affair, however, was scorned by the fierce brute, which speedily rent a hole with its teeth and claws and was about to run off, when the lad who had set the snare seized it by the neck. He was a brave lad, and there was a tremendous fight, the wild cat being finally dispatched by a blow of an iron spade. The lad, however, was so terribly wounded as to necessitate his removal to an hospital, where he for some time remained under terror of lock-jaw.
The wild cat is more plentiful in the wooded districts of Germany, Russia, and Hungary, than in any other parts of Europe. It is found also in the north of Asia and in Nepaul.
Beside the true wild cat there are other species of Felis who, on account of their resemblance to the tiger, are called tigercats. They are found in all parts of the world with the exception of Europe. The largest of this family is the Rimau-Dahan, an inhabitant of Sumatra. When fall grown it measures over seven feet from the nose to the tip of its tale, which appendage, however, monopolizes three feet six of the whole. It is nearly two feet high at the shoulders. Its colour is light grey, striped and spotted with jet black. One of the first specimens of this tiger cat seen in England was brought here by Sir Stamford Raffles, who procured two of them from the banks of the Bencoolen river. " Both specimens,'' writes this gentleman, " while in a state of confinement were remarkable for good temper and playfulness; no domestic kitten could be more so; they were always courting intercourse with persons passing by, and in the expression of their countenance, which was always open and smiling, shewed the greatest delight when noticed, throwing themselves on their backs and delighting in being tickled and rubbed. On board the ship there was a small dog who used to play round the cage and with the animals, and it was amusing to observe the playfulness and tenderness with which the latter came in contact with his inferior sized companion. When fed with a fowl that died he seized the prey, and after sucking the head, and tearing it a little, he amused himself for hours in throwing it about and jumping after it, in the manner that a cat plays with a mouse before it is quite dead. He never seemed to look on man or children as his prey; and the natives assert that when wild they live chiefly on poultry, birds, and small deer."
The Colocolo is another tiger-cat. It is an inhabitant of Guiana, and though not more than a third the size of the Rimau-Dahan, is a most formidable enemy to the smaller animals of the forests which it inhabits. It is related by Mr. Wood that a specimen of this creature was shot on the banks of a river in Guiana by an officer of rifles, who stuffed it and placed the skin to dry on the awning of his boat. As the vessel dropped down the river it passed under overhanging boughs of large trees on which rested numerous monkeys. Generally when a boat passed along a river the monkeys which inhabit the trees that border its banks displayed great curiosity, and ran along the boughs so as to obtain a close view of the strange visitant. Before the Colocolo had been killed the passage of the boat had been attended as usual by the inquisitive monkeys, but when the stuffed skin was exhibited on the awning the monkeys were horribly alarmed, and instead of approaching the vessel as they had before done, trooped off with prodigious yells of terror and rage. From this universal fear which the sight of the animal occasioned to the monkeys, it may be conjectured that the Colocolo is in the habit of procuring its food at the expense of the monkey tribes.
Of the tiger-cat of Africa, the Serval may be taken as the type It is about two feet long, exclusive of the tail which measures nine inches, and is a foot in height at the shoulders. Its upper parts are clear yellow, and its under parts white, and its entire body is spotted with black. Among the natives it is known as bosch-katte, or bush cat. It is an inoffensive creature, not easily irritated, and behaving generally like our own familiar grimalkin.
America has several tiger-cats, foremost amongst which may be mentioned the Ocelot. Two of these animals were kept at the Tower of London at the time when that ancient fortress counted a menagerie among its other attractions, and of one of these Mr. Bennett gives the following description:
"Body when full grown nearly three feet In length; tail rather more than one foot; medium height about eighteen inches. Ground-colour of fur gray, mingled with a slight tinge of fawn, elegantly marked with numerous longitudinal bands, the dorsal one continuous and entirely black, the lateral (six or seven on each side) consisting for the most part of a series of elongated spots with black margins, sometimes completely distinct, sometimes running together. The centre of each spot of a deeper fawn than the ground-colour external to them; this deeper tinge is also conspicuous on the head and neck, and on the outside of the limbs, all of which parts are irregularly marked with full black lines and spots of various sizes. From the top of the head between the ears, there pass backwards, towards the shoulders, two or more, frequently four uninterrupted diverging bands, which inclose a narrow fawn-colour space with a black margin; between these there is a single longitudinal, somewhat interrupted, narrow black line, occupying the centre of the neck above. Ears short and rounded, externally margined with black, surrounding a large central whitish spot. Under parts of the body whitish, spotted with black, and the tail, which is of the same ground-colour with the body, also covered with black spots."
This animal is a native of Mexico and Paraguay. Its home is the gloomiest depths of the forest, where all day long it lies quiet but, as night advances, comes out to prey on birds and small quadrupeds. It is said to be a particularly cunning creature, and sometimes, when other stratagems to replenish his larder have failed, to stretch himself all along the bough of a tree and sham death. The monkeys of the neighbourhood have no greater enemy than the ocelot; therefore, it is only natural that when they find him dead they should be much rejoiced, and call together their friends and relations to see the pretty sight. The treacherous ocelot is, however, meanwhile keeping sharp watch through a tiny chink of his eyelids, and when the rejoicing is at its highest up he jumps, and, before the monkey-revellers can recover from their fright, at least a couple will feel the fatal weight of his paw.
There are several ocelots - the painted, the grey, and the common, among others. In captivity few animals are more surly and spiteful until they grow thoroughly well-acquainted with their keepers, or others who court their notice. There is, however, one weapon keener than the sharpest sword, more potent than the Armstrong gun, more powerful than all the gunpowder and bullets ever made, and yet so simple that the boy yet in pinafores may direct it: to this weapon the suspicious tiger-cat succumbs, and the name of this weapon is kindness. So armed, the Rev. J. G. Wood conquered a body of ocelots exhibited at the menagerie. He says, " Several of these animals, when I first made their acquaintance, were rather crabbed in disposition, snarled at the sound of a strange step, growled angrily at my approach, and behaved altogether in a very unusual manner, in spite of many amicable overtures.
"After a while, I discovered that these creatures were continually and vainly attempting the capture of certain flies which buzzed about the cage. So I captured a few large bluebottle flies, and poked them through a small aperture in the cage, so that the ocelot's paw might not be able to reach my hand. At first the ocelots declined to make any advances in return for the gift; but they soon became bolder, and at last freely took the flies as fast as they were caught. The ice was now broken, and in a very short time we were excellent friends; the angry snarl being exchanged for a complacent purr, and the suspicious, lurking movement for a quiet and composed demeanour. The climax to their change of character was reached by giving them a few leaves of grass, for which they were, as I thought they would be, more anxious than for the flies. They tore the green blades out of my hand, and retired to their sleeping-house for the purpose of devouring the unaccustomed dainty undisturbed. After this, they were quite at their ease, and came to the front of the cage whenever I passed."
ANTIQUITY OF THE CAT AS A HOME PET.
