The following are excerpts from Victorian texts on domestic animals showing different views on the animal-human relationship and on evolution. Except for the rare Charles Baker text, where I've reproduced the section on mammals, I have excerpted the sections most likely to be of interest to cat lovers. The texts here include "Illustrated Natural History" (Rev JG Wood), "Animals, Their Nature and Their Uses" (Charles Baker), "Origin of Species" (Charles Darwin) and "The Variation Of Animals And Plants Under Domestication" (Charles Darwin).



WE have hitherto been describing a class of harmless animals, that serve as instruments to the happiness of man, or at least that are not at warfare with his tribe ; but we are now to turn to an unrelenting race, whose sanguinary tempers deal in blood. All the class of the cat kind are chiefly distinguished by their sharp and formidable claws, which they can hide or extend at pleasure ; they lead a solitary ravenous life, neither uniting for their mutual defence, like. those which feed on vegetables, or, like the dog, for mutual support. The dog, the wolf, and the bear, are sometimes known to live upon farinaceous food ; but all of the cat kind, such as the lion, the tiger, the leopard, and the ounce, refuse the sustenance that does not teem with blood.

In other animals many alterations are produced by the arts and assiduity of man ; but these creatures remain inflexibly the same, and neither climate or control can change them.

The cat, which is the smallest animal of the kind, is the only one that has been taken under human protection : the lion and the tiger may be tamed, and rendered obedient to command ; but even in their humblest moments they are to be dreaded, as their strength is so great, and their tempers so capricious, that they have frequently been known suddenly to turn upon those to whose authority they had appeared to submit.

Of all the animals when young, there is none more prettily playful than the kitten ; but, as its years increase, it seems gradually to lose its sportive habits, and the innate treachery of its class prevails. From being naturally ravenous, education teaches it to disguise its appetites, and to watch a favorable moment for seizing its prey. Supple, artful, and insinuating, it disguises its intentions until it can execute them without danger ; and, instead of making an open attack, conceals itself in ambush, like a designing foe. The weapons of this animal are both its teeth and claws ; the former of which amount to thirty, and are calculated for tearing rather than chewing its food : their claws are remarkable both for sharpness and strength, and they never suffer any thing to escape that once comes within their grasp. The cat* has only the appearance of attachment ; and it may easily be perceived, by its timid approaches, and side-long looks, that it either dreads its master, or distrusts his kindness ; it is assiduous rather for its own pleasure, than to

[* This animal goes fifty-six days with young, and generally produces four or five at a time, which she carefully hides in some concealed spot, and for some weeks entirely supports them upon milk ; afterwards she carries them whatever she has made her prey.]

please ; and often obtains confidence, merely to abuse it. The form of its body, and its temperament, perfectly correspond with its disposition ; active, cleanly, delicate, and voluptuous, it shews a peculiar fondness for comfort and ease : it is timid and mistrustful, because its body is weak, and its skin more tender and thin than a dog's, therefore they appear to be constantly in dread of blows. Of all the marks which this animal exhibits of the natural ferocity and malignity of its disposition is that of sporting with the object it means to devour ; and instead of putting an end to its sufferings by an immediate death, lengthening them out by an appearance of release ; and when the poor victim fancies it has escaped its tyrant, a sudden spring renews its captive chains, and sets it once more trembling for its life. The cat is seldom known to make an attack upon those animals which are capable of defence, but birds and mice are its favourite food : it also eats the young of rabbits and hares ; and, when very hungry, will devour bats, moles, toads, and frogs.

Although the cat is an inhabitant of our abode, it cannot be called a dependant upon man, for it gives no proof of pliancy or obedience, but follows its own inclinations and pursuits. It appears to have a natural antipathy to water ; and is fond of rubbing itself against those who carry any kind of perfume : it likewise shows an excessive partiality to the smell of valerian, marum, and cat-mint : it seldom is known to sleep sound ; and often imitates that lifeless appearance, for the purpose of deceiving the unsuspecting object of its prey. There is something peculiarly remarkable in the pupil of this animal's eye, which in the dark seems to expand over the whole ball, but contracts into a small compass when presented to the light. It is remarkably cleanly in its nature : its hair is glossy, smooth, and sleak ; and, when forcibly rubbed in the dark, emits electrical sparks.

The wild cat is something larger than the tame kind ; but, from the fur being longer, it appears much superior in size : its teeth and claws are much more formidable ; its head is bigger, and its face more flat. The general colour of this animal in England is a yellowish white, intermixed with grey. It inhabits the most mountainous and woody parts of the island ; feeds only by night, and lives in trees. It is one of those few quadrupeds which is common to the new as well as to the old continent, for when Columbus first discovered that country, a hunter brought him one that he had found in the woods : they are common likewise in many parts of Africa and Asia, and the colour of some of them is inclining to blue. In Chorazan, a province of Persia, there is a species of this animal with a most beautiful skin ; the colour is a greyish blue, and nothing can exceed the lustre and softness of its skin : the tail curls upon the back like a squirrel's, and the hair upon it is at least six inches in length. Another variety of this creature is called the lion-cat, or, more properly, the cat of Angora : these are larger than either the tame or the wild cat ; their hair is longer, and hangs about their head and neck so as to give the creature an appearance of a lion ; in general, the "animal is white, though sometimes it takes a dun hue.


