CAT CARE RETROSPECTIVE - THE 1800s
According to Darwin in 1859, developing distinct cat breeds was not particularly successful and he implied that it was largely a woman's hobby. He wrote "we rarely see a distinct breed long kept up". Unlike farm livestock, which were bred to improve their usefulness to farmers, cats were bred for aesthetic appeal. Other writers of the time dismissed cats as useful only because they hunted vermin. By this time, various creatures were being competitively bred for their appearance (including lap dogs) and cats were soon to follow suit.
Harrison Weir's cat show in 1871 demonstrated that selective breeding was being pursued successfully and enthusiastically and by men as well as by women. 32 of the 54 prizes were awarded to gentlemen. Early breeds recognised were Longhairs (embracing Persians, Angoras and Russian Longhairs), Shorthairs (i.e. British Shorthair), Russian Blue (often exhibited unsuccessfully in the general Shorthair class), Manx, Siamese and Abyssinian cats.
The following is from "The Cat" by St George Mivart (1881) (I have placed his footnotes with the text to which they apply): "The tabby cat may be the result of the occasional crossing of the domestic cat with the wild cat. That they do breed together occasionally is certain, and indeed races of domestic cats of different parts of the world will breed with wild cats of the same region. [Footnote on domestic/wild cat interbreeding: This has been ascertained by Mr A H Wills, who succeeded in getting the wild and domestic cat to breed together in confinement (See Land and Water, Sept 4th, 1875; and the Zoologist for 1873, p 3574; and for 1876, pp4867 and 5038). Mr SCB Pusey has also successfully crossed the wild and domestic cat, and several kittens resulting from this cross have been sent to the gardens of the Zoological Society of London. This interbreeding is remarkable, seeing that the period of gestation of the wild cat is sixty-eight days, or twelve days longer than that of the domestic animal.]
The tortoiseshell cat should be fawn-coloured, mottled with black. Cats that are thus marked are almost invariably females, while sandy-coloured cats are almost always males. It appears that the sandy tom cat is the male of the breed of which the tortoiseshell is the female - the litters being almost invariably so divided. This fact is very interesting, because the sexes of cat-like animals are similarly coloured. Sometimes, however, sandy cats are female and there is at least one good instance of a true tortoiseshell tom cat. Such cats, indeed, have not unfrequently been offered, by letter, to the Secretary of the Zoological Society, at very extravagant prices. Probably many of them were male cats of three colours - such as white and tortoiseshell and grey-white and sandy - but not the true tortoiseshell. [Footnote on colouration: The only exception I have met with is the Yaguarondi of America, in which species the female is said to be of a lighter and brighter colour than the male. Note: Mivart was wrong about sandy-coloured cats - they may be either gender. He also failed to realise that three-colour cats were a form of tortoiseshell and were subject to the same rules.]
The Royal Siamese is of one uniform fawn colour, which may be of a very dark tinge. There is a tendency to a darker colour about the muzzle - as in pug dogs. It has also two remarkable blue eyes, and sometimes, at the least, two bald spots on the forehead. It has a small head. The blue or Carthusian cat is a breed with long, soft hair of a uniform dark greyish-blue tint, with black lips and black soles to the paws. The Angora or Persian cat, is remarkable for its great size, and for the length and delicacy of its hair, especially of the belly and throat. Most commonly its coat is of a uniform white, yellowish or greyish colour, while the soles of its paws and its lips are often flesh coloured. Its temperament is said to be sometimes exceptionally lethargic; but this is certainly not always the case, and may be due to excessive petting for generations. This breed is believed by some naturalists to be descended from an Asiatic wild cat, with a shorter tail that that of the Egyptian cat. It is commonly repeated in works on Natural History that there is in China a breed of cats with pendent ears; but the Pere David regards the assertion as absurd fable. He has repeatedly sought to find such animals, but has never been able to see any, or to learn that they existed. [Footnote on Persian: Pallas says that cats like the Angora cat are brought to Siberia from China. Zoographica Russo-Asiatica, vol i, p28, note 3] [Footnote on Pere David: The well-known Lazarist missionary and naturalist, who has made so many interesting discoveries in China and Thibet.]"
The limited variety of cats seen in the early days of the cat fancy meant that foreign varieties were often unfairly compared to the familiar British tabby. The following is excerpted Philip Rule's "The Cat - Its Natural History, Domestic Varieties; Management and Treatment" (1887): "Cats are occasionally met with, in the unusual variety class at shows, of very extraordinary colour, as slate colour, uniform grey, or mouse colour, brown, tawny, etc. Such as these may be regarded as simply unfinished tabby cats - if I may be allowed to use the convenient expression. And, occasionally, cats may be seen with six claws." Rule refers to the then exotic-looking Siamese cat of the time as being a "curious cat, of one colour, a clear tawny or buff, with the exception of the muzzle, face, ears, and feet, which are black; and the fur is short, but thick and sleek. It is a cat of average size, and of compact build. At first it almost suggests to the mind the figure of a pug dog." His words describe a very different creature from the ultra-thin, ultra-long-nosed parody of a cat created by many modern Siamese breeders.
The first serious cat books (i.e related to purebreds, pedigrees, breeding and exhibiting) in English were Harrison Weir's "Our Cats" written in 1889 and Frances Simpson's "The Book of The Cat" which she edited in 1903. Other information about cats and their care can be found in magazines such as "Fur and Feather" and in the newspapers of the time. Other early cat care books included "Dick Whittington’s Cat Manual" (1896) and Helen Winslow's "Concerning Cats" (1900). In 1889, French author Champfleury's "Le Chat" was published in English.
Frances Simpson’s books were largely collected material from her "Practical Pussyology" columns in Fur & Feather. "The Book of the Cat" was originally published by Cassell & Co in monthly parts, costing 1 shilling each, the first part appearing on 25 September 1901. Cassell & Co advertised it in Fur & Feather: “For a long time past there has been an increasing desire for a book that should represent the Cat by pen and pencil, by painting and photograph, in a manner worthy of the subject - a work at once artistic and practical, lucid and comprehensive, accurate and popular. Such a publication Messrs Cassell & Co are about to produce. It is written by Miss Frances Simpson, a well-known and entertaining writer, whose name is a sufficient guarantee that the text will embrace all those features which are essential for a work of the highest excellence... The illustrations to the Book of the Cat will form a feature of peculiar interest. There will be COLOURED PLATES of the various breeds of Cats, setting forth the perfect type of animal in every variety. These plates will be produced by the three-colour process from original paintings expressly prepared for the work. The fact that this is the first occasion on which coloured plates have been given such a publication will, it is believed, render the book of additional interest to Fanciers and the Cat-loving public at large. THE BOOK OF THE CAT will be profusely illustrated throughout with pictures of well-known prize-winners, fascinating groups of kittens, and other illustrations of Cat life and character, in addition to useful practical diagrams. Photographs of celebrated catteries have also been specially taken for reproduction in the publication. THE BOOK OF THE CAT will be handsomely printed on art paper... Part 1 will contain a coloured plate of a Black Persian Cat, by Madame Ronner, from a painting expressly prepared for the work”. Cassell & Co were also prepared to bind the completed work, for the sum of one guinea, in handsome, illustrated board covers. Some of the more affluent Fanciers had their copies bound in gold-blocked kid leather.
She prefaced her 1903 "Book of the Cat" with the following words, written in August 1903:-
"Fanciers have long felt the want of a work dealing in a popular manner with cats, and it was therefore with great pleasure that I undertook to write THE BOOK OF THE CAT, and to give the results of long experience in as simple and interesting a form as possible. So that the book might be instructive to cat fanciers, and also readable to that portion of the community which loves cats for themselves and not only for their prizes and pedigrees. It is possible that the beautiful reproductions in this work may result in the conversion of some cat haters, who, seeing the error of their ways, may give puss a corner in their hearts. Dogs are more essentially the friends of men, and cats may be considered the chosen allies of womankind.
In the past, as I have endeavoured to show, many noted celebrities of the sterner sex have shown a sympathetic feeling for the feline race. At the present time the number of men fanciers on our cat club lists and exhibitors at our shows tends to prove that the cat is gradually creeping into the affections of mankind, even in this busy work-a-day world. I have given a full description of the various breeds, and have suggested advice as to the feeding, housing and general treatment of cats. The chapters on the management of shows, containing also simple rules for the guidance of exhibitors, will, I trust prove useful and instructive.
In my work I have received most valuable assistance, for which I am deeply grateful, from Mr H Gray, the well-known veterinary surgeon, whose chapter on the diseases of cats will, I am sure, be very interesting to breeders and fanciers. To Mr H C Brooke I must tender my sincere thanks for his chapter on foreign cats, and to Mr E N Barker for his excellent survey of the American cat fancy, and to Mrs Pierce for her notes on Maine cats. Mr Robert Holding's chapter on the anatomy of the cat, with its excellent diagrams, forms a valuable addition to the work. To Mrs S F Clarke I am greatly indebted for the number of clever photographs with which she has so kindly supplied me.
To many of my "catty" friends I offer grateful thanks for interesting items, paragraphs, and pretty photographs; and last, but not least, I have to thank that veteran, Harrison Weir, for his kindly encouragement, and I feel I cannot do better than quote from his letter, received on the completion of my work - enclosing a few remarks for my preface:-
'Miss Frances Simpson has kindly dedicated her labour of love, the fascinating BOOK OF THE CAT, to me, and truly the honour is great. Words cannot convey my feelings, but out of its fulness the heart speaketh - Thanks! I carry my mind back to the long, long ago, when the cat was a god or ideal, and worshipped. Then later, 'our gentle Will' called it ' the harmless, necessary cat,' and then it has ever been, and more than that to many. It is a lonely home without a cat; and for awhile - and I hope for long - cats are the fashion. Thirty years ago it was apparent to me that cats were not valued at their true worth, and then I suggested a show of cats! Let anyone try to start anything new, though novelty is said to charm! Many were the gibes, jokes, and jeers that were thrown at me then. But nothing succeeds like success. Now, if I may without offence say a few word as to present day shows, it is that they have not answered my expectations. Why? Because particular breeds are catered for an run after. Why such breathless talk about long-haired cats, be they blues or silvers? This is not cat breeding. I want, I wish, and, if I live, I hope to see far more of the 'harmless necessary cat' at our shows; for a high-class short-haired cat is one of the most perfect animals ever created.
Far more I might, and perhaps am expected to add; but my life's work is well-nigh done. He who fights honourable the good fight sinks at last. Miss Frances Simpson has rendered me her debtor; and others, beside myself will tender her grateful thanks for her work in the cause of the cat and for the welfare of the fancy. Adieu!'
Mr Harrison Weir's words are precious to me, and now that my "labour of love" is ended I can only re-echo his wish and express a hope that the many pages I have devoted to the "harmless, necessary cat," whose fireside friendship I have enjoyed all the years of my life, may awaken and arouse a greater interest in and admiration for these gentle, complex creatures, who in return for a little understanding will give a great deal of love."
Little is known about Frances Simpson herself. She was obviously well-educated and unmarried. She had a Kensington address and was therefore relatively well-off. However, she evidently needed additional income to support her catty work since she took on paid work (copying out pedigrees for sixpence each, reduced to 1 shilling per dozen by 1924) and she endorsed veterinary products such as Wilson’s cat remedies and could not speak highly enough of Salvo's remedies (though Salvo had no veterinary qualifications and, in the modern day, would probably have been labelled a quack). She endorsed products which, she allegedly admitted in private, she would never use on her own cats, such as "Tinkers Kit-Kat Mixture" (“Prevents and Cures Distemper, Fits and Fevers”) and "Nomis Powders" (“Prevent Show Fever!”).
She was not only an author and breeder; she was a show judge, a fund-raiser for cat rescues, a show organiser, a committee member on many cat clubs, a contributor to "Fur & Feather", in which she gave advice and solved catty problems. Whether writing on her own behalf or on behalf of clubs or magazines, the apparently indefatigable Simpson was a prolific correspondent. Keenly aware of the need to keep accurate breeding records, she not only provided a pedigree template, she advertised her services in making copies of pedigrees for others.
While her books are stuffed full of pictures of cat fanciers and their cats, there are few pictures of Simpson herself. In "Cats and All About Them" (1902) there is a photo of her as an elegant and fashionable young lady. Two decades later in "Cats For Pleasure and Profit" (1924) age, a changing world and a world war, have taken their toll on a more plainly dressed Simpson.
According to Frances Simpson in 1903:
We have no record that the cat became domesticated in great Britain and France before the ninth century, when it would seem that she was by no means common […] No doubt wild cats abounded in our islands, and this creature is described by Pennant as being three or four times as large as the house cat. The teeth and claws are, to use his expression, "tremendous," and the animal is altogether more robust. The tail of the wild cat is thick and as large at the extremity as it is in the centre and at the base; that of the house cat tapers to the tip. This ferocious creature, well named the British tiger, was formerly common enough in the wooded and mountainous districts of England, Scotland, and Wales, but owing to the attention paid to the preservation of game it has gradually become almost if not entirely exterminated. In olden times, when wild cats were hunted and capture, the principal use they were put to was to trim with their fur the garments of the ladies in the various nunneries scattered over the land. A writer of the Middle Ages says; "The peasants wore cat skins, badger skins, &c." it would appear that lambs' and cats' skins were of equal value in that period.
Harrison Weir, in his work on cats, tells us that in 1871 and 1872 a wild cat was exhibited at the Crystal Palace by the Earl of Hopetoun; he also mentions that as late as 1889 Mr Edward Hamilton, MD, writing to the Field, gives information of a wild cat being shot at Inverness-shire. He states: "A fine specimen of a wild cat was sent to me on May 3rd, trapped on the Ben Nevis range. Its dimensions were: from tnose to base of tail, 1 foot; height at shoulders, 1 foot 2 inches." In July, 1900, a paragraph to the following effect appeared in the Stock-Keeper: "The Zoological Society have just acquired a litter of wild cats. This is the only instance where a whole litter has been sent to the Gardens. It was taken not far from Spean Bridge, Inverness-shire."
The late Professor Rolleston, in an article on the "Domestic Cats of Ancient and Modern Times" (Journal of Anatomy and Physiology), has well explained much of the confusion about cats in former writers and their so-called interpreters. He shows how loosely now, as long ago, the word "cat" and its classic equivalents may be employed. Just as we speak of civet cats and martens. Up to the beginning of this century the wild cat was wrongly thought to be the original of the tame species. Yet apart from more exact evidence this is shown to be an error if we note the value set upon domestic cats in former centuries. The Rev Dr Fleming, in his "History of British Animals" (1828), points out some of the distinctions between the two species. He also alludes to the spotted variety, termed the Cypress Cat, as noted by Menet, who wrote the earliest book on British natural History in 1667. "It is a curious fact," says Mr J E Herting, an eminent naturalist, "that in Ireland, notwithstanding reports to the contrary, all endeavours to find a genuine wildcat have failed, the so-called 'wild cat' of the natives proving to be the 'marten cat,' a very different animal."
