L. J. Quarles van Ufford

[Messybeast note: originally published in Dutch. I have tried to render this into flowing English rather than a more literal translation, using the equivalent vocabulary of the time where possible.]

A motto in a treatise about songbirds, caged birds and canary birds states: "We should have compassion with our animals".

This is most certainly the case with cats. Cats may be pets, but their wild nature remains in their minds. No pet is therefore as wilful as the cat. We may wants to take her to sit on our lap, but she'll jump off to the left, just to jump on from the right. To care well for an animal - a creature - we must learn about their physical well-being and especially learn about their character.

No two cats will have the same character. A cat detests getting wet. However, I have heard about a cat that repeatedly swam across a ditch. I also knew of a cat that would spend hours on the bank of a stream, fishing by striking the water with her paw. On one occasion, she lost her balance and fell into the water, but she very quickly clambered out of the water and resumed fishing.

It's sad that so many animals become prey for cats. We judge the cat for continually hunting birds, but we love it when she catches mice for us, though she treats them in a very cruel way. What a contradiction! In that respect, humans are just like cats. Thus to learn about her true nature, we have sympathy with our cats. We must observe and understand her peculiarities.

People often say a cat is fickle or vicious, but I don't agree. To the contrary, I would argue that we turn a cat, like all pets, into a gentle animal, just by the way we raise and handle them. From the moment of birth we must inspire trust in her, handle her a lot, play with her and talk to her - talk a great deal, and talk softly.

The household a cat comes from makes a great difference. We usually forget they are classified as predators, but no animal goes wild as quickly as a cat. Not everyone knows the secret of how to tame a cat, to domesticate her so that she becomes attached to them. We must love an animal so that it feels loved.

It is true that our cats sometimes scratch us, but this isn't through viciousness, even though it may seem that way. A cat also uses its claws to hold on to things and to climb. Its paw has four toes and a thumb and it's a peculiarity of the cat that it sometimes uses all five digits to hold on to something - just like monkeys and humans do. So, when a cat holds on to you, you must take care extracting yourself and never withdraw your hand too quickly.

We have a sweet cat that loves to climb onto our shoulders, especially when we're holding food. It isn't pleasant for the ladies when the cat's claws penetrate their shoulders, through the thin fabric of their clothes. But does this mean the cat is vicious? Not at all! When the cat grabs our hand to accept a tasty morsel and we withdraw our hand, it is we who have wounded ourselves on her claws - we cannot claim that it is the cat who scratched us. The accompanying photos show you cat taking a piece of liver, something cats love very much. Notice how she grabs the hand with her paws, but be assured that she isn't using her claws.

Whenever a cat strikes out with her claws, it is in self-defence, because it doesn't trust the situation. Gain its trust and try to find out what it loves - for example as regards her accommodation.

I once read that a cat demands a pillow to sleep on and to gloriously curl up upon. This is rather exaggerated. For example, a cat also loves to lie on paper, thin or thick. So beware - if your newspaper is on the table, Puss will lie on it.

In the room where she was supposed to sleep, we had a so-called cat basket for our cat, but she hardly ever used it. She made her sleeping place in a spare room with tall and low cupboards, and slept on one of the cupboards hanging on the wall. Quite how she reached that place in the dark remained a mystery to us. Even in broad daylight it was a remarkable feat. On that cupboard there was a tool box and also another box, about 30 centimetres long, 15 centimetres wide and 10 centimetres deep. That was her favourite bed. And sometimes she slept on top of the tools!

One night, our large dog had to spend the night in the room so the dog basket was placed in there. Out of curiosity, because cats are very inquisitive, Puss was very soon sitting in the middle of the basket. After we moved house, she got another room of course, where coincidentally there was a different, large basket lying on its side. How wonderful! Just as she did in later days with the junk cupboard, she always used to climb into the basket whenever the door was ajar.
The moral of this story is to try to find out which sleeping place the cat prefers most!

What is certain is that they usually prefer a very high sleeping-place. In the animal shelter in The Hague, in all the cages, there are little wooden boxes near ceiling height and these are the cats' favourites. The animals can sit there peacefully. When the shelter was first renovated, the cat department was above that of the dogs' boarding kennels, under the roof. It became clear that the cats were always sitting on the roof beam where it ran through their cage. Thus in every new cat accommodation, boxes were placed against the ceiling.