THE DOMESTIC CAT - By Peter Parley (Samuel Griswold Goodrich b. 1793 d. 1860)
From Tales of Animals: Comprising Quadrupeds, Birds, Fishes, Reptiles, and Insects.
Published 1835BR>

THE Domestic Cat is so common that I need not describe its appearance. It is a variety of the Wild Cat, rendered docile by domestication ; and is found in almost all countries.

The Cat is assiduous to please, but is sly, distrustful, and treacherous. She will take advantage of your inattention to steal your breakfast ; and if by chance you tread on the tail of one that has been the favourite of years, she will turn on you with teeth and claws, and retaliate the accident with the fiercest spite. Their affection is only apparent; they are not attached to persons, but to places. They do not easily exchange their residence, but they forget their old friends and form a new attachment, in cases where one family leaves a house and another enters it, with great facility.


Notwithstanding these unamiable traits, her grace, beauty, softness, and insinuating manners, make Puss a general favourite, particularly with ladies. If Peter Parley had any friends among them, he would whisper in their ear, not as reproach, but as warning, that Puss resembles some of their other favourites, possessing more grace of manner than sincerity of heart. I hope none of my readers will learn to value beauty and accomplishments more than truth and virtue, because some people attach superior importance to them.

Every person is acquainted with the playfulness of kittens. Nothing is indeed more amusing than their happy gambols. Alas ! that they should ever cease to be kittens, and get to be old Cats; that they should lose their gentleness and vivacity, and become grave, cunning, selfish, long-faced prowlers, going about seeking what poor rat they may devour !

Yet, to do Puss justice, we could not well do without her. But for her, our houses would be overrun with rats and mice, and our very food would be stolen and carried away by these greedy creatures.

One of the most remarkable properties of a Domestic Cat is the anxiety with which it makes itself acquainted, not only with every part of its usual habitation, but with the dimensions and external qualities of every object by which it is surrounded. Cats do not very readily adapt themselves to a change of houses ; but we have watched the process by which one, whose attachment to a family is considerable, reconciles itself to such a change.

He surveys every room in the house, from the garret to the cellar; if a door is shut, he waits till it be opened to complete the survey; he ascertains the relative size and position of every article of furniture: and when he has acquired this knowledge, he sits down contented with his new situation. It appears necessary to a Cat that he should be intimately acquainted with every circumstance of his position, in the same way that a general first examines the face of the country in which he is to conduct his operations. If a new piece of furniture, if even a large book or portfolio, is newly placed in a room which a Cat frequents, he walks round it, smells it, takes note of its size and appearance, and then never troubles himself further about the matter.

This is, probably, an instinctive quality; and the wild cat may, in the same way, take a survey of every tree, or stone, every gap in a brake, every path in a thicket, within the ordinary range of its operations. The whiskers of the Cat, as we have mentioned in the case of the lion, enable it to ascertain the space through which its body may pass, without the inconvenience of vainly attempting such a passage.

Cats may be taught to perform tricks, such as leaping over a stick, but they always do such feats unwillingly. There is an exhibition of Cats in Regent Street, London, where the animals, at the bidding of their master, an Italian, turn a wheel, draw up a bucket, ring a bell, and, in doing these things, begin, continue, and stop, as they are commanded. But the command of their keeper is always enforced with a threatening eye, and often with a severe blow ; and the poor creatures exhibit the greatest reluctance to proceed with their unnatural employments. They have a subdued and piteous look; but the scratches upon their master's arms show that his task is not always an easy one.

One of the most remarkable peculiarities of the Domestic Cat is the property which its fur possesses of yielding electric sparks by rubbing. In frosty weather, this is occasionally very extraordinary.

It is a very prevalent notion that Cats are fond of sucking the breath of infants, and consequently of producing disease and death. Upon the slightest reflection, nothing can be more obvious, than that it is impossible for Cats to suck an infant’s breath, at least so as to do it any injury.


It has been said that a Cat has the ability to charm or fascinate birds in such a manner, that they lose the ability to escape, and thus become an easy prey. This power is probably a faculty of inspiring birds with such terror that they become stupified and motionless. Montaigne relates the following story in illustration of this characteristic of the Cat. There was at my house, a little while ago, a Cat seen watching a bird upon the top of a tree, and for some time they mutually fixed their eyes upon each other. At length the bird let herself fall into the Cat’s claws, probably dazzled and astonished by the force of imagination.

Mr. White informs us, that a boy brought to him three young squirrels, which had been taken from their nest. These little creatures he put under a Cat that had recently lost her kittens; and he found that she nursed and suckled them with the same assiduity and affection as if they had been her own progeny.

Dr. Darwin has the following account of a similar circumstance. At Elford, near Litchfield, the Rev. Mr. Sawley had taken the young ones from a hare which had been shot. His Cat, which had just lost her own kittens, carried them away, as it was supposed, to eat them ; but it presently appeared that it was affection, not hunger, which incited her, as she suckled them and brought them up as their mother.

Thus I have told you of several of the most remarkable and interesting of those animals which belong to the Cat family ; the Lion, Tiger, Panther, Cougar, Leopard, Jaguar, Ounce, Ocelot, Lynx, Wild Cat, and Domestic Cat. There are several others belonging to the race, but I have not space to mention them in this little volume. All these animals resemble each other in their construction and habits ; they are all furnished with sharp teeth to tear their prey; and they are all endowed with instincts which lead them to feed on the flesh of other animals.