Curiosities were much in vogue in the mid-to-late 1800s, especially at the various popular public exhibitions. Just as livestock shows valued weighty specimens, cat shows offered a prize to "the heaviest cat" and "the largest cat", encouraging obesity. A 19th Century Lithograph called "Large Cat" records a 7 year old 24 lb cat described as "this noble specimen, domesticated at 175, Oxford Street ... very docile though his unusually large size conveys to the beholder, at first sight a contrary impression. [...] extremely active and rarely inconvenienced by his great bulk." The winner of the Weir's 1871 Crystal Palace show's ‘Heaviest Cat’ title was a 21 lb tabby cat.
Between 1873 and 1904, the Scottish Wildcat was experimentally crossed with various domestic breeds. Some of these hybrids (and also pure-bred Scottish wildcats) were exhibited to the public. Some years later, in 1939, Frances Pitt reported that Wildcat hybrids are "nervous and queer-tempered", tending to revert to wild type ("Wild Animals in Britain", Frances Pitt). Some of the "freaks" exhibited were even more curious.
Unless properly groomed, longhaired cats were prone to matted fur, especially along their sides. This, along with the then unknown "Feline Cutaneous Asthenia" condition resulted in "winged cats". Several such cats were described or exhibited as freaks in the 1800s and there were some extraordinary explanations for their appearance. Henry David Thoreau described a 'winged cat' in 1842, "Some thought it was part flying squirrel or some other wild animal, which is not impossible, for, according to naturalists, prolific hybrids have been produced by the union of the marten and the domestic cat"
Another was reported by the Independent Press and the Cambridge Weekly news in August 1894. It was exhibited locally around Reach, Cambridgeshire, England - admission 2 pennies. Another was reported in 1897 in Matlock, Derbyshire and reported in the High Peak News of Saturday 26 June 1897. In 1899, London's Strand Magazine contained a report of a ‘winged cat’ or kitten from Wiveliscombe, Somerset, England (image top left of this quartet). These are all described in Winged Cats.
Belief in hybrids between cats and other animals was not uncommon. In 1842, Thoreau had been told that cats freely hybridised with martens and possibly with squirrels. In May 1871, TW Higginson wrote to "American Naturalist" about a cat which was "The offspring of a domestic cat and a tame racoon, kept in the same family in China, Maine. I was informed that there had been several litters of these hybrids [...] It would be exceedingly interesting to compare the different offspring of this strange union. I was unable to ascertain which of the parents - cat or racoon - was the female; nor could I obtain the name of the person in China, Maine, beneath whose roof these singular offspring were produced."
In 1893, a Mr J N Baskett wrote to the journal "Science" about two Coon Cats in Chicago, " They had been obtained in the edge of the forest around Moosehead Lake, and it was claimed that they were hybrids, or descendants of the domestic cat and the racoon."
Perhaps the most enduring impossible hybrid is that of the cat-rabbit. Joseph Train of Castle Douglas, Galloway wrote "An Historical and Statistical Account of the Isle of Man" (1845) which stated that Manx cats were the product of matings between female cats and buck rabbits.
"My observations on the structure and habits of the specimen in my possession, leave little doubt on my mind of its being a mule, or crosses between the female cat and the buck rabbit. In August, 1837, I procured a female rumpy kitten, direct from the Island. Both in its appearance and habits it differs much from the common house cat: the head is smaller in proportion, and the body is short ; a scut or brush like that of a rabbit, about an inch in length, extending from the lower vertebra, is the only indication it has of a tail. The hind legs are considerably longer than those of the common cat, and, in comparison with the fore legs, bear a marked similarity in proportion to those of the rabbit. Like this animal too, when about to fight, it springs from the ground and strikes with its fore and hind feet at the same time. The common cat strikes only with its fore paws, standing on its hind legs. The rumpy discharges its urine in a standing posture, like a rabbit, and can be carried by the ears apparently without pain. Like every species of the feline, it is carnivorous and fond of fish, and is an implacable enemy to rats and mice."
"My opinion, as to the origin of the rumpy, has been strengthened by a coincident circumstance connected with this district. A few years ago, John Cunningham, Esq., of Hensol, in the stewardry of Kirkcudbright, stocked a piece of waste land on his estate with rabbits, which multiplied rapidly. In the immediate neighbourhood of this warren rumpy cats are now plentiful, although previously altogether unknown in the locality. Not a doubt seems to exist as to the nature of their origin. I am afraid the known facilities which exist in the Isle of Man, for giving effect to this opinion as to the origin of the rumpy, may go far to dissipate the cherished belief of the Islanders, in its being a distinct genus. At the same time I am far from wishing my statements to be understood as settling the question. My opportunities of observation have induced this general opinion of their origin, but, as it is possible many local objections may be taken to its reception, I would willingly avail myself of any authenticated communication on this head, before the final publication of my work. I have no wish, apart from the discovery of truth, to deprive the Island of this, or any of its peculiarities."
In 1809, a female cat in Edinburgh produced several litters of tailless kittens; these were reported as curiosities, but the strain vanished. In 1837 a race of tailless cats had been reported in Pendarvis, Cornwall and also in a village in Dorset, though the latter were said to be from the Cornish stock. In 1909, this tailless variety was known variously as the Cornwall cat or Manx cat; geographical and genetic isolation allowed the trait to persist on the Isle of Man and the name "Manx" became official.
Writers such as R S Huidekoper ("The Cat", 1895) and Frances Simpson ("The Book of the Cat", 1903) did not give credence to the cat/rabbit hybrid myth, but nevertheless considered the Manx monstrous or grotesque. To his credit, Harrison Weir ("Our Cats", 1889) did not give credence to this myth nor to a myth which suggested they derived from cats whose tails had been accidentally or artificially amputated. The Manx was one of the earliest recognised breeds although its deformity (which can include spinal problems) would be a barrier to recognition had it only been discovered recently.
Other curiosities of the time included two-headed animals and animals with additional limbs and stuffed specimens or skeletons are still held in some museums.
The popular image of cats from that era was a cat or kitten with a chocolate-box bow and seen lapping from a saucer of milk. Despite the popular image of cats drinking milk, many owners were well aware that it caused diarrhoea. Cats were often sent unaccompanied to shows in baskets or even in sacks (with only their heads visible) and many an owner whose cat had been given milk while at the show lamented the messy, smelly state of the cat when it arrived home. Experts suggested that cats should not be fed before their journey to avoid them soiling themselves while travelling to the show.
Too much fat was believed to be bad for cats and meat was trimmed, however mutton suet was used to treat diarrhoea. Mutton and horsemeat were commonly fed to cats (there were many knacker's yards and horse-slaughterers in the 1800s; cab horses were far too often worked to death). Fish was another staple in the feline diet. Too much raw meat was believed to cause fits (raw pork containing tapeworm cysts might have been the culprit).
This advice is from CARING FOR CATS (The New York Times, October 7, 1883; reprinted from Chambers's Journal)
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 and 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 generally has a chance of doing, but not always in towns. A saucer should be always 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 animals 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 in keeping it so. When ill or neglected, the coat 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.
This advice is from HOME PETS (Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, 29th September 1895) and covers feeding and grooming:
Of all the domestic pets the Cat is the one the most generally kept, and in many instances the most neglected. Certainly the Cat shows that have been held in recent years have attracted more attention to our feline friends, and have caused new breeds to be imported from all quarters of the globe. Cat culture has in consequence become quite a fashionable hobby. But, still, there are but few people who pay any attention to the diet of puss, or who realise that to turn them out of doors of a night is only an advantage to the mice, and is certainly detrimental to the comfort of the neighbours. A little care in feeding is well repaid by the improved appearance of the animal. The use of grass as a natural medicine should not be overlooked. The cat will usually eat it eagerly. It acts as an emetic when taken in quantities, and in small doses as a purgative. By its use the long hair, which, by the frequent licking of the coat, is conveyed into the stomach and intestine, is got rid of. Bread and milk makes a good breakfast, and for dinner a little meat, with sometimes some cooked vegetables, and a change now and then in the shape of fish. Only just as much food s they will eat at one time, with plenty of fresh water in clean vessels. A very little butter given daily will make them clean their coats with great regularity.
The feeding has a good deal to do with the length and gloss of the coat, and this is much assisted by the frequent application of the brush and comb. Persian, and other long-coated cats, must not be allowed out in the rain. Their thick coats will not dry readily, and the seeds of consumption are often laid by needless wetting. In choosing a kitten, select the largest, liveliest, ant healthiest-looking of the litter, not, as in choosing puppies, the sleepiest-looking. The bright kitten turns out the best cat. When it is necessary to give medicine to a cat, wrap the patient in a large cloth, or woollen shawl, so that every part except the head is covered. Then, place her on someone else's knees to hold, and, with a firm hand, open the mouth wide. Do not attempt to pour too much down the cat's throat at once; only a few drops at a time, and either out of a small bottle or spoon. If a pill is to be given it must be first dipped in oil, and placed well at the back of the tongue. After the dose has been swallowed turn her into a room where she can be quiet, and where she can have a comfortable bed, and do not give any food for at least two hours afterwards.
Borax in Milk: In the late nineteenth century England, borax (sodium borate; an alkaline white powder) was used to preserve milk. Bacterial growth made milk more acidic, so the addition of borax to sour milk made it palatable again. Borax did not kill the bacteria in the milk, it merely disguised the taste of spoiled milk. In towns, householders might unwittingly buy "fresh" milk already treated with borax and then add more borax to it at home. In large quantities, borax causes sickness; 5 grammes, about one fifth of an ounce, would have been sufficient to kill a small child (more scientifically, 2.66g/kg is lethal to rats), while prolonged consumption of borax could damage the liver. Through observation, serious cat fanciers considered "London milk" unsuitable for cats. Among the general public, milk was considered a necessity of life for cats, and many cats probably suffered ill-effects through repeatedly consumption of borax-treated milk that disguised high levels of bacteria. Meanwhile in the USA, formalin was used to preserve milk and this was demonstrated to be toxic to cats.
Pedigree cats were believed prone to dyspepsia (indigestion). In 1901, "How to Keep Your Cat in Health" written by "Two Friends of the Race" wrote "[Dyspepsia] is more often met with in highly-bred and notably show specimens, when a too-fixed and stimulating system of feeding is adopted". At the time, pedigree cats were not usually fed horse meat (fed to household cats) but lean chopped mutton. Other things fed to cats were for medicinal rather than nutritional purposes. A whole kipper helped cure constipation. Regular doses of fish oil (cod liver, halibut or sardine), salad oil or olive oil kept them regular. If cod liver oil was not available, fried bacon and bacon fat could be given instead. Crushed clay pipes were fed to cats to cure diarrhoea. Eggs, cream and brandy were added to the diet to treat enteritis. A conditioning tonic (also given after a cat had had her kittens taken away) might be made by mixing olive oil, milk, cream and salad oil beaten together.
According to Frances Simpson (1903): "One of the strangest and most profitable trades in London is the wholesale and retail business of horsemeat for cats. In barrows and carts the hawkers of this horse-flesh cry their wares throughout the city and suburbs, and find a ready sale for them. It is stated that 26,000 horses, maimed, or past work, are slaughtered and cut up each year to feed out household pets. Each horse means on an average 275 pounds of meat, and this is sold by pussy's butcher in half pennyworths skewered on bits of wood. The magnitude of this trade can be estimate by the fact that it keeps constantly employed thirty wholesale salesmen. I may mention that a cats'-meat men's supper was organised last year in London but the editor of Our Cats, assisted by Mr Louis Wain and others; and a most successful entertainment was given at the City of New York Restaurant. The applications for tickets were so numerous that 400 men had to be refused; and when the 250 guests were seated, it was clearly proved that every available inch of accommodation had been utilised. Having been present, I can testify to the excellent supper and entertainment provided for the cats'-meat men of London."
Many of the horses would have been cab horses injured in road accidents or through overwork. It is ironic that in modern times, horsemeat may not be used in pet-food in the UK even though surplus ponies from Dartmoor and the New Forest are slaughtered (or shipped abroad for slaughter) annually. The only reason for this is a strange English taboo against eating horsemeat. The illustration is from 1883 "The Cat's-Meat Man" and is a song celebrating this "Purveyor of Cat's Meat to Her Majesty" (the legend on the basket and barrow in the bottom right corner). The song goes "He calls 'Meat, Meat!', All down the street; And dogs 'bow-wow,' And cats 'mi-ow,' While kittens sly Come purring by, As if to say - 'Do serve us, pray, For we're so small.' The man throws bits Of meat to kits, And cats and dogs; Then on he jogs, And down the street Still cries 'Meat, meat!'"
In her chapter on the "General Care and Management of Cats", Simpson writes: "In the care, management, and feeding of cats no hard and fast rule can be laid down, for the dispositions and constitutions of these animals differ just as much as do those of human beings. Fanciers must therefore learn to treat their cats individually and not collectively; they must study their character and make allowances for the fads and fanciers of the feline race. I am convinced that a varied die is the best for cats, and fanciers should bear in mind the importance of regularity in the hours of feeding, whether two or three or four times a day. fresh water should always be supplied, and unfinished food should not be left standing about. For one or two pet cats the scraps from the kitchen table given with some judgement will probably suffice; but in the case of a large cattery with several inmates, some sort of system in feeding is necessary. I would suggest that the chief meal for two days a week should be fish, mixed perhaps with rice or Freeman's Scientific Food, raw meat twice or three times a week cut up into fairly small pieces, horse-flesh (if obtained from a reliable source) twice a week. Lights, liver, or sardines may be given occasionally. Sloppy food in any large quantity should be avoided; but oatmeal well boiled, cornflour, arrowroot, and several of the well-known foods, such as Neave's or Mellin's, make a nice change. Spratt's biscuits of various kinds, soaked and mixed with stock, are relished by some cats. Vegetables should be given frequently, and grass supplied, as green food purifies the blood and keeps the bowels in good condition. Persian cats require special attention as regards their coats, and should be combed and brushed regularly, and, if the fur becomes matted, the knots should be cut away. Avoid washing your cats; there are other means of cleansing their coats, particulars of which will be given in the chapter on exhibiting."
