DO CATS THINK ?
By W. H. Hudson
Author of “Green Mansions,” “Adventures Among Birds,” “The Purple Land,” etc., etc.,
The Strand Magazine, Vol LXII, July – December 1921
ONE day when standing at my window I noticed a pied wagtail running about in the road below in search of the small crumbs the starlings, sparrows, and others had left, when a big cat came over the road on its way home to the house next door. When within about four yards of the wagtail he stopped short, his body stiffened, and with eyes fixed on the bird he crouched down on the ground, and continued in that position motionless as a piece of stone except that the tip of his tail curved and uncurved and moved from side to side. The predatory instinct was alight and fiercely burning in him. Then came the advance — the slow crawling movement which is scarcely perceptible to a creature directly in front. The crawling movement continued until he was within about six feet of his prey, the wagtail meanwhile going on with his busy search for crumbs and appearing to take no notice of the cat — knowing, I suppose, that a stroke of his wings at any moment would place him out of danger, and that the exact moment had not yet come. Then the cat, when so near his bird, so intent on it, all at once stood up, unstiffened, and turning walked away deliberately to his own garden-gate and went in.
Now a cat cannot see a bird within easy distance on the ground without the desire for a bird, the most compelling impulse he knows, being roused in him ; and that first stillness and fixed attention is but the first of a series of movements which go on automatically to the finish — till he makes his dash or spring, or till the bird flies away. Why, then, did this particular cat behave as he did and abandon a pursuit which was just as promising as many another he had engaged in ? Here we are confronted with the old unsolved problem : Do animals reflect ? Is even the mentally highest among them capable, in a case like this, of recognizing that the thing contemplated is impossible, and that the chase might as well be abandoned ?
I really think he is ; and actions like the one described, and many other actions of cats I have observed, serve to convince me that some of the higher animals, and especially in this largest-brained and most perfect mammalian, have something more than just the unreflecting intelligence which we find in all creatures, from whales and elephants to insects — something which in many instances cannot easily be distinguished from what we call reflection in ourselves.
The case of this next-door cat has served to remind me of another cat, the valued pet of a lady friend of mine who lived near London and did all she could to attract the birds to her grounds, also all she could to break her cat of his bird-hunting habits.
In summer, afternoon tea was always partaken of in the large garden at the back, or in the veranda overlooking it. An old apple-tree grew on the lawn, and the birds at tea-time used to congregate on its branches, waiting to be fed. She would then take a plateful of crumbs of bread and cake and throw these on the grass under the tree. The cat. having discovered this habit of his mistress, would always turn up at tea-time, and as soon as the crowd of birds dropped down on the crumbs and were busily engaged picking them up, he, would begin his stalk, crawling in his crouching attitude across the open green space of the lawn, and invariably just before the moment for making his dash they would fly up into the branches and wait till he got tired of waiting for them to come down. Then he would go back and sit beside his mistress’s chair, watching the birds drop down again until the becrumbed bit of ground was full of them, and he would stalk them again with the same result as before.
My friend was distressed at her cat's action at first, and for several days tried to stop it ; but the cat always defeated her, and in the end it began to amuse her to watch her pet's vain efforts to catch her little pensioners. She would say to her guests when taking up the plate of crumbs. “ Now my cat is going to exhibit his talents for your admiration ” ; and when the cat made his stalk and returned to them there would be much laughter at his expense. She would say too : " How wonderful that so intelligent an animal should go on day after day trying to do something he can’t do and never discovering that it can’t be done ! I dare say he will go on to the end without ever finding out that it is impossible to capture birds on the lawn by stalking them.”
But the cat didn't go on to the end with the same method. One afternoon, to her surprise, when she took the crumbs he went with her, and after she had thrown them on the grass under the tree he seated himself in the very middle of the becrumbed area and waited for the birds to come down and be caught. The birds overhead waited for him to go away ; and a full hour was passed in this way — the cat very patient, the birds chirping and scolding and going and coming ; but they wouldn’t come down. Then at last the cat returned to his mistress and the birds had their meal in peace. The stalk was not attempted then or ever again. But on the following afternoon the cat went again and placed himself in the middle of the crumbs, and again waited a full hour for the birds, and then as on the day before he gave it up. On the third day the whole thing was repeated, and the result was as before.
