THE CAT (pp 73.)
I. ITS ANTIQUITY
The cat, which is to-day, with the dog, the domestic animal par excellence, had its epoch of glory in past ages, when the ancient Egyptians declared it sacred, when a city called Bubastis was dedicated to its race, when the goddess Bast (or Pasche) had the head of a cat, when the bodies of cats were made into mummies, and when whoever killed a cat was severely punished. That was the golden age of cats ; and although their city, placed between the two arms of the Nile above the present town of Ben-el-Asi (on the line of the Cairo railway), is now a frightful mass of ruins, thousands of pilgrims — Herodotus speaks of seven hundred thousand — once went there annually to the festivals established in honor of cats. At Cairo a vestige of this veneration still remains, for lately a large sum of money was provided for the feeding of hungry cats ; and the pilgrims to Mecca are still accompanied by a "Mother of Cats" or " Father of Cats," charged with the care of a certain number of these animals during the pilgrimage.
Among the Greeks and Romans also the cat enjoyed a very great reputation, especially after the rat (Rattus rattus), coming probably from Asia, made its way into the dwellings and granaries of Europe. The Norsemen introduced it into their mythology, for two of these animals draw the chariot of the goddess Fridja. This veneration lasted into the Middle Ages, at which period there was exhibited at Aix in Provence the handsomest male cat that could be procured ; it was dressed as a baby, and seated in a magnificent armchair, where all believers solemnly worshiped it as the Elected One.
But after a while the glory of cats began to tarnish. They came to be regarded as evil-doers, and every sorcerer and sorceress was accompanied by a cat — preferably a black one. This change was naturally not to their comfort. They were still tolerated here and there, and even in the churches. In Saxony, for instance, nuns were forbidden to have any other animals ; but elsewhere, in Metz, for example, they were publicly burned by the dozen at the festival of St. John. In the Flemish town of Ypres it was long the custom to fling them from the top of a lofty tower on the "Wednesday of the Cats "; and though it is said that a cat always falls on her feet, there were many sad exceptions to the rule on those day!;. The " Wednesday of the Cats " always fell in the second week of Lent; this custom dated from the year 962, when Baldwin III, Count of Flanders, established it as an annual celebration. In 1523 I the tower of Lakenhal was finished and the cats were thrown from there as well as from the tower of the old castle. In 1674 the custom was abolished, but it was restored in 1714; and it is said that cats were still being hurled from the towers of Spres in 1868.
It is not known how this animal first came to Europe. It is certain that before the Middle Ages it was already domesticated, but not exclusively for hunting rats and mice, because half-tamed weasels fastened to a chain were still used for that purpose. Its small size and gentle and insinuating manners probably helped to open the doors of houses to this always rather rapacious animal. At some period in the world's history before our era the cat was tamed, at any rate certainly before it came to Europe. It could not have been a slight matter to tame a race naturally so wild and sly ; the honor probably belongs to that ancient Egyptian people, so strange and yet so interesting, the building of whose gigantic works is lost in the night of time. Thus we can only feel our way in the darkness when we try to discover the relations of that people with savage or half-savage animals.
The domestic cat differs too much from the wild cat, still existing, to enable us to draw conclusions from this domestication. The wild cat exists as the domestic cat does, but the link between them escapes our knowledge completely. There is a species of cat, the Nubian cat, met with in the north of Africa, the shape of whose skull has a strong resemblance to that of the domestic cat ; and possibly it might form a bridge over the abyss made by the question of the descent of cats. In the opinion of several learned men the Nubian cat was related to the ancient Egyptian cat. He is small, and the mummied cats of Egypt, discovered here and there, were a small species. The Nubian cat is easy to domesticate, though it is still rare in Europe. Its color (an important factor in distinguishing cats) is a tawny gray or yellow, becoming lighter on the flanks and white on the stomach. It has transversal black stripes, and on the neck similar stripes running longitudinally. The tail has three black rings, and the tip is also black.
In certain parts of Germany another species of wild cat is found that commits great ravages among feathered and furry game when he ventures to quit the forests. This species, which is larger and more square in shape than the domestic cat, is of a dark color, except on the throat, which is spotted with white. The cat of the steppes, though domesticated here and there in Siberia, may be regarded as half-wild on account of its savage and combative nature. The cat was, therefore, probably introduced into Europe completely tamed from the south and southeast ; but it has never been generally valued like the dog. There are even regions in the north of Germany where its life is not safe ; it is in this country, in France, England, and the south of Europe that it is most valued. A predilection for dogs is seldom accompanied with much sympathy for cats, and vice versa.
Yet many famous personages, Mohammed, for example, have held them in affection. One day a cat of his was sleeping on the skirt of his sacerdotal garment when the signal for prayer was given from the cupola of the mosque; the prophet, whose duty it was to rise and go to perform that ceremony, cut off the skirt of his garment that he might not wake the animal. Richelieu was also a great friend of cats. Colbert never worked without putting one or two on his table; as soon as they began to purr he thought his work went easier. A Shah of Persia, who bred a great many cats in his palace, always ate from the same plate with one of them. Lord Chesterfield, the English poet Elliott, Sardou, Massenet, and Pierre Loti are known for their love of cats. A tale told of a Bernese artist, Gottfried Mind, called the " Raphael of cats," is curious and strictly true. During his whole life he devoted his attention to cats, studying them daily for hours, and portraying all their habits and ways ; he took no interest in any other subject or person. About all else his thoughts were vague and even silly in old age, but about cats he showed true knowledge. When he died, in 1814, his features had acquired a sort of feline character.