Naturally thickened or soured milk was also fed to cats; in the American south and mid-west this is called clabber. On both sides of the Atlantic, Benger's Food was also widely recommended for kittens and convalescent cats.
"There's a world of good in the early morning cup of Benger. Mixed with fresh new milk Benger forms a dainty and delicious cream, and is a complete food in most agreeable form".
Sold in powdered form, Benger's Food was wheat flour mixed with pancreatic enzymes and sold as an easily digested food for infants, convalescents and the aged. Prepared according to the instructions, it partially digested itself before being eaten. It could be mixed with milk or beef tea, or used in sauces on other foods. Depending on how it was prepared could be a milky drink, a beefy broth or a floury sludge. 1940s descriptions refer to it as a vitaminised and mineralised powder taken in hot milk, much like a tonic version of Horlicks.
Benger's also produced a book of recipes: Benger's Food Ltd Alimentary Enzymes in Theory and Application, with special reference to their use in treatment and dietetics " (Benger's Food Ltd, Otter Works, Manchester, England 1912). This described foods made by mixing gastric or pancreatic enzymes with milk, cream, beef tea and lentil flour, along with warnings about not mixing enzymes in such a way that they digested each other! The Benger's book aimed for an authoritative scientific tone; its illustrations were microscope slides of congealed partially digested foods to show the flocculation structure and there were numerous references from pre-1910 medical books and journals, for example "Hutchison's Food and the Principles of Dietetics", a treatise on vomiting in pregnancy in "Nursing Times" of March 31st, 1906 and "Benger's Food: Its Wider Uses", from the "Medical Press and Circular" of Jan 23rd, 1907.
Early vet authors such as R S Huidekoper (1895) and J. Woodroffe Hill (1901) also discussed the feeding of cats. Pet cats in rural areas were expected to be self-sufficient or received only kitchen scraps. Those in towns were more reliant on their owners and early feline diets were nutritionally inadequate. The staple diet was milk into which was added bread (preferably stale) and ordinary crackers, water biscuits or oatmeal biscuit. Spratt's Patent cake for cats was considered a useful occasional addition. Oatmeal porridge was said to form an excellent diet, and vegetables were to be given from time to time - with most cats apparently being particularly fond of asparagus and celery! In the late 1800s/early 1900s there was a popular notion that cats should not be fed meat, although some early veterinary writers suggested a cat was better for a small quantity of meat once a day. "They much prefer it raw and prefer mutton to beef. The traditional cat-meat of the cat-meat man, which is known so well in England is made of horse-flesh, and is a wholesome, good food... fish is a very favourite diet with the cat, and can be given from time to time .. boiled liver is useful once in a week or 10 days, or when the cat is a little off its feed, as it acts as a laxative." Nowadays it is realised that cats are obligate carnivores and depend on meat, although a few misguided people would still have it otherwise.
One early veterinary writer described an addition to the ordinary method of feeding, prepared cat food, and endorsed one particular brand, probably earning himself a financial reward for doing so. "The prepared cat food which in my opinion has the best claim to the title is that manufactured by Walker. Harrison and Garthwaite Limited, at the Phoenix Biscuit Works, Radcliffe Cross, F. The ingredients. which I have thoroughly examined, tested and apportioned, being pure, wholesome and adapted to the requirements of the feline stomach. form a suitable diet for all cats where any special invalid food is not required. A great feature in W H and Gs prepared food is its easy digestibility and assimilation. Cats, especially show specimens, thrive well on it, improve in condition and retain the lustre of their coat so necessary in exhibits. Being handy. convenient, cleanly and inexpensive should bring the preparation into general favour with the feline fancy. Full instructions accompany each packet." He also advertised his own formula dog biscuit as being suitable for cats "cats […] thrive amazingly on my patent dog biscuit, manufactured by the above, broken up small and scalded with milk."
This treatise on feeding comes from “The Fanciers’ Column” in the Nottinghamshire Guardian , 12th November 1892: CATS. What a time it is since we gave our friends the cats an innings! Well, if we have neglected them it has not been so elsewhere, for apparently cat shows are becoming more popular every year. The Palace chow last month was a huge success and attracted attention from all quarters, some of the illustrated papers devoting much of their space to the pussies. Only the other day a friend - a keen dog fancier - showed us a few splendid specimens of the now fashionable blue cats which we could not fail to admire. Perhaps a few useful hints on cat diet may prove welcome, and if so we cannot do better than quote the words of one of our most successful and experienced cat fanciers:-
Diet - Breakfast of porridge and milk, boiled rice and milk, or bread and milk. This is the only milk my cats have all day. I do not believe in milk as a regular food. It is not natural, and I consider we want to imitate as far as possible the kind of food our pets would have lived on in their wild state in the mountains of Persia, and there they would not get milk all day. It is too fattening; milk-fed cats are not the finest specimens, and they are very fond of and freely drink water all the rest of the day after their first meal. The mid-day meal is usually composed of boiled fish, mixed with the remains of rice, porridge etc, from breakfast, and occasionally potatoes and greens added. Twice a week this meal is entirely superseded by one of raw meat alone. Shin of beef is cheap, and is a capital thing for cats of all ages. Scraps of meat, trimmings from joints, especially in hot weather, can always be got at any butcher's. This raw meat should be cut up as small as possible, or the animals, in their haste to secure their neighbour's share as well as their own, swallow large pieces, which cannot do them so much good as finely cut ones. I think a good mincing-machine ought to do this work well. Liver and lights are very good for a change. Raw meat of some kind is absolutely essential, and that pretty frequently, if you want your cats to thrive. All cats that have their freedom obtain this kind of food for themselves in the form of birds, mice, rabbits, etc.
Fish. - The fish meal is again repeated about seven o'clock, making the last feeding-time for the day. I have an arrangement with in fishmonger to deliver at my house each day a sufficient quantity of fish - cods' heads, odds and ends, and fish that has just lost its firmness, and is hardly fresh enough to send to customers, but on no account stale. This I have tried, both boiled and raw, and I find very few cats will eat raw fish of this kind. Whole sprats and whitebait are very valuable as appetisers in cases of illness or delicacy. These are generally eaten raw with avidity, but the ordinary fish, unless scalded, is not readily taken, I have noticed the cats are particularly partial to fresh haddocks and cod. It is a wise thing to occasionally fry this fish in any fat or oil, and don't the cats like it! and doesn't it soon disappear!! This fish should always be mixed with something in the bread, potato, or rice line.
Cats' Meat - " Cats' meat,” that is, the horse-flesh that is hawked round the streets and sold at a halfpenny a bunch, I cannot advise, as it is quite impossible to know why the poor beast's, flesh has found its way into the well-known basket. Did he die naturally, or did he die of disease? If he broke his leg was he shot or poisoned? I heard on good authority at the Dogs' Home at Battersea a short time ago of a gentleman who lost an entire kennel of fabulous value through feeding all his dogs on this "cats' meat." He traced the cause, and found that the horse whose carcase was being sold had had a fit and was poisoned, and this poor creature's death-dealing flesh was spread over the whole area of the hawker's district.
Greaves. [the unmeltable protein-rich residue left after animal fat has been rendered.] - There are two qualities of this refuse, for such it really is, being the solid matter which comes from the presses of a tallow and soap manufactory. Only the very best should be used, and it should be fresh; any grocer or flour merchant will get it you direct from the chandler's. It is sent out in hard dry cakes, like bricks. These must be broken up and scalded, and my experience is that almost all cats are most greedy for this kind of food. I believe it should be given sparingly, and only occasionally. Its principal value is the same that applies to tinned brawn, ox -tongue, etc - that, when the larder is empty, and there seems to be temporary famine in the land, one can always fly to the store-cupboard and find , a meal ready to hand. Don't, however, store it too long, as it is apt to become mitey.
A lack of grooming and the tendency to allow all cats to roam free, led to matted cats as previously mentioned. Exhibitors were anxious to present their cats to best effect and this included bathing ("tubbing"), dry bathing (using sand or fullers earth) and combing. It sometimes also included bleaching and dyeing to mask imperfections in show cats. People living in cities were advised not to keep white or pale coloured cats as these were difficult to keep clean! A well know breeder, Mrs. Westlake of Camden Town, London, wrote:
"A few remarks as to the cleansing of white cats may be useful. As a dweller in London, I need scarcely say that unless I occasionally gave personal attention to my pussies they would not always be in the show condition that I would desire. Some fanciers wash their white Persians, but I have come to the conclusion that this treatment tends to coarsen the soft silkiness of the fur; and therefore, for this reason, and also because there is a risk of cats catching cold, especially in winter, I advocate dry cleaning, and suggest the use of Pears' white precipitated fuller's earth. One plan is to place the cat on a large sheet or towel, mix a little ammonia in warm water, dip your hands in this, and pass them over and over the fur, letting it become thoroughly moistened but not wet. Then well sprinkle the coat with the powder, and by keeping the animal in front of the fire the fur will soon become quite dry. Then rub with a soft towel, and finally brush thoroughly with a clean and not too hard brush. Your efforts will be rewarded with success, and though puss may be considerably bored during the process, she will not resent it so much as a tubbing."
An early treatment for external parasites such as lice, was treated by combing the cat with a mixture of vinegar and water. A lotion could be made of one part sulphur mixed with ten parts train oil and applied all over the fur. Alternatively, a wash of equal quantities of hydrogen peroxide and water could be used (but would bleach the fur and was therefore unsuitable for many show cats). Fleas were associated with "dirty" households - cats in clean households simply did not get fleas! To flea powder a cat, the powder was tipped into a drawstring bag and the cat placed in the bag with only its head sticking out. It stayed this way for 15 or 20 minutes, with the powder being patted onto it. Flea powders included flowers of sulphur, powdered tobacco or Persian insect powder. If Persian insect powder was used, the cat was placed on a sheet of newspaper, the powder sprinkled over it and then brushed out. The paper - and the temporarily stunned fleas - must immediately be burned.
Cats were generally believed to become off-colour in the spring, losing their appetites, developing foul breath and unkempt coats. This was probably associated with the spring moult and the female approaching oestrus. Hair ball was not uncommon, especially in longhairs. Hair ball was recognised as a specific ailment; the lack of grooming and the growing popularity of longhairs meant that cats could accumulate sufficient hair to cause serious blockages. Tomcats were believed prone to summertime skin troubles (probably stud tail or fleas) which could be remedied by a twice weekly dose of olive oil. Breeding female cat sometimes developed skin problems after kittening; though normally blamed on her mating with an out-of-condition tomcat (possibly picking up mange or fleas), it may well have been related to nutrition.
In 1893, an anonymous "A Veterinary Surgeon" wrote "The Diseases of Dogs and Cats" which described the neutering of male cats. The cat was immobilised by rolling it in a blanket and the operation carried out without anaesthetic. This vet did not recommend the alternative method whereby a cat was thrust face down in a boot and the operation carried out quickly with a small knife: Everyone has heard of castrating cats, and most people believe that a Wellington boot is the chief accessory, but no-one will use such an awkward instrument twice. If chloroform is not used (which it ought to be), a better plan is to roll the cat up in a blanket or other soft and bulky material, too thick to be bitten through, and soft enough for the nails to get fixed in; then placing the bundle between the knees, with the animal’s back to the operator, an assistant extricates and firmly holds the hind legs while the surgeon makes the scrotum tense with his left hand, boldly cutting through the skin and investing membranes by one incision, seizing the testicle between his finger and thumb, and pulling it out until the cord breaks away, repeating the operation on the other testicle. It should not be cut but pulled out, as no haemorrhage follows this method, and the subject of it, if young, may be found at play a few minutes afterwards, alike unconscious of his loss and ungrateful for the trouble he has been saved in the future. Many people’s houses are made offensive by the smell of a tom cat, because they will not pay a veterinary surgeon’s fee for this simple operation
Another vet of around the same time not recommend anaesthesia and wrote: "Anaesthetics, especially in the shape of chloroform and of ether, are frequently advised for operations on cats. Unless absolute immobility of the animal is required for the success of the operation, I do not like the use of anaesthetics. To begin with, even carefully given, they are dangerous. I have found that animals to which I have given an anaesthetic are more afraid of me afterward than those which I have simply had held properly and produced pain upon. The pain they understand as done for their good; the use of the anaesthetic they do not understand."
An owner could insist on anaesthetics of chloroform or cocaine at additional cost though these were relatively dangerous and it was easy to overdose the cat. Consequently, the spaying of female cats was usually not considered. However, the anonymous veterinarian in his 1893 book wrote: “Operation on females is much more successful, though it is said by those who cannot perform it that they grow fat and useless. Cats are especially benefited by removal of the ovaries; they no longer call their lovers; and it is the she cats who are chiefly responsible for the ‘caterwauling;’ neither are they always in kitten or suckling. A gentleman, who had one done at five years old, says, ‘She was the mother of dozens of kittens, was a continual nuisance, either roaming or calling her lovers, or in a condition of pregnancy, or nursing. She has, ever since the operation, been a perfect pet, without a thought of lovers or families; her roaming propensities are gone and she plays like a kitten.’ The Rev. J. G. Gardner, author of a book on cats, makes a similar statement; as also Mr. A. A. Clark, the treasurer of the National Cat Club.”
The castration of males was considered barbarous in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Unwanted kittens, of which there were many, were disposed of by drowning. This was believed to be quick and painless, even for adult cats. It was believed that after one gasp underwater, the brain formed carbonic acid which made the cat unconscious before it actually drowned. Some of the kittens' bodies were turned into taxidermy studies (such as the "Kittens' Wedding" where the bride, groom and all in attendance are kittens in human attire) or even into stuffed toys for children.
In her 1903 work "The Book of the Cat", Frances Simpson discusses neutering. Her euphemism of "unimpeachable manners" means "not spraying". Unusually for that time, she recommends the use of anaesthetic when castrating tomcats although she does hold to the sad myth that female cats should have a litter of kittens before spaying. Spaying was a rare operation at the time and it is possible that a veterinary surgeon might better be able to find the womb if the cat had previously had kittens - the "just one litter" myth might therefore be rooted in the vet's wellbeing rather than the cat's wellbeing! Simpson also realised that owners might prefer their cats already neutered before they purchased the cat and noted the importance of neutering a cat before it was sexually mature.
"It has been my experience in the past year or two that the demand for neuter cats, or, in other words, household pet pussies, is on the increase; and I am inclined to believe that if some fanciers made a speciality of these cats they might do a thriving trade. As it is, owners of male kittens do not care to undertake the trouble and responsibility of having them gelded, or doctored, as this process is sometimes called, and novices in purchasing are always very anxious that the operation should have taken place before they become possessed of their pets. A selling class for neuters at our large shows would not be at all a bad idea, but the age should be limited to eight months, or at most ten months, as it is only natural that purchasers should desire pussies before they reach the prime of life, so that they may grow up as pets in the home. For reasons that are easily understood, it is necessary, if you wish to have a house-pet of unimpeachable manners, to have your cat doctored when he arrives at years of discretion.
