CATS: THEIR HUMANE AND RATIONAL TREATMENT.
BY DR. GORDON STABLES, R.N.,
In Chambers Journal, September 8th, 1883; Vol. 60, P. 572.
Cats deserve far better treatment than they sometimes receive at the hands of those who own them. This more often than not is the result of a want of knowledge of what is necessary to keep pussy alive and comfortable. Many people have an idea that anything is good enough for a dog; but alas! a cat is supposed to be able to maintain existence without even a share of whatever may be implied by that word ' anything.' Some people look upon poor pussy as simply a kind of clever invention for catching mice, an animated vermin-trap, a creature that never requires any food except that which she herself may capture, and no attention or kindness of any kind. Thanks to her wonderful nature and instincts, even a neglected cat will manage to support life after a fashion; but there is as much difference between a well-fed and properly cared-for puss, and a mere mouser, as there is between a hungry wolf of the wilds, and the honest 'bawsent '-faced collie that sleeps on the hearthrug, or accompanies its master in his walks abroad.
Anyone who wants to find out what a gentle, affectionate, and grateful animal a cat really is, has only to make the following experiment. Let him get a young one, not a kitten, but a cat of about a year old, that has been starved and ill-treated and regarded as a kind of wild beast, or kept about some barnyard merely on sufferance, in order to keep the mice away. Let him begin by feeding this cat regularly, talking to it, and using it kindly; let him bring it into the house every night, and give it a bed of some kind to lie on in a warm corner, and teach it by gentle means habits of cleanliness, &c.; let him do this, and he will be surprised at the difference in the poor creature's manners and appearance even in the space of a month or six weeks; and before a year, is over, he will be as fond of that cat, as any human being can be of one of the lower animals. And pussy will be just as fond of her master, and have never a thought in her heart but how to please him.
Now, I do not mean to waste space in giving many Anecdotes illustrative of pussy’s tricks and manners; but one is so fresh in my mind at the present moment that I cannot refrain from penning it. I was told the story when in Jersey, judging a show of dogs, cats, and rabbits, and have every reason to believe it is strictly true. Two cats belonging to a gentleman in that island had kittens at the same time; the young ones were destroyed, with the exception of two, one being humanely left to each mother. During the night, a kitten died; but its parent had carried it to the other part of the room, where her companion was, and exchanged it for the living one, which she was found suckling. To make certain there had been no mistake, the dead and the living kittens were restored to their respective mothers. In a short time, the exchange was again made; and the same thing occurred a third time; but now, instead of going back to her own bed, this eccentric pussy escaped to an outside hayloft with her living freight, and there she reared it.
of two, one being humanely left to each mother. During the night, a kitten died; but its parent had carried it to the other part of the room, where her companion was, and exchanged it for the living one, which she was found suckling. To make certain there had been no mistake, the dead and the living kittens were restored to their respective mothers. In a short time, the exchange was again made; and the same thing occurred a third time; but now, instead of going back to her own bed, this eccentric pussy escaped to an outside hayloft with her living freight, and there she reared it.
I have proved over and over again that, properly cared for and properly trained, cats are cleanly and regular in all their ways — that they are wonderfully sagacious — that they are quite as wise in their own way and as high in the scale of animal existence as dogs are — that they are tractable and eminently teachable — that indeed, they can be taught tricks like a poodle — that they are honest, and not thieves — capital vermin-killers, very fond of other animals as playmates, such as dogs, guinea-pigs, rabbits, and birds— that they are very fond of their young, very much attached to children— that they like their homes, but love a kind master or mistreat But a badly used or thoughtlessly treated cat is quite the reverse of all I have described, though for the sake of humanity I will admit that most of the bad usage to which our pussies are subjected k the result of want of thought.
Cats are liable to a good many ailments; but most of them are preventable by careful feeding and kind treatment. Let us see, then, what pussy really needs to keep her well and happy.