It was a long time ago that the old shelter built accommodation for cats. Information was first sought from England, and the board of directors was advised that keeping a lot of cats together in one room was discouraged, as some cats are stressed and intimidated by others. It also aided the spread of contagious diseases and deaths could result. For this reason, The Hague's animal shelter provided every cat with its own space. The results were excellent.

One such pen measures one metre wide, 1 metres deep and over 2 metres high. At a height of 0.75 metre there is a plank or table across the whole width of the pen, with a depth of about 80 centimetres. This has a sloping, ridged plank leaning against it, which the cats can climb up. On one corner of the table is another little table, this one free-standing, under which a basket can be placed. During hot weather, instead of a basket, the cats got a sheet of paper, which they loved, but the shelter had to discontinue this practice because of shortage of paper. At ground level there is a stone or enamelled litter-pan which is cleaned daily. If the litter-pans are not cleaned every day, the cats may forget their house-training. The litter-pan should contain dry (white) sand, sawdust or peat litter (but not peat dust). Up on the shelf are placed the food and drinking bowls.

What should a cat eat? Anything that is on the menu! Of course, there are things they don't like, and what one cat loves, another won't touch. That's how it works for people and that's it works the same way for animals. But I'm willing to argue that all cats love oatmeal porridge. Our own cat, for example, doesn't like snacks, but she can't resist porridge.

When feeding a cat, you must first take note of its condition. Is it a young cat, or its a female either about to have kittens or just had them, is it a tomcat that is often out on tiles and returns home with torn cheeks and covered in scratches; whether it's summer or winter, and also if the cat has recently been ill and needs building up a little. It is said that you should feed kittens raw meat as soon as they want to take it. Although a little meat every now and again, isn't harmful, a diet that consists largely of meat will be very detrimental. Good, uncooked, lukewarm milk, milk porridge and, when the kitten is older, some cooked vegetables, lentils and peas in their own broth is far better, because it is more easily digestible.

After the cat has cut its adult teeth, you can give them some lightly digestible meat. Good white bread, cooked or softened with broth, is also excellent and although variety in food is necessary, it is recommended that when you acquire a new cat, you ask how it has been fed, because sudden changes in diet will have adverse effects.

It is impossible to give any universal instructions on how to feed a cat, because this it is rarely the same for any two cats. A cat should finish its meal with taste and you shouldn't leave her food just "standing there". However, you must never spoil their cat for simple food, by always feeding them rich foods, like roast bones. It is advisable that you don't always give softened or soft food; this is not good for the teeth, or for the intestines, because the stomach can't do its work properly and it will disturb the digestive functions. The beneficial effect of saliva upon the digestion, will be eliminated. Healthy cats also like to munch on dry cakes, dried fish and meat.

That a cat needs two square meals a day is not a hard and fast rule. However, you should always keep the following in mind: regularity, good hygiene in everything, variety in diet, enough but never too much and always provide plenty of clean water.

When the weather is cold, you should try to raise your cat's inner heat by giving it more powerful food just as birds are given poppy seed. For cats, the best course is to feed more meat and fish, and in somewhat larger quantities. We've read in an English magazine, that you should give a cat more meat and fish when it gets older. Naturally this also applies to cats that need building up and strengthening a little.

If it happens that your cats, like dogs, dislike milk give them some goat's milk, even watered down a little. I am convinced they will love it.

We have read in an English book that we should give cats uncooked milk, but it doesn't explain why. It is possible that cats, like many people, don't enjoy the unnatural "cooking taste"? We spoke about this to an expert, who didn't want to claim that cats are not susceptible to typhoid, foot-and-mouth disease or tuberculosis, which is the reason we cook milk. However, he declared that uncooked milk is more nutritious. In our opinion, you could give goat's milk without cooking it, because of the manner in which keep goats compared to other livestock cattle.

Bread, preferably stale, is also a staple part of the diet and is given soaked in milk. For cats that don't want to eat it, you should mix it with solid food.

In England cat exhibitions are popular and have so much success, that some people keep cats purely for that purpose. Without wishing to champion of the exhibiting of animals, I cannot help but think that these cat shows have a wholesome effect on the care of the animals, because they are also judged on their overall condition at the show. Some people go so far as to feed their cats only animal food and, giving them meat one day and fish the next to provide variety in the diet.

For cats that are "off their food" I recommend ox liver, cooked and then baked hard and grated over their food. This will soon get them eating again. Some cats are simply small eaters but haven't gone off their food, while the greediness of others might be mistaken for hunger.