It is by no means rare to meet with persons who resemble cats. It was predicted to a king of Persia that he would triumph in war if his armies were commanded by a cat-faced man. The man was found and victory perched upon his banners. Popular superstition asserts that the blood of a cat, drunk to cure epilepsy, infuses a feline nature, so that the patient will ever after hunt rats and mice. But those who have eaten cats, sold under the name of rabbit, have not shown this propensity. Mme. Henriette Ronner, nee Knip, at Amsterdam, where her father was an artist, is a celebrated lover of cats. Since her marriage she has lived in Brussels. Her superb pictures of animals, in which cats play a chief part, are known the world over. In 1887 she received the Order of Leopold from the king of the Belgians.
The cat's relations with man are not as close and intimate as those of the dog ; this may be because of the fact that the animal is less fitted to accompany him everywhere, or perhaps because it is less fully tamed. It bristles up far too much, and is still distrustful and suspicious. The warm friends of the cat may perhaps take its part, but every one must agree that it shows its claws a little too hastily, a custom which is not likely to promote a more extended acquaintance.
The stealthy, imperceptible step of the cat, extremely cautious and slow, differs from the noisy joy with which the dog, and even the horse, greets his master. Its eyes are beautiful, but there is something enigmatical in them ; moreover, the attachment of most cats is more to the house than to its inhabitants. But if we weigh these peculiarities, that are more or less agreeable, against the really good qualities of the cat, we shall find the balance in its favor ; which explains why persons of superior minds so often feel attracted to it. The more they learn to know it, and the more they treat it kindly and sensibly, the less the savage traits of the creature's ancestors come out. The approach to friendliness ought not to be made by one side only, but the first steps should be taken by the one that has most intelligence. If the cat is the first to present a paw, the sharp claws will be shown at the same time ; but if the man holds out a caressing hand, the velvet paw is advanced, cautiously, it is true, but unarmed. Let us observe this paw a little closer, and also the eyes and the cry of the animal.
II. THE PAWS, EYES, AND CRY OF THE CAT
The cat walks on its toes, like the lion, the tiger, and the other species of animals of the same class. It has five toes on the fore feet and four toes on the hind feet. The claws, nevertheless, remain sharp because whenever the cat runs or walks on hard ground they are drawn up into the articulations and never touch the earth. A certain muscle darts them forth as soon as the cat thinks it has need of defending itself, or when it loses its equilibrium and is in danger of falling. The claws being thus drawn in and the paws being covered with fur, its movements are imperceptible, even upon oilcloth, resulting disastrously to many a mouse.
On the other hand, if the approach of the cat is not heard, its eyes betray its presence, especially in the dark. Yet they are not lanterns that shed light ; their brilliancy is only the reflection of luminous rays that strike upon them. The vascular membrane is covered with a reflecting filmy tissue, which produces, especially at night, when the pupil is most dilated, a sparkling brilliancy. In daylight the pupil is seen only through a slit, which widens at nightfall. Certain of the Eastern nations use their cats as chronometers, though they are beginning to find out that clocks are surer things. The cat sees very distinctly in the darkness, a quality it has in common with many nocturnal creatures, including birds. By day it distinguishes many things better than the dog ever does.
The color of the eyes varies with age. Young cats have gray eyes, while later they usually turn yellow or some other tint. We shall speak presently, apropos of races, of white cats with gray eyes, whose deafness has attracted the attention of scientific men like Darwin and Schinz, and still gives food for discussion.
We have just called the cat a nocturnal animal ; it certainly prefers to seek adventures at night, which it makes hideous, especially during the months of February and March, with its discordant caterwaulinsrs, callincr for a mate on garden walls and roofs. It is said that the cat owes its predilection for roofs to Noah and his ark. A couple of cats saved therein, having violated the restrictions imposed on appetite (the ark being short of provisions), were condemned to espouse their loves on the roof only during the months of February and March but with free permission to fight and claw and caterwaul as much as they pleased. Not long ago an attempt was made in London to lessen, by means of automatic tomcats, this nocturnal racket, which had become very annoying, especially in the northern part of the city. A cat was made of iron wire and cement and covered with a real cat's skin and fur. To increase the effect, glass eyes made luminous by an electric batten were added, the battery also conveying some motion to the limbs. The resemblance was striking. When the tail was touched the beast began to growl, and at the same instant long pointed needles started out from the skin, two capsules exploded in the mouth, and a formidable noise was heard within.
This contrivance produced the happiest result on the very first night it was placed in position. A real tomcat arrived, accompanied by four friends. The company placed themselves around the automaton, which remained, of course, perfectly calm and unmoved. Soon the real tomcat lost patience. He used his claws to incite his mute adversary to anger, and presently attacked him. Then the sham cat got his innings. The capsules exploded, the eyes glared, the needles darted out and stuck their points into the paws of the aggressor, and the garden was purged of cats for over a month.
The purring of cats, which resembles the whir of a spinning wheel, is to human ears an expression of their contentment. It is supposed that the sound is formed in the larynx near the vocal cords, and it is supposed to be a sign of health and vigor, old cats being less inclined to purr.
III. THE FUR, THE SENSITIVENESS, AND THE PRESENTIMENTS OF CATS
The race of cats has but two species of fur, long and short. So far breeders have not applied artificial propagation sufficiently (as they have with dogs) to increase the number of colors and shades transmitted by means of heredity ; but in countries where there is a commerce in cat skins they take pains to mate cats having heavy fur. The growth of fur can be artificially produced without following the example of a man who put a mother cat into one of his ice houses. The kittens came duly into the world, and the excessive cold to which they had been exposed produced a most luxuriant fur, but they finally became such thick round balls of hair that it was impossible for them to move about.
