CAT RAISING AS A BUSINESS.
This is an American equivalent of Frances Simpson’s “Cats for Pleasure and Profit”
The growing prestige of the Angora or Persian, the long haired aristocrat of the cat world-the scarcity of pure bred animals in this country, and the fanciers who raise them for pleasure or profit.
During recent years the cat, - that is, the cat of the finer breeds - has made so marked an advance in prestige and popularity that this may well be called the second golden age of her feline majesty. Her first golden age was many centuries ago, in the days of Egypt's splendor, when the cat was a sacred animal, along with numerous other creatures, from beetles to crocodiles. Under the Pharaohs, cats were embalmed like human beings and buried in great cemeteries like those of Zagazig and Beni-Hassan - that sacrilegious moderns might sell their remains for guano, and grind their bones for an expensive tooth powder.
When the Greeks and Romans invaded Egypt, puss was thrown from her high estate, carried to the ends of the earth, and made to work. Ever since then she has paid her way as a protector of granaries, as a producer of fine furs, as an article of diet for epicures in France and Japan, and everywhere as a thing of beauty and a household pet.
How the Persians and Angoras, the royalty of catdom, came to the remote regions about Mount Ararat we know no more than we know why Australia and the West Indian islands had no cats at all. We know that felis domestica appeared in the British Islands about the year 800, presumably by way of Africa and Spain. Her experiences in England were varied, from public roastings for witchcraft to hiring out as a servitor; from the rare sport obtained by torturing her in the chase, which was lawful in the time of Richard II, to her present exalted position as an adored and adorable creature.
The popularity of the cat, from an esthetic as well as an economic standpoint, has resulted in systematic and scientific breeding of the animals, sometimes out of love for pussy, hut more often for profit. It is not at all strange that cat raising should be a feminine industry. Much has been said about the affinity between the two most domestic, most graceful, most capricious, and, withal, most lovable of creatures. The "catters" are a most enthusiastic people. They are striving to regain for the cat the proud place she held in Egypt, and to do that they must make her worthy of such a position. They admit that they are still groping in the dark, but they are sure they are moving in the right direction.
Many varieties of the domestic cat are raised in the United States, among the rarest being the Manx, the Siamese, and the Mexican. Several catteries are conducted solely for the improvement and propagation of the common short haired cat, which has been transported by the carload to California, New Guinea, and other places where her race had almost died out and the rats were running away with the country. Short haired Cinderella does the work, while long haired Donna Pomposa sits idly by and allows herself to be admired.
THE ARISTOCRAT AMONG CATS.
[Illustration: A Maine Angora, The Property Of Mrs. Somers - The Maine Cats Are Half Breed Descendants Of Angoras Brought From Oriental Ports By Old Time Sea Captains.]
But the cat prized by breeders and fanciers, the pet of luxury, the inspiration of poet's pen and artist's pencil, is the magnificent, the luxurious, the oriental Angora or Persian. We are told that there is no real difference between the Angora and the Persian. The Century Dictionary declares them to be identical, so all the highly learned talk about tassels and brushes, about silken and woolen hair, about tails carried at this angle and at that, must probably give way to the fact that the varieties of long haired cats are geographical only. The cold tablelands of Central Asia, and particularly the mountain regions of Turkey and Persia, give us our cat aristocracy. They are called Angora in Turkey, Persian in Persia. The tendency here, at present, is to call them all Persian, either through ignorance, or from a desire to distinguish them from the cats of Maine. The progenitors of these latter were brought to America by old time sea captains who touched at oriental ports. The modern animals are unworthy and degenerate descendants, and one aim of breeders is to eradicate this Maine strain. The name “coon cats," often applied to this class, is physiologically and zoologically a misnomer. Though their long noses and shaggy coats and bushy tails suggest the raccoon, it is merely a coincidence, and there could, of course, he no blood relationship between animals of such widely different families. Whether different species of the same family – as the cat and the lynx - have mated, is not proven. Authorities state that no reversion of type has ever been observed between the domestic and the wild cat, and that the former is not a tamed wild eat, though there are many instances of the domestic cat run wild. The pampas of South America have a wild cat greatly resembling our Maine Angoras, and possibly a similar animal. Every cat run wild takes on a gray coat or tabby markings - nature's means of protecting her from her foes.