The invariable characteristic of the race, of whatever form, of whatever colour, of whatever physical power, the individual variety may be, is a ruling desire for the destruction of animal life. In some species this desire is carried into action with more boldness, in others with more cunning; but in all there is a mixture of cunning and boldness, more or less mingled with a suspicion which assumes the appearance of fear, the unchanging property of all treacherous natures.

The creature which lies at our fireside, leaps upon our table, sits upon our knee, purrs round our legs, attends us at our meals, never forsakes our houses, and altogether appears as if it could only exist in dependence upon man— the Domestic Cat—is precisely of the same nature as the Leopard or the Ocelot. The Wild Cat of the forests is the Tame Cat of the houses ; the Tame Cat would become wild if turned into the woods ; the Wild Cat at some period has been domesticated, and its species has been established in almost every family of the old and new continent.



Published Under the Direction Of The Committee Of General Literature And Education Appointed By The Society For Promoting Christian Knowledge


ONE only of the fierce family of Felis has relinquished her native independence. This is the CAT (felis catus), that little domestic animal, which we retain near our persons in order to clear us from the aggressions of others. In her wild state she may be called the British Tiger, the fiercest, and most destructive inhabitant of our woods. She infests with her fierce sisterhood, the mountainous and woody parts of these islands, where she lives mostly in trees, and feeds only at night. In a domestic state she lays aside, with respect to her master, the more reprehensible features of her character, and sedulously employs herself in his service. When young, she is frolicsome and active, and as she grows up, nimble, dextrous, cleanly, and insinuating. It is true that she is somewhat of a flattering thief, possessing address, subtlety, and the desire of plunder; that she knows how to conceal her steps, and her designs; to watch for opportunities to seize her prey; to fly from pursuit, and remain at a distance till solicited to return; but then she has many redeeming qualities; she is gay and vivacious, attached to the roof that shelters her, and will rarely quit it, even for a more commodious home. When carried to the distance of two or three miles, she often returns of her own accord. Probably, says Buffon, because she is acquainted with all the retreats of the mice, and the passages and outlets of the house; and because the labour of returning is less than that which would be requisite to acquire the same knowledge in a new habitation; or, perhaps, because, like the Savoyard, she carries with her that love of home, which does not admit of being extinguished by other scenes.

If kindly treated, she is capable of great attachment. Pennant relates that Henry Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton, the friend and companion of the Earl of Essex in his unfortunate insurrection, having been confined for some time in the Tower, was surprised by a visit from his favourite Cat, which, says tradition, reached him by descending the chimney of his apartment. This sagacious animal generally evinces her attachment by patiently waiting the return of her master, by brushing against his legs, and gambolling before him to the door. Her little services are cheerfully applied in chasing away the rats and mice that infest his pantry: nay, in order to clear him from their intrusions, she will sit patiently for hours in a cold moonlight night, on the frosty ground, watching beside their quarries, and if she secures her prey, she returns exulting to the house, calls loudly at the door, and when admitted, runs to lay her plunder at his feet. Nor would she suffer his currants and gooseberries to be taken by small birds, if she was allowed to remain unmolested in the garden.

To enlarge farther on the qualities of this useful and agreeable domestic would be superfluous. It is sufficient to observe that, when well educated, the cat possesses qualities entitling her to the regard and protection of mankind; if she does not exhibit the vivid and animated attachment of the dog, she is affectionate and grateful to her benefactors. She has also the merit of great cleanliness, while her numerous and infinitely varying gesticulations are extremely elegant. Few exhibit an equal antipathy to water, or bad smells; are fonder of basking in the sun, or have a greater predilection for perfumes.

Cats, though naturally shy of strangers, will allow themselves to be caressed by those who carry aromatic substances. The valerian is their favourite plant, and woe to the gardener who has neglected to place it beyond their reach. First one, and then another discovers it; they collect in numbers, rub against it, then pass and repass, throw themselves upon it, and soon not a trace of the valerian remains. No animal, whose habits we have had an opportunity of accurately observing, exhibits a greater degree of maternal tenderness than the cat; the extreme assiduity with which she attends her young, and the fondness she evinces for them, afford the most pleasing entertainment to the observer.

We know an instance of a cat who was conveyed from Glasgow to Edinburgh, a distance of about forty miles, with her master's family. She was a fine sagacious creature, and was much valued for her good qualities; shortly after her arrival at the new habitation, she kittened, and continued to attend her charge till the two which had been kept were able to see and eat. One morning, to the regret of the whole family, puss was nowhere to be found; one of the kittens was also missing, and after many fruitless searches, it was conjectured that she had come to an untimely end, and that the poor little kitten had perished in attempting to follow her. Scarcely, however, had two weeks elapsed, before the lady of the house was informed by letter, that grimalkin, looking back with fond regret to the home which she had left, had actually returned, with her lost kitten, but so weak and emaciated that she could scarcely get into the house. The journey must have taken up, at least, a week, and when we consider that this poor creature had to carry and support her kitten, as well as to forage for herself, and find her way without a chart, or pocket compass, a more extraordinary instance of animal sagacity has perhaps never been recorded. Rest and food soon restored her exhausted strength, and then leaving her kitten under the care of her hostess, forth she set, and in a much shorter time than the last journey required, reached her mistress's habitation. No words expressed her feelings, but she sang loud, and looked glad to see old friends again; it was therefore hoped that she would remain, but such was not her design: she stayed just long enough to recruit her strength, and then departed with her second kitten, who was now old enough to trot some way by her mother's side, and could therefore be conveyed with less fatigue to the home, which neither affection to her mistress, nor the perils of such a journey, could induce her to relinquish.