Although cats appear to have been known in all parts of the world from the most remote age, nowhere do they seem to have held so high a position as in Egypt. Says an ancient scribe, " In Egypt the cat was held in the greatest veneration, and when it died a natural death it was actually mourned for with demonstrations of grief appointed for the event, and that if the death were caused by malice the murderers were condemned to be given over to the rabble to be buffetted to death."
And elsewhere we read that "Cambyses, who succeeded his father Cyrus as king of Persia, about the year 530, availing himself of the regard of the people for their favourite animals, when he invaded Egypt to punish Amasis for an affront, made himself master of Pelasis which had before successfully resisted his arms. The stratagem he adopted was certainly an ingenious one; he gave a live cat to each of his soldiers instead of a buckler, and the Egyptian soldiers rather than destroy these objects of their veneration suffered themselves to be conquered." Mourief [Moncrif?] mentions that an insult offered to a cat by a Roman was once the cause of an insurrection among the Egyptians, even when the fact of their own vanquishment could not excite them to rebel. If other evidence were wanting, the enormous quantity of cat relics discovered in Egypt, buried with as much care as though they had been grandees of the land, or preserved by the tedious and expensive process of embalming, would afford ample proof of the esteem in which the Egyptian cat was held.
The Turks are great admirers of cat kind. When Baumgarten visited Damascus he found a spacious hospital whose sole inmates were sick cats and their nurses; and when he inquired as to the origin of the institution he was informed that Mahomed, when he had once lived there, brought with him a favourite cat which he kept in the sleeve of his garment and carefully fed with his own hands, taking off his sleeve rather than disturb the repose of his pet; therefore his followers paid superstitious respect to these animals, and supported them in this manner by public alms, which were found to be sufficient.
In this and the sister kingdom the cat has been held in high respect since a very early age. "Our ancestors," says Pennant, "seem to have had a high sense of the utility of this animal. That excellent prince Howel Dda, or Howel the Good, did not think it beneath him, among his laws relating to the prices, &c., of animals, to include that of the cat, and to describe the qualities it ought to have. The price of a kitling before it could see was to be a penny; till it caught a mouse, twopence. It was required besides that it should be perfect in its senses of hearing and seeing, be a good mouser, have the claws whole, and be a good nurse; but if it failed in any of these qualities the seller was to forfeit to the buyer the third part of its value. If any one stole or killed the cat that guarded the prince's granary he was to forfeit a milch ewe, its fleece, and lamb; or as much wheat as when poured on the cat suspended by its tail (the head touching the floor) would form a heap high enough to cover the tip of the former. This last quotation is not only curious, as being an evidence of the simplicity of ancient manners, but it almost proves to a demonstration that cats are not aborigines of these islands, or known to the earliest inhabitants. The large prices set on them (if we consider the high value of specie at that time) and the great care taken of the improvement and breed of an animal that multiplies so fast, are almost certain proofs of their being little known at that period."
It was the custom of Cardinal Wolsey to accommodate his favourite cat with part of his regal seat, and this even when he held audiences or received princely company. Petrarch, the great Italian poet, made a home pet of grimalkin, and after its death paid it the questionable honour of embalming, and placed it in a niche in his studio. Godefroi Mind, the celebrated painter, and who was styled the "Raphael of Cats," from his making them his almost constant study, maintained a large staff of these animals, and it is related of him that when, at one time, the hydrophobia was prevailing in Berne, so that a vast number of the cats of the city were by order of the magistrate put to death, poor Godefroi Mind was so deeply affected that he was never afterwards completely consoled. He contrived to hide his chief favourite until the panic was passed, and he always worked at his easel talking to her, and was generally found with her and her family, either on his knees or on his chair, whenever his friends entered the room.
Great, wise, sour Doctor Johnson kept a cat. The doctor's cat once fell sick, and refused its diurnal cat's-meat. In the midst of his distress on pussy's account, he discovered that the dainty feline appetite might be tempted by an oyster. Acting on the hint, he went out and bought oysters for his cat, and continued to visit the oyster-stall every day till the animal grew well.
The poet Gray had a cat that came to an untimely end. She, however, was not allowed to go the way of other cat-flesh - to be put into a hole and thought no more of. So much affection had the poet for his pet, that he composed to her memory the following verses:
ON THE DEATH OF MY FAVOURITE CAT DROWNED IN A VASE OF GOLD FISH
’Twas on a lofty vase’s side,
Where China’s gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.
The conscious maid her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and em’rald eyes,
She saw; and purr’d applause.
The hapless nymph with wonder saw;
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize -
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?
Presumptive maid! with looks intent,
Again she stretch’d, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled,
The slippery verge her feet beguiled -
She tumbled headlong in.
Eight times emerging from the flood,
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirr’d;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard, -
A fav’rite has no friend.
Learn hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold;
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize, -
Nor all that glitters, gold.
In ancient times, much as the cat was esteemed in England, it was certainly viewed with quite as much awe as admiration. One is apt to smile when he reads that in Egypt, when the family cat gave up the ghost, it was customary for the entire household to shave off their eyebrows as a token of their poignant grief; but surely this was not nearly so absurd as to regard grimalkin as the most favourite form assumed by the prince of darkness when he happened to have business on the face of the earth. If there lived in any part of the country a solitary woman, who through ripe age had become wrinkled and lean and wizen-faced, it was to her the people looked when a cow died, or a child took the croup, or the apple-trees were blighted. The old woman would be watched, and if it were discovered that the companion of her solitude was a cat, especially a black cat, no further evidence was required. She was a witch without a doubt; well versed in the black-art - thanks to the teachings of the black cat - and capable of performing equestrian exercise on a broomstick, or by a glance of her poor old bleared eyes of killing a cow at a longer range than could be accomplished by the most perfect of modern rifles. This seems like a joke now, but, in sober earnest, there was a time - Matthew Hopkins was then alive - when on no better proof of witchery than above given, many a grey-headed man and woman has been strangled by drowning or consumed by fire.
Sailors are very superstitious as regards cats. Should the ship cat be inclined for fun, and scud and hustle and rush about as cats will, old mariners will wag their heads and whisper of a coming storm. Nor may the landsman laugh at Jack Tar; for how often may we hear - especially if grandmother is on a visit - "see the cat is washing its face; we shall shortly have rain."
Our forefathers, in the wisdom which distinguished the "good old times," were firm believers in the medicinal properties of the cat; and any part of the animal, from the tip of its nose to the extremity of its caudal appendage, was considered efficacious in the cure of diseases. If, for instance, a person has a whitlow on the finger, he will find a sure remedy by acting as follows:- Of course it is understood that the whitlow is caused by a worm; then all you have to do is to put your forefinger into the ear of a cat for a quarter of an hour every day, and in a few days, by this means, the worm which causes the whitlow win not be able to wriggle, and, of course, if the worm cannot wriggle, it must die, and the finger will then soon get well! To the ingenious discoverer of the above remedy we are perhaps indebted for the following "certain cure" for epilepsy:- Take a penknife, cut the vein under a cat's tail, take three drops of blood therefrom, put it into a glass of water, swallow it quickly, and in a few days all disease will have vanished! To prevent weak eyes:- Take a black cat's head, burn it to ashes, and blow a little of the dust in the eyes three times a day. Be careful in performing any of the above operations, for if a person swallow a single cat's hair he will immediately go into a fainting fit!