Beautiful Angoras and Persians have for some time been raised in England, and our showing is very poor in comparison. We bring out two to five in a class at our shows, while the British breeders send thirty to forty. Only in the last twenty five years have cats been carefully bred in America. In the last three years the fancy has taken a sudden spurt. The busy "catter " may close her eyes only to see visions of chicken wire inclosing animated fur rugs in every city and hamlet in the country. Two monthly periodicals are published solely in the interest of the long haired cat, while almost every dog, horse, or poultry journal has its cat page. One cannot but wonder where it will all end, especially when the judges tell us that few really fine cats appear at the shows, that few high priced cats are imported, and that much of the booming and banging is about really inferior animals.
Most of the cats brought from England or the east come originally as personal pets. In a short time it becomes necessary to bestow choice kittens upon one's friends, and to make their lives miserable ever after with elaborate directions for their care. Many people labor under the delusion that an animal born in a region of snow and icy winds requires hothouse surroundings. Soon a local market appears, and suddenly one learns that the cat business, as an industry, has been going on for some time, and has already reached large proportions.
THE CAT DEALER'S TRADE.
The trade is one that has its tricks and its temptations. One must meet the competition of inferior stock with animals of equal grade and charge more than the animals are really worth, or one must import the best stock with a prospect of being unable to sell it. While sixteen of the "original stock" of gold bricks sail gaily off under hundred dollar bank notes, the real gold goes a begging. The demand just now is very heavy, and such terms as " imported," " registered," and " pedigreed " inflate prices outrageously, and cats are sold more by eloquence than points. On the other hand, many really fine specimens go for mere songs, or caterwauls, just enough to pay the expenses of raising them. For a considerable outlay is necessary. Cats cannot be fed on any old scraps, or kept in any old woodshed, and produce marketable progeny. Some catters give their animals far more of their time and attention than their own babies get even from the hired nurse.
It is said that many a woman in business has little or no conscience. This is especially true where the merchandise is cat flesh. She will blandly try to make a two hundred per cent profit on "importing" stock for the novice. She will patch up pedigrees, sell notoriously diseased animals, and practise the various tricks of all trades; reminding one forcibly of the London fanciers' street where one can have made to order, on twenty four hours' notice, any breed of dog, .cat, or other creature, from a pert sparrow canary of a dazzling '' yeller " to the most bandy legged of bull dogs or the .most pancake faced of pugs.
If the true cat lover, one whose object is "not to feel the animal's soft fur, or watch its diverting gambols, but to make it happy," desires to start a cattery, let her first study the history, the anatomy, the physiology, and the personality of the Cat. Read all the cat books published, subscribe for all the cat papers, to get well disgusted with sentimentality and exaggerations, and visit a large show, where you may consult with the judges, but beware of the exhibitors. After communing with yourself, and comparing notes until you are competent to discriminate between padded advertisements and retouched negatives, be bold, and buy a spring kit at least six months old. The spring litter is the best because the parents are at their best in January and February, and are not then troubled with fleas or enervated by the heats of summer - two ills from which all long haired cats suffer greatly in our climate. At six months the kit has developed enough to show what kind of a cat he may be, and is probably bravely over many of the afflictions of kittenhood. It is unwise to get an older cat, because you cannot then be certain that he has not been carelessly or intentionally bred, and consequently stunted.
PRICES PAID FOR CATS.