Strange though it may appear to some, she requires food every day of her life, and preferably twice a day. Now, although people who keep and breed what may be called show-cats, splendid Persians and Angoras, etc. — for the kittens of which they easily obtain prices ranging from two to ten pounds or more — make food for their favourites separately, this is not necessary when only one or two cats are kept in a family. Here the mistake usually made is that of supposing the bits thrown to the cat during the family meal-time by those she solicits are quite enough for her. Give her morsels by all means, if she begs prettily for them; but immediately after the family have breakfasted or dined, pussy's dish ought to be well filled with something really edible, some-thing she cares for. This may be bread and milk, or potatoes mashed up in milk, or preferably in gravy; but meat of some kind she ought to have once a day at least. Cats depend more on meat even than dogs do. Boiled lights are very good, but it should be remembered that this kind of food looks more than it is; it is light by name and light in nature, so a good share must be given. It should be cut up fine and a little milk put over it.
Fish is a great treat for a cat; in many cases of illness, they will eat this when they can take nothing else. Horse-flesh, when it can be had, is good occasionally, but it has a laxative tendency. Nice tripe or cowheel is excellent; but indeed nothing comes amiss that one eats one’s-self, only we must be careful to give bread and vegetables as well as meat. Raw beef minced finely is often given to cats when ill; so are boiled eggs and cream. Milk seems to be one of the necessaries of life to a cat; let it be good an abundant.
Few people know that cats cannot be kept in health unless they be supplied with water. If a cat does not get water, she will have to help herself to it. This in the country she has generally a chance of doing, but not in towns. A saucer should always be kept in a corner for pussy, and the water ought to be fresh, and fresh every morning.
Another thing that cats do not thrive well without, is grass. Herein again, the happy country cat has the advantage of the feline dweller in cities; nevertheless, grass may be pulled for a cat. I have known it placed between two bricks in the corner of the scullery, where it would keep fresh for a week, and be always handy when the little creature wanted it.
There is no domestic animal in our possession more fond of cleanliness in every way than puss. Habits of cleanliness in the house are very easily taught; and a well-cared-for and properly treated cat will even teach her kittens to be cleanly. But pussy’s food ought always to be nice and clean, and the dish that contains it should be washed every day. Putting fresh food among that which has been left from a former meal, is a sure way of preventing a cat from enjoying, or even touching it.
If well fed, a cat’s coat is beautifully soft, thick, and sheeny, and she seems to take a delight I keeping it so. When ill of neglected the cat becomes rough and thin. It is usually after a meal that puss sits down contentedly to wash herself and pay attention to her personal appearance; and those who breed beautiful cats take advantage of this, and give the animal a tiny bit of butter after her dinner, or put a little cream on her paws. She requires no other incentive to cause her to proceed forthwith to groom herself all over. The oil of the butter and her own saliva seem to form a kind of soap, which acts like magic when applied by means of her rough tongue to the coat. Sometimes a cat requires to be washed. The water should be lukewarm, the soap the mildest procurable, and the towels with which she is dried very soft; and after the operation, she ought to be put into a clean room until thoroughly dry, or, what is better still, placed in a clean empty cage near the fire.
If the owner of a cat cares anything for it, or has any regard for the comfort of his neighbour, he will do all in his power to keep in in the house at night. This is best accomplished by making a practice of feeding the animal late in the evening. A late dinner makes pussy very regular in her habits, especially if she is always sure of getting it at the same time.
The possession of property involves certain duties; when that property is a pussy cat, we have a duty to perform not only to our favourite but to our neighbours as well. To kill cats in gardens by means of traps or poison is extremely cruel as well as cowardly; but at the same time the temptation to do so is very great when one finds his beautiful flower-beds torn up by the claws of nocturnal marauders; or his valuable pet pigeons, or even his chickens, killed and carried away. If people would only feed their pussies well at home and keep them indoors at night, such things would not happen.