In the apothecaries' shop-windows of a century or two ago might have been seen a label, on which was inscribed, "Axungia cati syhestris." This, dear reader, simply meant that wild cat's fat might be obtained within, as a certain cure for lameness, epilepsy, &c.
There appears to be little doubt, however, that as a minister to certain of the ills to which flesh is heir, the cat is not to be despised; especially in cases where electricity is of good service. The electrical character of the cat is a very well ascertained fact. A cold bright day is the best time to convince oneself of the truth of this. Not only will a crackling be heard, and a spark seen, but, if the experiment be properly conducted, a positive shock may be obtained. The animal should be placed on the knees, the operator placing one hand on its breast, while the other hand is engaged stroking the fur of her back. In a short time crackling will be heard, and sparks seen, and the person stroking the cat experiences a smart shock above the wrists. I do not state this on my own experience - I have tried it several times but never with any decided success. I am convinced, however, that the fault lay with me and not with the cat. The Rev. J. G. Wood attests that the above given directions, if faithfully followed, will be followed by satisfactory results, and gives an instance of the electricity of the cat as exhibited in his clever and interesting cat "Pret." If a hair of her mistress's head were laid on Pret's back, the cat would writhe about on the floor and put her body into violent contortions, and would endeavour with ail her might to shake off the object of her fears. Even the mere pointing of a finger at her side was sufficient to make her far bristle up and set her trembling, though the obnoxious finger were at a distance of six inches from her body."
The same gentleman goes on to express an opinion that on account of the superabundance of electricity which is developed in the cat, the animal is found very useful to paralyzed persons, who instinctively encourage the approach of a cat and derive a gentle benefit from its touch. Those who are afflicted with rheumatism often find their sufferings alleviated by the presence of one of these electrically gifted animals.
ORIGIN OF THE DOMESTIC CAT.
The origin of the domestic cat is not at all clearly ascertained. By many writers it is asserted to be a variety of the wild cat of Europe and Northern Asia; and a talented writer in a series of popular books, published originally in 1836, lays down the law as follows:- " In this case" (the case of the cat) "unlike that of the dog, there is no doubt which is the original head of the domesticated stock. The wild cat of the European forests is the tame cat of European houses. The tame cat would become wild if turned into the woods. The wild cat at some period has been domesticated, and its species has been established in almost every family of the old and new continent." This argument is, however, not completely correct. The tame cat will certainly "become wild " if turned into a forest; that is to say, it will cease to be gentle and respond to the slavish epithet of "puss;" but really it is no more a wild cat than when it dozed on the hearth-rug and drank milk from a saucer. One of the chief points of distinction between the wild and domestic cat is found in the comparative size and length of their tails. In the domestic cat, the tail is long and tapers to a fine point, whereas, in the wild cat, the tail is short and bushy and blunt. Again, the domestic cat is invariably of smaller size than the wild animal, and it is well known that the effect of domestication on animals is to increase their bulk.
The celebrated naturalist, M. Ruppel, discovered in the weedy and bushy regions of Ambukol, west of the Nile, a cat whose size was that of the medium-sized domestic cat, or about one-third smaller than the European wild cat, and having a longer tail than the animal last mentioned. The hair of this animal was long and in colour a blending of dirty-white and yellow. It was M. Ruppel's opinion that this cat was descended from the domestic cat of the ancient Egyptians, now to be traced in the cat-mummies and their representations on the monuments of Thebes. The domestic cat is "le chat" of the French, "Gatto" of the Italians, "Gats" of the Spanish and Portuguese, "Katze" of the Germans, "Kat" of the Dutch and the Danes, "Cath " of the Welsh. It is worthy of remark that all these names are the same as the Latin Catus, and this is somewhat in favour of all northern and western Europe having received the cat through Roman navigators, and we are thus brought nearer to Egypt and its probable origin.
Ruppel believed that the Egyptian cat and that which is familiar to us were identical, and Temminck concurs with him. Professor Owen, however, declares emphatically against this doctrine, and gives as the reason this - that in the Egyptian cat the first deciduous molar-tooth has a relatively thicker crown, and is supported by three roots, whilst the corresponding tooth both of the domestic and wild cat of Europe has a thinner crown and only two roots.
Mr. Bell, in his "History of Quadrupeds," handles the cat question with the same masterly hand as every other he touches. With regard to the favourite belief that the common wild cat is the father of the tame, he states his belief that there are many reasons for believing that this opinion is entirely erroneous. In the first place, he observes, the general conformation of the two animals is considerably different, especially in the length and form of the tail, which in the wild cat is strong, robust, and at least as large towards the extremity as at the base and middle, whilst that of the domestic cat tapers towards the apex. The fur, too, of the former, he remarks, is thicker and longer, and although the colours are somewhat like those which occur in some individuals of the ordinary species, there are, even in this respect, distinctions which can scarcely be considered otherwise than as essentially specific, as, for instance, the termination of the tail in a black tuft which invariably marks the wild cat.
Referring to Sir William Jardine for his opinion on the origin of Felis domestica, he suggests that since the introduction of our house cat to this country there may have been an accidental cross with the wild native species, by which the difference in form between the wild and tame cat may be accounted for. "The domestic cat," says Jardine," is the only one of this race which has been generally used in the economy of man. Some of the other small species have shown that they might be applied to similar purposes; and we have seen that the general disposition of this family will not prevent their training. Much pains would have been necessary to effect this, and none of the European nations were likely to have attempted it. The scarcity of cats in Europe in its earlier ages is also well known, and in the tenth and eleventh centuries a good mouser brought a high price." Although, however, our opinion coincides with that of Ruppel, and we think that we are indebted to the superstition of the ancient Egyptians for having domesticated the species mentioned by Ruppel, we have no doubt that since its introduction to this country, and more particularly to the north of Scotland, there have been occasional crossings with our own native species, and that the results of these crosses have been kept in our houses. We have seen many cats very closely resembling the wild cat and one or two which could scarcely be distinguished from it. There is, perhaps, no other animal that so soon loses its cultivation and returns apparently to a state completely wild. A trifling neglect of proper feeding or attention will often cause them to depend on their own resources; and the tasting of some wild and living food will tempt them to seek it again, and to leave their civilized home. They then prowl about in the same manner as their conquerors, crouching among corn, and carefully concealing themselves from all publicity. They breed in the woods and thickets, and support themselves upon birds or young animals. Few extensive rabbit-warrens want two or three depredators of this kind, where they commit great havoc, particularly among the young, in summer. They sleep and repose in the holes, and are often taken in the snares set for their prey. I once came upon a cat which had thus left her home; she had recently kittened in the ridge of an uncut cornfield. Upon approaching she showed every disposition to defend her progeny, and beside her lay dead two half-grown leverets.