In their native land the finest long haired cats are worth whatever one chooses to give for them, while those of the seaports cost what one may be made to give. The expenses and risks of transportation are considerable. An animal bought in the interior of Turkey for fifty cents or a dollar will represent an expenditure of from twenty five to a hundred dollars when it reaches America. The former figure is about the actual cost of importation; the profits of agents and middlemen are the uncertain quantity. Six month kits, bred in England from the best stock, cost from five to thirty dollars. They should be nine months old before they are taken across the Atlantic. The ocean fare for cats is five dollars, and it is well to give a dollar to the butcher under whose care the animals are, to insure proper feeding.
In this country prices are very uncertain. The best stock in America is selling at ten dollars a head, while the poorest may bring fifty dollars. A fair price for the pick of the finest cattery would be about thirty dollars. Naturally, older animals demand higher prices.
The term "prize winner " does not as yet mean much here, and the valuations of fond owners mean even less. In England Lord Southampton sold for three hundred dollars, which is said to be the highest price on record, while a thousand dollars was refused here for King Humbert. Experts consider few cats in America, at present, worth more than a hundred dollars.
The purchaser should see the parents, get all the information possible about them, and demand a certified pedigree whether the kit is intended for a pet or a breeder. Registration and pedigree, if genuine, show at least an intention to mate carefully. The front legs of a kitten are frequently a safe index to its future markings. Where to buy must he determined by the purchaser. The biggest advertisements and the highest prices do not always indicate the best cats. It is preferable to buy from a cattery rather than from a fancier. Get "open air " stock. There is nothing more like buying a pig in a poke than buying a cat from half way across the country without seeing the animal.
No honorable dealer will expect a cat to be kept if, on delivery, it is not found to be as represented. Certain agreements should be entered into to secure healthy animals, or their replacement within a reasonable time in case of unexpected developments. The prevailing lack of such precautions reflects greatly upon the un-businesslike cat industry in America.
The thoroughbred long haired cat should have tiny ears lost amid its long hair, a broad, round face showing breadth between round and open eyes, a short nose, a short and cobby body, legs with the upper angle close and the lower leg straight, frame deep chested and light, back high and square, tail long and graceful, ruff long and wavy, coat a rich, pure color, with a tendency to curl, feet small and round, claws flat, tufts between the toes and in the ears.
The American shows are still judging coat and eyes chiefly, because so few really worthy specimens come up for comparison. For instance, how many tiny eared cats have we? We continually read of them, but I have seen just one in America.
THE COLORS OF CATS.
The original cat colors are the white, the orange, and the black. The white is most frequently met, and is the color of the common cat of the orient. Under our highly civilized surroundings, the white cat requires washing, which is never the best thing for a cat's skin or fur. The white cat is usually defective, if an animal that is one entire physiological defect can be said to be partly one; for albinism, of course, is a form of disease.
The orange cat, with his yellow coat originally burned out beneath the desert sun, is gaining in popularity. He is not usual.
But the real master of beauty, the true king of the cat kingdom, is the "devil's own," the pure black cat, the emblem of witches and printers' ink. It is doubtful if there exists a full grown black cat with positively not one white hair, unless it has been carefully plucked out. Harrison Weir, the originator of the Crystal Palace shows, and chief promoter of the cat's interests in England, is authority for the statement that the black Persian is the rarest and most valuable of cats. A correspondent, traveling in the recesses of the orient, advises us that " white cats abound, but scarcely a black is to be found.”
The tabbies are very beautiful, and are preferred above all others by some breeders, though the judges say that only a few fine specimens are to be found in America. Smoke, silver, chinchilla, blue, and other markings all have their admirers. The tortoise shell is a close rival of the black in rarity. Indeed, it is not fully determined whether a perfect male tortoise shell exists. One white hair disqualifies. The real tortoise shell is yellow, red, and black.
Spots, mixtures, and indistinct markings of all kinds suggest the mongrel, and are distasteful to judge and jury alike.
THE MANAGEMENT OF A CATTERY.