For my own part I consider between five and eight months the best time for a cat to be gelded, but I have often known successful operations taking place much later. It is, however, most important that the tom should not previously have shown any desire to mate. In all cases a cat should be kept on low plain diet for two to three days before being neutered, and it is more humane to pay the extra fee for the use of an anaesthetic."
Early feline medical writers such as R S Huidekoper ("The Cat: A Guide To The Classification And Varieties Of Cats And A Short Treatise Upon Their Care, Management and Diseases", 1895) and J. Woodroffe Hill, Fellow of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, brought out "The Diseases of the Cat". Some of Woodroffe Hill ("The Diseases of the Cat", 1901) also discussed neutering and were more humane in their approach than the earlier anonymous vet Early anaesthetics were unsophisticated and risky: either chloroform or chloral hydrate. Until the end of the 1800s their use was largely reserved for euthanasia until the Animals Anaesthetics Act of 1919 obliged the use of anaesthesia in castrations of cats aged over 6 months old (many vets apparently opted to use it on younger patients as well). Few of the castration methods of the time described tying off the cord (presumably due to the risk of infection) so bleeding after castration was sometimes seen, especially in older patients. Cauterisation was used to prevent bleeding, but is a troublesome haemorrhage occurred the scrotum could be packed with cotton wool soaked in a weak solution of liq. fern perchlor. or in 1 to 1,000 solution of adrenalin. lf bleeding continued, a ligature was applied, but often around the entire scrotal sac! Other complications included wound infection and peritonitis, though the vast majority of cats recovered without ill-effects.
"Female castration" was available, so that females "no longer call their lovers". The earliest form of spaying involved two flank incisions and removal of the ovaries only. Over the years, spaying became more common and in 1925, Hamilton Kirk's "Diseases of the Cat and its General Management" described sophisticated surgical instruments and their sterilisation by boiling; disinfection of the operation site; silk internal ligatures and skin sutures. The success rate was high (around 90%) though there could be anaesthetic or surgical complications such as haermorrhage, infection, wound breakdown and unexplained deaths in the first 2-3 days following surgery. In some early texts, neutered females are described as "a perfect pet, without lovers or families; her roaming propensities are gone and she plays like a kitten". Others described it as inhumane and extremely cruel, preferring to chloroform litter after litter of unwanted kittens in a sealed biscuit tin and apparently little thought for the strain it put on the mother.
Thankfully most females had their kittens without any difficulties. Caesarean section was a dangerous undertaking, necessitating the most guarded prognosis. Hysterectomy was preferred, but only as a last resort. Early authors all warned of the dangers of using forceps for delivery of kittens, though they described various hooks and loops of wire which could be used if manual manipulation of a stuck kitten failed. Injections of pituitrin (forerunner of oxytocin) and ergotin (still used today) were available to help stimulate contractions and reduce blood loss. The mother might also be given 5 to 10 drops of brandy or gin in water or milk.
Most breeding cats were housed in outdoor catteries with beds made out of barrels or wooden chests and filled with hay in winter and paper in summer. Most breeders did not heat the outdoor enclosures in case it made the cats weak and susceptible to illness. Feeding was not an exact science and was often a matter of superstition (along with some medical remedies), hence the dyspesia reported in pedigree cats. Many breeding tomcats were permitted to roam free for much of the time - leading to sad little notes in Simpson's breed descriptions such as "vanished", "went missing" or "died accidentally". An outstanding year old chinchilla male roamed, never to be seen again, and his epitaph was "lost in the woods".
It was advised that pedigree females did not raise litters larger than four kittens. Often only the best kittens (or those of the desired sex) would be kept and the others disposed of. For larger litters where all kittens were to be kept, or where the female was a poor mother, a foster mother was obtained for some (or all) of the kittens. Foster mothers were not hard to find since it was common practice to destroy entire litters of kittens born to household pets. Pedigree kittens could also be sent on approval to prospective new owners and returned if unsuitable. A Mr House, in one of his articles lately published in Fur and Feather (circa 1900), advised that kittens should be kept with, and fed by, their mothers for as long as sixteen weeks. Other breeders complained this was an excessive strain upon the mother.
An excerpt from Simpson's "The Book of the Cat" stated: "I never allow my mother cats to nurse more than two kittens after the first week. If a foster cannot be found, I select the two I consider the most promising, and the lethal chamber claims the rest. Some may consider this foolish. I can only say I would far rather rear two thoroughly healthy kittens than five or six puny things."
Despite the works of Darwin, the ideas of Paternal Impression and Maternal Impression held sway. Paternal impression stated that a female's first mate would affect all of her subsequent litters, regardless of who fathered the later litters. If she was mated to an outstanding stud for her first litter, his characteristics were believed to turn up in later litters sired by other studs. Conversely, if she was mis-mated to a poor quality or moggy male she would always bear poor quality half-breed offspring, tainted by that earlier mating. One Persian female who had "strayed from the path of virtue" apparently had only poor quality kittens from a good sire, "what might be called half-breeds". She was "ruined for life".
The following explanation of Paternal Impression, or "Telegony", is taken from the 1896 work "Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine" by George M Gould and Walter L Pyle. It cites cases in horses, dogs and cat; the latter relating to long-haired cats appearing in litters born to short-haired parents.
The influence of the paternal seed on the physical and mental constitution of the child is well known. To designate this condition, Telegony is the Word that was coined by Weismann in his “Das Keimplasma,” and he defines it as “Infection of the Germ,” and, at another time, as “ Those doubtful instances in which the offspring is said to resemble, not the father, but an early mate of the mother,” - or, in other words, the alleged influence of a previous sire on the progeny produced by a subsequent one from the same mother. In a systematic discussion of telegony before the Royal Medical Society, Edinburgh, on March 1, 1895, Brunton Blaikie, as a means of making the definition of telegony plainer by practical example, prefaced his remarks by citing the classic example which first drew the attention of the modern scientific world to this phenomenon. The facts of this case were communicated in a letter from the Earl of Morton to the President of the Royal Society in 1821, and were as follows:
In the year 1815 Lord Morton put a male quagga [a type of zebra] to a young chestnut mare of seven eighths Arabian blood, which had never before been bred from. The result was a female hybrid which resembled both parents. He now sold the mare to Sir Gore Ousley, who two years after she bore the hybrid put her to a black Arabian horse. During the two following years she had two foals which Lord Morton thus describes: “ They have the character of the Arabian breed as decidedly as can be expected when fifteen sixteenths of the blood are Arabian, and they are fine specimens of the breed; but both in their color and in the hair of their manes they have a striking resemblance to the quagga. Their color is bay, marked more or less like the quagga in a darker tint. Both are distinguished by the dark line along the ridge of the back, the dark stripes across the forehand and the dark bars across the back part of the legs.” The President of the Royal Society saw the foals and verified Lord Morton’s statement.
“Herbert Spencer, in the Contemporary Review for May, 1893, gives several cases communicated to him by his friend Mr. Fookes, whom Spencer says is often appointed judge of animals at agricultural shows. After giving various examples he goes on to say: "A friend of mine near this had a valuable Dachshund bitch, which most unfortunately had a litter by a stray sheep-dog. The next year the owner sent her on a visit to a pure Dachshund dog, but the produce took quite as much of the first father as the second, and the next year he sent her to another Dachshund, with the same result. Another case: A friend of mine in Devizes had a litter of puppies, unsought for, by a setter from a favorite pointer bitch, and after this she never bred any true pointers, no matter what the paternity was."
“Lord Polwarth, whose very fine breed of Border Leicesters is famed throughout Britain, and whose knowledge on the subject of breeding is great, says that ‘In sheep we always consider that if a ewe breeds to a Shrop ram, she is never safe to breed pure Leicesters from, as dun or colored legs are apt to come even when the sire is a pure Leicester. This has been proved in various instances, but is not invariable.’ “
Hon. Henry Scott says: “Dog-breeders know this theory well; and if a pure-bred bitch happens to breed to a dog of another breed, she is of little use for breeding pure-bred puppies afterward. Animals which produce large litters and go a short time pregnant show this throwing back to previous sires far more distinctly than others - I fancy dogs and pigs most of all, and probably horses least. The influence of previous sires may be carried into the second generation or further, as I have a cat now which appears to be half Persian (long hair). His dam has very long hair and every appearance of being a half Persian, whereas neither have really any Persian blood, as far as I know, but the grand-dam (a very smooth-haired cat) had several litters by a half-Persian tom-cat, and all her produce since have showed the influence retained. The Persian tom-cat died many years ago, and was the only one in the district, so, although I cannot be absolutely positive, I think this case is really as stated.”
Breeders of Bedlington terriers wish to breed dogs with as powerful jaws as possible. In order to accomplish this they put the Bedlington terrier bitch first to a bull-terrier dog, and get a mongrel litter which they destroy. They now put the bitch to a Bedlington terrier dog and get a litter of puppies which are practically pure, but have much stronger jaws than they would otherwise have had, and also show much of the gameness of the bull-terrier, thus proving that physiologic as well as anatomic characters may be transmitted in this way.
Maternal Impression stated that the pregnant cat's surroundings influenced the quality of her kittens. If she was housed next to outstanding examples of her own breed, she would somehow impress their characteristics on her unborn kittens, even if she had only been mated to a mediocre stud. Conversely, if she was surrounded by moggies, this lack of quality would be impressed onto her kittens even if she had been mated to a top notch stud. This belief is also illustrated by the explanation for certain human deformities - children with hare-lip were supposedly due to the mother having been "startled by a rabbit" during her pregnancy.
A female mated towards the end of her season would supposedly have male kittens. If the stud cat was fed well, rested and strong before mating, females would predominate in his bride's litter.
Frances Simpson was one of the first advocate "pure-bred" cats (i.e. from like-to-like matings), not just "pedigree" cats. She advocated three generations of blue-to-blue breeding in order to produce "purebred" blue Persians, her favourite breed. In 1903, relatively few cats could trace their pedigrees back three generations and on some pedigrees it was unclear who sired the kittens since, to be certain of offspring, a queen might be mated to two studs in her season. It was, however, possible to mate cats too closely related and an excerpt from her 1903 work said "With regard to in-breeding I have no hard-and-fast rules to lay down. The whole matter, in spite of what one and another may say, is too experimental and speculative for anyone to dogmatise. It sometimes happens that a fancier puts together two animals which excel in some particular property,, yet not one of their progeny is above the standard of mediocrity, so far as that property is concerned. Experience has shown me the importance of studying the weak points of the dam. These I try to remedy in selecting the stud cat."
Simpson quotes a chinchilla breeder on inbreeding. Chinchillas, or 'silvers', had become badly inbred due to a series of mishaps whereby founding cats had been killed or gone missing. As a result they were more delicate than other Persians and kitten mortality was much higher. "The old rule about inbreeding is 'once in, twice out,' as all old fanciers know; but where silver Persian cats are in question, I would most strongly urge that this adage be disregarded, and, as a rule, avoid in-breeding entirely until a stronger race of silver cats is established.
As to which stud a queen should visit […] I would remind the owner that length of journey should be taken into consideration, and the fact that if the chosen sire is extremely popular it may be that a better result may be gained if the queen is sent to one not so much in request.
Do let me urge all whom it may concern to keep Madam in close confinement for several days after he return home. Indeed, in the interest of the owner of both stus and queen this is of vast importance, and many a disappointment is due to this seemingly small neglect. Puss does not always return as one would wish [i.e. pregnant], however great the care given her whilst away on her holiday, and may take her matrimonial affairs into her own paws with results most unsatisfactory to everyone but herself. When the kits arrive, do not - if you have reason to expect valuable kittens as a result of the mating - leave more than two or three with the mother [the writer was referring to silvers] for reasons I shall directly state. By far the best plan is to procure (some time before the birth of both litters) a good big English cat as foster mother, one know to have brought up a previous litter - not an old cat. The usual method of substituting her foster for her own babies is to take away the mother cat for a few minutes - of course, out of sight - and removing one of her own kittens, rub the little silver baby with the hay of the nest and against the other kittens so that the strange smell - sense of all others so wonderfully developed in animals - may not raise suspicion in the foster mother. Then the next day remove one or two more.
May I, at this point, plead that the little kittens taken from their mother for your benefit should not be drowned? if they must be sent along the silent road to the Quiet City, let it be done mercifully and by chloroform. Such wee things may rest easily in a big biscuit box, the lids of which usually close tightly, and about 1 oz of chloroform poured on a piece of flannel or sponged laid on a small saucer by their side will send them painlessly to sleep."
The Care Of Cats – Coventry Herald, 20 May, 1904.
Cats and kittens should be treated and dosed much in the same way as children and infants (says Miss Frances Simpson in this week's "Hearth and Home"). I do not approve of meat for kittens till they are about four or five months old. If once the little creatures taste flesh they will turn up their noses at other food. The finest kittens I hare reared have been those that I kept on milk foods, with occasional fish or chicken mixed with bread or biscuit. As with children, so with kittens; it is the weaning period that is the critical time, and care is needed in supplementing what the mother gives, with some food as nearly akin to her milk as possible. I have tried Mellin’s, Neave's, and Ridge's food with success, made about the consistency of cream. I like to begin to teach the kittens to lap when they are about three weeks old. Let the liquid be placed in a shallow plate and gently dip in the mouths of the little creatures. They will splutter and choke at first; but after one or two attempts the most knowing ones — and these are generally the females — will learn not to bury their noses too deeply, but to lightly skim the milk with their tongues. It is never advisable to take kittens away from the maternal care until they are seven or eight weeks old. The natural warmth is so essential for their well-being, especially during the hours of sleep. As a rule, a Persian cat should not be allowed to bring up more than four kittens; although I once possessed a blue female that would rear half a dozen and more with the greatest ease, and when they were ready to go forth she at once began thinking of another matrimonial alliance. But old "Mater" was an exception that proved the rule, and also I believe that the cats of to-day are not made of such tough material as were their ancestors.
General Care and Management Of Cats (The Book of the Cat, 1903, Frances Simpson)
Persian cats require special attention as regards their coats, and should be combed and brushed regularly, and, if the fur becomes matted, the knots should be cut away. Avoid washing your cats; there are other means of cleansing their coats, particulars of which will be given in the chapter on exhibiting.