Looking towards the great Bell for an endorsement of these sentiments we are disappointed. "It is not without much reflection," says he, "that I have come to the conclusion that this opinion of their intermixture is erroneous, and has its foundation in mistaken facts." M. Ruppel is as mercilessly handled as Mr. Jardine. "The Nubian cat," continues Mr. Bell, "to which the high authority of Ruppel has assigned the origin of the house cat, is still farther removed from it in essential zoological character than even the British wild cat, to which it had been previously so generally referred; and that as in the case of so many of our domesticated animals, we have yet to seek for the true original of this useful, gentle, and elegant animal."
VARIETIES OF THE DOMESTIC CAT.
There are not many varieties of this animal in a state of domestication, and they are nearly all enumerated by the mention of the Tortoiseshell, the Chinese, the Blue or Chartreuse, the Tabby, the Angola [note: Angora], and the Manx.
The last mentioned - the cat of Manx - is one of the most singular. Its appearance is not prepossessing; its limbs are gaunt, its fur close-set, its eyes staring and restless, and it possesses no tail, that is, no tail worthy to be so called; there certainly is, where the caudal appendage usually hangs, a sort of knob, suggestive of amputation in early kittenhood; but it is a well authenticated fact that the Manx cat has no tail, and, so far as can be ascertained, never had one. As, says a modern writer, "A black Manx cat, with its staring eyes and its stump of a tail, is a most unearthly looking beast, which would find a more appropriate resting place at Kirk Alloway or the Blocksburg than at the fire-side of a respectable household. So it might fitly be the quadrupedal form in which the ancient sorcerers were wont to clothe themselves on their nocturnal excursions."
The Angola is one of the most beautiful of cats. Its form is ample, its far long and silky, and its tail remarkably full and brush-like. These cats are very intelligent, and, according to Mr. Wood's experience, possessed of capacious stomachs. While that gentleman was staying at a cafe in Paris, he made friends with a huge Angola that used to sit on the tables and assist the Englishman in the consumption of his biscuits. She devoured them with such apparent relish that Mr. Wood ordered her a plate of almond biscuits for herself. The plate was speedily emptied and replaced by another; this too was leisurely cleared, the Angola's eyes still beaming with expectation rather than satisfaction. Her worthy patron had, however, settled the point that Angola cats will eat almond biscuits - a very great quantity of them, and was in no humour to experimentalize further.
Hiertro dello Valli makes mention of a cat discovered by him in Persia which exactly answers the description of the Angola. "There is," he says, "in Persia - particularly in the province of Charagan - of the figure and form of our ordinary ones but infinitely more beautiful in the lustre and colour
of its skin. It is of a grey blue, and as soft and shining as silk. The tail is of great length and covered with hair six inches long, which the animal throws over its back after the manner of a squirrel."
The Chinese cat is of largish size, has fine glossy fur, and is remarkable for its pendulous ears. Some assert that this is not properly a cat at all but a "Samxee," whatever that may be. Bosman, writing about the Chinese cat's drooping ears, remarks: "It is worthy of observation that there is in animals evident signs of ancestry of their slavery. Long ears, long and fine hair, are effects produced by time and civilization, whilst all wild animals have straight round ears." His remarks would seem to apply only to such animals as, when in a wild state, depend in a measure for their safety on their acute hearing, but when reduced to domestication, and consequent non-reliance on their own exertions, an exquisite ear is no longer necessary, and so the organ from sheer laxity falls out of shape. The rabbit is a good instance of this, as are lap dogs of various sorts; but it cannot be so said of the cat whose ears after centuries of domestication are as stiff and alert as those of her ancestors, who ran wild in a wood and listened for the stealthy footfall of the rabbit or the rustle of the bird. So it is again with the horse, and evidently because that in domestication they have as much need of their ears as when in a wild condition.
The tortoiseshell, or Spanish cat, may be known from its colours - white, black, and reddish brown - and from its elegant and delicate form; the blue, or Chartreus, cat by its long slate coloured fur, and the bushiness of its neck and tail. It is generally supposed that the "Tabby" coloured cat has a shorter domestic pedigree than any other.
It is the fashion to ascribe to the cat very few good qualities. She is said to be selfish, cruel, greedy, and without an atom of affection; indeed, to be in disposition the very reverse to the dog. Popular opinion may be said to be fairly summarized in the following effusion of a modern writer:- "I do not love the cat - his disposition is mean and suspicious. A friendship of years is cancelled in a moment by an accidental tread on his tail or foot. He instantly spits, raises his rump, twirls his tail of malignity, and shuns you; turning back, as off he goes, a staring vindictive face full of fury and unforgiveness, seeming to say, 'I hate you for ever.' But the dog is my delight. Tread on his tail or foot he expresses for a moment the uneasiness of his feelings, but in an instant more the complaint is ended. He runs around you, jumps up against you, seems to declare his sorrow for complaining, as he was not intentionally hurt; nay, to make himself the aggressor he begs by whinings and lickings that his master will think no more of it."
So much against the cat; now for evidence in favour of the maligned animal, not hearsay evidence but that derived from practical experience and furnished by living witnesses
STORIES OF REMARKABLE CATS.
The writer has, in his time, made the acquaintance of some queerish cats. When quite a little boy there was attached to our house a gaunt black and white cat, whose sole recommendation was that he was a magnificent mouser; nay to such lengths would he carry his passion for hunting as regularly to haunt a ditch that existed in the neighbourhood for the purpose of pursuing and capturing water-rats, which class of vermin it dispatched in a manner that at once secured the death of the rat and himself immunity from the rat's teeth. Seizing the animal by the back of the neck, the cat, by a sudden wriggle, threw himself on his back, at once transferred the custody of the rat from his mouth to his fore-paws, holding it neatly behind the shoulders, while with his hind talons he cruelly assailed the unlucky animal's loins and ribs till it ceased to struggle. I have stated that the cat in question was attached to our house, and that certainly was the extent of his intimacy, for he was attached to nobody residing there. Myself he particularly disliked, and although he never considered it beneath his dignity to steal any article of food from me, would never accept my overtures of friendship. I have reason to believe that his special dislike for me arose out of a pair of boots possessed by me at that period. They were creaky boots, and fastened with laces. Whether it was that the creaking of the articles as I moved about the room in them reminded him of the squeak of rats, and whether, not being a particularly tidy boy, the before-mentioned laces were sometimes allowed to trail rat's tail wise, aggravatingly heightening the illusion, I can't say; I only know that as sure as I happened to allow my small feet to swing loosely while seated at breakfast or dinner, so surely would the black and white cat, if he were in the room, make a sudden dash at the hated boots, giving my leg a severe wrench in his endeavour to fling himself on his back for the purpose of tearing the life out of them after his own peculiar mode.