On the fourth afternoon the crumbs were taken to the usual place ; the lady came back to the table, and everyone prepared to look and laugh at the cat once more. But they were disappointed. He never moved : the birds came in their usual numbers and had their meal, and the cat looked at them from his place beside his mistress, and from that day he made no further attempt to capture them.
In this instance the cat had made a fool of himself all the time — a bigger fool when he changed his strategy than before — but the very fact that he did change it appears to show reflection. He didn’t know the mind of a bird as well as we do, but he had hit on the idea — one must use the word in this case — that it was his conspicuous advance over the smooth lawn which alarmed and sent them away : that if he dispensed with the advance and established himself beforehand where the food was and sat still they would come to devour it, and he being on the spot would have no difficulty in catching them. After giving this second plan three days' trial he was convinced that it was as useless as the former one, and so gave it up for good.
THE next-door cat, described as stalking a wagtail in the foregoing part, was in a village over against Falmouth where I was spending the winter. The succeeding winter was spent in Penzance, and there were two cats in the house — a Tom and a Puss, if it be permissible to describe their sexes in that way — both black.
They soon established friendly relations with me, and shared my meals — a saucer of milk at breakfast-time, a little meat or fish on a plate at early dinner, and again fish at the six o'clock tea, or if I had nothing but an egg they would have some cream. And very soon, when feeding them. I noticed the extraordinary difference in their respective characters.
Both were true cats, unlike any other creature in the animal world ; and whenever they were out in the front garden and spied me at the open window they would run to the house, scale the porch, and, clinging with claws and twisting their elastic bodies round, get on to its roof ; then with a flying leap on to a narrow ledge of the window and, after doubling another dangerous corner, jump into the room.
But Tom, albeit a town-bred indoor cat, in appearance a tame domestic animal with nothing but the sight of wild birds coming to be fed to keep the tiger burning bright in him, was at bottom a primitive — a savage ; and being of that nature his manners lacked polish. When he played he scratched ; his way of asking to be fed was by digging his claws into my leg, and when the plate was set on the floor he would greedily monopolize it. Puss, withdrawing a little space, would look at him, then at me, and only when I pushed or dragged him back would she advance and begin to cat in her nice fastidious way.
Here I will relate a little incident which brought out the difference in character between them very strongly. In the spring I left and was absent for six months. On the day of my return I sat conversing with my landlady when Puss made her appearance at the door and, seeing me, came to a sudden stop on the threshold ; then, after staring at me for two or three seconds, she dashed across the room and, jumping on to my knee, began vigorously licking my hand ! It was an action one would expect in a dog of an affectionate disposition and with a memory good enough to recognize an old friend quickly after a long absence ; but so rare in a creature so subtle, distant, - cold, and self-centred as the cat as to seem incredible — almost unnatural.
By and by Tom made his appearance and, after regarding me attentively for a few seconds, sat down quietly to listen to the conversation, which however didn't appear to interest him much. It would not have surprised me if he had yawned.
When feeding the cats it amused me to play on the nerviness of Puss by dropping a pinch of salt or powdered sugar on her back without allowing her to detect me doing it. This would startle her and she would stare all round to ascertain the cause. Then, when she began to cat again, another pinch, which would alarm her still more. A third little shower falling on her back would make her dash right to the other end of the room, when she would stand glaring about her for some time ; then, gradually recovering courage, but still suspicious, she would return to the plate. But a fourth pinch of salt would be too much for her, and, jumping up, she would tear out of the room and down the stairs and keep away for half an hour or longer.
When I tried the experiment on Tom he paid no attention : he was too well occupied with his food to look up or to shake the sugar off. Once, to see how much he would stand, I continued dropping salt on him until it was finished and then went on with the powdered sugar, until his whole upper part from head to tail was white instead of black, and still no movement, until he had finished eating ; then he quietly moved away, shook the powder off, and settled down for a nap by the fire.
If Puss ever divined that I was to blame in the matter —that I had caused the excruciating pinches of salt to fall on her — as no doubt Tom with his superior intelligence did, it caused no break in our pleasant relations; but there was another matter about which we were in perpetual disagreement.