Male and Female Cats and Kittens
As regards the management of female cats, it is necessary to start from the time when they first arrive at maturity, viz. When they are first capable of becoming mothers. This usually takes place - or they "come in season" as it is called - after they are seven or eight months old; and though cases have been known when this has happened before six months, it is very unusual [note: better nutrition means modern cats often mature at 5-6 months]. It may therefore be laid down as a rule that if a kitten exhibits extraordinary high spirits, racing and tearing about, it should be carefully watched, and not allowed its freedom without supervision, either out of doors or in the house.
Queens may be known to be in season by several symptoms, such as rolling on the ground, rubbing up against furniture, increased affection for their owners, and often by the curious cries they utter, at times by a soft note of invitation, at other times by shouts of impatience or distress why resound through the house. Cats should not be mated until they are nine or ten months old at least; twelve months is a better age, though if they are insistent it will not do to put them off more than three times, as there are records of cats who, having been kept back on account of extreme youth, have been seriously ill or have never had families at all. On the other hand, it is possible these cats may have had the reproductive instinct abnormally strong, though for some cause or another they would always have been infertile.
Powders are sold to quiet cats who are considered to young to become mothers, and two or three small doses of bromide have a decidedly calming effect. This drug should, however, be given with caution, as it is a dangerous one in unskilled hands. Cats come in season about every three weeks during the spring and summer; but in autumn and early winter months nature seems to intend that they should rest; therefore, as soon as the year has turned, and in very mild winters even before Christmas, no time should be lost in selecting the best sires for the various breeding queens, and arrangements made with their respective owners, so that as soon as ever a queen is ready she may be mated without delay, as some cats go off in two or three days, while others are not safe for a fortnight. If possible, it is well to select a stud cat near at hand, especially if your queen is timid and frightened, as a long journey may upset her. [Note: bear in mind that arrangements were either by letter or by telegraph.]
It is most essential that female cats should be freed from worms before being allowed to mate or breed, otherwise the kittens will probably fall victims to these pests by sucking in the disease with the mother's milk. Most cat fanciers know the symptoms which are suggestive of worms; and whenever there is a reasonable suspicion of their presence, then it is best at once to resort to some of the many remedies to be obtained from veterinaries and cat specialists.
A cat's period of gestation is nine weeks, but this is often extended to a day or two longer, so that it is best to expect a litter about nine weeks from the date of the queen's return from visiting the stud cat. An experienced breeder will most likely see symptoms of a cat coming in season, and will then do well to give a worm powder. Salvo's No 3 powder may be given one morning, and the cat sent off the next day quite safely. Visiting queens should be despatched as early in the morning as possible and insured, to save delay on the road, with the owner's name and address inside package, also the name of the cat, as poor pussie will be far happier if on her arrival she hears herself called by her pet name. Full instructions should be sent as to the return journey; also it should be stated if the cat is kept out of doors or indoors, and what food she is accustomed to have, number of meals per diem, etc. if going on a very long journey the queen should not be nailed into a box, or padlocked, as occasional delays occur, and the railway authorities will feed and look after an insured cat if packed in a hamper or box where they can get at the occupant. Boxes or hampers with skeleton lids are by far the best on this account. If the weather is very cold and a basket is used, it should be lined, and round the sides brown paper is an additional safeguard against draughts, for which all stations are proverbial. A very delicate cat or young kitten finds great comfort in winter from a hot-water bottle placed inside the hamper for it to rest against. Queens should have a good meal an hour or two before starting, as they often arrive upset with the journey, and in their strange new home will not at first touch any food. Do not put any food in the travelling basket. It is not well for a queen to mate just after a heavy meal.
Fish and warm milk, if these agree with the queen, or a small meat meal, may be offered after a long, cold journey, and, if eaten, the queen should be allowed to rest and hour of two before introducing her to the stud cat.
After mating, a queen should be kept quiet for a few days on her return home, as much apart from other cats as possible; but no uneasiness need be felt if the visit does not seem to have quieted the queen, as she will settle down in a few days and cease to think about her mate. With regard to treatment of cats in kitten, some queens are gentle and quiet, and very careful of themselves, others are exceedingly bad-tempered, fighting and quarrelling , while some amuse themselves by climbing up high places and jumping down, behaving in such a wild and excitable manner that they not only endanger their own lives, but run the risk of bringing maimed and deformed offspring into the world. Cats such as these should be kept isolated, if possible, or at most with only one other quiet queen, and all high shelves or tall articles of furniture should be removed.
It is always well to be very careful in handling cats in kitten. They must never be lifted up by their fore legs, but when absolutely necessary to move or carry them, both hands should be used to do so, one being place under the body by the shoulders to carry the weight, while the other hand gently supports the hind-quarters; but the less a cat is lifted about the better. All medicines should be given quietly and quickly, so that there may be no struggling. The cat's head should be grasped firmly with the left hand, the fingers and thumb on each side of the corners of the mouth, and forced back on the shoulders with a firm pressure; this will cause her to open her mouth, when medicine can be popped quickly down the throat from a spoon held in the right hand. In the case of a very restless cat, it is advisable to have an assistant in administering medicine. Amateurs would do well to practise giving water in a spoon to queens who are in health, so that they may become used to this simple method of administering medicine. Cats in kit require three or four meals daily of nourishing food - raw meat from four to six ounces night and morning, and fish and scraps and vegetables or biscuit, etc, for the midday meal. Half a teaspoonful of cod-liver oil on their food two or three times a week is very good for the queens in cold weather; but if sickness ensues, of course the oil must be discontinued. Never suffer diarrhoea to go on unchecked. This applies to all cats and kittens of whatever age, sex, or condition, but is especially dangerous when a cat is in kit or nursing her young. Mr Ward and Salvo prepare powders which will stop diarrhoea, and if persevered with will restore the bowels to their normal condition. Change of diet is also very helpful. If the diarrhoea is very violent or persistent, or if no medicine can be procured, a small quantity of powdered chalk, as much as will lie on a sixpence, may be given every hour or two, three of four times; but the primary cause, of which diarrhoea is only a symptom, should be sought out, and if not discoverable, the advice of a cat doctor should be obtained.
Persistent diarrhoea (if not the accompaniment of diseases, such as inflammation of the bowels, etc) is usually caused by indigestion or worms, and sometimes by a stoppage of fur or food imperfectly digested, which nature in this way tries to get rid of; and if this is the case, or there is even reason to suspect it may be, a dose or two of warm salad oil, a teaspoonful every two hours, will often bring away the obstruction. Cats in kitten frequently suffer from constipation, for which also warm salad oil is far better than castor oil, as the latter is irritative to the bowels, and though acting as an aperient [gentle laxative], the after effects are increased costiveness [constipation]. Warm salad oil, given a few hours before the birth of the kittens, is helpful to the mother. For at least a week before the kittens are expected, a nice cosy bed should be prepared in some retired spot; and, to a novice, the caution would not be amiss - do not let a cat in kitten sleep on your bed, or she will either have her kittens there, or will drag the poor little things into the bed the first chance she gets. If the box is to be made ready for the cat, it should be of a fair size (about twenty-six inches by eighteen inches), and should be placed on its side, and a bit of wood about three inches deep nailed on to the bottom of the side, standing up to keep the bedding in its place and the kittens from rolling out. This box may be placed on a table or two chairs, so arranged the the cat can step in and out from another chair.
The floor of the box should be covered with several thicknesses of flannel or blanket in the winter and paper in the summer. Avoid coloured materials, as the dye will come out if they get wet. A bolster may be placed at one side of the box stuffed with straw, or hay or paper torn up very small, to support the cat's back; but should the weather be very cold and the mother delicate, a hot water bottle covered with flannel may be used instead and is a great comfort. A covering should be thrown over the box, which may be pulled down to hide the interior, as cats love to be screened from observation, and also it is very essential that the tiny babies should be kept almost in the dark for the first fortnight, after which time, when their eyes are open, the covering can be raised in the day and lowered at night in cold weather. This box must be placed on the ground as soon as the kittens can walk about, but retaining the ledge already referred to, which will keep them from ground draughts to a great extent. A nice little box with run attached is the best house for a cat and kittens; but as these cost about 25 shillings each, a number of them become costly and beyond the means of some breeders. The bed described is the next best thing, far better for shy queens than a box of basket used in the ordinary way. An empty drawer makes a good place, but the kittens should be moved out of it as soon as they can see, as it is rather too dark and close after the blind period is past.
A cat should sleep in whatever bed is arranged for her for at least a week before the kittens are expected, and when that day arrives the queen should be carefully watched, as some cats will have their kittens anywhere if not looked after. For the sake of those new to the fancy, it may be as well to remark that cats become very restless, walking about sometimes purring loudly, and looking in cupboards and dark corners while occasionally the first noticeable indication that the even is about to come off is that the fur behind is wet, and if this should be the case no time should be lost in carrying the cat most carefully to her bed, as the kittens may then be expected at any moment. Some animals like to be left entirely alone while giving birth to their young; others, especially pets, prefer to have their owners near to them; but if there is any uncertainty it is better to leave her to herself.
Experienced breeders will know that should the labour by dry or very prolonged it is a great help to a cat to pass the hand firmly and slowly down the side during an expulsive pain, as the pressure will help the mother and hasten the birth of the kittens.
After the first is born, the rest come comparatively easily. Very occasionally there is a cross presentation; but as only those really competent should attempt to do anything in this case, no time should be lost in sending for the nearest cat doctor or veterinary. After the first kitten has arrived - the birth of which is usually heralded by a loud cry of pain from the mother - some milk should be made hot, and as soon as the new baby has been cleaned the mother will gladly drink this; but on no account should cold or even luke-warm milk be given the same day, or, indeed, indeed for two or three days. Novices are sometimes startled at seeing the cat eating a lump of something which they fear may be a kitten; but there is no occasion for alarm, as it is merely the afterbirth, the consumption of which is probably Nature's provision for affording sustenance to the mother, as an animal in a wild state could get no food for at least several hours after the birth of its offspring. If a cat is wild or shy, it is better to leave her alone (with the exception of offering hot milk from time to time) until all the kittens are born, and they should not be examined or handled for some days.
With a gentle queen the first kitten may be taken away when the second is born, well wrapped up in warm flannel and put by the fire, and so on, always leaving one kitten until the last is warm and dry, when the others should be returned to the mother. This plan is most necessary in cold weather (especially if the kittens are born out-of-doors), for if the labour is easy and quick it is quite impossible for the queen to dry one kitten before the advent of the next, and by the time they are all born they are frequently stone cold, and so wet that the mother gives up the attempt to dry them in despair; and many kittens, thought to be stillborn, have died in the night this way. Kittens quite cold and nearly dead have been restored (and have lived to a good old age) by being taken at once to the fire and warmed and dried, and though at first life may appear extinct, time and patience will work wonders. If the kittens are taken away from the mother at birth as described above, it is a good opportunity for destroying any that are not wanted, because of sex or colour.. when the litter is given to the mother she should be offered milk again, and should after that be left alone several hours; but she will most likely welcome a few kind words and loving pats as a reward for all she has gone through, and will then cuddle down contentedly with her little ones.
In giving milk do not take the mother out, or even make her get up to drink it, on the day of her confinement; if she cannot reach it comfortably, raise her head and shoulders with one hand, until she can reach the saucer held in the other conveniently, and do not be in a hurry, as she knows well the temperature the milk ought to be, and will not take it if too hot or too cold. Milk should be given night and morning, and offered during the day, for some days after the kittens are born. Cats that never like it at other times are thankful for it when nursing; but, on the other hand, cats that have been fond of milk will turn away from it at these times. Queens usually come out every few hours for food, and their meat or ordinary meal should be ready for them, as they will want to eat it quickly and return to their little ones. After the second or third day a warm, clean blanket should be substituted for the one on which the kittens were born, and it is well to do this when the mother is present, as some cats resent interference during their absence.
As soon as the kittens are about a week old, a finger should be passed over their eyes, and if there is a little ridge on the lids, the eye should be moistened with eye-lotion twice daily with a camel-hair brush. If, after ten days, they do not open as usual, the eyes should be sponged with warm water, as in this case they must have become glued together with mucus, which should be cleared away, and the eye moistened with eye-lotion, taking care a little goes well into the eye. The lid should then be smeared with olive oil to prevent adhesion. It is this adhesion of the lids which causes inflammation, and the eyes must be frequently attended to, so that they may be frequently attended to, so that they may be kept open, avoiding any very strong light.
If the kittens are born indoors in the summer, windows should be kept open during the day, and when the little creatures are about a fortnight old put them out in the sunshine for an hour or so daily. The mother must be as well fed as she was before the kittens were born, but carefully notice if she suffers from diarrhoea, for if this is the case, and change of diet does not cure it, you may be certain that she is nursing too many kittens, and if some of them are not speedily removed you will lose them all.
If a foster-mother can be procured, by all means have one, accompanied by one of her own kittens if possible. Make a cosy bed for her, warming the blanket, and leave her in it till night, when, if she seems settled down, give her two or more kittens as the case may be, removing her own the following night. Do not attempt to interfere with the kittens while the mother is away, and act very gently, talking to and stroking her so that she may not resent your interference. If no foster-mother can be obtained, Mr War, of Manchester, has clever little appliance which he claims can be used instead of a foster mother.
Some fanciers may take upon themselves the task of bringing up the kittens by hand, and in that case wrap them up in warm flannel, keeping them by the fire by day, and giving them a hot water bottle at night, feeding with week milk and water about every two hours (this should be about half and half) with a teaspoonful of lime-water to each cup of milk and water. It should be given warm, not hot, and the milk scalded, not boiled. In London or large towns unsweetened condensed milk is better than cow's milk, as the colouring or preservative acids used by dairymen in the latter is very injurious to kittens. This condensed milk should be much diluted, and flavoured with small quantities of salt and sugar. If too strong or too sweet, the food will cause diarrhoea. Kittens will soon learn to suck out of an eggspoon; but do not give too much at once, or force the food down their little throats when the object to take any more.
At about five weeks old the kittens will begin to lap and possibly to eat. Many fanciers are delighted if they will eat and drink before a month old, and some make the serious mistake of trying to coax the little ones to eat solid food at this tender age. Such persons do not stop to think how weak are all the digestive organs of these tiny creatures. The milk of the mother supplies all that is needful for their growth and well-being until such time as Nature makes itself heard in her demands for further nourishment, and if substantial food is given to them too soon, or too strong, it merely goes through the stomach, passing out in the bowels undigested, decomposes, and forms slimy mucus which is the hotbed for worms, even if it does not set up inflammation of the bowels. More kittens die from worms and consumption of the bowels than from any other complaint, and much of this loss of life is directly traceable to strong food at too tender an age.