If breeders pay a little attention to the fur of their cats, the cats themselves do all they can to keep it in good condition. They are, indeed, obliged to do so, since it not only protects them but serves as a feeler. The hairs of the mustache especially are very sensitive, and so are the nerves with which they communicate. Every cat has from twenty-five to thirty hairs in its beard, arranged in four lines, the two middle lines being the longest. At each side of the head there are likewise some sensitive hairs, which have their roots in little protuberances. The hairs inside the ear are also sensitive. The whole pelt in fact shows a high degree of sensitiveness when rubbed the wrong way, a treatment evidently very disagreeable to the animal, though it has to submit to it when its owner desires to show how much electricity it gives forth.
It is well, however, not to form too high an estimate of the electricity of cats. In very dry countries, for instance, among high mountains, human hair, when rubbed, will give out plenty of electric sparks visible in the darkness. In fact, in such altitudes we have often seen the gas lighted by a touch of the finger after approaching the fixture from the end of the room, rubbing the feet (in thin shoes) along a thick carpet without lifting them. The fur of a badger and of several other animals, if perfectly dry, warm, and rubbed energetically, will convey electricity to any conducting medium. The fur of a cat, already more or less dried by the bodily heat of the animal, emits electricity if exposed to the sun and then rubbed by the hand in a dark place ; but that same pelt, when taken from the animal and prepared and dried, Midday will give the same result. Therefore it is not the cats but their pelts, and those of all thick furry animals, which emit electricity under certain favorable circumstances. Tigers show the same phenomenon.
Cats feel much discomfort at the coming of a storm, and there is probably some connection between the atmosphere, charged with "electricity, and their fur. Perhaps their sensitiveness to atmospheric changes may be one of the causes why they show such distress, especially when young, during a rain storm. Some are seen to show extreme terror during an earthquake, but that is a feeling they share with other animals.
IV. SYMPATHIES AND ANTIPATHIES
Why does the cat feel such hatred to the whole mouse tribe ? No one knows ; but there must be some extraordinary and terrible cause for such eternal animosity. In past ages rats and mice must undoubtedly have done some great injury to the feline race. Perhaps, in earlier times, the rat may have been able to attack his enemy with success ; if not, in the great struggle for existence going on perpetually in the animal kingdom ever since the creation, those rodents, always conquered by the cat, would surely have disappeared. A cat watching a mouse and knowing its hiding place crouches where its victim cannot see it, and never moves a hair till the favorable moment comes ; then with one bound to right or left, or sometimes backward, all is over for the little beast. Even if a cat is asleep, no mouse can with safety pass either before or behind it, which says much for its sense of hearing. Lenz, the naturalist, says that a cat will catch and swallow twenty mice a day, — seventy-three hundred a year.
If pussy has a mouse in view, no power on earth can turn her from her murderous projects. One evening, as a family was sitting in a small parlor, their cat, a fat and well-fed beast, made one spring from his place before the fire and disappeared beneath a piece of heavy furniture, which (being afterwards exactly measured) was only two and a half inches from the floor. The body of the cat, lying flat, measured from seven to eight inches. The family in consternation rushed to deliver its pet from so strange a situation. Even his intimate friend, the greyhound, stretched a paw under the sideboard to reach him, when lo and behold! he reappeared, calm and conscious of victory, with a mouse in his mouth. Other animals possess this power of shrinking their bodies ; mice themselves can get through the narrowest slit, but it is certainly no slight thing for a body of seven or eight inches in height to rush through a space two and a half inches wide with the speed of an express train.
As for their sympathies, they are chiefly influenced by warmth and sunlight. Some years ago the present king of England, then Prince of Wales, walking one day in the streets of London with his tutor, made a bet with the latter as to who would count the greatest number of cats, each to take one side of the street. Presently the tutor had counted a dozen, while the prince had not seen one, he having chosen the shady side of the street, and all the cats were on the other side basking in the sun.
The whole feline race seems to have a predilection for the odor of certain plants, among others catnip, mint, and valerian, which certainly exercise some sort of magnetism upon them. In Germany these herbs are often used to attract and capture destructive wild cats. According to Blasius, mint intoxicates cats, after exciting them to frenzied gayety. When an animal thus overstimulated is put with calmer comrades, the latter will instantly catch a little of the same mad gayety. They rub against each other until the whole troop works itself into such a state of intoxication that the fete usually ends in a fight.
The sympathy, or rather the affection, of these animals is given more to the house than to its owner, which does not, however, preclude instances where cats have been as greatly attached to their masters as some dogs have been. Perty tells us of a cat falling into despair at the death of her master, refusing all nourishment and dying three days after him. Who knows if cats would not have given to their masters the affection they now bestow upon localities, if man had constrained them, as he has dogs, to serve him and keep him company ? Perhaps in time this progress may come about.