There are many wanton cruelties perpetrated on cats, that I hardly care to mention. For the mere love of mischief, or sport as it is erroneously called, these harmless necessary animals are often hunted and torn in pieces by dogs. Again, there are those who capture and destroy cats for the sake of the skin, which fetches a good price at the dealers; but, for the sake of humanity, I trust I am mistaken when I add that, under the notion that it retains the gloss on the coat, the unhappy creatures are sometimes skinned ere dead [i.e. alive]. [*Let the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals take note. – Ed.]
Kind though her owner may wish to be, puss may nevertheless suffer from her owner's thoughtlessness. It is cruel not to feed a cat abundantly, regularly, and with food suitable for her wants. It is cruel not to give her plenty of fresh water daily, and an allowance of good sweet milk; and it is foolishly cruel to keep from her the necessaries of life, with the idea that it will make her a better hunter; for mouse-catching needs patience, and only a well-fed cat has that. It is cruel to turn a cat out at night against her will, and a person who makes a practice of so doing has no right to own one. It is crueler still to ‘wander' a cat that you do not wish to keep, and have not the courage to mercifully deprive of life.
Another species of cruelty to be avoided is that of destroying all a cat’s kittens at once. One should always be left, and for this little thing a good home should invariably be provided. It is cruel, on the other hand, to keep more than one or two alive; for, as it is next to impossible to find homes for them all, they are sure to turn out starvelings, and add to the list of homeless wanderers.
But the worst form of cruelty of any is that cold-blooded species of cat-murder — I can call it by no other name— which consists in leaving the poor creature to starve at home while the family is gone on the annual holiday. There is no excuse for this; for cats are capital travellers, and if they love their owners — as, if well used, they invariably do — they will take kindly to the new abode even in a day. If, however, it be thought too much trouble to take pussy to the hills or the seaside, surely a kind neighbour could be found to take charge of the animal in the absence of her owners. In Edinburgh, where, we regret to say, the habit of allowing the cat to shift for herself while her owners flit to country quarters, has been lamentably prevalent, such cases are now taken cognisance of by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
When a cat gets too old to be of any use, and is even a burden to itself, then it ought to be destroyed in as humane a manner as possible. I have tried all plans. A very large dose of morphia causes death speedily; but often, instead of falling at once into the sleep that precedes extinction of life, the animal has a fit of delirium. A cat, however, if placed in a box from which the air is excluded, and a spongeful of chloroform placed in one corner, quickly succumbs, and moves no more. Drowning is somewhat cruel in my opinion.
If cats are properly treated, they seldom ail. As a rule, they can treat their own complaints far more scientifically than either a vet or a doctor knows how to do. Grass is their principal medicine. This acts in one of three ways, according to the quantity taken — in large doses, being an emetic; in medium, an aperient; and in small doses, an alterative and antiscorbutic. When a cat is very ill, she gets away of her own accord into a quiet dark corner, and abstains from taking food, although she may come out now and then to drink water. It is evident, then, that she knows the value of rest.
When a town cat falls sick, and is seen looking miserable and strange, with a staring coat and infected eye, and if she has no appetite, and wants to hide away out of sight, it will be real kindness to place her in a clean attic or some unused room, letting her have plenty of fresh water to drink, and giving her also a dose of medicine. A grain or two of sulphate of zinc repeated at intervals of ten minutes, will act as an emetic. When the stomach settles, give her a small tea-spoonful of warm castor-oil, and leave her alone for four-and-twenty hours.
There is far more difficulty in giving medicine to a cat than to a dog; the animal is more suspicious, and also more difficult to handle. A cat will not, as a rule, bite intentionally; but she can make terrible use of her claws. The medicine to be administered may be in the form of a liquid, a powder, or a pill. If the first named, puss must be wrapped in a rug or shawl, and held by one person, while another opens the mouth, and, little by little at a time, pours down the medicine. Care should be taken not to soil the fur. A pill is given more quickly; hut the upper jaw and under jaw should be kept well apart, and the pill put far down, while the finger must be clear before the mouth is permitted to close, or a very ugly not to say dangerous wound may be the result. Sometimes it is as well to rub the medicine to be given, on pussy's paws; she will set herself to dean them, and so the physic will be licked up. Tiny pills or powders may be given in raw meat, and tasteless powders placed on the tongue.