Here, then, is a sixth sense. Five, the lower orders of creation share in common with their delegated master; but that master, proud as he may be of his pre-eminence, however skilled in every talent that may adorn and dignify his nature, cannot solve the problem, by what means a timid quadruped, burdened with the charge of a kitten, could find her way for the distance of forty miles. This sense she possesses in common with the donkey, as we shall presently have occasion to prove, and with some of the canine species; it is a sense, which we can no more comprehend than a zoophyte, clinging to his native rock, can understand the highest calculations of a Newton. Now this is a striking fact, and let us draw from it the valuable conclusion, that if we know so little concerning the things which are seen, we shall do well to distrust our own powers of comprehension concerning the things that are not seen, which are confessedly above us, and of the highest moment.

A cat will also nurse with great tenderness the offspring of such animals as are in every respect dissimilar to herself, as well as the orphan litter of her own relations. The naturalist of Selborne, mentions that a friend of his had a little helpless leveret brought to him, which the servants fed with milk from a spoon; about the same time his cat kittened, and the young were dispatched and buried. The leveret was soon lost, and supposed to be destroyed. About a fortnight after, as the master was sitting in his garden in the dusk of evening, he observed his cat, with tail erect, trotting towards him, and calling with little short inward notes of complacency to something gambolling after. This proved to be the leveret, which the cat had supported, and still continued to nourish with great affection. Thus was a graminivorous animal, nurtured by a carnivorous and predacious one. This strange affection was most probably occasioned by those tender maternal feelings which the loss of her kittens had awakened in her breast, and by the complacency and ease which the little nursling afforded her, till she became as much de lighted with the foundling as if it was her own. In no other way can we account for a member of the ferocious family of Felis, the murium leo of Linnaeus, being affected with any tenderness towards an animal which is her natural prey. Yet this is not a solitary instance, and it affords an easy solution of those strange circumstances which grave historians as well as poets assert, of exposed children being nurtured by female wild beasts that probably had lost their young. Nor is it more extraordinary that Romulus and Remus, in their infant state, should be nursed by a she-wolf, than that a poor little suckling leveret should be fostered by a cat.

As the services of this valuable domestic are generally required, we discover them in almost every portion of the globe. They existed in America before the landing of Columbus; they are likewise found in Peru, Canada, and the Illinois, in various parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, at Madagascar, and the Cape, sometimes in a domestic, and again in a wild state. Vast numbers have been discovered in the Antilles, their ancestors having most probably been introduced from Spain. These creatures, says Father Tettre, were so accustomed to feed on partridges, pigeons, and thrushes, that they disdained the rats; but when the game diminished, they attacked their ancient enemies with with great fury.

As the domestication of the cat is neither so complete, so universal, nor, perhaps, so ancient as that of the canine species, it is not surprising that there are fewer varieties; for though unalterably attached to the roof that shelters them, these creatures are undoubtedly half wild. Even the tamest and most domestic may be said to enjoy comparatively perfect liberty; they live only to please themselves, and it is impossible to retain them a moment after they choose to go off. Hence our domestic cats, however differing in colour, form no new races. The climates of Spain and Syria have alone produced permanent varieties. To these may be added such as inhabit the province of Pe-chi-ly, in China, which have uniformly long hair, with peculiar ears, and are the favourites of the ladies.


WHEN ENGAGED in the study of an illustrated work on ethnology, with its portraits of the various forms which are assumed by the human race, a certain feeling of relief and repose takes possession of the mind when the reader turns from the savage races of mankind, with their selfish, restless, eager, bestialized expression, to the mild and intellectual countenances of the civilized nations. A similar sensation of repose is felt when we turn from the savage, hungry-looking Wild Cat to the placid face and tranquil expression of our favourite, the DOMESTIC CAT.

Although this country possesses an indigenous Cat, which would naturally be considered as the original progenitor of the Domestic Cat, which attaches herself so strongly to mankind, it is now generally admitted that for this useful and graceful animal we are indebted to another continent. In the description of the Wild Cat, it has been mentioned that the distinguishing marks which characterize the two species are so permanent as to defy eradication, and to mark decisively the “Felis Catus” [European Wildcat] from the “Felis Domestica.” The comparative length of their tails is of itself a distinction, and one which seems never to be lost by either the wild or the domestic animal. Whether those two creatures have ever produced a mixed breed is a matter of much uncertainty, for although a wood or a warren may be infested with cats living in a wild state, yet, in almost every case, they are only Domestic Cats in which the savage part of their nature has predominated, and conquered the assumed habits of domestication. They have acted as men sometimes act under similar temptation, and have voluntarily taken to a savage life. As far as is at present known, the Egyptian Cat, for which see p. 192, is the origin of our Domestic Cat.