It is impossible to deny that serious misunderstandings exist between cats and birds. Any one who has seen a cat watching and attacking an innocent robin feels indignant at such cruelty ; but that fault may be easily corrected by simply taking a bird in your hand and making it peck the cat's nose. In seed and grain shops, where birds are also kept and sold, the latter are never molested by the cats that are kept in the shop to protect the grain from mice. The late queen of England, who liked to have birds flying about her room in Buckingham Palace, did not know the simple scheme we have just mentioned, or she would not have so sternly forbidden the presence of cats in any part of her various palaces. Some cats are very fond of horses and prefer to sleep in stables, occasionally on the backs of their friends. Others live on very good terms with the dogs of the household, though some dogs are trained, especially in Germany, to strangle cats, whose days are infallibly numbered when their enemy appears. Bassets when trained, even while puppies, will kill cats with remarkable rapidity ; but old cats will take the defensive, growl, hiss, and put up their backs, and, if the occasion is favorable, will fling themselves upon the dog with all claws out. Then, if the dog is not trained, he loses an eye and part of his skin ; but if he has been taught to strangle, he seizes the cat instantly by the throat or the nape of its neck and issues victorious from the combat. A cat's method of attack clearly reveals its savage origin ; all other members of the feline race, tigers among them, always spring on the back of their prey if possible.
V. GENEALOGY OF CATS
As we have already said, the breeding of cats of pure race is not done on the vast scale employed in the case of other domestic animals. Nevertheless, there is a species of genealogy kept for cats, quite seriously and in due form, especially in England. The National Cat Club and the Northern Counties Cat Club, among others, are societies composed principally of cat lovers and amateurs, several members of which belong to the British aristocracy. These societies, working according to very precise rules, organize exhibitions, establish championships, promote the breeding of pure races exclusively, and spend much money in so doing. Whatever may be thought of such a fancy, as soon as commerce and industry draw profits from an innocent mania we cannot but approve it. Besides, it contributes to protect, support, and succor this particular animal in its struggle for existence, thus lending a hand to the progress of civilization. The late Queen Victoria said a true word on this point : " No civilization is complete which does not include the dumb and defenseless of God's creatures."
This English rearing of cats has its own reasons ; nevertheless, it will not readily cross the Atlantic with its rules and regulations, and take not in the United States. It will be long before a very noble lady in America will distribute with her own hand prizes for cats at a cat show. Yet that very thing happened lately in England, and the prizes were not mere pounds and shillings, but objects of art in precious metals. But to win these prizes the breeder, man or woman, must exhibit cats of the finest and purest races, and this demands a great expenditure of time and money, and also a certain amount of scientific knowledge.
Mischances of color and blood cause many a vexation to the breeder, while climate and the very incomplete knowledge now possessed in regard to the breeding of these animals, based on the principle of race, play him many an evil trick. One curious and remarkable fact is that the best colors are obtained by the mating of cats of two wholly different colors.
The cat show does exist in America, though not on the same scale as in England. The American exhibitions are often well attended and are supported by subscription. In Germany and Austria almost no interest is taken in the matter ; in Holland and Belgium exhibitions of cats are very rare. Yet in certain cities of every country we find persons who push their passion for cats to excess ; generally, it must be said, they are elderly dames, who establish asylums where neglected, lost, or sick cats may find a refuge. Sometimes these asylums are organized in a practical and sufficient manner, in which case the motive that provided them is laudable ; but often they are mere nests of disease and objects of scandal to the neighborhood. The time and money spent upon them would be far better employed in ameliorating the condition of human beings, at least in countries where such succor is sorely needed. Still, in such large cities as New York, Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia, where there are so many stray cats, such asyums are beneficent, they also exist in Cairo, Constantinople, Rome, and Geneva. In Geneva a society is formed to feed the innumerable vagrant cats of that city.
VI. RACES OF CATS
It is not more difficult to distinguish the races of cats than the races of dogs. In each country there is little difference, but the varieties are numerous. It is very difficult to know the crossings, and there can be no such thing as the true breeding of cats unless the animals are, like dogs in kennels, watched, fed, and kept confined; otherwise it is not possible to keep the races pure. Yet all persons who attempt to raise cats for sale and exhibition must be able to distinguish and define the breeds accurately. In the case of cats coming from islands and from certain isolated foreign countries, purity of race is not so difficult to affirm.
Those from the Isle of Man, for instance, called the Manx cats, are markedly different from all other species in the absence of tail, the smallness of the head, the extraordinary length and power of the hind legs, which causes them to lope like a hare or rabbit rather than run, and, finally, the thickness of the coat, which is true fur, not hair. These cats are extraordinarily intelligent. The Creole cat of Antigua is smaller and the head longer than all other English species, while the Ceylon cat has the peculiarity of pointed ears. On the Cape of Good Hope the cats have singular red stripes along the back, while those of the Malay Archipelago, Slam, and Burmah have according to Darwin split and sometimes knotted tails. In China their ears are pendent, and around Tobolsk there lives an indigenous cat which is entirely maroon in color.
The separation of races being so difficult, color is the point on which all breeders fasten, although the last word has by no means been said on that subject, and many years must elapse before a race or a fixed color can be obtained by breeding with the same certainty and constancy as now obtains with dogs. The colors chiefly distinguished are white, black, blue, blue-gray, smoke color, orange, and tortoise shell. All these varieties of color are scattered through the two great groups, — the long haired and the short haired. To these groups, however, must be added the exotic species, designated under the name of the region, island, or country from which they come.
If we pass the different races in review, the first to present itself is that of the white cats. The color of their eyes is a very important matter; it ought not to be blue, which is said to be a sign of deafness. Darwin insists on this fact, to which, nevertheless, there are many exceptions. Possibly there is a species of albinism in these cats, and as the albino is always feebler than others of its kind, that may account for the phenomenon. Some white cats have red eyes, and in them albinism is even more marked. Their coats ought to be as sleek as possible. Some Eastern nations honor the white cat as a symbol of the moon.