It was perhaps but a part or a result of her nervy temperament that caused her to take an intense, an almost painful, interest in any person and in everything going on in the house. Thus, if a ring or knock came at the front door, she would jump up and rush downstairs to see who the caller was, who was answering the knock, and what it was all about. And it was the same if she heard the voices of persons talking downstairs or anywhere in the house : she must go and see about it. As these goings and comings were very frequent she needed an open door, and often, when it was cold or the window was open and I didn't want a draught in the room, I would shut it. Then there would be a great to-do : Puss would run to the door, examine it, and run back to me to inform me that it was closed, then back to the door again, and so on until I would go and open it and let her out. But she wished to be in, not out, and so would begin scratching and mewing until I opened to her again. But she would not consent to remain with the door closed. Eventually we compromised by having the door closed, but not tightly, so that with her claws she could catch the edge of the wood and pull the door open herself when the door-bell or some sound made it necessary for her to go out.
But as there were times when I would not consent to this arrangement and resolutely kept the door shut tightly, there was never an end to our quarrel — it is going on still. And she is still trying to make me understand her and do exactly what she wants me to do without blundering the thing. One could put her requests and pleadings and expostulations into words : " Do you know that you have again shut the door so that I can’t get my claws in the wood to pull it open for myself ? What am I to do if a ring at the bell should come now ? How many, many times have I explained to you that the door must not be shut tight — that it prevents me from running out at a moment's notice to see to things ? Are you so hopelessly lacking in intelligence that you cannot yet understand it ? "
I cannot but believe that this cat is capable of thought — that our lasting quarrel about the door would have quickly ended if I had resolutely closed it against her wish at the first. But she distinctly recognizes that I am master of the door and that it is only through me that she can have it in the position she desires, and that as I have frequently shown myself obedient to her wish she can only look on my act in shutting it tight as a blunder — a piece of stupidity on my part.
The good old phrase of “ dumb animals " has fallen into discredit since we made the discovery that animals are not dumb but have a language (all except the earthworms and slugs) by means of which they communicate with one another. It is, however, a limited language designed to express a few and simple things—desires and emotions in sounds familiar and easily understood, since they never vary. Thus, the cat's mewing, with but slight changes in tone, is her only way of telling you, or another cat, that she wants something, but what that something is she leaves you or the other cat to find out.
Now, when I consider the cat I have been writing about in her anxious strivings to make me understand her wants, and her manifest puzzlement and astonishment at my failure to respond to her demands when it does not suit my pleasure to do so, I can only compare her to a deaf and dumb person who has been taught little or nothing and has nothing but a few comprehensible signs with which to communicate with those around him. He is cut off by silence from us, but as he is one of our species and we know that thought is before speech and exists independent of speech, and that thought is a function of the human brain, we know that he thinks. In like manner, reading the mind of this cat as well as I am able. I come to the conclusion that she thinks — albeit her thoughts may be very few and very simple compared with those of any human being above the age of four or five, and even with those of a person born deaf and dumb.
A LADY in Kensington, a cat-lover, has favoured me with an account of one of her many pets which seems well worth recording. It came about by chance that a pup, a very few days old, was sent to the house by a friend, and that the gift of a kitten, whose blue surprised eyes had not long been opened, was received at nearly the same time. My informant and her mother and sister were delighted to get them both, as they were wanting both a dog and a cat, and now they would be reared from babyhood together and would become familiar with each other's ways and live in harmony. And it all turned out just as they had hoped. Kittie and pup slept together in one bed, fed from the same saucer and plate, and their whole time when they were not sleeping was spent in play.
When full grown the cat was very small and the dog about two-thirds the size of a collie, so that there was a considerable discrepancy in their sizes, but this made no difference in their companionship and games together ; and both were singularly gentle, nice-mannered, and good-tempered animals.
When Pussy came of age she had an affair on one of her evening strolls, and later, when her time came near, she all at once became excessively anxious as to the proper place for her expected family. Every room in the house, from basement to attics, was visited in turn and minutely examined. The ladies watched her movements with deep interest without interfering except to open closed doors for her when she returned again and again to reinspect any room which had first attracted her. In due time the kittens came, and a day or two later Pussy came to the conclusion that they were not in the best room for them after all — that there was a better place in a room on the floor above.