My enemy was, however, finally subdued, and in rather a curious way. Some one bought me one of those difficult musical instruments known as a mouth organ, and delighted with my new possession I was torturing it as I sat on a seat in the garden. Suddenly there appeared in a tree just above my head my foe, the black and white cat, with her tail waving from side to side, her eyes staring, and her mouth twitching in an odd sort of way. I must confess I was rather alarmed, and in my nervous condition I might be excused if I construed the expression of the cat's countenance to intimate "Here you are then with another hideous noise, a noise that is even more suggestive of rat squeaking than your abominable boots; however, I've caught you by yourself this time, so look out for your eyes." I did not, however, cease playing my organ; my enemy's green eyes seemed to fascinate me, and my tremulous breath continued to wail in the organ pipes. Slowly the black and white cat descended the tree, and presently leapt at my feet with a bound that thrilled through me, and expelled a scream-like note from my instrument. But, to my astonishment, my enemy did not attack me; on the contrary he approached the offending boots humbly, and caressed them with his head. Still I continued to play, and after every inch of my bluchers had received homage from the cat's hitherto terrible muzzle, he sprang on to the seat beside me, and purred and gently mewed, and finally crept up on to my shoulders, and lovingly smelt at the mouth-organ as I played it. From that day hostilities ceased between us. He would sit on my shoulders for half an hour together and sing, after his fashion, while I played, and I had only to strike up to lure him from any part of the premises where he might happen to be.
There used to come to our house a young man who played the trombone, and having heard the story, insisted that there was nothing in it - that all cats liked music, and that savage as was our cat to strangers, he would be bound to conquer him with a single blast of his favourite instrument. Next time he came armed with the terrible-looking trombone, which our cat no sooner saw than - as I now knew her nature better than any one else could - she took a violent dislike to it. Placing our cat in a favourable position, the young man blew a blast on the trombone; the effect was, as he prognosticated, instantaneous, though not perfectly satisfactory; the brazen note was immediately responded to by one equally loud from our cat, who appeared to regard it as a challenge to combat, and thickened his tail and bared his teeth accordingly, at the same time swearing and spitting dreadfully. I need not say that the trombone player was discomfited, while my fame as a cat-charmer was considerably augmented.
Apropos of cat charming, I have a vivid recollection of once "charming" a cat to within an inch of getting myself thoroughly well thrashed. There lived in our neighbourhood a kind-hearted old gentleman who was good enough to take a fancy to my ungrateful self and would frequently invite me - he was a bachelor - to dine with him. The dining part of the business I had not the least objection to, but after dinner, when we had chatted till he fell into a doze, it became to a boy nine years old rather tedious. It was on one such occasion that I behaved so disgracefully. The old gentleman was nodding, with his slippered feet crossed easily before the fire, and a fat tortoiseshell cat, his property, lay along the rug placidly asleep too. Had I been a good boy I should have sat still and turned the leaves of "Pox's Book of Martyrs" till my friend awoke. But I was not a good boy. I felt myself like a martyr, doomed to the dreadful torture of sitting still. I felt in my pocket for a top-string I had there, and for a minute or so amused myself by bobbing the button at the end of the string on to the nose of the tortoiseshell cat, till I had roused that lazy animal to a state of extreme irritability. This sport after a while grew tame, so I shifted the string and allowed it to dangle within an inch of my host's feet. Really it was done with scarce a thought, but the result was rather astonishing. The tortoiseshell cat, who all the time kept her eye on the tormenting string, no sooner saw it at a distance convenient to spring at, made a bound, and missing the cord fiercely embraced one of the slippered members with ten of her talons. For the moment I was too frightened to weigh the possible consequences of laughing, and laughed outright, which, with the sudden bound the old gentleman gave, so alarmed the tortoiseshell cat that she flew towards the door like a mad cat. I doubt, however, whether its utmost agility would have saved it from the tongs with which its outraged master pursued it, had I not ashamedly explained the matter and begged forgiveness.
I have at the present time about my house a cat that came into my possession under rather singular circumstances. Before we knew her we had a cat that gave perfect satisfaction, was a good mouser, and an affectionate mother. In the rear of our house there is a shed commonly used as a wood store, and frequented at least once a day. It is by no means a secluded place, and the door, through a weakness in its hinges, is constantly ajar. One morning there was discovered in the shed not only a strange she cat but a strange kitten with its eyes open, plump, and about a fortnight old. The strange cat made no attempt to stir when the maid entered, but lay suckling her baby, and looking up with an expression that said as plainly as cat language could, "a persecuted cat and her kitten, at your service; don't drive us out, that's a good creature." More singular still, before the person appealed to could consider the case, our own cat peeped into the shed, and after deliberately walking up to the refugees and giving them a kindly touch with her nose, walked back to the servant and commenced to rub against her, purring the while as though to manifest her goodwill towards the strangers, and to recommend a favourable consideration of their case. So they were taken in.
As soon, however, as the novelty of the affair wore off, it began to dawn on us that we did not require a "housefull" of cats - though for that matter the four lived happily enough together. Which should we get rid of? The strange cat's kitten was too big to drown, and too little to send adrift, our own "Topsy" and her daughter must of course be retained, so there was nothing left but to send away the strange she cat. She was rather a good looking cat, and that, coupled with her known cleverness, gave us good ground for supposing that she would soon find another home. It appeared, however, that we did not give her credit for being nearly so clever as she was.
It was arranged that she should be conveyed in a basket to a certain square about a quarter of a mile distant, and there left to seek her fortune. To the best of everybody's belief this arrangement was carried out to the letter; therefore the amazement of the entire household may be easily imagined when on reference being made to the cat-cupboard to see how Topsy and her two young charges were getting on, to find no Topsy at all, - only the strange cat and the two kittens. How the cheat had been accomplished it was impossible to say. That Topsy was not the cat placed in the basket was vouched for by two witnesses - one of whom had held the basket-lid open while the other pushed the animal in. Perhaps in my own mind I have little doubt how the business was so mulled, but I know that in certain quarters there exists a belief either that by some sort of witchery the strange cat put on so Topsical an appearance as to deceive her would-be smugglers, or that after she was basketed she managed to sneak out, and either by persuasion or force induced the unlucky Topsy to take her place.
However it came about, the result is that the strange cat alone reigns at our house to the jealous exclusion of all her species. No one, I believe, has any particular affection for her, but that circumstance is not observed to prey on her mind or to interfere with her appetite. She devours her rations with the air of a cat who is conscious that she has earned them, and as though she is aware, and rather gloried than otherwise in the knowledge that she is regarded as a cunning and manoeuvering beast, who first by hypocritical representations induced an honest cat to obtain for her a situation, and who afterwards ungratefully contrived to push out her benefactress and progeny and install herself in their place.