Black cats, of a brilliant and entire black, are much more rare than people think ; most of them have a russet tinge. They owe the favor they enjoy to their large size and the beauty of their eyes, which are generally yellow, though in the long run somber colors are wearisome. Phantom cats, partisans of the devil, were all black. There was never a wizard or a witch without his or her black cat, which always took an active part in the preparation of philters. These phantom cats were especially and exuberantly gay on Wednesdays, the witches' day, and held noisy assemblies at all crossroads or on the roofs of haunted houses.
The cat called the " Carthusian friar " is blue, with very long fine hair. In Holland there is a breed of very handsome short-haired blue cats which would find a great market if some intelligent person would undertake to breed them. It was our intention to reproduce a group of them here, but photography was powerless to give an idea of the beautiful color of the living animal.
Blue-gray cats, whose color is far from being as beautiful as that of the foregoing species, often have white patches on the breast, the paws, and sometimes the head. The soot-colored, or "tabby," cat, sometimes called the gray cat, is the one most frequently seen in our houses and gardens. Transversal black stripes, sometimes black with brown edges, encircle the legs, tail, and neck, and go down the sides of the animal. Often these lines go from the eyes to the forehead, forming singular figures, in which (by an effort of imagination) the owner sometimes deciphers a monogram. Most of these cats, of less pure descent, have white patches on their heads, which exclude them from exhibitions. Are gray cats better mousers than all others ? They are said to be ; but if the fact be true, it cannot result from the color, because, as we very well know, " by night all cats are gray."
Other gray cats that are almost black have white paws and a white line between the eyes. The blacker the cat and the whiter the line the more the animal is valued. The contrary, namely a wholly white body with black head and tail, characterizes the Moorish cats, a race which breeding would greatly improve. The striped and very tall Cyprus cat is universally renowned. Its stripes are gray or black on a yellow ground, but they must be perfectly distinct. Many cats are sold under the name of " Cyprus cats," in whose veins there is not a drop of Cypriot blood and whose ancestors never saw the island of Cyprus.
Among the long-haired cats we meet the imposing Angora, white in color, with a magnificent plumed tail. There are cats of this race of several other colors, but breeders are endeavoring to keep them pure white ; and as this color propagates itself with some constancy, they are succeeding. The Angora being especially a parlor cat, very sensitive to cold and dampness, and consequently delicate in constitution, their owners should avoid giving them dainties, such as tripe, giblets, or scraps of fish, since their digestion is upset much sooner than that of other cats.
The Persian cat has silky hair, very long and quite as handsome as that of the Angora. It has a mane around its neck, and usually has dark eyes, the sinister glare of which comes vividly out of its dark blue fur. By nature it is less sociable in western lands than in its own, which is not surprising, in view of the great difference there is between Persian households and ours. Angora and Persian cats are highly valued when they come of pure race ; but many young "Angoras" are sold which will not bear minute inspection, and the buyers may say with truth that they have bought a " cat in a poke."
Tricolor or tortoise-shell cats are sometimes extremely beautiful, but perfect specimens are rare. They have yellow-brown and red-brown patches on a white ground. What experiments might be made in this field of interesting varieties of color still so little worked ! Cats would lend themselves to it readily, but much patience is needed and a vast establishment. If breeders would seriously apply themselves to the breeding of tricolor cats, the success and profit would not be long in coming. It is generally believed that the tricolor male cat is rare. Perhaps we here meet with one of those strange phenomena of color in relation to sex in these animals. We cannot now enter into details, but we advise those who are interested in the breeding of cats to take up the study, relatively neglected and incomplete, of colors in animals, and, better still, to make experiments themselves with the cats they own and note down the results.
It is needless to enlarge on the indigenous cats of Cochin China and Madagascar, which have abnormal tails ; or on the Siamese cat, a typical little beast with black head, legs, and tail, thick fur, and a brown body. In China cats are fattened for food, and those who do not disdain jugged hare can try their teeth on this breed. In Switzerland (not in the hotels, be it said) wild cats are eaten, especially in the mountain regions. It is easy to distinguish cat from hare by the shape of the skull, which explains why the head never appears on the table when there is an experienced chef in the kitchen.
VII. BREEDING AND CARE OF CATS As we have already indicated, it is almost impossible to regulate the mating of cats on account of their vagabond habits. If kept outdoors in cages, it can be done ; but cats always want to get into the house, or to roam at large. They need movement, and must obey their natures or they languish and fall ill. Then, of course, they have to be released, and there's an end to supervision High walls and fences will not prevent them, as they will a dog, from roaming off. Even when kept in a cage and allowed to consort with none but those of pure blood, they are very annoying and quarrelsome. At the slightest difference of opinion with their masters they will growl and hiss and spit, and, if possible, will strike vigorous blows to the face or hands of their owner, leaving five little red specks that mark the spots where each claw has drawn blood.
In England, however, there are now large "catteries," where pure-blooded animals are lodged, matched, and multiplied. The fact is, the Englishman is a born breeder. Cats that are prepared to take part in exhibitions require much more care than dogs intended for the same purpose. Their wooden cages must be perfectly dry, raised some feet above the ground, and very carefully divided into compartments by means of iron railings. Each niche should have straw in winter for bedding, and each compartment must be supplied with a box of sawdust. Cages made of masonry are naturally the best, being dryer and easier to clean. Sliding wickets allow of the food being pushed in without disturbing the animal or giving it a chance to escape. A layer of peat dust placed under the cages, and also under the straw, absorbs much dampness, but it needs to be frequently changed or aired.