Now the queer part of the business comes in : she did not remove nor, so far as they saw, attempt to remove them herself, but immediately trotted off in search of her friend the dog, and he, well able from long custom to understand her, got up and followed her to the spot where the kittens were lying. Then, when he had looked at them, she started off to the upper room and he after her ; but seeing that he was following empty-handed, so to speak, she doubled back and returned to the kittens, and eventually, after two or three more false starts, he understood her and, picking up one of the kittens in his mouth, followed her up the stairs to the new place. That was as far as his understanding went, and she had again to conduct him back to the others and repeat the whole performance until in the end the kittens were all removed by the dog and she was happy in her new quarters. But only for a day : it was not the ideal spot after all, and another removal had to be made. Again the dog was summoned and did it all again, with less trouble than on the first occasion. And again Pussy became dissatisfied and there was a third removal, and from first to last there were so many removals that the ladies lost count of their number.
Now the instinct of the cat and of practically all mammals in which the young are born helpless and continue many days in that state is, when the parent desires to remove them to a safer or more suitable place, to pick them up in her mouth and remove them one by one herself. So ineradicable is this instinct that it persists in the dog after thousands of years of domestication, and we know that the cat's instincts are even less affected by such a state than the dog’s. Why, then, in this case did she not obey so powerful an impulse instead of relegating the task to a dog, an animal of another species ?
Bergson would perhaps suggest or say that it was intuition, an indefinable faculty higher than either instinct or reason. There is no such thing : there is nothing but reason and instinct, or inherited memory, to prompt the actions of all animals, from earthworm and emmet to elephant. The only possible explanation Of the cat's actions is that she found herself powerless, probably after trial, to accomplish the task herself ; that she then remembered her friend the dog, mentally visualizing him as a big strong creature with a big mouth, to carry, and remembering also that he was obedient to her and quick to respond to her wishes. And she accordingly went to him for help, and he being by chance exceptionally intelligent did not fail her, although we cannot say that his reasoning powers were equal to hers. Her action undoubtedly shows reasoning of a higher kind than that of the cat described in the first part, though that too was reasoning. His impulse was to dash at the bird, but in the pause before it could be made he listened to the still small voice of the higher faculty telling him that he would fail again as he had failed many times before, and the small voice prevailed.
THE fact of telepathy is now familiar by that name to everybody. But authentic instances of telepathy between man and animals are rare, and are confined to our domestic animals that rank highest in the scale of nature. Most cases are concerned with the dog, as, for example, the very remarkable one related some years ago by Sir Rider Haggard in the Times. An even more remarkable case of telepathic communication between man and horse — an old Sussex squire and his favourite cob — is given by M. A. Lower, author of “ Sussex Worthies." in his miscellany entitled " Contributions to Literature."
That such cases should be extremely rare is only what might be expected, seeing that when it is undoubtedly a telepathic message, explicable in no other way, as when it produces a phantasm of the living, as it is called, it can emanate only from a mind in extreme distress or agony, or in a moment of deadly peril or suffering, and often enough at the moment of death. Again, we know that in these instances of extreme agitation there must always be a close bond of affection between sender and recipient, such as may exist between two close friends or near and dear relations, and, as we also know, can and does often exist between a human being and a favourite or pet animal in the higher orders.
That such communication between mind and mind — brain-waves as they are sometimes called — should be possible between man and animals is but a further proof that they are, mentally, very near to us; that their brains function even as ours do, far as we have risen above them in all mental powers. Here, then, in conclusion of the article, I will give the first case of telepathy, as I consider it, I have met with between human being and cat.
The person concerned is the late Mrs. Barry, wife of the late Bishop Barry, and the account of what took place was written by Lady Alderson at Mrs. Barry's dictation. Mr. Ralph Alderson in looking over his late mother's papers found it, and has passed it on to me to make what use of it as I wish, and 1 accordingly transcribe it here.
" In 1891 we left Knapdale to take up our residence in The Cloisters at Windsor. For some time before I had a favourite black cat who had the distinction of not possessing a single white hair. She was unusually attached to me on account of my having saved her life from a dog, just two minutes before her first kitten was born - she had only one. The shock to the poor thing was so great that it was with difficulty I saved her life, and her terror at every sound was so pitiful that I gave up a small empty room to her and her kitten, locking her in and allowing no one to go near but myself. I waited on her for a whole month, until she quieted down and allowed her kitten to see the world. Ever after when she had kittens she had the same attack of nerves and required my undivided attention. We were living then in an interesting old manor-house which had belonged to Oliver Cromwell. His daughter, Mrs. Ireton, was said to haunt the gallery : the house has always had the reputation of being haunted. I feel I ought to mention this, although I do not know whether it could in any way have affected the cat.