In the form of a letter, a friend of the Rev. J. Gr. Wood furnishes that gentleman with some interesting particulars of two commercial cats of his acquaintance. "I must now tell you something about our Mincing Lane cats. Their home was the cellar, and their habits and surroundings, as you may imagine from the locality, were decidedly commercial. We had one cunning old black fellow whose wisdom was acquired by sad experience. In early youth he must have been very careless; he then was always getting in the way of the men and the wine cases, and frequent were the disasters he suffered through coming into collision with moving bodies. His ribs had often been fractured, and when nature repaired them she must have handed them over to the care of her 'prentice hand,' for the work was done in rather a rough and knotty manner. This battered and suffering pussy was at last assisted by a younger hero, who, profiting by the teachings of his senior, managed to avoid the scrapes which had tortured the one who was self educated. These two cats, junior and senior, appeared to swear (cats will swear) eternal friendship at first sight. An interchange of good offices was at once established. Senior taught junior to avoid men's feet and wine cases in motion, and pointed out the favourite hunting grounds, while junior offered to his mentor the aid of his activity and physical prowess.
"Senior had a cultivated and epicurean taste for mice, which he was too old to catch; he therefore entered into a solemn league and covenant with junior to the following effect. It was agreed between these two contracting powers that junior should devote his energies to catching mice for the benefit of senior, who in consideration of such feudal was to relinquish his claim to a certain daily allowance of cats' meat in favour of junior. This courteous compact was actually and seriously carried out. It was an amusing and touching spectacle to behold young pussy gravely laying at the feet of his elder the contents of his 'game bag;' on the other hand, senior, true to his bargain, licking his jaws and watching junior steadily consuming a double allowance of cats' meat.
"Senior had the rare talent of being able to carry a bottle of champagne from one end of the cellar to the other, perhaps a distance of a hundred and fifty feet. The performance was managed in this wise. You gently and lovingly approached the cat, as if you did not mean to perpetrate anything wicked; having gained its confidence by fondly stroking its back, you suddenly seized its tail, and by that member raised the animal bodily from the ground; its fore-feet sprawling in the air ready to catch hold of any object within reach. You then quickly bring the bottle of wine to the seizing point; pussy clutches the object with a kind of despairing grip. By means of the aforesaid tail you carefully carry pussy, bottle and all, from one part of the cellar to another. Pussy, however, soon became disgusted with this manoeuvre, and when he saw a friend with a bottle of champagne looming, he used to beat a precipitate retreat."
The rev. gentleman before quoted had at one time in his possession a marvellously clever little cat, which he called "Pret," and concerning which he relates a host of anecdotes. From them are culled the following:-
"Pret" knew but one fear, and had but few hates. The booming sound of thunder smote her with terror, and she most cordially hated grinding organs and singular costumes. At the sound of a thunder-clap poor Fret would fly to her mistress for succour, trembling in every limb. If the dreaded sound occurred in the night or early morning, Pret would leap on the bed and crawl under the clothes as far as the very foot. If the thunder-storm came on by day, Pret would jump on her mistress's knees, put her paws round her neck, and hide her face between them.
She disliked music of all kinds, but bore a special antipathy to barrel-organs; probably because the costume of the organgrinder was unpleasing to her eye as his doleful sounds to her ears. But her indignation reached its highest bounds at the sight of a Greenwich pensioner accoutred in those grotesque habiliments with which the crippled defenders of their country are forced to invest their battered frames. It was the first time that so uncouth an apparition had presented itself to her eyes, and her anger seemed only equalled by her astonishment. She got on the window-sill, and there chafed and growled with a sound resembling the miniature roar of a lion. When thus excited she used to present a strange appearance, owing to a crest or ridge of hair which used to erect itself on her. back and extend from the top of her head to the root of her tail, which latter member was marvellously expanded. Gentle as she was in her ordinary demeanour, Pret was a terrible cat when she saw cause, and was undaunted by size or numbers.
She had a curious habit of catching mice by the very tip of their tails, and of carrying the poor little animals about the house dangling miserably from her jaws. Apparently her object in so doing was to present her prey uninjured to her mistress, who, she evidently supposed, would enjoy a game with a mouse as well as herself; for, like human beings, she judged the character of others by her own.
This strange custom of tail-bearing was carried into the privacy of her own family, and caused rather ludicrous results. When Pret became a mother, and desired to transport her kittens from one spot to another, she followed her acquired habit of porterage, and tried to carry her kittens about by the tips of their tails. As might be supposed, they objected to this mode of conveyance, and, sticking their claws in the carpet, held firmly to the ground, mewing piteously, while their mother was tugging at their tails. It was absolutely necessary to release the kittens from their painful position, and to teach Pret how a kitten ought to be carried. After a while, she seemed to comprehend the state of things, and ever afterwards carried her offspring by the nape of the neck.
At one time, when she was yet in her kittenhood, another kitten lived in the same house, and very much annoyed Pret by coming into the room and eating the meat that had been laid out for herself. However, Pret soon got over that difficulty by going to the plate as soon as it was placed at her accustomed spot, picking out all the large pieces of meat, and hiding them under a table. She then sat quietly and placed herself sentry over her hidden treasure, while the intruding cat entered the room, walked up to the plate, and finished the little scraps of meat that Pret had thought fit to leave. After the obnoxious individual had left the room, Pret brought her concealed treasures from their hiding-place, and quietly consumed them.
Clever as Pret was, she sometimes displayed a most unexpected simplicity of character. After the fashion of the cat tribe, she delighted in covering up the remnants of her food with any substance that seemed most convenient. She was accustomed, after taking her meals, to fetch a piece of paper and lay it over the saucer, or to put her paw in her mistress's pocket and extract her handkerchief for the same purpose. These little performances shewed some depth of reasoning in the creature, but she would sometimes act in a manner totally opposed to rational action. Paper and handkerchief failing, she has been often seen, after partly finishing her meal, to fetch one of her kittens, and to lay it over the plate for the purpose of covering up the remaining food. When kitten, paper, and handkerchief were all wanting, she did her best to scratch up the carpet, and to lay the torn fragments over the plate. She has been known, in her anxiety to find a covering for the super-abundant food, to drag a table-cloth from its proper locality, and to cause a sad demolition of the superincumbent fragile ware.
A year or two since, the budget of the Imperial Printing Office in Prance, amongst other items, contained one for cats, which caused some merriment in the legislative chamber during its discussion. According to the "Pays" these cats are kept for the purpose of destroying the numerous rats and mice which infest the premises and cause considerable damage to the large stock of paper which is always kept there. This feline staff is fed twice a day, and a man is employed to look after them: so that for cat's meat and the keeper's salary no little expense is annually incurred; sufficient in fact to form a special item in the national expenditure. Of these animals a somewhat interesting anecdote is related.
It appears that near to the Imperial Printing Office is situated the office of the Director of the Archives, and the gardens of the two establishments are adjacent. In that belonging to the latter gentleman, were kept a number of choice aquatic birds, for whose convenience a small artificial river had been constructed. Their owner suddenly discovered one day that his favourites were diminishing in a mysterious manner, and set a watch to ascertain the reason. Soon it was discovered who were the marauders - the cats! The enraged Director, acting in the spirit of the law, thought he had a perfect right to shoot and otherwise destroy these feline burglars whenever he found them on his grounds, and accordingly did so. Traps were set, and soon half-a-dozen cats paid the penalty of their crimes.