In the long past times, when the Egyptian nation was at the head of the civilized world, the “Fells maniculata” [Egyptian Cat] was universally domesticated in their homes, while at the comparatively later days of English history the Domestic Cat was so scarce in England that royal edicts were issued for its preservation. Yet in those days, A. D. 948, the wild Cat was rife throughout the British Islands, and was reckoned as a noxious animal, which must be destroyed, and not a useful one which must be protected. It is conjectured that the Domestic Cat was imported from Egypt into Greece and Rome, and from thence to England.

In the eyes of any one who has really examined, and can support the character of the Domestic Cat, she must appear to be a sadly calumniated creature. She is generally contrasted with the dog, much to her disfavour. His docility, affectionate disposition, and forgiveness of injuries; his reliability of character, and his wonderful intellectual powers are spoken of, as truly they deserve, with great enthusiasm and respect. But these amiable traits of character are brought into violent contrast with sundry ill-conditioned qualities which are attributed to the Cat, and wrongly so. The Cat is held up to reprobation as a selfish animal, seeking her own comfort and disregardful of others; attached only to localities, and bearing no real affection for her owners. She is said to be sly and treacherous, hiding her talons in her velvety paws as long as she is in a good temper, but ready to use them upon her best friends if she is crossed in her humours.

Whatever may have been the experience of those who gave so slanderous a character to the Cat, my own rather wide acquaintance with this animal has led me to very different conclusions. The Cats with which I have been most familiar have been as docile, tractable, and good-tempered as any dog could be, and displayed an amount of intellectual power which would be equalled by very few dogs, and surpassed by none. With regard to the comparatively good and bad temper of the cat and dog, there is much to be said in favour of the former as of the latter animal, while, as to their mental capacities, the scale certainly does not preponderate so decidedly on the side of the dog as generally imagined. Nor is my own experience a solitary one, for in almost every instance where my friends have possessed favourite Cats the result has been the same. For example, the following lines are an extract from a letter, which was sent to me, narrating the habits of two of these animals:-

“I must now tell you something about our Mincing Lane Cats. Their home was the cellar, and their habits and surroundings, as you may imagine from the locality, were decidedly commercial. We had one cunning old black fellow, whose wisdom was acquired by sad experience. In early youth he must have been very careless; he was then always in the way of the men and the wine cases, and frequent were the disasters he suffered from coming into collision with moving bodies. His ribs had been often fractured, and when nature repaired them she must have handed them over to the care of her ‘prentice hand,’ for the work was done in rather a rough and knotty manner. This battered and suffering pussy was at last assisted by a younger hero, who, profiting by the teachings of his senior, managed to avoid the scrapes which had tortured the one who was self-educated.

These two Cats, senior and junior, appeared to swear (cats will swear) eternal friendship at first sight. An interchange of good offices between them was at once established. ‘Senior’ taught ‘junior’ to avoid men’s feet, and wine cases in motion, and pointed out the favourite hunting grounds, while ‘junior’ offered to his mentor the aid of his activity and physical prowess. Senior had a cultivated and epicurean taste for mice, which he was too old to catch; he therefore entered into a solemn league and covenant with ‘junior’ to the following effect: It was agreed between these low contracting powers that ‘junior’ should devote his energies to catching mice for the benefit of ‘senior,’ who, in consideration of such feudal service, was daily to relinquish his claim to a certain allowance of cat’s meat in favour of ‘junior.’ This curious compact was actually and seriously carried out. It was an amusing and touching spectacle to behold young pussy gravely laying at the feet of his elder the contents of his ‘game bag;’ on the other hand, ‘senior,’ true to his bargain, licked his jaws and watched ‘junior’ steadily consuming a double share of cat’s meat.

‘Senior’ had the rare talent of being able to carry a bottle of champagne from one end of the cellar to the other, perhaps a distance of 150 feet. The performance was managed in this wise. You gently and lovingly approached the Cat, as if you did not mean to perpetrate anything wicked; having gained its confidence by fondly stroking its back, you suddenly seized its tail, and by that member raised the animal bodily from the ground, its fore-feet sprawling in the air ready to catch hold of any object within reach. You then quickly bring the bottle of wine to the seizing pojnt; pussy clutches the object with a kind of despairing grip. By means of the aforesaid tail you carefully carry pussy, bottle and all, from one part of the cellar to another. Pussy, however, soon became disgusted with this manoeuvre, and when he saw a friend with a bottle of champagne looming in the distance, he used to beat a precipitate retreat So ends my tale.”

In the course of this description of the Domestic Cat, I shall endeavour to introduce, as far as possible, entirely new anecdotes of this animal, which will bring forward certain traits of character that have never yet been laid before the public notice. Many of the incidents which will be recorded in the following pages are sufficiently wonderful to call forth an incredulous smile on the part of those who have no sympathy with this graceful and intelligent animal, and who have not given to its intellectual capacities the credit which they deserve. I therefore think it needful to state that every narrative of feline character which will be found in this work, either occurred within my own knowledge, or is substantiated by the authority of the correspondents who have favoured me with their narratives, many of whom enjoy a world-wide reputation in the realms of literature and science. From putting forward some of these statements I have somewhat shrunk, knowing the incredulity which meets any controversion of a popular prejudice. But it seems a species of cowardice to withhold the truth through fear of opposition or ridicule, and, therefore, the following narratives are laid before the public simply because they are true, and not because they are credible. The two anecdotes which have been just narrated will convey to the mind of any unprejudiced reader a certain respect for the amount of intellectual power possessed by both these animals, and for the exceeding good temper of the elder Cat while employed in his unwilling task of wine porterage.