" After the Bishop’s appointment up to the time of our removal the cat was much on my mind, as I dreaded the change and disturbance for her which all ordinary cats without nerves hate. But the gardener was left in the house, to take charge of it for a new tenant, so I made special arrangements that the cat should remain in his care with good board wages till I was quite settled, when I was to write for it and he would see her safely on her journey to Windsor.
" Time went on, and I did not worry about my cat and was waiting until all was ready, when one night I had a dream. I was walking — as I thought — in the garden at Knapdale in a path under the wall, which was a favourite place of mine and where the black cat used to follow me up and down, when I heard a piteous cry, and looking up saw my Puss, standing on the top of the wall, in lamentable plight, evidently starved to death and very weak. I awoke much disturbed, but went to sleep again, and this appearance of the cat came to me three times that night.
“ In the morning I told the Bishop that I intended to go off immediately to fetch my cat. He did his best to dissuade me from doing so, as he said I could telegraph to the gardener and the cat would arrive without any trouble. But I could not feel satisfied, and started off immediately after breakfast.
" On my arrival at Knapdale I found the house in the possession of workmen. On entering no gardener was to be seen, and no cat. Filled with anxiety, I asked every man I met if a black cat had been seen, but with no result. At last a woman in a house nearby told me that the gardener had been dismissed summarily, and being no doubt unwilling I should know it had departed and left the cat to its fate. This woman had heard the poor thing crying and had tried to get at it and give it milk, but it was always terrified and too wild to come near her. It occurred to me to go and walk under the wall I had seen in my dream, and which the cat had no doubt always associated with me, and call her. In a few minutes I saw a wild, haggard face appear, gazing at me as if it could not believe the evidence of its senses, then down she came and rushed into my arms, and clung to me frantically. I carried her into the room we both remembered, and found her nothing but skin and bone and very weak. I went into the village and fed her with milk and fish, bought a hamper into which she crawled of her own accord, and during the many hours' journey home she lay quite still and purred whenever I stroked her. She took a fancy to her new home and settled down at once.
" This story is perfectly true ; who can explain the fact of the cat spirit being able to make an impression on a human spirit so as to induce me to act as I did and only just in time to save her life ? ”
Mr. Hudson will be pleased to receive anecdotes or our readers’ pets which we will forward.
An Editorial note at the foot of an article on the above subject in the August number of this magazine inviting correspondence has resulted in an abundant shower of letters, sufficient I think to make a good-sized volume, from all over the land, with others from Continental countries, and some from outlandish places still farther removed. The narratives received relate to a great variety of animals, and perhaps the most interesting, as showing the power to reflect in our poor relations, are about pet monkeys in India and Africa. Some of these may find a use at a future time ; at present I can only express my warm thanks to those who have placed so much good material in my hands. In the small space available here I must confine myself to the subject of cats and their ability to think.
Quite a large number of the letters contain accounts of cats that have found out by observation and practice how to do difficult things, as, for instance, the opening of door by fiddling at the handle or latch until they have mastered the trick. Or, when this has been impossible, of finding out a way of communicating their wishes to the people of the house. In one instance the cat, unable to get a door open himself, would always go to the big dog of the house, who could open most doors ; and the dog would know just what he was wanted for, and was pleased to render this small service to his friend.
It came as a surprise to me to find that more cats than the one I described in a former paper have acquired the habit of begging from seeing it in dogs. It was by thinking the cat made the discovery that by assuming this unnatural posture a readier attention would be given to its wants. The cat acquires the trick from the dog, but begs in a different, a more cat-like, a less obtrusive way. The dog can never understand why there is not an instant response to its begging. The cat who has not been taught the trick, but has learned it himself, sits up vertically with its forepaws hanging down like arms, and remains in this position without a sound, and as patient and still as when waiting and watching for a mouse. The expected or hoped-for morsel, like the mouse, will come in due time : if not, not.
There are other curious instances of cats finding out a way of calling attention to their wants. One relates to a cat in Scotland, named Major, a small, compact, powerful, and very natural cat, who would not sit or lie close to the fire, but preferred sitting on a table some distance from it. He was a great rat-hunter, rats being very numerous in the place, and when he was old and had lost his best teeth and could no longer kill a rat quickly by biting, it was observed that he dragged a struggling rat he had captured to the stone steps of the house and pounded the rat's head on the stones until it was dead. As an act of this kind, which is common enough in birds, is not instinctive in the cat, it can only be set down to observation and experience.