It's odd that we're always looking for fortifying food, but we throw away the best of the food: we usually throw away the water our vegetables are boiled in although it is rich in nutrients. We can use this, instead of plain water, to moisten the food of dog and cat. It also appears that limewater is beneficial, especially for young cats. It is sufficient to give a teaspoonful of phosphate of lime (bone meal); in small quantities this is advantageous for their bones, but larger quantities will cause constipation.

According to English breeders, no food has so much healing power as grass. They go as far as to sow grass in pots and subsequently place these within reach of their cats, if the cats have no access to a lawn. Grass can also satisfy the cat's need to use their teeth and bite into something, as well as providing certain stimulating salts.


Naturally, in this next section, I will only mention the so-called home remedies which merely serve as first aid in case of accidents. More serious illnesses and injuries should be treated by veterinarians.

The veterinarian's prescribed treatment isn't always easily carried out by a layman. For example, giving food, either liquid or solid. If the cat is proving difficult to treat, firstly ensure that it put up any resistance by scratching. To do this, wrap a large cloth around its body, including its paws. To administer the medicine, you shouldn't break open the mouth, but leave it closed. You should simply insert an index finger into its mouth between the cheeks and molars to form a little pocket, into which you can pour small doses of the medicine. The easiest way to do this is to use of a pharmacy bottle of approximately 20 grams, into which you have poured the correct dosage. For administering castor oil, you must use a larger bottle, otherwise you will be unable to administer sufficient of the liquid. By placing the filled bottle in a cup of warm water, you can make the castor oil more liquid and thinner. Put the warmed bottle against your closed eye or against your cheek to judge if it is not too warm. When Puss doesn't want to swallow its medicine, you should hold closed her nose for a moment, keeping Puss's head upright during this process.

Pills should be placed on the back of the tongue, as far back as possible. Powders should, in general, be placed in the same place. Powders are given more easily, because it will soon adhere to the mucous membranes and nothing is lost, excepting any that might be coughed away. Powders can also be given in stiffly beaten egg whites.

I now wish to discuss the ailments that can easily be treated by laymen.

Mild Ear Infection

You will quickly notice when a cat suffers from an ear infection because it scratches itself with its hind leg. This alone can cause injury. The ailment itself results from inflammation of the skin of the ear canal, which produces an unpleasant smelling fluid discharge, which is the cause of infection. The patient can be seen to lower the infected ear and shake its head continuously.

When you are in tune with your animals, you immediately notice what is going on and then treatment will be simple. Wind a piece of surgical cotton wool around the end of a matchstick, having first removed the sharp edges so that the piece of wood does not injure the ear, and clean the ear with that; both where it is causing trouble and also the folds of the ear. You can go quite deeply, but must be very careful not to touch the eardrum! Prepares about four or five of these beforehand and once the cotton wool no longer gets dirty, use the same method to put a little boracic ointment into the ear. After a few such treatments, the complaint should be remedied.

If the infection is more significant, you must seek the help of a veterinarian. This ailment could also be caused by warts and what is known as canker of the ear. In this case the veterinarian should also intervene. To see deeply into the ear canal, you will need to pull back the ear a little.

Digestive Complaints

It is unwise to give your cat purgatives. If it suffers from a case of constipation, give it some cooked vegetables or some salad oil. The oil from sardines is also very good and can be mixed with some drops of castor oil; this will be lapped up eagerly.

It is also inadvisable to treat a case of diarrhoea using certain compounds. A chance in diet, for example with some rice, is recommended. Should the ailment become more serious, you must seek the advice of a veterinarian.

Fits Or Seizures

Sometimes a seemingly healthy cat suddenly collapses and suffers convulsions before slowly and dazedly regaining consciousness a few moments later. It will drool fluid and mucus from its mouth. Such fits can have many different causes and you should not fail to consult a veterinarian.

Troublesome Visitors

Earlier, I discussed greediness. This greediness can be caused by worms, in which case the cat can eat as much as it likes but will remain thin. If you notice your cat showing an extraordinary appetite, check for fragments of worms in her litter-pan. Any smaller or larger white sections are indicative of her having worms. In this case ask your veterinarian to prescribe a remedy for your cat.

Tapeworms secrete elongated sections of 1 centimetre long and approximately 3 millimetres wide.