As a general rule, a Cat that is well treated is as kindly an animal as a dog under similar circumstances, and towards young children still more so. There is, perhaps, no animal which is so full of trust as a Cat which is kindly treated, and none which, when subjected to harshness, is so nervously suspicious. Its very trustfulness of nature seems, when rebuffed, to react so forcibly upon its sensitive disposition as to cause an entire change of character, and fills it with a shy, timid suspicion. I have had many Cats, and never yet found one which would not permit almost any liberty to be taken with it. Indeed, there are few dogs which would suffer, without resentment, such unceremonious treatment as my Cats were called upon to meet daily.

One of these Cats, a huge, dignified, portly animal, would let me pick him up and carry him about in the most disrespectful manner. Any part of his body or limbs served as a handle, and he might be lifted by one or more of his legs, by a handful of his loose skin, by his tail, by hjs head, or by any portion of his person that happened to be most convenient, and would endure this ungracious manipulation with unruffled composure. Or he might be pitched into the air from one person to another, and used in the light of a quadrupedal ball without even uttering a sound of displeasure. Or he might be employed as a footstool, a “boa,” or a pillow, and in either case would placidly go to sleep. This kind of behaviour was the more extraordinary because his natural disposition was of a peculiarly dignified character, and no human being could feel a slight mote keenly than “Purruts.” Those whom he favoured with his confidence, and they were but few, might toss him about, make him jump over their hands, or leap on their shoulders and. walk along their extended arms, and he would remain calm and complacent. But let any one laugh at him, and he immediately asserted his dignity by walking away very slowly, with his tail very upright and his whole person swaggering from side to side in a most self-asserting manner.

Only a short time ago, died one of the most accomplished and singular Cats that ever caught a mouse or sat on a hearth-rug. Her name was “Pret,” being an abbreviation of “Prettina,” a title which was given to her on account of the singular grace of her form and the beauty of her fur, which was soft as that of a chinchilla. Her colour was a very light grey tabby, and she was remarkable for an almost humanly expressive countenance, and an exceedingly long nose and tail. Her accomplishments were all self-taught, for she had never learned the usual routine of feline acquirements. “Pret” was brought when quite a kitten from the Continent, being one of a rather peculiar breed of Cats, remarkable for the length of their tails and the softness of their fur. She accompanied her mistress in rather a lengthened journey, and finally settled down in England, not very far from the metropolis. Her mistress kindly sent me the following account of “Pret’s” conduct during a severe illness:-

”Three years ago I had a lovely kitten presented to me. Her fur was of a beautiful blue-grey colour, marked with glossy black stripes, according to the most approved zebra or tiger fashion. She was so very pretty that she was named ‘Fret,’ and was, without exception, the wisest, most loving, and dainty pussy that ever crossed my path. When Pret very young, I fell ill with a nervous fever. She missed me immediately in my accustomed place, sought for me, and placed herself at my door until she found a chance of getting into the room, which she soon accomplished, and began at once to try her little best to amuse me with her little frisky kitten tricks and pussy-cat attentions. But soon finding that I was too ill to play with her, she placed herself beside me, and at once established herself as head nurse. In this capacity few human beings could have exceeded her in watchfulness, or manifested more affectionate regard. It was truly wonderful to note how soon she learned to know the different hours at which I ought to take medicine or nourishment; and during the night, if my attendant were asleep, she would call her, and, if she could not awake her without such extreme measures, she would gently nibble the nose of the sleeper, which means never failed to produce the desired effect. Having thus achieved her purpose, Miss Pret would watch, attentively the preparation of whatever was needed, and then come and with a gentle purr-purr announce its advent to me.

The most marvellous part of the matter was, her never being five minutes wrong in her calculations of the true time, even amid the stillness and darkness of night. But who shall say by what means this little being was enabled to measure the fleeting moments, and by the aid of what power did she connect the lapse of time with the needful attentions of a nurse and her charge? Surely we have here something more than reason.”

The never-failing accuracy of this wise little Cat was the more surprising, because she was equally infallible by night or day. There was no striking clock in the house, so that she could not have been assisted by its aid; nor was it habit, for her assiduous attentions only began with the illness, and ceased with the recovery of the invalid. Instinct, popularly so called, will not account for this wonderful capability so suddenly coming into being, and so suddenly ceasing. Surely some spirit-guiding power must have animated this sympathetic little creature, and have directed her in her labour of love.

No animals seem to require human sympathy so much as cats, or to be so capable of giving sympathy in return. “Pret” knew but one fear, and had but few hates. The booming sound of thunder smote her with terror, and she most cordially hated grinding-organs and singular costumes. At the’ sound of a thunder-clap poor Pret would fly to her mistress for succour, trembling in every limb. If the dreaded sound occurred in the night or the early morning, Pret would leap on the bed, and creep under the clothes as far as the very foot. If the thunder-storm came on by day, Pret would jump on her mistress’ knees, put her paws round her neck, and hide her face between them. She dis1iked music of all kinds, but bore a special antipathy to barrel organs; probably because the costume of the organ grinder was unpleasing to her eyes, as his doleful sounds to her ears. But her indignation reached its highest bounds at the sight of a Greenwich pensioner, accoutred. in those grotesque habiliments with which the crippled defenders of the country are forced to invest their battered frames. It was the first time that so uncouth an apparition had presented itself to her eyes, and her anger seemed only equalled by her astonishment. She got on the window-sill, and there chafed and growled with a sound resembling the miniature roar of a small lion.