The way this cat had discovered of indicating his desire to be fed was most remarkable. He invariably appeared in the dining-room at meal times, and if no notice was taken of him he would trot off to the kitchen where there was always to be found a dish of hard crusts put by for another purpose. With one of these crusts in his mouth he would return, and jumping into a chair so as to make his presence conspicuous to the diners, he would begin gnawing, or rather pretending to gnaw, the hard crust, and making as much ado over it as possible until some food on a plate was put down for him, whereupon he would immediately drop the crust and concentrate on his dinner.
Now, I should have thought, and so, I believe, would any reader of the above instance, that no second cat in the land could have hit upon so original and far-fetched a device as this Scotch animal, but I have received a similar instance from Chard, in Somerset, and in this second one the cat goes one better, since he performs the trick without the crust. This one also has the habit of attending at all meals, and seats himself on a chair so as to command a view of the table. As soon as the eating is in full swing he begins grinding and clicking his teeth, and if this demonstration brings no response, or is not immediately noticed, he goes on to imitate all the motions of a cat eating. He screws up his eyes, moves his head from side to side as if laboriously trying to masticate a tough piece of gristle.
Another amusing instance of a greatly favoured cat getting what he wants in an indirect way comes from Gloucestershire. He was particular, not to say fastidious, about his food, and always had it in a plate put on the floor. One day he came in and sat down before the plate, but declined to eat. The housekeeper, knowing what was in his mind, told him sharply that he would get nothing more till he had eaten that. One can only suppose that Puss knew what was in her mind. After a while he stood up and trotted out of the room and returned by-and-by followed by the cat from next door, an underfed animal glad to devour anything he could get.
He quickly licked the plate clean, and then his entertainer was rewarded with the more delicate fare he had desired, and concerning which his olfactories had given him notice. On no other occasion did he ever allow this neighbour cat to come into the house.
Now we come upon another aspect of the feline character. We are familiar with the fact that they hunt for others as well as for them» selves. Their manner of life in a state of nature has made them comparatively solitary, but they are not more unsocial on this account than is the human hunter in the wilderness or the angler by the brook. Everyone acquainted with the cat knows that his is as capable of disinterested affection and gratitude as any so-called gregarious animal – the wolf and the jackal, let us say, and their not very nice relation, the domestic dog.
A lady correspondent has supplied me with a charming instance in a cat named “Jim,” a sad poacher whose poaching was finally his undoing. One day he ate some poison intended for vermin, and came home apparently in a dying condition. She administered a dose of brandy and castor oil and he crawled off and disappeared for several hours. Then he reappeared, quite recovered, and laid an offering at the lady's feet — half of a rat — the tail half. He had never brought her anything before and never did again. She adds that he probably intended giving her the whole rat, but was hungry after his illness and was unable to resist the temptation of eating a part himself.
I have known many cats both in this country and in South America that have regularly or frequently brought in their captures to the master or mistress of the house, and as the hunting cat often confines himself to certain species he has found out how to circumvent — a rabbit or partridge, let us say — his gifts in such cases are gratefully accepted. But the cat’s tastes in food do not always correspond with those of his human fellow-creatures, so that his presents of game are not invariably appreciated. The main point in the foregoing instance is that the cat was of a selfish disposition and hunted for himself alone, and that in this case his gratitude to his mistress overcame his greed. The higher nature conquered.
More instances of this kind, which are very common, need not be given. As a rule the cat is readier to take than to give, as he no doubt knows that the beings he lives with in a domestic state are the greatest of all animals, able to compass all things, so that the cat's ministrations are not needed.
It is not, however, only in the matter of food and shelter from the storm, with bed and firing and caresses added, that he looks up to us. Here, for instance, is an anecdote of a cat prettily named Aspronla (modern Greek) who had her kittens in a cupboard downstairs, and after some days took them one by one upstairs to the drawing-room to give them a change and exhibit them to the family. After allowing them to play for half an hour on the carpet, she laboriously carried them all down again to their bed. This task was repeated every day : then on one occasion the lady of the house, seeing puss struggling with one of her kittens on the stairs, took pity on her and carried them all down for her. From that time onward she would not carry the kittens down herself. She would bring them up as usual with much labour, and after they had had their half an hour's play on the carpet she would take them one by one to her mistress, and, laying them at her feet, insist on having them carried down for her.