Lung disease, gastric catarrh, gastro-enteritis, are all directly or indirectly set up by the non-assimilation of food; hence the supreme importance of giving nourishment which can be digested easily. After six weeks scraped raw beef may be given (if the kittens want to eat) three times daily in very small quantities, about half a teaspoonful to start with, and they may have warm milk and water with lime in it. This should be followed by Mellin's or Benger's Frame Food, as directed for infants [Mellin's is a baby food, Benger's is an invalid food]. It is advisable not to allow kittens to overload their stomachs, but to feed them about four times daily. If healthy they will eat eagerly, but not ravenously; a kitten who is greedy and precipitates itself into the saucer in its anxiety to get its dinner may be suspected of worms, and when about eight weeks old a course of Salvo's No 1 powder may be given with safety.
As soon as the kittens are about a month old, a shallow tin of dry earth or ashes (I do not recommend sawdust) should be provided for them, and it will well repay their owners to spend some portion of the day with the little ones and lift them into the earth-pan when necessary. If this is done two or three times, the lesson is probably learnt for life. Kittens are naturally clean, and will get out of their beds, and run about crying loudly for some accommodation for their wants; and if this neglected the seeds of dirty habits are sown, and the poor untaught little ones reap a sad harvest of cuffs and sometimes kicks from servants, who naturally dislike the trouble caused by dirty house pets. Even in catteries cleanly habits in cats are much to be desired. If a cat or kitten gets into dirty ways, it should never be beaten and put into the tin, but should be gently stroked and coaxed into good habits. Those who only keep one or two queens will find that if they spend a few minutes playing with the kittens before their meals, they will be well rewarded by the quicker growth and better digestion of the little ones; but, of course, this is out of the question in a large cattery.
In summer, kittens should be combed daily with a small tooth comb, as the insects which inhabit their coats not only worry them and cause them to scratch out their fur, but they convey disease from one to another, to say nothing of sucking out so much blood that the poor little creatures become absolutely anaemic, and in this state they fall an easy prey to the first disease that attacks them. Fleas were formerly treated as irritating but otherwise harmless insects; but we are assured on the best authority that they are a dangerous medium of disease, and that tapeworms are generated in dogs and cats by their means. The poor animals, wildly resenting the annoyance of these pests, hunt for them with teeth and tongue, and, swallowing their enemy, may also swallow a number of undeveloped tapeworms, which in the larval or grub state are secreted in the abdomen of the flea. Tapeworms are said to undergo certain metamorphoses or transformations, and require to pass through the body of some other creature than the one they exist in their mature state of being.
It is a great mistake to keep kittens in heated rooms, worse still t allow them to be close to a fire by day and then to let the room get cold at night. An even temperature, cold and dry, is better than sudden changed; cats and kittens love warmth and comfort, but, at the same time, all extremes of heat and cold are bad. Never neglect the first symptoms of illness; note the signs, and if you are not able to dose the invalid yourself send off a wire to some competent cat doctor describing the form the indisposition has taken, and while waiting for medicine no harm can be done by giving as much bicarbonate of soda as will lie on a threepenny-bit in a little water two or three times daily. Salvo has lately advertised a medicine which is said to be very valuable for giving on the first signs of a cat or kitten being out of sorts, and which, he says, will take down fever, stop colds, and modify attacks of bronchitis, pneumonia, etc; and for such fragile little beings as kittens fanciers would do well to keep the medicine by them. People often say that their cats and kittens seem ill or out of sorts, and allow this sort of thing to go on quite calmly for a week or so, when one day they wake up to the fact that the poor creature is very seriously ill, and they then send off in a hurry for medicine which frequently arrives too late; and the sufferer may be beyond all human aid.
Double pneumonia, which is perhaps the quickest and most fatal of all diseases, is not so sudden but that it is ushered in by various symptoms, beginning often a week before the attack becomes acute. An animal will seem cold, will creep near the fire, or sit in the fender, mope about, refusing to play, sit in a hunch with its back up, or is very sleepy and stupid; the fur is rough; there may be sickness, and the evacuations are a bright yellow colour; perhaps it has not quite finished its meals for a few days; and the nose is hot and dry, and if taken up, the cat feels hot and dry all over. When there are several of these symptoms, no time should be lost in administering the remedies named above every hour or two until suitable remedies can be obtained; but do not rely upon them alone, or think if you give them persistently they will pull the animal through the illness, for they will not, special remedies being needed for various stages of disease. No two animals are exactly alike, and the experienced cat doctor will prescribe carefully for each individual cat in the same way as a physician will give different prescription to suit the needs of different patients [note: it sounds like cat flu, a major killer of kittens].
One thing should never be neglected, and this is keeping up the strength from the first with beef-tea, eggs and milk. Brand's Essence, or animal Kreochyle - a teaspoonful every hour. As soon as an animal has refused two meals, begin feeding with spoon, as it will have so much more strength with which to battle against disease if fed up well from the first.
Brand and Co was the predecessor of the current "Brands" label. "Essence of Beef" was one of their products in the early 20th Century. Brands (now based in the Asia Pacific region) might not make Essence of Beef these days, but their "Essence of Chicken" is a popular food of modern day mountain-climbers.
People who desire to sell kittens for profit will do well to part with them at about two months old, before they start teething, for at this period of their little lives fresh troubles begin. Occasionally they suffer from fits, but though these are sometimes caused by cutting their teeth, they are oftener due to the presence of worms. If the gums are swollen and inflamed, a quarter of one of Steedman's teething powders will soothe them, or a few doses of bromide, as prescribed before for kittens desiring to mate too early, may be given, and excitable kittens should be kept quiet.. if kittens are troubled with diarrhoea, all starchy food should be avoided, as it is never easily digested by animals. The reason of this is not far to seek, when we know that the saliva partly digests starch, while the juices of the stomach act directly on meat.
Animals, instead of masticating their food, by which means the saliva acts upon it, often bolt it, and it goes into the stomach and is passed out into the large bowel practically undigested, where it decomposes, working off in noxious gases which escape through the skin, causing eczema, or in many cases producing inflammation of the bowels or enteritis. Nothing needs more careful attention than the diet of kittens, and nothing is so little studied. It would be no exaggeration to say that all disease, apart from outside or accidental causes, such as draughts, cold winds, contagion, etc, is in the first place set up by undigested food, and even what may be called external causes would often not be harmful to an animal if the digestive organs were in proper working order. Remember, it is not the quantity of food a kitten takes that benefits it. The secret of its health and wellbeing is in the quantity it digests. A kitten should only digest certain things in certain proportions, and whatever remains undigested produces irritation, and in this case the kitten cannot possibly develop, and is generally weakly and fretful.
Those who have never cared much for cats will be interested and amused if they bring up a family of kittens, and the love and trust of the little creatures will well repay them for all their care.
A male cat should not be allowed to mate under a year old, and if you wish to keep your stud in good condition do not allow more than two, or at most three, lady visitors a week. There is no doubt that a really reliable stud cat is a very profitable possession. The most essential recommendations are a sound constitution and absolute health, combined with a good pedigree and a list of prize-winning progeny. It is necessary to exhibit your stud cat at the best cat shows from time to time, and thus to keep him before the public. It is also advisable to advertise him in the cat papers, and it is often useful to have a photograph to forward to fanciers who may be unable otherwise to obtain any idea of your cat. Needless to say that for stud purposes a cat should possess the highest possible qualifications of the breed to which he belongs, and a massive frame and broad head are most desirable in all stud cats [note: bear in mind the limited number of breeds in 1903]. It is a good plan to allow the visiting queen to be within sight of the male for a short time before she is put in the stud cat's house, and for this purpose it is convenient to have a small movable pen or hutch to place where the two pussies can hold catty conversation.
A stud cat cannot, for many and obvious reasons, be allowed his full freedom; but it is essential that his dwelling place should have as long and roomy an exercise ground as possible. It I also possible with some male cats to tether them out-of-doors for a short period during the day, in which case great care should be taken to have the lead only as long as will permit of exercise within a safe distance of dangerous pitfalls or spreading trees and shrubs.
The best time for mating is about one hour after feeding. It is most important that stud cats should be in good coat at the time of mating, and that they should be free from worms.
The usual fee for a visit to a stud cat is £1 1s [one pound, one shilling] , and this should be sent at the same time as the request for permission to send a queen. A second visit is generally considered allowable if the first one has proved unsuccessful. An additional amount of food may be given to a cat whilst he is being used at stud, and always remember to provide grass in some form or other in your stud cat's house/
There is no universal remedy for all cats, neither can there be any rule for feeding them. Different cats need different treatment, and those which are kept in a captive state, as are stud cats, should not be fed on the same lines as those that are allowed full liberty.
Opinions differ as to the best period for a cat to be made neuter, but it is generally considered advisable to have the operation performed between the ages of five and eight months. A male cat can be kept as a household pet till he is about nine or ten months old without any unpleasantness, but after that period he must be relegated to an outside cattery or stud house. It is cruel to put off gelding a cat till he shows signs of wishing to mate. A duly qualified veterinary ought to be employed, and an anaesthetic used. The cat should be kept on a low diet for a day or two before and after the operation. It is very seldom that any evil effects ensue, and after a few days the puss is quite himself again. Neuter cats grow to an immense size , and the Persian varieties develop great length of fur, which is generally not shed to frequently or to such an extent as in the males and females. Neuter cats are very docile, and generally rather lazy and listless; for this reason they are not accounted such good mousers. [Note: neutering has no effect on mousing ability; possibly the anaesthetics used in 1903 had long-term effects]
Female cats can also be rendered sexless, but in their case the operation is more likely to be attended with dangerous results. I have heard it stated that a female cat ought to be allowed one litter of kittens before being neutered [note: this may have been necessary in 1903 for the uterus to be located, it is unnecessary in modern times]. There are not many very fine neuters on exhibition at our shows, and this fact may be accounted for by reason of fanciers picking out weedy and altogether below the mark specimens of their litters to be gelded because they do not consider them worth keeping to breed from. In this way several poor specimens of neuters are to be seen with indifferent markings, white spots, incorrect coloured eyes, and long noses [note: Simpson bred Persians in which long noses are not desirable]. For a home pet there is, of course, nothing to come up to a fine neuter cat who will not roam, who does not attract amorous females, and who is content to lie for hours stretched out on the drawing-room rug or the kitchen hearth, the admired of all admirers. From the lips of many noted breeders of Persian cats who have been troubled by wandering males and prolific females, I have heard the exclamation, "I shall end by keeping only neuters!"
Cat owners in general, and lovers of neuters in particular, might do worse than agitate for more consideration to be extended to these grand pets at our leading shows, and I cannot help thinking that a neuter club or society might be formed to assist in this and other objects connected with the general improvement of our neuter cats.
Rearing of Kittens (The Book of the Cat, 1903, Frances Simpson)
It may truly be said that the subject most interesting to cat fanciers is the successful rearing of kittens, and pages might be written on what to do and what not to do in order to bring up a family of kits in health and strength. Experience teaches us many things, and certainly during the number of years I have been breeding Persian kittens I have had ample opportunity of judging what food suited the little mites best, and which was the surest method of bringing up a wholesome litter of kittens. I am sure that in the olden days there was less delicacy amongst Persian kittens than at this present time [note: owner interference and superstitions about food and methods contributed to, rather than alleviating, kitten mortality].
With the advent of the first family the anxieties of the novice begin. Perhaps a goodly sum has been risked in the purchase of a pedigree queen, or else with much carefulness and taking thought a valuable kitten has been reared to happy matronhood. So far well; the trouble has been slight, but the account book shows all on the debit side. Now, as we gaze upon the tiny blind bobbing atoms, over which the mother croons and purrs with pride, here is the investment that has to swell our credit column. And ignorance here spells loss.
If a large number yearly are successfully raised, a still larger number sadly "pass out" and might claim the baby's plaintive epithet:
"Since I am so quickly done for -
I wonder what I was begun for!"
Neither does the comfortable law of the "survival of the fittest" seem to hold good here. At least, Nature and the exhibitor are at variance in their ideas of such, for always it is our choicest, our sure and certain champion, that slips out too eager grasp. Here is our experimental nest of champions, they are but two days old, and in this early stage of their existence the less they are handled and examined and the mother interfered with, the better. Attend to two things - darkness and fresh air; and leave them alone till they introduce themselves of their own accord to your notice.
Shift on to a clean nest the second day after birth. It is safer not to do so before, as I have known a belated kitten arrive twenty-four hours after the rest of the family, and in the case of an excitable or inexperienced mother she will be then be more composed and can be coaxed out to feed while the change of bed is being made. Hay, short and sweet, is the best bedding - much better than blankets or cushions. Many fanciers use boxes turned on their sides and curtained. These, while giving the necessary darkness, are not sufficiently ventilated; the air in them cannot circulate freely, and becomes stuffy and foul, vapours ascend [i.e. germs breed], and the wood becomes unsanitary in very short time.
Bad eyes [i.e. conjunctivitis] follow as a matter of course, and the anxious, worried novice wonders "how can they possibly have taken cold when they have been so guarded" - from fresh air! - and seals them up still more! If, therefore, a box is used, let there be holes for ventilation, or arrange for the covering to reach only partly over the top. In an outside cattery or attic or room guard against too much light and any draught, but let in the outside air by keeping the window open during the day. If winter kittens are to be reared, heat the room to an average of 55 degrees [Fahrenheit], and have the window open, taking precautions naturally against rain or snow beating in.
When the kittens reach the age of three weeks, they will require some food beyond that provided by the mother, who, if nursing a large family, is perhaps showing signs of wear. It is when the process of weaning begins that trouble generally arises. I am inclined to put down the growing delicacy of Persian kittens to the injudicious feeding with solids at too early a period of their existence [note: more likely inbreeding!]. I never used to allow my kittens meat until they were about four or five months old, and during the period of weaning from their mothers it is most essential that all food given - such as Mellin's, Ridge's and Benger's - should be made very thinly at first, so as not in any way to try the tender digestions of the little creatures.
I believe that most of the ills that kitten's flesh is heir to, proceed from indigestion. The tendency in fanciers is to overload the stomach of the wee kittens, forgetting that it is not the amount of food eaten that nourishes the tiny creatures, but the quantity they are able to digest, and this must necessarily be small for some weeks after they have learnt to feed themselves. Another mistake that is made is giving milk that is too rich [note: in fact cow's milk is not rich enough]. In large towns we generally get our milk watered for us, but in the country the milk is richer, and needs mixing with warm water. It is not so important in the country as in London and other large towns to have the milk boiled, but it is at all times and in all places a wise precaution. In preference to risking the town dairy milk, flavoured with boracic, and most deadly to the systems of both kittens and babies, I advise a good brand of Swiss milk - such as Nestle's - being employed, or better still, Plasmon powder, made to a jelly according to directions on packet, and one teaspoon of this jelly thinned out with hot water and sweetened.