When thus excited, she used to present a strange appearance, owing to a crest, or ridge of hair, which used to erect itself on her back, and extend from the top of her head to the root of her tail, which latter member was marvellously expanded. Gentle as she was in her ordinary demeanour, Pret was a terrible cat to fight when she saw cause, and seemed to be undaunted by size or number. She was amusingly jealous of her own territories, and if a strange Cat dared to come within range of her special domain would assault the intruder furiously, and drive it away.

She had a curious habit of catching mice by the very tips of their tails, and of carrying the poor little animals about the house, dangling miserably from her jaws. Apparently, her object in so doing was to enable her to present her prey uninjured to her mistress, who she evidently supposed would enjoy a game with a mouse as well as herself; for, like human beings, she judged the character of others by her own. This strange custom of tail-bearing was carried into the privacy of her own family, and caused rather ludicrous results. When Pret became a mother, and desired to transport her kittens from one spot to another, she followed her acquired habits of porterage, and tried to carry her kittens about by the tips of their tails. As might be supposed, they objected to this mode of conveyance, and sticking their claws in the carpet, held firmly to the ground, mewing piteously, while their mother was tugging at their tails. It was absolutely necessary to release the kittens from their painful position, and to teach Pret how a kitten ought to be carried. After a while she seemed to comprehend the state of things, and ever afterwards carried heir offspring by the nape of the neck.

At one time, while she was yet in her kittenhood, another kitten lived in the same house, and very much annoyed Pret by coming into the room and eating the meat which had been laid out for herself. However, Pret soon got over that difficulty by going to the plate as soon as it was placed in her accustomed spot, picking out all the large pieces of meat, and hiding them under a table. She then sat quietly, and placed herself as sentry over her hidden treasure, while the intruding Cat entered the room, walked up to the plate, and finished the little scraps of meat that Pret had thought fit to leave. After the obnoxious individual had left the room, Pret brought her concealed treasures from their hiding-place, and quietly consumed them. I never saw a more dainty Cat than Pret. She would not condescend to eat in the usual feline manner, but would hitch the talons of her right paw into the food that was given to her, carrying it to her mouth as delicately as if she had been accustomed to feed herself with a fork.

One curious little trait in her character is deserving of notice. She detested to see a pin, whether belonging to the hair or the dress, and devoted her energies to extracting the offending articles of costume, and laying them on the table. In her friendships as well as her antipathies she was somewhat peculiar. She made acquaintance at one time with a puppy, a rabbit, and a game cock, and for the time was very affectionate in her conduct towards these strange allies. She had curious tastes for a Cat, preferring well sweetened tea to milk, and bread crusts to meat. Moreover, she would not eat her meals unless the dish were placed near her mistress, and if this wish were not gratified, always sniffed contemptuously and turned away. She was an enthusiastic mouser, but her greatest talents were displayed in the capture of sparrows. She was accustomed to creep quietly into the garden, and to seek concealment under the thickest foliage that she could find. Being thus hidden from the watchful eyes of the little birds which flock in such numbers and with such easy impertinence to the suburban gardens, Pret would imitate the chirping of the sparrows with such wonderful success that she repeatedly decoyed a heedless sparrow within reach of her spring, leaped upon it, and carried it off in triumph to her mistress. While engaged in this singular vocal effort, she used to contort her mouth in the strangest manner, forcing her lower jaw so far from side to side, that it appeared every moment to be in danger of dislocation. On such occasion the distortion of the features was so great as to make her absolutely ugly.

She was one of the most playful Cats that I ever knew, and, even to the very last hours of her existence, would play as long as she had power to move a limb. Although the mother of several families, she was as gamesome as a kitten, and delighted in getting on some elevated spot, and dropping a piece of paper or a handkerchief for the purpose of seeing it fall. More than once she got on a chest of drawers, and insinuating her supple paw into a drawer that had been left slightly open, hooked out every article of apparel that it contained and let them drop on the floor. When any one was writing, Pret was apt rather to disconcert the writer. She always must needs try her skill at anything that her mistress did, and no sooner was the pen in motion than Pret would jump on the table, and seizing the end of the pen in her mouth, try to direct its movements in her own way. That plan not answering her expectations, she would pat the fresh writing with her paw, and make sad havoc of the correspondence.

Clever as Pret was, she sometimes displayed a most unexpected simplicity of character. After the fashion of the Cat tribe, she delighted in covering up the remnants of her food with any substances that seemed most convenient. She was accustomed, after taking her meals, to fetch a piece of paper and lay it over the saucer, or to put her paw into her mistress’ pocket, and extract her handkerchief for the same purpose. These little performances showed some depth of reasoning in the creature, but she would sometimes act in a manner totally opposed to rational action. Paper and handkerchiefs failing, she has been often seen, after partly finishing her meal, to fetch one of her kittens, and to lay it over the plate, for the purpose of covering up the remaining food. When kitten, paper, and handkerchief were all wanting, she did her best to. scratch up the carpet and to lay the torn fragments upon the plate. She has been known, in her anxiety to find a covering for the superabundant food, to drag a table-cloth from its proper locality, and to cause a sad demolition of the superincumbent fragile ware.