Another interesting case of this kind is of a puss who suffered intense pain in bringing out her first litter, and who in some way was relieved by her mistress. There were many more litters to follow during this cat’s life, and she never suffered again as on the first occasion, but invariably when her time came she would go crying as if terrified at the prospect before her, to her mistress, and insist on her attendance in the room until the anxious business was over.
There are some anecdotes about the different effect on cats of seeing themselves in a looking-glass, also about showing portraits to a cat. As a rule it is not looked at ; it is simply a flat surface with marks or colours on it which mean nothing. And here the cat is, mentally, no lower than many primitive human beings or savages. My American friend and correspondent, Mr. Charles Finger, who edits a monthly called All's Well, has given me an account of a boy in Tierra del Fuego, who, for no reason, became attached to him and followed him about like a dog during his rambles in that outlandish place. Finger showed a picture or portrait of a woman to this boy and asked him what it was. The boy was greatly puzzled ; he held the paper or card before him at all angles and distances, turning it about, yet not able to say what it was. Then, reproached for his stupidity, he held it close to his face and stared again until the tears actually came into his eyes. Finally he had to be told that it was a representation of a human being, a woman, and in the end he managed to understand it. Yet this same boy would pick up a flint which he would instantly detect among hundreds of flints as the one suited to his purpose. With a few deft blows with another flint he would shape it into a very small arrow-head, then put it in his mouth and, turning it about with his tongue, bite the sharp edges with his teeth, and in five minutes there would be the finished arrow-head with serrated edges.
The cat, too. like the Fuegian boy, has his arts and accomplishments, useful in his feline state, but he is not, like the monkey, a seeker after useless knowledge. It is only when the monkey has grown to man that this idle curiosity begins to bear fruit, as the author of that clever little book. " Our Simian World," has just been telling us.
But the cat's mind is not always in the condition of the Fuegian boy's with regard to pictures. A correspondent writes, from Chard, Somerset: “Have you ever come across any instance of cats recognizing photographs ? My dear old Fluff was still a kitten, although we had had time to get attached to each other, when I was sent from home for a lengthy change of air. Fluff was found more than once standing on a chair, his fore paws resting on the back of it, gazing fixedly up at a cabinet-size full-length portrait of myself, recently taken, placed on the wall above. After this had been noticed my father would often take the cat up and say, “ Where is your little master ? “ and instantly he would run, and, jumping upon a chair, begin staring at the photograph."
It is hardly to be supposed that this young cat understood the matter as we, with our life-long training and perhaps higher intelligence are able to do, but that he saw the picture as his young master. The boy he loved had vanished from his sight, and lo ! there he was, strangely diminished in size, motionless and voiceless, stuck up against the wall.
I believe the chief interest to readers of the article in the August number of this magazine was in the case of telepathy described. I then said that it was the first case I had encountered of telepathy between a human being and a cat ; that other cases I had met with concerned the dog, and one between horse and man related by M. A. Lower in one of his Sussex books. I have now to thank one of my correspondents for informing me of a second authentic case in Everard A. Calthrop’s book, " The Horse as Friend and Companion," an extremely interesting work to everyone who knows and loves the horse, and a valuable one to every student of animal psychology. In this place I can only deal with cases between man and cat.
It is a somewhat delicate subject, and I am obliged to dismiss from consideration all those cases in which the facts may be accounted for without the aid of this mysterious faculty of the mind.
And here I must explain the reasons for not having given the names and addresses of my correspondents. In some instances have been asked not to publish these, and, not to make distinctions, I think it best to publish none, but to keep the whole of the letters for future reference and to supply an address to anyone who may want it.
One case sent me closely resembles the one I gave in the first article, of Bishop Barry’s wife and her cat. In this instance the cat was left in a locked-up house in Buxton after arrangements had been made with the lady next door to go in and feed the cat every day. The cat was a great favourite and would have been taken by its mistress but for the fact that it was about to become a mother. A fortnight later the mistress, staying at Bordon, had a distressing dream in which she saw her cat drowning, fighting for its life and unable to climb out of the water, while she struggled in vain to rescue it, but was unable to reach it with her hand. On her return she found her cat well and happy, nursing a single kitten, but on relating her dream to her neighbour she was told that that very thing had happened on the night of her dream. The cat had her kittens under the grid of the cellar, which was flooded by a heavy downpour of rain one night. The lady next door on waking at midnight heard its cries, and jumping up and hastily dressing, she went in the house and found the cat plunging about in the water with all her kittens in a half-drowned condition. She succeeded in reaching the cat and pulling her out, and after more trouble she managed to save one of the kittens.