The keeper of the cats also, by this time, found that the muster at meal times was much scantier than usual, and reported to his superior, the Director of the Printing Office. At first, the workmen were suspected of killing them; but the appearance, one day, of a cat with a broken snare round its neck, put the keeper on a fresh scent, and ultimately led to the discovery of the truth. The Director thereupon complained to his brother official, who only replied by pointing to the thinly tenanted pond, and saying that he would not have his birds destroyed if he could help it. The result was that a fierce hostility reigned between the two establishments, until an arrangement was made by their respective heads. By this treaty it was stipulated that the Director of the Imperial Printing Office should, on his part, cause every outlet by which the cats gained access to the gardens of the Director of the Archives to be carefully closed, and every means taken to prevent such a contingency; while on the other hand, Monsieur, the Director of the Archives, agreed never to molest any cat belonging to the Imperial Printing Office, who should, by some unforeseen accident, obtain admittance into his garden. And thus, by this famous treaty, the horrors of civil war were averted!
A curious instance of the attachment of animals totally dissimilar in habits, is related in the ‘Leisure Hour’ as follows:-
"A lady of the writer's acquaintance was once walking amid the scenery of the Isle of Wight, when she observed a little kitten curled up on a mossy bank in all the security of a mid-day nap. It was a beautiful little creature, and the lady gently approached in order to stroke it, when suddenly down swooped an hawk, pounced upon the sleeping kitten, and completely hid it from her sight. It was a kestrel. Our friend was greatly shocked, and tried to rescue the little victim; but the kestrel stood at bay and refused to move. There he stood on the bank, firmly facing her; and all her efforts to drive him from his prey failed. The lady hurried on to a fisherman's cottage, which was near at hand, and told of the little tragedy with the eloquence of real feeling. But the fisher-folk were not so disconcerted, and, laughingly, said, - 'It is always so; that hawk always comes down if anybody goes near the kitten. He has taken to the kitten, and he stays near at hand to watch whenever it goes to sleep.'
"The case was so remarkable, that the lady inquired further into its history, and learned that the kitten's mother had died, and that the fisherman's family had suddenly missed the little nurseling. After some time they observed a kestrel hawk loitering about the cottage. They used to throw him scraps of meat, and they observed that he always carried off a portion of every meal, dragging even heavy bones away out of sight. His movements were watched, and they saw that he carried the stores to the roof of his cottage. A ladder was placed, some one ascended, and there, nestling in a hole in the thatch, lay the lost kitten, thriving prosperously under the tender care of its strange foster-father. The foundling was brought down and restored to civilized life; but the bandit protector was not disposed to resign his charge, and ever kept at hand to fly to the rescue, whenever dangerous ladies threatened it with a caress."
That a long course of domestic drill is insufficient to win a cat from its native savagery is proved by the following scrap, lately culled from the ‘Swansea Herald’:-
"A fight of more than ordinary interest took place on the bank of the canal near Kidwelly Quay, a few days ago. A domestic cat, making her usual walk in search of prey along the embankment, was attacked by an otter of no small dimensions, and was in an instant tossed into the middle of the canal, and there had to fight, not for the 'belt,' but for her life, in an uncongenial element. But very soon they were observed by some sailors and shippers, employed not far from the scene of contest, who hastened to witness the strange occurrence. Either from fear of the men, or of its formidable antagonist, the otter relinquished its hold, and poor puss safely landed amidst hearty cheers and congratulations. But puss, not being content with the laurels she had won in the first contest, went out again on the following day, and, strange to say, the old combatants met again, and the otter, with undiminished pluck, attacked the cat on land. The contest became very severe, but ultimately the otter was glad to regain its watery refuge, and leave puss the victor the second time, without suffering very considerably from an encounter with such a formidable foe."
Next comes the story of a traveller-cat, derived, like the preceding, from a newspaper source:-
"In a parish in Norfolk, not six miles from the town of Bungay, lived a clergyman who, having a cat, sentenced it to transportation for life, because it had committed certain depredations on his larder. But the worthy gentleman found it far easier to pronounce that sentence than to carry it into execution. Poor puss was first taken to Bungay, but had hardly got there when she escaped, and was soon at home again." Her morals, however, had in no way improved, and a felonious abstraction of butcher's meat immediately occurred. "This time her master determined to send the hardened culprit away a distance, which, as he expressed. it, 'she would not walk in a hurry.' He, accordingly, gave her (generous man!) to a person living at Fakenham, distant at least forty miles. The man called for her in the morning, and carried her off in a bag, that she might not know by what road he went. Vain hope! She knew well enough the way home, as he found to his cost, when, directly the house-door was opened the next morning, she rushed out, and he saw no more of her.
"The night after, a faint mewing was heard outside the minister's dwelling, but, not being so rare an occurrence, no attention was paid to it. However, on opening the door next morning, there lay the very cat which he thought was forty miles away, her feet all cut and blistered, from the hardness of the road, and her silky fur all clotted and matted together with dust and dirt. She had her reward. However her thievish propensities might annoy him, the worthy vicar resolved never again to send her away from the house she loved so well and exerted herself so nobly to regain."
There is a capital story told of a monastery-cat, which. albeit an old one, will very well bear idling again. Perhaps, indeed, the secret of its freshness lies in the seasoning – like many another dish.
The legend runs thus:- In a certain monastery, in which a cat was kept, the cook, one day, on laying the dinner, found one of the holy inmate's portions of meat missing, although he thought he had cooked the proper quantity; still the good man was willing to believe he had miscalculated, and, without making any ado about it, supplied the deficient dinner. Next day, however, the same thing happened again - another monk's meat was gone. The cook began now to suspect treachery, and resolved to watch. On the third day he took particular care in apportioning the dinners, which were cooked, and about to be served up, when he heard a ring of the gate-bell, and hastened out to answer it. On his return, he discovered one of the dinners was gone; but how, or by whom, it was taken he could not imagine. He determined to discover the thief, and next day took the utmost precaution in seeing that the number of dinners was quite correct. When all was ready to dish up, the bell rang again. This time, however, he did not go to the gate, but only just outside the kitchen, and, peeping through the door, he saw the cat jump through -the window and, seizing a piece of the meat, make his exit from the same way as rapidly as he entered. So far the mystery was solved; but who rang the bell? The next day the vigilant cook found that this part of the performance was also played by the ingenious felis domesticus, whose modus operandi was first to jump at the bell-rope and pull it with its paw, then, watching the cook out of the kitchen, to swiftly spring through the window, seize the meat, and then, as swiftly, out again. The cook told the story of the feline thief to the monks, and those holy brethren, in full conclave assembled, after hearing the evidence, came to the resolution that the cat should enjoy uninterrupted the fruits of its predatory art so long as it chose to practise it; and that the wondrous tale should be published abroad. The result of this decision was that for a considerable time visitors continually poured to the monastery, and were, for a small fee, admitted to witness the excellent comedy, which paid for the extra rations of the cat, and put a little money into the pockets of the monks as well.