The breeder for pure blood will not obtain satisfactory results for some years, nor until he can convince himself of the qualities of his animals. There are certain prize-winning cats with genealogical trees, which would be a joy to the breeder if he could get possession of them. He could then be sure, or nearly sure, of the purity of the blood and of the chances of obtaining the color and the hair or fur that he wants. In any case, it is essential to mate cats of sound health, and to choose for father or mother some more or less known and admired cat, a prize winner, if possible, if the speedy sale of kittens is an object.
Innumerable, are the surprises in color that occur in spite of all precautions. The chances for obtaining what is desired are most favorable in black cats and white cats. The head should be broad with small ears and a short nose. Blue eyes are much in request. Sometimes, but this is mere chance, in the litters of white cats a kitten will be found of a very clear light blue tint which is really superb, and brings a very high price. In England cats of pure blood often bring as much as twenty pounds ($100).
Generally cats are not mated until they are over a year old. But all that we have hitherto said concerns those persons who desire to breed cats on a large scale for sale and exhibitions. The ordinary domestic cat is never caged. It comes and goes, keeps watch on the mice, gets its meals, and disappears for hours, sometimes for days, without notifying any one or asking permission. As a result of these escapades pussy now and again has kittens, to the great amusement of the children.
When the critical day arrives (in about eight weeks) the mother cat finds for herself a dark and quiet retreat. It is well to give her an open basket with something soft at the bottom. Give her also all the milk she wants and a slight purgative. She produces usually from two to five kittens without any help. Kittens born in the spring are stronger and larger than those born in the autumn. The mother cat takes care of the little ones (which are born blind) herself, washes them, and keeps them and the basket clean for weeks, or until the little things can run about. If she has more than three, it is well to kill all over that number, choosing the weakest. On the tenth day they open their eyes, and then they want to see the world. Curiosity develops early in their little minds, and they are soon clambering out of their basket with many a fall and funny motion, — grace and clumsiness combined.
The mother, of course, must be well fed during this time, or she will not have milk enough for the little ones. Milk, bread, a little meat (but never the first three days), and by the end of the week her usual food, with an ample supply of milk, is a good diet list. When the time comes to wean the kittens the mother should be taken away, and the kittens taught to lap sugared milk from a saucer ; a little limewater added to the milk is beneficial. At the end of five weeks, when the teeth have come through, a little soft bread should be given. They should be allowed to be in the open air as much as possible, to play with their mother, and to make acquaintance with the mice which she will present to them. It is very droll to see her watch their proceedings with that hereditary enemy.
The maternal instinct is so strong in cats that they have been known to suckle puppies, rabbits, and even rats. In a certain stable was a stall in which five young rats were playing. A mother cat had five kittens, three of which were taken from her and drowned. Pussy went to the stall, caught two of the little rats, suckled them and brought them up, which was all the more remarkable as she was a noted enemy and hunter of rats and mice.
Cats are much more cleanly in their ways than dogs; and kittens can easily be taught clean habits.
Fish, from time to time, is a great treat to healthy cats ; and it is well to give them either raw or cooked meat every day, in reasonable quantities. It is to be remembered that they feed themselves with mice, and in the country with moles, squirrels, birds, and even rabbits. Greediness, the cause of most of their ailments, is much developed in cats. Punishment does not cure it, but they will sometimes pay attention to a stern order given in a loud voice.
VIII. DISEASES OF CATS
Although in cases of actual illness it is necessary, as in the case of dogs, to call in a veterinarian, if the life of the patient is valuable, but there are many little ailments easily curable with very simple remedies. In case of diarrhea, for instance, from which cats very frequently suffer, rice with a decoction of sorghum, and as little food as possible, will effect a cure. Diarrhea, however, is apt to weaken the animal, and a watch should be kept for this.
Cutaneous affections are very disagreeable for persons who live in the house with cats thus troubled ; they are contagious to other animals, dogs especially. It is therefore well to examine even healthy cats once a week, and if the slightest suspicious spot appears, to wash the animal with a solution of borax in water. It will be found on examination that the healthiest and finest cats are seldom free from vermin. If red spots, or pustules, appear on the skin, an ointment of lard, sulphur dust, Peruvian balsam, and creosote should be applied ; but it must never be forgotten that all cats are perpetually licking themselves with their tongues. The mite of a cat, a tiny spider which harbors especially in the ear, gives rise to a species of mange, which can be cured by petroleum or any of the mange remedies that are advertised. The insect or flesh worm of the mange is sometimes communicated to persons. Cats are also tormented at times with worms, the germs of which they get from the rats and mice they swallow. Any vermifuge will remedy this trouble, but the cat should be kept in the ouse, so as to observe the effects of it. The madness of cats is even more dangerous than that of dogs, for they bite with greater violence. Yet we never hear of muzzles for cats.
IX. SUPERSTITIONS. HISTORICAL NOTES
We have already spoken of phantom cats, and of the part they play in popular superstitions and in mythology. A study of the origin of legends and fairy tales would shed much light into the still obscure lives of the peoples of past ages. Nearly all animals appear in the fabulous events and poetic legends that have come down to us ; but the cat, in its character of domestic animal, plays the chief role. In the old popular beliefs it was part and parcel of the dwelling. A new cat was made to walk three times across the hearth with solemn ceremony. Marriages were celebrated, if possible, on Friday, the day dedicated to Freya, and if the sun shone during the ceremony, it was said that the bride had taken good care of the cat and had fed her well. Young girls in Norway who caress cats are sure of a handsome husband ; but if one of those animals lies at the church door just as the marriage is about to be celebrated, the union of the two young people will be unhappy. According to an old legend of eastern Prussia, it is very dangerous for a married pair if two cats with their tails tied together run along the road in front of the wedding procession. In all the mythologies cats play a part.