Most of the undoubted cases of telepathy we meet with are of this kind — the message is from one in extreme peril and terror, or in the agonies of death, to one it loves and looks to for protection : and the phenomenon appears to be precisely the same between man and man and man and animal. Other examples of this kind I have received relate to the dog, and have a close resemblance to the familiar one recorded by Rider Haggard.
MY last case of undoubted telepathy is the best, but as it comes into the life histories of two or three cats, all of it peculiarly interesting, I must give the whole story in full. My correspondent writes from North London, where she now resides, but the history begins in the house in the country, her former home. First of the three is Pinnie, received as a present in its kittenhood, who grew up to be a great favourite. She was, unhappily, of an excessively nervous disposition, and had an ineradicable terror of strangers and workmen in the house. She would take refuge from them in a disused chimney. In due time Pinnie became a mother, and then many times afterwards. One of her first litter, named Warder, was preserved, and became her life-companion. Warder was not a nervous cat, but was taught by Pinnie from childhood to fly to the refuge in the chimney when workmen came into the house. Pinnie could practise deception on occasions. Once there was a particularly handsome kitten in a litter, and she appeared not to like the amount of attention paid to it. One day she was seen jumping through the scullery window with this kitten in her mouth, and by and by she came hack without it. What had she done with it ? The whole house was excited over the question, and a great search for the lost little beauty was started. Pinnie herself going about with the searchers, but without exhibiting any signs of anxiety. At length someone heard a feeble mewing from the coal cellar, and there the kitten was discovered, packed in some dry straw, which the cat had taken there to make it a bed. It was at once taken back to its basket and placed with the others, but quickly disappeared again, and was again found in the cellar. And there they had to leave it.
Pinnie had lived several years and had brought many kittens into the world before she came to her end. The great adventure, the removal to London, was about to take place, and it was decided that Pinnie could not be taken on account of her extreme nervousness. The change to that thunderous world swarming with strangers would be too terrible for her. Nor could she be left to the care of others. The only way was to put her to sleep.
One evening the family were at dinner. Warder, but not Pinnie, being in the room. My correspondent did not know that on this day Pinnie's life would end. Presently the master of the house was called out to see someone, and as this was not an unusual thing no notice was taken of it. In a few minutes he returned and, carefully closing the door, resumed his seat at the table. Suddenly Warder jumped up and rushed to the door, uttering a series of unearthly cries, and then furiously clawed at the door to get out, and finally collapsed in a forlorn heap on the floor. At this very moment, at the far end of the house, Pinnie was being put to sleep by the vet.
This is the first authentic instance of telepathy between animal and animal I have encountered. No other explanation of what happened is possible. No faintest sound was uttered by the dying Pinnie, and at that distance no cry could have been heard in the closed dining-room.
Such cases may be extremely common in wild animal life, for all we know to the contrary, but it is only in domestic animals and in a rare concurrence of favourable circumstances that such a phenomenon can be observed.
It only remains to add a few facts concerning Warder’s subsequent history. Warder is looked on as a very important cat, for he is still living, aged fifteen years, and, my correspondent adds, " rules the house." He cannot open doors himself but makes others open them for him by rattling the locks. He had, after losing Pinnie, one great friend, Tipperary, a stray which he brought into the house and delighted to honour. Every day they weft fed together, but each had a separate plate, and invariably after eating part of the food they changed plates, and from the time that Tipperary disappeared, after four years’ companionship, Warder has left a portion of his food on his plate at every meal. That, however, does not say that he has a distinct recollection of his lost friend every time he eats. No doubt he remembered him for days and weeks after his disappearance until leaving something for him on his own plate became a settled habit.
One incident in Tipperary’s career is worth recording as an example of the powerful effect of association. He was eating his supper one evening, gnawing a rabbit bone, when the Silvertown explosion took place. He jumped into the air, then rushed out of the room. From that time the sight or smell of rabbit on his plate would send him at a run out of the room. To eat rabbit, according to his idea, would cause another Silvertown explosion.