Cats are subject to many illnesses of the digestive canal. Chronic inflammation of the stomach is by no means rare, usually caused from something the creature has picked up or eaten. Poisoning is often suspected, but it is rarely indeed that a cat eats poison. When ill, she ought to have free access to grass, which she will use as an emetic. A mild dose — small tea-spoonful — of warm castor-oil should be given to commence with, or twice the quantity of salad oil, and this should be repeated about twice a week. Feed only on milk-food, and put three times a day on the tongue, two or three grains of the trisnitrate of bismuth. Keep her warm and at home.
Diarrhoea and dysentery are diseases from which cats suffer. Careful nursing is needed and warmth, and the least irritating kinds of diet; and for medicine, we must trust to chalk powder, and opium or morphia. Half a grain of solid opium may be given twice or thrice a day, or the solution of muriate of morphia in three drop doses every two hours.
Bronchitis or severe cold is one of pussy's ailments. I direct hot fomentations frequently to be applied to the head, a mild diet, rather low at first; followed by strengthening food, if she begins to lose flesh - beef-tea, raw meat, eggs, and a little wine, etc
Cats are subject to many kinds of fits. These, however, should not be looked upon as diseases, but as symptomatic of a diseased system, in the fit, little more can be done except keeping puss from hurting herself and letting her have fresh air; or the nose may be lanced with a very sharp penknife, just enough to let a few drops of blood be squeezed out Afterwards, it may be as well to give a worm-powder. Areca-nut fresh grated is best; and the dose would be about ten or twelve grains mixed with butter or lard, on an empty stomach, following up in an hour with a dose of castor-oil. If fits recur again and again, try, by every means to get her into good condition, not fat, and give a grain each of the iodide and bromide of potassium three times a day. Cod-liver oil may also be given; and whenever it is, a dose of castor-oil should be administered once a week.
When a cat takes jaundice, it seldom gets over the disease. I advise the use, to begin with, of Glauber salts, a small tea-spoonful diluted with plenty of water, and given gradually. If it makes the cat vomit, it can do no harm; if it sets as an aperient, it will do good. Give the following pill thrice a day: Creosote, three drops; aromatic powder, five grains. Make into ten pills with bread-crumbs. Give a grain of calomel every night; but watch the symptoms. It is not intended to purge too much. If she gets better, diet carefully, and give cod-liver oil, and a quinine pill made of one-eighth of a grain of sulphate of quinine and a very tiny bit of conserve of roses. This is a handy conditioning pill in many ways; but if half a grain of rhubarb and a grain of ginger be added, it makes it all the more effectual. Give it thrice a day for a fortnight.
Mange is caused by a skin parasite. The pussy must be washed; she must be well fed; and all red or irritable places must be rubbed with an unguent composed of the green iodide of mercury ointment and the compound sulphur ointment, twice a day. Wash three times a week. Feed very well, and keep extra dry and warm; and let her have a little sulphur m the food, and a dose of oil once a week.
Ulcers or sores must be kept very clean, and occasionally touched with nitrate-of-silver lotion if they seem sluggish in healing. Wash every day with water in which a few drops of carbolic acid have been well mixed. If an ointment be needed, there is nothing better than that of the benzoated oxide of zinc.
If the eyes are inflamed, bathe them frequently in lukewarm water, remove all dirt and use an ordinary eyewash.
Never take a cat’s kittens all away at once, else she may have milk fever. Bleeding may be required; but, at all events, aperients are necessary, and a little fever mixture, as for a child. This any chemist can prepare.
Never use harsh remedies to a sick cat. Let the ailing one have good soft bed, plenty of water, and grass within reach; and remember in treating her, that she can hardly be kept too warm and comfortable, if the temperature is an equable one, and the air in the room fresh and pure.