It is a curious fact that in countries liable to earthquakes the cat is able to predict the coming event; and a very singular instance of this occurred at the great earthquake at Messina. A short time before that awful catastrophe, a merchant living in the town noticed that in the room in which he was sitting his two cats were running about and scratching at the floor and doors in a very excited manner. He opened the door and let them out; but they only scampered off to the next door, and there began scratching again in the same way. He was convinced that they wanted to get fairly out of the house; so the owner opened the other doors leading to the street, at all of which, while he was unfastening them, they exhibited the utmost impatience. Struck with their uneasiness, he determined to follow them and endeavour to find the cause of it. Once out in the street, they rushed off in a frantic state through the town, out of the gates, and never stopped till they were some distance out in the country. The merchant, who had followed them quietly, at last found them in a field, still very excited and scratching at the ground with their feet. In a few minutes the first shock of the earthquake came, which buried, in its hungry jaws, many of the houses in the town, that belonging to the merchant amongst the number.
DISEASES OF CATS AND THEIR CURE.
To cure a cat of her ailments it is in most cases necessary to administer physic in some shape or another. This at the very outset is enough to daunt at least nine-tenths of the lady cat-owners in the kingdom. "As difficult as giving pills to a sick cat," is a familiar way of illustrating the extreme hardship of any task, and yet when properly managed a sick cat may be made to take pills or any other drug without risk of a severe scratching on your part, and danger of a dislocated neck on the part of suffering Grimalkin.
If the cat and yourself are on good terms, you will experience no difficulty in approaching her, whatever be her bodily condition. Have ready a large cloth - a crumb cloth for instance - and wrap the patient therein, wisping the cloth round and round her body so that every part of her except the head is well enveloped. Any one may then hold it between their knees while you complete the operation. Put on a pair of stout gloves, and then with a firm hand open the animal's mouth wide. Do not attempt to pour down the cat's throat too much at a time, or your object will be frustrated. A small spoon should be used, and no more poured into the mouth at a time than may be easily swallowed.
Be very careful to cleanse the fur of the animal's face and neck of any physic that may have been smeared thereon. The cat of all things dislikes a dirty coat, and as the nastiness of the medicine will prevent her licking herself clean she will go about in a miserable condition, and one that will probably counteract the good effects of your doctoring. After the dose has been swallowed you may unswathe the patient and turn her into a quiet room, where there is something soft for her to lie on, and a cheerful fire. Do not offer her any food for at least two hours after the administration of the physic.
Diarrhoea is a very common complaint with cats. It may be known by the animal's becoming thin, by her coat being dirty, and by her dull eyes. Unless this be checked, dysentery will set in, and the cat's life be sacrificed. An ounce of fresh mutton suet, dissolved in a quarter of a pint of new milk, will, if the malady be taken in hand in its earlier stage, effect a speedy cure. The milk should only be warm enough to melt the shredded suet; and if it be too ill to lap, put one or two spoonsful into its mouth every two hours. If the scouring do not abate, a spoonful of chalk mixture, with eight drops of tincture of rhubarb, had better be given.
Cats are sometimes attacked by fits of delirium. The animal may be discovered with staring eyes and bristling far, rushing here and there in a way most terrible to see. Generally it finishes by plunging into the darkest corner it can find, - into a lumber-room or the coal-cellar may be, - and will there remain to die unless attended to. There are several remedies for this disorder, but that advised by Lady Cust is certainly the most efficacious. "Take a sharp pair of scissors and slightly slit one of the ears, but not to disfigure the cat; it must be in the thin part of the ear. Have ready some warm water, and hold the ear in it, gently rubbing it and encouraging the blood to flow; a few drops give relief. The most timid lady need not fear to perform this slight operation, as during the attack the animal does not feel, nor does it resist in any way; but I always use thick gloves in handling animals myself, and I recommend them to others. When the attack is over, keep the cat quiet, as you will observe it is very nervous after, and alarmed with the slightest sound; and let its food be rather less in quantity, and less nutritious in quality, till it is past the time of fits."
The lady above quoted makes some interesting remarks on the subject of grass eaten by cats. "Cats will never prosper without grass to eat! I have long observed and been convinced of this; and was ridiculed for my opinion when I asserted it, even by some learned members of the Zoological Society, who would not believe that grass was necessary to the feline tribe in general, or that they would even eat it, until they witnessed the voracity with which it was devoured after a deprivation of it for a few days. I am perfectly certain it is essential for the maintenance of health and life in that species. In the first place it cools the blood, preventing humours, and contributes to the healthy condition of the skin, rendering the fur fine and glossy. It has also a material effect on the general health. Every one must have observed the constant licking bestowed on the coat, and the rough nature of the tongue. Consequently, the loose hair is conveyed to the stomach and intestines, where it remains in balls or long rolls, causing dulness and loss of appetite, and ending in death. The hair swallowed adheres to the rough grass and is then digested, or if the mass is too large (as is often the case in the moulting season, especially with Angora cats), it will be seen thrown up: long rolls of hair with grass, perfectly exclusive of any other substance; and the animal that a few minutes previous was dying, will now be relieved, and take its food as usual."
In the spring and autumn cats are frequently afflicted with a disease resembling chicken-pox in the human subject. The head and throat are the parts chiefly attacked, the hair falls off, and the animal's appearance is very miserable. Rub the places with flour of brimstone mixed with hogs' lard.
When the cat has kittens never be so hard-hearted as to carry off at one sweep the whole of her little family. There is no animal on earth that exhibits more affection for its progeny than the cat. It will go hungry that its young ones may eat, and will face the most terrible dangers in their behalf. If her children are taken from her, she goes for days stalking about, a lean and wretched cat, filling the house with her melancholy mewings. Therefore be merciful. If the entire litter must be destroyed take them away one at a time, allowing a day or two between. Motherless kittens may be reared by hand by sweetening new milk with brown sugar and feeding them with the mixture several times a day. The best substitute for the healthful licking afforded by the mother's tongue is a soapy sponge squeezed nearly dry.
"Cats," writes Lady Cust, "have a very dangerous complaint, which I call distemper, though it is different to the distemper in dogs. I do not think it occurs more than once; and it is well it does not, as it requires every care and attention to save the life of the sufferer. Sometimes it begins with constant vomiting of a bright yellow frothy liquid, diarrhoea then comes on, which ends in dysentery. If you see the yellow vomiting, give the small dose of salt and water before named; in this case it will act as an emetic. When the stomach is cleared, then, as the vomiting will continue from irritation, and reduce the strength to the last degree, very painful to witness, stop it as soon as you can, by giving half a teaspoonful of melted beef marrow, free from skin. One dose is generally sufficient; but if it is not, another half-spoonful may be given in half an hour. To allay vomiting from irritation, I have never seen this simple remedy fail in either the human or animal subject. I have tried it upon all species of carnivora with equal success: the former should take it upon toast, with salt without pepper, overcoming the great repugnance it causes in sickness."