Do not give raw meat till the teeth are fairly through and they can bite sharply; then give it scraped with a blunt knife, not cut; and remember that raw meat is three times as digestible and nourishing than cooked meat - one tiny meal of meat a day, a teaspoonful per kitten to begin with. Do not give them fish while under three months old.
Rice is a very indigestible food for kittens, especially cold; but rice-water, strained from rice boiled to a pulp and given quite cold, is useful in checking diarrhoea. Melox is a most useful food for kittens of ten weeks old and upwards, soaked for an hour or two in a little good gravy, and given crumbly (not sloppy), and a little scraped raw meat mixed with it. For younger ones a tablespoonful of red gravy from a cooked joint, poured over some breadcrumbs, proves an appetising meal.
Small meals at short intervals are infinitely better than heavy meals at long intervals, and if a young kitten is left for many hours till half famished, it will in all probability eat too much and suffer in consequence. From four to ten weeks six or seven meals in the twenty-four hours are none too many. I am presuming that till that age they will be with their mother at night, which will do away with the necessity of providing food between 9 p.m. (when the last meal should be given) and 8 a.m. Give always a light and warm meal for the breakfast. After ten weeks lessen to five meals, after three months four, and give four till six months old, when they may be fed as adults, unless one should be delicate or has been through severe illness.
The best test of a properly thriving kitten is its weight, and 1 lb for each month of age is a fair average, occasionally exceeded by very big-boned and robust kittens. For young growing kittens a teaspoonful of lime-water added to a saucer of any liquid is very advisable, as it strengthens the limbs and forms bone. If a kitten under a month or six weeks old is unfortunate enough to have a sever illness, whether epidemic or accidental, my advice is to chloroform it. At so tender an age the constitution rarely recovers from the strain.
Although this article has no intention of encroaching upon that treating specially of diseases, our aim and object being to rear such healthy sturdy families of kittens that they shall never have any diseases, yet, en passant, it might not be amiss to remark what a valuable medicine for the first symptoms of distemper is Pacita, a herbal medicine that can be obtained in both powder and pill form. The latter is to be preferred, as, the smell being very nasty, kittens rebel against it. Half of No 1 size pill is sufficient for a kitten under three months, to be given fasting in the morning an hour before food for three mornings. It reduces fever and clears the system in a wonderful manner.
The question of outdoor exercise must now be discussed. I speak of summer kittens only. Winter kittens - viz those born from November to February - are, I think, a mistake. Out of season, like forced green peas at Christmas, they have not a good start in life; the damp and darkness of those months is very deterrent upon young life. Nature's plan of arranging for the new lives to come chiefly in the spring when days are lengthening and sunshine has power, is the wisest. They grow with the days, and have the summer to romp through and grow big and strong before the leaves fall. It is a mistaken policy - that of exposing to risks under the intention of hardening. We must remember that the Persian cat is an exotic, and that the present system of breeding for coat and show points does not tend to make the race hardier; on the contrary, probably the constitution is more delicate that in its native country, imported cats invariably boasting a vigour and hardihood that our pedigree specimens sadly lack. It is not cold that injures; frost and snow can be borne by grown-up Persians with impunity, and even enjoyment. It is the damp that kills, and upon consideration we shall see that this is largely a question of coat.
Look at your English sleekly groomed puss as she comes leaping across some dewy field in the early morning, pressing through a thick wet hedge. She gives herself a shake; examine her fur: not a dewdrop has adhered, hardly are her pads damp. Now pick up your Persian gentleman who has taken a slight hunting stroll through the same ground: his stomach fur is soaked, clinging like wet linen to him; his "knickerbockers" are disreputable, his frill clammy; and it will take him a good hour to get himself clean and respectable once more. The soft woolly undercoat of the Persian holds water like a sponge, where the close short coat of the British cat shakes it off as from a duck's feathers. This is the true secret of the delicacy of the Persian. So in rearing kittens, let your first care be, avoid damp.
A sick kitten generally forgets its manners, however carefully it has been trained to the use of the dry earth or sawdust box; it seems to feel too bad to care how it behaves, so due allowance must be made at the time; but in health, cleanly behaviour must be insisted upon from the time they begin to trot about their nursery. Begin by placing a very shallow tray of nice dry fine earth in one or two corners that the kittens seem to have a predilection for; it may even be necessary to put them in all four corners for a little while to convince some obstinate or dullard member of the family.
A cat's confidence is harder to win than a dog's, but once you have gained it the animal will trust you implicitly, and will bear pain or nasty dosing at your hands without resentment. I think kittens should be handled from early days. I do not advocate a valuable kitten being sent up to a human nursery, to be hugged flat or carried head downwards by the too-adoring occupants; but kittens should be thoroughly accustomed to human society and to being picked up, caressed, and handled. It will make their subsequent show career far less of a terror, and greatly augment their chances of success; and in the case of all male cats, whether for stud or neuter, it is very convenient to train them to walk on a lead. Begin by using a light ribbon, and two kittens led together on separate leads will come more willingly than one. The first lessons in walks might terminate at the feeding dish, so that the kits would quickly associate this new form of exercise with something to eat.
It sometimes happens that young kittens are too early bereft of maternal care from some cause or another. Mr A Ward, of Manchester, has invented an artificial foster-mother. This consists of a glass vessel covered with flannel, and having indiarubber teats. This is filled with warm milk and water, and the kittens help themselves!
It is only of comparatively recent date that any serious attention has been given to the successful breeding of Persian kittens. A demand has arisen for animals that approach perfection, according to a recognised standard of points, and it may not be unprofitable to devote a few pages to the consideration of how these can be obtained. Formerly a long-haired cat was not much thought of unless he really deserved his name, but nowadays coat is rather at a discount on the show bench. Points, points, points - colour of eyes, colour of coat, expression, and what not - these are all considered first, and length and beauty of coat are rather apt to be overlooked.
The amateur cat lover should provide himself with a female cat or kitten of fine health and luxuriant coat, and treat it precisely like any other "well done by" domestic pussy. Probably by the time she is twelve months old she will have insisted on matrimony. This is worth a little consideration and trouble, but if the choice lies between a health, hardy longhaired tom at large in your own neighbourhood and a pedigreed prisoner at a distance, I should recommend the local monsieur. What you want is physique and a fine appearance, and you are more likely to get them in this way. Many owners of Persians have been quite content to rear saleable kittens of average merit, and trust for their show reputation to fine animals bought from others. To encourage breeders, special prizes are offered at shows to those who in a first with a cat whose mother was in the exhibitor's possession at the time of the kitten's birth. They are very handsome trophies, and have to be won four times before becoming the property of the exhibitor.
Over against the mistake motto of "Haphazard" we must place the password of "Selection" if we would become successful breeders. Selection - clever, thoughtful, painstaking selection - lies beneath all real success. I am not denying that excellent results are obtained occasionally by accident, but these happy flukes want following up if any permanent good is to be effected. Having a queen of a given colour you should as a rule, mate her only with a cat of the same colouring, and be especially careful not to cross self-colours with tabbies.
Now selection, as too often understood, means just this: a male cat makes a great sensation at a show and wins many prizes. He is the right colour, therefore to him you will send your queen. What can be simpler? Why this fuss about the difficulty of breeding? But you are a novice, and know nothing of the value of the pedigree owned by the winning monsieur. It is not so much he himself as his inherited tendencies you have to consider, for assuredly they will reappear in his children [note: essentially, Simpson was talking of recessive genes]. An old hand will tell you, "Yes, a grand head, but where he got it from is a miracle, with such parents"; or, "Colour? Yes, first-rate, but he was the only one clear from sandy in the litter." Well, what can a bewildered novice do? Remember, you have to try to cap each of your queen's defects with a corresponding virtue in her mate. If she is snipey in face, make head a chief point; if she fails in colour, lay great stress on colour and so on. My advice is, do not send her to a new star who has but just risen in the sky of the cat world until you know a little more about your business. Mark your catalogue at shows. Study the cats and kittens whose points please you and who are filling the prize list, and then notice their sire's name. When you find the same name repeated again and again, and always attached to animals of consistent merit, you will not do far wrong to choose the owner for your queen's mate.
But after having exercised all possible care in the selection of a male cat, we must not expect the litter of kittens to be perfection. All breeders know that there is, as a rule, one kitten in each litter which far surpasses its fellows in beauty. Perhaps one will possess the type of head you so cover, but the colour is inferior. Another has colour or markings to perfection, whilst the head is poor.. Well, then, they must be mated with an eye to remedying these defects, and a near relative possessing these strong points will be likely to prove the most successful cross; for in-breeding - careful, cautious, and judicious - is another secret of the successful breeder. But one word of caution to the novice: Never be persuaded to breed from an unhealthy animal, be his or her points what they may, and never allow your queen to mate when thoroughly debilitated and out of health; for this lies at the bottom of the difficulty experienced in carrying out the next point we have to consider - i.e. the successful rearing of kittens. If cat fanciers could learn this lesson, we should hear far less of infant mortality.
For the ordinary mode of kitten rearing it is essential to have proper out-door quarters, and, if possible, quarters isolated from each other. There is nothing more suitable than the portable houses so readily obtained; but these must be on a dry foundation. Sunshine, fresh air, and wholesome food are the essentials of a kitten nursery. Moreover, there must never be many young things kept together. Otherwise some unlucky day you will find a sad-faced kitten looking down its nose, and in two or three days more your whole tribe will be down with distemper and your hopes for the year shattered.
I know it sounds brutal, but I cannot refrain from saying sentiment is the ruin of successful kitten rearing. Some tiny morsel develops a skin trouble, has chronic diarrhoea, bad eyes or snuffles, and we tenderly nurse it for many weary weeks and perhaps save it. A victory? Yes, if the morsel were a gem of great value, one of the "surprise babies" in colour or shape that now and again visit every cattery, it may have been worth paying the cost. For pay we shall have to make no doubt of that. Your kitten nursery will never be quite so healthy again, and in spite of all precautions you will very probably carry sickness to your other stock. I would never breed from unhealthy animals, and I would at once destroy a very sick kitten of tender ages. Lethal boxes rob the act of inhumanity and you will probably have one little tombstone to erect instead of a dozen!
One great feature of success is the boarding out system. Any woman really fond of cats who will take a kitten into the bosom of her family and rear it is a perfect boon. Of course, she must be well paid, but if she is successful you can afford to be liberal. In these cases it is better only to put out your choice specimens that you wish to attain some age before sale or to keep for stock. The others should be sold off at about eight to ten weeks old at moderate prices.
Far more of the trouble with kittens comes from defective digestion than from any other cause, and I suspect we frequently overload their little interiors. When nature makes the small cat turn away from its dinner, we fall into a panic and pour beef essence down its throat. Probably a short fast was all that was required, and it is a mistake to force food until some hours have elapsed. In fact, healthy surroundings and common-sense treatment are the maine secrets of successful kitten rearing.
Colour Breeding - The 1903 Understanding of Colour Inheritance
According to Hester Cochran, who contributed the "Colour Breeding" section to Frances Simpson's "The Book of the Cat" (1903), colour breeding was a most fascinating pursuit, but many cat fanciers lacked the patience to follow their attempts to a satisfactory conclusion. Breeders reported "sports" and "throwbacks" because they did not know about recessive genes or the fact that a female could carry kittens sired by different fathers. Although Cochran herself took a scientific approach to breeding for certain traits, others gave credence to maternal impression and paternal impression. Some believed in the mixing effect: mating black to white to produce grey; mating grey to white to produce pale grey.
Cat fanciers were aware of a relationship between black and blue, red and cream/fawn (dilution) even they did not fully understand the mechanism. Reading Cochran's notes, it is certain she would have been fascinated by modern feline genetics. Her conclusions are based on her own observations or long-hairs, although she emphasised that the same principles applied to short-hairs. Some of her conclusions are flawed because she was seeing the effects of carried recessives and of polygenes; effects which caused frustration to many breeders. In all of her advice she stated the necessity of using cats with the correct eye colour as well as the desired coat colour.
Few colours were recognised and bred compared to modern times. Cochran had no doubt that judicious cross-breeding would result in new colours and had seen a chocolate-brown cat and also a yellow cat with black stripe (probably a golden tabby, since these are related to chinchilla and silver cats which were very popular). She believed that chestnut-brown cats and white cats striped with black could be bred. Others, which already existed, she noted as having no value or being of no interest: blue-creams, blue tabbies and also smokes and chinchillas other than black were merely unfortunate by-products of breeding programmes.
It was noted "American fanciers have always shown a partiality for broken-coloured cats, and orange-and-white and blue-and-white cats have classifications given for them at the leading shows. In England there is a marked antipathy to these cats chiefly because they have little or no value for breeding, though they undoubtedly make pretty pets. Speculative, but, I must add, persevering fanciers might derive interest and amusement from trying to breed out-of-the-common specimens. A black-and-white spotted like a Dalmatian hound, or a cat marked with zebra stripes, could doubtless be produced in time by careful and judicious selection."
Cochran saw no advantage in crossing whites with other colours as the white cats were already excellent in type. "I do not for a moment suggest that good whites have not been bred from coloured parents, but this is unnecessary and undesirable, because there is a risk of introducing coloured patches and smudges and yellow or green eyes, and there is not corresponding advantage to be gained". Cochran did not know that those white cats or patched cats bred from coloured parents were white due to the "white spotting" gene or that "solid white" was a different gene entirely and that, being dominant, it masked other colours. A white was not, as she stated elsewhere, "necessarily white".
Blacks she saw as more troublesome, because "a white is necessarily white, while there is sometimes a diversity of opinion where black is concerned […] A smoky or dirty black is an abomination, and for this reason I consider that from the point of view of the black cat, all crosses with blues, smokes, or silvers should be avoided; in any case, a good silver would be impossible because of its green eyes. A rusty black is undesirable, but a rusty kitten usually makes a better-coloured cat than a smoky one, though there are notable exceptions to this rule. A good orange-eyed tortoiseshell or red tabby, or an orange, are all suitable mates for a black. A curious thing I have noticed is that the best blacks are bred from bright clear-coloured cats, and that dull colours, such as smokes, blues and fawns, do not, as a rule, produced good-coloured kittens." This made it preferable to have blacks bred from silver tabbies rather than from dark brown tabbies, while a brightly coloured tortoiseshell supposedly threw the best blacks of all.