If King Thomas has two queens in his harem, there is an excellent beginning for a cattery. Of course one may not be able to invest so much, and in that event it were wise to buy a queen whose past is known. But the first step towards establishing a cattery is the selection and the arrangement of the animals' living place. Have all the outdoor space at your disposal completely inclosed with one inch mesh chicken wire.
Males and females should be separated, and mothers and kittens should have a space by themselves. There should be boxes of sand, and trees or bushes to provide means of exercise, with shade and sunny perches, shelter from rain and dampness, in all of the inclosures. There must always be access to fresh water, running if possible. Meals should be varied, systematic, and scant. Milk should always be fresh, scalded and served warm with some cereal food in the morning. A hearty meal at night should consist of meat or fish, well boiled, but never baked or fried, with a vegetable, crackers, or bread, and the juices from the meat. All bones should be removed from the fish, and all other food should be passed through a chopper after being cooked.
Aim to give heat producing food in winter - meat, peas, beans, raw eggs, prepared cat food, oatmeal, and so on. In summer give more fluid and fish, squashes, cabbage, and cooling vegetables. All food should be well salted and always served warm. As cats require some sugar, they should now and then have some such dish as a soft custard. Delicacies like liver, potato, sardines, corn, olive oil, cheese, and butter should be given occasionally, and catnip on request. Oatmeal and olive oil aid in throwing off the accumulations of hair in the stomach, but daily brushing, especially during the shedding season, removes most of the loose hair, which would otherwise probably be swallowed.
Cats easily learn to eat and to like almost anything. A pint of milk is a good allowance for five full grown cats.
Feed preferably from separate dishes, all to be washed and put away on the special cat shelf, or in the exclusive cat cupboard, after a reasonable time - say twenty minutes. A normal kit of two months will have some difficulty in disposing of more than a tablespoonful of nourishment five or six times a day.
Drugs of all kinds should be eliminated from the cat pharmacopoeia. Many cats are killed by mistaken diagnoses, and more by the misuse of drugs. Worms are the chief enemies of the cat, but these and most of the ills that puss is heir to can be avoided to a great extent by careful selection of stock, wise feeding, and sensible care. There is nothing so sick as a sick cat, and no creature that better understands what to do for itself when ailing. With a warm, dark corner, peace and quiet, plenty of water and grass, nine times out of ten it gets well, while the tenth cat is the victim of its over fond owner.
Avoid "harmless" remedies. These are of necessity as ineffectual as harmless. It is with an aching heart that one hears how some poor animal, whose only ailment, perhaps, was the periodical shedding of hair, was dosed and pomaded for mange or eczema, or how some really invalid kitty was tortured and drugged with this and that deadly alkaloid until "she died in spite of all I could do for her." Conservatism will be the better part of sense until we have a more extensive knowledge both of cats and drugs.
Yet one must not leave a really suffering feline to the faith curists. If perfectly certain that the cat is ill, consult an intelligent veterinarian, one who is not solely devoted to dogs and horses. The honest practitioner will always admit that he knows little of the cat beyond its anatomy, and that cat doctoring is still, at best, sadly experimental. The man who makes this admission is the one in whose hands to trust your pet. The home medicine chest is better off if it contains only sulphur for external use, brandy for extreme debility, and boracic acid for wounds. Poisoning is rare; it occurs once where it is diagnosed ten times.
Politely excuse visitors from handling your live stock. If it becomes necessary to lift a cat from the ground, raise it gently by placing one hand under the fore and the other under the hind legs.
The chief foes to success with long haired cats are confinement in the house, over feeding, and handling. Dearly as the animals love the fire and down cushions, both must be denied. A cheese box, a barrel, or a basket, with a good clean bed of shavings, excelsior, or oat straw, makes a tine couch. Free circulation of air (no drafts), dry, comfortable quarters at night and for very cold weather, and ample facilities for climbing, jumping, and playing, are imperative.
Although you may love your cat, respect his dignity, consider his best interests, and avoid possible disease by confining your demonstrations of affection to a stroke of the lithe body, or a pat on the head.