It is unnecessary to mention that the flea is another unpleasant and awkward pest for cats, especially for long-haired cats, because their fur is so woolly and dense. Comb your cat and washes it with the more harmless detergents that are available. You can get information about these from any veterinarian, pet clinic or animal shelter. The cat's basket and sleeping-place must also be thoroughly cleaned, because these can - and will - be contaminated by the eggs and larvae of fleas.

The cat louse is a grey and yellow insect with an oval body, approximately the size of a pin-head. It can usually be found where the cat cannot reach with its paws, and on the bodies of unkempt and weakened cats. This parasite causes a sort of eczema, by which it can be recognised, though one usually discovers numerous nits or eggs, that are placed at an angle on the hairs.

To cure the cat effectively, you should both fighting the lice and, at the same time, fortify the cat. Since the cat's skin will be especially dry, you should provide as much fat in the diet as possible. There are detergents available, which are not poisonous to cats, but you should remember, that carbolic, lysol, creolin and other such remedies will be absorbed into their skin with lethal consequence. It is also wrong to use so-called hair-cologne.

Scabies [mange]

This is a much more serious illness and also much harder to cure. The parasite that causes it is a mites (Acarid) resembling the cheesemite. This is so very small, that it can't be seen with the naked eye, but, as small as it is, it is incredibly fertile. The female mite digs herself into the skin and lays about 24 eggs. These hatch within a week and after a few weeks these offspring also lay eggs. And thus, reproduction is so fast, that there will be 1,000,000 offspring within 90 days!

A cat contracts scabies mange by coming into contact with cats that are already infected. The illness can also pass on to dogs and even people. Luckily, not every skin disorder is scabies. Don't become over-anxious, but be careful and consult the veterinarian as soon as you notice bald spots on the skin, around the eyes, on the ears etc. of your cat.


During treatment of wounds great hygiene is a prerequisite and you must keep the wounds as clean as possible. However, many disinfectants are poisonous for cats, so you must be very careful. A good remedy is permanganate of potash 1 : 300 [Condy's]. Also, peroxide of hydrogen and 2% soda solution. Prevention is always better than cure. Of course, you can't prevent a cat getting bitten or cutting itself by falling through a window, for example. However, you can prevent Puss from playing with the pins and needles on your pincushion. Cats seem to love those ladies' articles very much and they also seem to like the taste. Cats often have to be treated because a needle or pin has become lodged in their throat. I even know of a case, where a cat had swallowed a 17 centimetre long hatpin, with the head downwards. Needless to say, in such cases you must seek the help of a veterinarian, as this will require the cat to be put under anaesthetic.

One should also take care that Puss doesn't get hold of the large bones of birds, because the splinters from these bones are so sharp that they become lodged in the intestines and the animal will need to have an operation - that if you discover what is making Puss ill!


Surgery under anaesthetic is always preferable because the surgeon can perform the surgery in a calmer manner and not wound the animal unnecessarily. It is also greatly important that the animal won't suffer the enormous fear it would otherwise experience during an operation. An animal's wound that is operated on under anaesthetic, heals much better and more rapidly, because the animal, at least in the important first days after surgery, won't be aware of what has happened. An animal that has been operated on while fully conscious will quickly start trying to tear off its bandages.


These, one treats as quickly as possible with lots of boracic ointment or vaseline. Even butter is excellent for first aid.


Cats may be sick, or apathetic, or have no appetite, without us knowing what is wrong with them. In Japan, they are in the habit of giving a raw egg and they claim that the cats have been restored to health. This may be tested.

Before I ending this essay, I wish to warn against the results of the great curiosity displayed by cats. A cat seems to need to explore everywhere and therefore crawls into every hole, even if she can barely fit. For example, how often have you heard about cats that have become stuck under floorboards or bricked in behind walls or locked up in cupboards and therefore become lost? Recently, I heard about a black cat, which crawled into a stove, after which the stove was closed and lit. It was only by chance that the cat was saved in time.

As a rule, tomcats which aren't neutered, will at certain times soil the house. The neutering operation can take place at the age of six months (or older) and is performed under anaesthetic by the veterinarian, completely free of pain and safe. This is greatly recommended.


After all is said and done, there remains one more thing: To give a cat or dog, that is critically injured or incurably ill, a peaceful death. It is best to consult a veterinarian, who will decide, in every individual case, the best way to release the animal from its suffering.


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