The popular tale of Puss in Boots is known everywhere, but what is not so well known is that the skull of a "booted cat" is preserved in the osteological museum at Amsterdam. Evidently this cannot be a joke in so grave an institution ; consequently it is worth while to search the works of natural history and find, if we can, a description of the species of cat called "booted." In the great osteographical history of De Blainville (among others) we find mention of a group of " booted cats," which have much in common with our domestic animal, as far as their skeleton is concerned. To this group belong the Nubian cats Felis maniculata and Felis caligata (from which probably came the skull preserved in the Amsterdam museum) ; also Felis Bubastis, the cat of ancient Egypt. The name of "booted cat" was first given to it, according to Cuvier, by Bruce, the Egyptian traveler, on account of its legs, which are black or white at the bottom like boots. Temminck, who baptized the species in his Monograph of Alammifers with the name Felis caligata, gives identically the same description of it. In the zoological garden at Amsterdam there is now a living specimen of these original wild cats of Egypt ; it has reddish-brown ears with little tufts at the points of them, and answers precisely to the descriptions and drawings given of it by Cuvier. In scientific works " booted cat " sometimes bears the name of "booted lynx."
In the seventeenth century it was not uncommon to see, especially in Amsterdam, figures of cats carved on the fronts of houses. The custom came about in this way. Civet cats, originating in North Africa, and greatly prized, especially in Spain where they brought high prices, were imported into Holland by certain merchants, who formed a society for the propagation and sale of them, and took for its emblem a civet cat. The value of the animal came from a gland or bag under its tail, containing a substance that was made into a perfume and also into a remedy. Towards the close of the seventeenth century this industry disappeared for the simple reason that the musk plant was discovered ; but the civet cat still lingers on the architecture of Amsterdam.
Speaking of architecture reminds us that withered cats are found from time to time under or between the walls of old houses. They are marvelously well preserved ; death has caught and stiffened them in the moment of their utmost agony. Their remarkable preservation comes, no doubt, from the fact that the animal has thrust itself through some very narrow aperture, so narrow that no air comes through it, and the poor creature dies, and withers without decaying.
We frequently find cats in heraldic art. The wife of King Clevis bore a cat sable on her blazon ; and the Katzen family of the present day bears an argent cat on an azure field. The celebrated printers Sessa, of Venice, always placed a cat device on the last page of their editions. The Romans painted cats on several of the banners of their legions. The famous cohort (subdivision of the legion) of the Happy Old Men — Felices seniores — bore a banner with a red cat standing on a gold ground.
X. TRAINING AND MICE HUNTING
The word "training" in its true sense applies, naturally, far less to cats than to dogs. They are not used for ordinary hunting, though in Cyprus they are taught to hunt snakes, and in Russia a domestic cat catches great quantities of those reptiles in summer. This same trait is not unknown in America. In Paraguay cats attack and kill rattlesnakes. They will also catch tortoises, and do good service during plagues of grasshoppers, locusts, and cockchafers, of which they destroy enormous quantities. But in all this there is no question of training; instinct and natural impulse are the sole guides to their behavior. There are, of course, instances of cats trained to jump over a stick, to ride horseback upon dogs, and even to dance to the word of command. But tricks of this kind, suitable only for fairs and circuses, can be taught just as easily to pigs and cockatoos ; in fact, the cats which, by dint of patience, have been taught these things must be regarded as great exceptions. If it is desired to teach anything to a cat, the utmost gentleness must be used, for cats fear and resent blows and harsh words far more than a dog ever does.
There is no question of training a cat to catch mice. All of them do not do it with the same agility, and it is claimed that the common, striped, gray domestic cat is foremost in the art. It may be that cats of that color come nearest to the wild cat, but it is more probable that the color is not so easily seen by the little rodents. A baker or a miller ought,therefore, to keep white cats to save his grain, because where all is white a cat of a dark color would be seen more easily.
A cat kept exclusively to hunt mice must not be deprived, as is sometimes the case, of other food. To do so is more than imprudent. In the first place, mice do not afford sufficient nourishment, and the hungry hunters will soon learn to go after birds and chickens ; or they will seek other food, often very injurious, and so fall ill and die.
The patience of a cat when watching a mouse is really unspeakable, but as soon as the favorable moment arrives it moves forward, its belly to earth, gently shaking its hind quarters, that the elasticity of its hind legs may be in communion with the rest of the body ; then the spring is made, and it never misses its stroke. Trainers, bow your heads ! Here Nature has trained, and the pupil has absorbed the science in its blood, in its marrow, and in every muscle.
XI. THE CAT'S WAY OF CLIMBING AND FALLING
Young cats love to climb, a pleasure readily granted to them, for however hazardous their performances may appear, there is usually little danger. Thanks to its sharp claws a cat can climb a tree very rapidly, as can tigers and other felines ; the taste, however, among tame animals seems confined to kittens and young cats. Old cats apply this faculty only to attain some purpose, — to reach the top of the garden wall or the gutter of the house. When cats fall from a considerable height they come down safe nine times out of ten ; but it is an exaggeration to say that they always fall on their feet, that is to say, without any accident, for we could cite many instances in which they are killed on the spot. Nevertheless, the fact is generally true, for they know how to turn and twist while falling, so that the center of gravity gets placed in such a way as to oblige the body to make a half turn at the last, bringing the feet to the ground. A cat once fell from the fifth story of a house, and though bewildered for a moment, picked itself up quickly and scampered away.