Since these observations were based on long-hairs, it is entirely possible that some of those "smoky or dirty blacks" were actually very dark smokes with minimal pale undercoat. Many black kittens have a rusty hue early on, this probably distinguished solid blacks from dark smokes. Many adult blacks have a rusty hue due either to the bleaching effect of sunshine or to poor nutrition; both of which were possible in the late 1800s.
Cochran discouraged the crossing of blues with any other colour as there were so many different blue strains. "I have often heard that crossing a blue with a white will produce very pale blue kittens; I have not found this to be so, and it seems unlikely, for mate a black cat with a white one as often as you like, and you may wait a lifetime before they breed a blue kittens; therefore why should a dark blue and a white produce a pale blue kitten?" This would, unknown to Ms Cochran, have depended on what colour was being masked by the dominant white colour and on whether the black cat carried blue.
If a blue was mated to a black to improve type or eye colour, she wrote "Let the black parent be the male, as otherwise the kittens may very likely all be black." Presumably she had noticed that some black cats also carried blue, but had concluded that this effect was related to gender.
"It has been the misfortune of the smoke cat that it has been indiscriminately and unintelligently crossed with the black and the silver tabby, and, worst of all, with the blue. Strangely enough, there seems to be some close affinity between the smoke and the silver tabby, and it should be our object, as far as possible, to keep them apart. […] All crosses with tabby must be avoided, or we shall never get rid of face pencillings; but judicious crosses of black, blue or (best of all) chinchilla may be of service. A black cross is better than blue because, though either endangers the undercoat, it will intensify the black mask. The one advantage of a blue cross is that it will, sooner than any other, help to eliminate markings; but the blue kittens from such a cross must be sternly rejected, as their colour will never be satisfactory."
The best crosses for a chinchilla were, in order of preference, the smoke, then the black, then the white. A cat produced from crossing with a white tended to be a dingy, dirty white cat (probably due to whatever colour the white was masking!), which though not attractive in itself, could be crossed with a chinchilla, a black or even a blue. However blue chinchillas were undesirable "A blue cross is, as a rule, rather objectionable, because it seems to produce a muddy, dull colour." Cochran had noticed a link between chinchilla and tabby, although she again concluded that this was due to the gender of the blue parent. She wrote that if a blue was used, the blue parent "should be the sire, as when the reverse is the case the kittens are frequently blue tabby."
"I must confess that chinchilla kittens occasionally turn up most unexpectedly. I recollect a very pale one appearing in a litter whose sire was a cream of brown tabby and cream parentage, and whose dam was a pale blue bred from a blue and a blue tabby. There may have been silver tabby blood in the strain, but certainly no chinchilla." It is now known that silver tabby and the chinchilla (and shaded silver) are genetically very similar. Cochran's personal experience was that some excellent chinchillas, although of irreproachable (i.e. excellent pedigree) chinchilla parents, produced only brown tabby kittens, however they were mated.
A major fault with brown tabbies was markings which were too heavy and which spread into a heavy black saddle obscuring the clear golden-brown ground colour; often the brown tabbies also had white chins which were a fault. With the "sable cat", a white chin was forgivable, because he was such a magnificent animal, but Cochran cautioned that a sable cat was not a tabby and should not be shown as one. To counter the tendency for over-heavy markings "A cross of strongly marked red tabby is the thing; not a 'self orange' mind you - that would only make things worse - but the best coloured red, with a dark chin."
There were considered to be two varieties of brown tabby: the sable colour and the old brown colour. Sables were considered more attractive, but were prone to white lips chins. Breeders wanting to produce the ideal brown tabby for exhibition were advised to breed together the "old coloured brown" tabby and the sable variety. Red tabby short-hairs were prone to having white markings on the chest.
After mating to another colour, there was a danger of the colours "washing out" (without knowing it, she was describing the effects of polygenes), though the brown tabbies were less prone to this than the silver tabbies. Cochran remarked that she had bred beautifully marked clear silver tabbies from a brown tabby sire and a sandy, silver tabby female, both of unknown pedigree.
"The red tabby, the orange, and the tortoiseshell are rather hopelessly mixed up at present. The self-orange (so called) did not exist a few years ago, but of late a premium has been put on absence of markings, and a lot of cats with self-coloured or shaded bodies and striped faces appear in the orange classes and win all the prizes […] If they are to be self-coloured the face markings must go. Crossing with blue gets over this difficulty, but we immediately lose brightness of colour and get dull yellows and fawns. […] The red tabby has almost died out among long-hairs, but flourishes in short-hairs. It could be revived by crossing a brown tabby with an orange."
Just as blue is the dilute of black, cream is the dilute of red. Other genes make reds and creams richer or paler in colour. In 1903, "red" referred to the richer colour while others were "orange". Cream was described as a pale, yellow. There were also "fawns" - what we would call "hot" creams and what others called "biscuit" - and Cochran wrote that fawns and creams should not be confused although they sometimes appeared in the same litter.
"Clear, pale yellow creams may be bred from oranges and tortoiseshells; but these must not be confounded with the fawn-coloured cats, often called creams, which are more common and easy to breed. Though creams and fawns occasionally appear in the same litter this is generally the fault of their ancestors […] as a matter of fact, I have never seen one of these clear yellow creams which was not descended, however remotely, from Mrs Kinchant's strain.
To produce fawn creams is, comparatively, a simple matter, as a cross of blue and orange will almost invariably produce some fawn kittens, especially if the dam is blue. When the dam is orange or tortoiseshell there will often be a number of blue tortoiseshell kittens which are valueless. Some people like them to breed creams from, but I have never found them more useful for this purpose than a correctly coloured tortoiseshell."
Although the blue-cream tortoiseshell was held in little regard, the standard tortoiseshell (black and red) was considered very useful in breeding programs. Lacking a modern genetics knowledge, the late 1800s breeder noticed only that a tortoiseshell female produced a whole spectrum of different coloured kittens. In long-hairs at least, the tortoiseshell was becoming valued for the kittens it could produce rather than for its own looks:
"Tortoiseshells are entirely neglected by fanciers nowadays, and are only used as a stepping-stone to more fashionable colours. There is no doubt that a tortoiseshell can be got to breed anything! I knew a queen which bred magnificent blacks, blues, creams, oranges, fawns and smokes, whether mated to a blue, a cream, or a smoke, and I believe she also threw chinchilla kittens to a chinchilla sire."
Brindling, or the "over-running" of the black by red and yellow, was a problem. Clear patches were preferred, particularly in long-hairs. The best tortoiseshells were bred from blacks. A black and a red tabby or orange produced good tortoiseshells. A tortoiseshell and a black-and-white, rather than a tortoiseshell and a white, produced tortoiseshell-and-whites Red tabbies were to be avoided in producing tortoiseshell-and-whites because of the tabby markings they produced. Elsewhere, editor Frances Simpson had noted that attempts to breed tortoiseshell males were unsuccessful.
Although the detailed genetics knowledge of dominant and recessive genes was lacking, and some of her own conclusions were incorrect, Cochran observed that the ancestors of cats had to be taken into account when pairing cats together. "When breeding chinchillas, if we used a black bred from a brown tabby mother the results would be disastrous".
SUCCESSFUL KITTENHOOD, By C A House (author and editor)
Illustrated by Harrison Weir, published in Fur and Feather 1902 (reprinted 1978)
KITTENHOOD IS without doubt the most engaging period of a cat's life, and many fanciers who have risen to high places in the ranks of the Fancy have first had their attention drawn to cats by observing the gambols of a kitten. Kittenhood, to the fancier, is also an interesting time. I know of no branch of the Fancy so full of charm as is that which attends the development of a litter of kittens. Anticipation, expectation, and realisation play a big part in the daily round of the cattery. From the time of their appearance in this world, till they make their debut on the show bench, kittens keep the interest of their master or mistress at fever height. One wonders what kind of coats they will have, will their colour be all right, what will their markings be like? Will their eyes be of the correct and fashionable hue? Will they have the lovely expression of their mother? and their sire’s handsome frill and brush? Aye, from start to finish kittenhood is full of charm and fascination to the enthusiastic fancier.
The possibilities attending the future of a young kitten are so great that no opportunity must be missed by the owner to bring to perfection all the qualities which lie hidden. In the nest it is impossible to say which will bring home the coveted special from the Palace or Birmingham, therefore the first three months of their existence all must be considered as prospective winners and treated accordingly. When they make their appearance in this world of woe, they should for the first few days be left to the care of their mother, that is, of course, providing she has an abundant supply of milk, and it seldom happens that a queen is short of a sufficiency of milk for her little family. Now and again it may happen that it is otherwise. Then they must be given to a foster at once, or fed by hand for a day or two, till the milk begins to flow.
The best way to do this is as suggested some time since in FUR & FEATHER by Miss Row. Take a teaspoonful of arrowroot and put it into a small basin. Mix with a little new milk to the thickness of paste, pour boiling water upon it, stirring all the time, until the whole becomes clear, almost to transparency, and like jelly. Then beat in some cream until it becomes thin enough to run off the spoon, when it will be ready for the kitten to take. If this is too much trouble, try feeding with plain, warm, new milk, using a baby's feeding bottle, with a very small nipple.
Young fanciers are sometimes at a loss to know how many kittens a cat should bring up. If the kittens are only intended for pets the whole litter may be left, no matter how many there are, but if it is desired to produce show specimens, well, three at the most should be allowed either the mother or the foster after the first week. Bone and coat are of such great importance in the show pen that everything must be done that can be done to ensure them, and nothing does this more than a full and generous supply of natural milk during early kittenhood. In fact, so much importance do some successful breeders attach to this that when their kittens are ten days or a fortnight, or even three weeks old, they give them to a second foster, that is, one recently kittened. By this means the kittens get a much longer supply of natural milk, and it is of much assistance to them.
When a cat is suckling kittens she should be fed at least four times a day; two of these meals should consist of meat, vegetables, and gravy, one of fish, and the other either milk sop or Provost Oats boiled in milk; she should also be allowed as much new milk as she will drink. If it is obtainable, goat’s milk is much superior to cow’s milk, being richer in fatty matter. During the suckling period the mother should be carefully watched, as the slightest derangement of her health is certain to affect the kittens prejudicially, and hinder their growth, even if nothing more serious ensues.
When the kittens are a month old they will begin to investigate their surroundings, and commence taking an interest in the world outside their box. At this time they will also attempt feeding themselves from their mother’s dishes. As they gain in age, strength, and knowledge, and are able to lap on their own account, they should be given some thin gruel, made with oatmeal and milk, arrowroot or Mellin’s Food; the latter is a grand food for growing kittens. The great thing in rearing kittens is to keep them growing.
The weaning stage is another critical period. It will have been gathered from my remarks about foster-mothers that I believe in the kittens having as much natural milk as possible, therefore, it follows that I advocate the kittens being left with their mother as long as there is milk .for them to suck. The usual thing is to wean them at eight weeks, but I have kept them with the mother till they have been sixteen, and even eighteen weeks old. There is much discussion as to whether kittens should be given meat or not directly after being weaned. I unhesitatingly give my vote in the affirmative. My motto in rearing kittens has always been — What agrees with the mother agrees with the kittens. Some people, not content with seeing their kittens grow, weigh them at certain intervals. The practice is one I cannot recommend, as I have known serious losses follow the practice. Young kittens are very nervous, and it is a very easy matter to frighten them.
When the kittens are old enough to follow their mother out of the house they should be watched, and only allowed to do so when the weather is favourable. I am not by any means an advocate for pampering young stock, and making hothouse plants of them, but I believe in the exercise of ordinary vigilance and care, and all who have had any experience with young kittens will know that it is not advisable for them to be allowed out of doors in wet weather, or when the grass in the run is wet. Damp means to young kittens sore eyes, cramp, bronchitis, and other undesirable complications. Prevention is better than cure, in the cattery as else where. Thus my readers should remember that as young kittens are not able to withstand the ravages of dampness, it is essential that they be kept indoors during inclement weather.
HOME PETS Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper , 28th March 1897
The cat, which is the domestic pet of all others most universally kept, has had but little attention bestowed on it from the fanciers' point of view until quite recent Years. The majority of people who own a cat still pay small heed to its appearance or feeding, and allow it to roam about at all hours of the night and day, picking up offal and other filth, to its frequent detriment and danger. But there are some who have taken up cat culture as a hobby, and, considering the high sums that are obtained for Persian and other pure-bred feline beauties, the hobby is undoubtedly a profitable one. From two to five guineas for a kitten, and more than double that sum for an adult prize winner, are prices that would surprise those who are accustomed to regard a cat as simply a machine for catching mice.
The Persian, and other long-coated cats, are generally less hardy in their kittenhood than the ordinary grimalkin, and require more care and attention. It is better not to allow them out in the rain, for their thick fur takes a long time to dry, and sitting in wet clothes for some hours is apt to lay the seeds of consumption. A little tonic now and then, given with their food - such as Parrish's chemical food - help them a good deal when they are from three to six months old, usually their most delicate time. Bread and milk, a small quantity of meat chopped up with greens and other vegetables, a little liver sometimes, and now and then some fish, will be found suitable food. A little butter given daily, and placed on their front paws, will make cats clean their coats regularly. If they cannot have access to grass, which they will eat readily, a handful should be brought to them once a week. Eaten in small quantities it acts as a mild aperient, and, in large doses, as an emetic. If the appetite fails a delicate and valuable kitten may sometimes be saved by painting its paws with Bovril, Liebig, or any of the meat essences. The natural cleanliness of the little animal will cause it, even in sickness, to lick off the offending matter.
For some long time a tortoiseshell tom cat was believed to be impossible to produce. But the skill of the fancier at length surmounted the difficulty, and though they are very scarce, and enormous prices have been given for them, tortoiseshell toms are to be seen at the different cat shows. The tortoiseshell ought to be dark red, yellow, and black, without any white whatever, the colours bright and rich, in small patches all over the body, the shades on the legs and tail being well broken, and as much like the rest of the body as possible. The nose should be of one colour, and this colour should extend well up between the eyes. As there are many good tortoiseshell females there ought not to be so much difficulty in producing males. Those who wish to attempt the experiment should procure a good coloured female and mate her with a pure black tom that has no white hairs on him. A black male kitten resulting from this alliance should be mated with the tortoiseshell parent, and the produce again closely interbred, using always the black male and the tortoiseshell female. It is probable that in a generation or two the desired tortoiseshell tom will make his appearance oftener.
You are visitor number