A cat seated is an ideal image of repose. No other animal conveys such an impression of perfect rest and quiet meditation. The dog, which is much nearer to man by reason of his development, cannot equal the cat in that position. The graceful pose, the perpendicular front slope, the hind legs wrapped by the supple tail, the short and vigorous neck meeting the back in a pretty little curve, and the beautiful round head with its pointed ears give to the seated cat a singularly peaceful air, to which the contented expression of its neatly cut face contributes much. Is it surprising that the artist's eye has been so struck by this attitude that he should love to paint the figure of a seated cat beside the old dame knitting near the cradle in a tranquil home !
XII. FOR AND AGAINST
In all that we have so far said there is surely no ground for an injunction against cats ; the fors certainly have it all their own way. But let us now turn our eyes to the againsts. We will take Buffon to witness. He does not spare poor pussy; he thinks her "an animal that deserves no confidence ; which should be kept only from necessity, to guard against another unpleasant animal — the mouse. At night, instead of sleeping near its master," continues the learned naturalist, "it rambles off, through woods and fields, pursuing and destroying game. How many nests it ruins ! How Stealthily, treacherously, it creeps along, like the cunning thief it is ! . . .
Buffon, as we see, was no friend to cats ; but long before his day they had cruel enemies who fought them more directly. In 1747 Archbishop Clement Augustus of Cologne published an edict that all cats should have their ears cut off. This singular measure was intended to protect hares and young pheasants. The poor maimed creatures would no longer go marauding, or what is still more probable, the subjects of the prelate would feel their affection for the animal cooling after such disfigurement. Moreover, every ear not cut off was subject to a fine of a quarter of a florin. Madame de Custine, a great friend of cats, took up their defense. She wrote, among others, to Champfleury, another friend of pussy, saying that they deserved to be placed before dogs, whose attachment and fidelity was too mechanical, whereas we could not too much admire the independence of cats.
There are many extravagant judgments pronounced by partisans and adversaries of the feline race. The sportsman, especially, cries out, " Death to cats ! " It is true that these animals can and do cause great damage to game and poultry. The wild cats must certainly be regarded as beasts of prey, deserving of antipathy and of all the measures taken for their destruction ; but the domestic cat, provided it is not left to care for itself, does not do the mischief that many persons imagine. In any case, it is easy to take effectual measures against it without resorting to tortures, such as setting traps, or to open murder by means of dogs.
The usefulness of the cat after death is relatively small, provided we except the intestines, which are used for making violin strings, and the pelt, which appears in commerce as a real fur.
XIII. THE CAT AS A MUMMV
We cannot take leave of the cat without visiting with amazement and profound respect its mummied ancestors as they appear in various museums ; with amazement, because the ancient Egyptians, highly developed in many ways, held the cat in such esteem that they embalmed its body ; and with respect, because of the conscientious manner in which the embalming was done, so that after thousands of years these mummied bodies can be brought to light exactly as they were when buried.
It has not, so far, been decided why the Egyptians regarded the cat as a divinity. According to Plutarch there is an affinity between this animal and the moon, first, because the cat is a nocturnal animal ; secondly, because it brings into the world first one little one, then two, three, four, five, up to twenty-eight, the number of days in the lunar month. Perhaps this latter reason is the cause of its adoration as a divinity. In the grotto of Artemis, near the ancient Bubastis, there are several cats which were buried there with great ceremony in the midst of costly fetes. Herodotus relates that as soon as the cat of an Egyptian died profound sadness took possession of the whole family, who put on deep mourning. The noble dead was laid out in state, embalmed with precious spices, and taken to Bubastis, where (as well as at Memphis) obsequies were performed which often cost as much as nine thousand ancres.
Mummies of cats which had lived in the temple of the goddess Pasht were treated with extreme veneration, and we find in their tombs great numbers of gold ornaments bearing the same letters as those found in the tombs of kings. Also there are mummies of women which bear the inscription techau, — cat, — signifying that they were protected by the goddess of that animal.
Dr. Etienne Geoffroy was the first man to study the skeleton of an Egyptian mummy cat. He discovered that the animal differed in no particular from the domestic cat of Europe and America, — a discovery which was contested by another learned naturalist named Ehrenberg, who insisted that the existing mummies were the remains of the Abyssinian cat in its wild state, an opinion shared by Blainville. The latter very learned professor of anatomy made a searching study of these mummies, in which he distinguished three species, — the Felis Caligata, the Bubastis, and the Chaus. The two first are still found in a wild state in certain parts of Egypt. Careful search made by learned Egyptologists shows that the linen wrapped around all the cat mummies that have so far been found is of fine quality, the same as that wrapped around kings.
In these days there is no such thing as embalming a cat ; instead of that we sweep them on to the manure heap or fling them into the water. No one ever dreams of burying them, unless in some very exceptional case, when a petted cat is put to rest in a dogs' cemetery. Nevertheless, one cat is recorded as having been embalmed and mummified in the fourteenth century. It was Petrarch's cat, which died in 1374, and was long seen incased above the door of the poet's house at Vaucluse.