Some of her offspring have partaken considerably of their mother’s soft fur and gentle nature, but none of them are so handsome as their parent. One of her kittens, called Minnie,” was removed, and conveyed to another household, where was a young canary which I had bred. The cat and the bird were formally introduced to each other, and for a time all went well. One day, however, the kitten, then three parts grown, was seen perched on the top of the wires, her paw being thrust into the cage. At first, the Cat seemed to be engaged in an attack upon the bird, but on a closer inspection it appeared that Minnie was simply playing with the little bird and was stroking its head with her soft paw, the canary seeming to comprehend the matter, and to be rather pleased with the caresses of the velvet paw than alarmed at the proximity of its natural enemy.

After a while, Minnie herself became a mother, and I conveyed herself and kitten to her former home. Although she had not seen the house since her early kittenhood, she recognised the locality at once, and pulling her kitten out of its basket, established it in her accustomed bed on the sofa. One of her offspring is now domiciled in my own house, and there was rather a quaint incident in connexion with its departure. Minnie knew perfectly well that her kitten was going away from her, and after it had been placed in a little basket, she licked it affectionately, and seemed to take a formal farewell of her child. When next I visited the house, Minnie would have nothing to do with me, and when her mistress brought her to me, she hid her face in her mistress’ arms. So I remonstrated with her, telling her that her little one would he better off with me than if it had gone to a stranger, but all to no purpose. At last I said :- “Minnie, I apologize, and I will not so offend again.” Whereupon, Minnie lifted up her head, looked me straight in the face, and voluntarily came on my knee. Anything more humanly appreciative could not be imagined. For many days after the abstraction of her offspring, Minnie would not approach the various spots which had been sanctified by the presence of her lost child, and would not even repose on a certain shawl, knitted from scarlet wool, which was the favourite resting place.

She is a compassionate pussy, and is mightily distressed at any illness that falls on any of the household. When her mistress has been suffering from a severe cough, I have seen Minnie jump on the sofa, and put her paw sympathetically on the lips of the sufferer. Sneezing seems to excite Minnie’s compassion even more than coughing, and causes her to display even a greater amount of sympathy.

There are many varieties of the Domestic Cat, of which the most conspicuous are the MANX CAT and the ANGOLA. In the accompanying engraving, the upper figure represents the former animal, and the lower the latter. These two Cats present the strongest contrast to each other that can be imagined, the Angola Cat being gorgeous in its superb clothing of long silky hair and bushy tail, and the Manx Cat being covered with close-set fur, and possessing hardly a vestige of a tail.

A fine Angola Cat is as handsome an animal as can be imagined, and seems quite conscious of its own magnificence. It is a very dignified animal, and moves about with a grave solemnity that bears a great resemblance to the stately march of a full-plumed peacock conscious of admiring spectators. It is one of the largest of domestic Cats, and in its own superb manner will consume a considerable amount of food. One of these animals, nearly the finest that I ever saw, made friends with me in a café at Paris, and used to sit on the table and eat my biscuits. In order to test the creature’s appetite, I once ordered two successive plates of almond biscuits, every crumb of which “Minette” consumed with a deliberate and refined air, and would probably have eaten as much more if it had been offered to her. It must be considered, that she had plenty of friends who visited the same café, and that she was quietly levying contributions during the whole day and a considerable portion of the night, so that these two plates of biscuits were only taken in the usual course of events.

The Manx Cat is a curious variety, on account of the entire absence of tail, the place of which member is only indicated by a rather wide protuberance. This want of the usual caudal appendage is most conspicuous when the animal, after the manner of domestic Cats, clambers on the tops of houses, and walks along the parapets. How this singular variation of form came to be perpetuated is extremely doubtful, and at present is an enigma to which a correct answer has yet to be given. It is by no means a pretty animal, for it has an unpleasant weird-like aspect about it, and by reason of its tailless condition is wanting in that undulating grace of movement which is so fascinating in the feline race. A black Manx Cat, with its glaring eyes and its stump of a tail, is a most unearthly looking beast, which would find a more appropriate resting place at Kirk Alloway or the Blocksberg, than at the fireside of a respectable household. Or it might fitly be the quadrupedal form in which the ancient sorcerers were wont to clothe themselves on their nocturnal excursions.

The prescience with which all animals seem to be in some measure gifted, has often excited the admiration of those who have witnessed its effects. The Cat appears to possess an extremely large share of this gift, as has been frequently shown. An instance of this provisional capacity occurred just before the burning of Peebles mill, in 1853. A long account of this occurrence has been kindly sent to me, authenticated by the names of ‘the various persons concerned in the matter, as well as by that of the writer. A family resided for some time on the southern side of Cuddie Bridge, and had in their house a favourite Cat. Previous to the term of Michaelmas, 1852, the family changed their residence, and took a house on the opposite side of Eddlestone Water, leaving behind them the cat, which refused to stir from her accustomed haunts. Pussy, however, took a dislike to the new inhabitants of the house, and finding her way across the bowling-green, entered into possession of the mill, where she doubtless found plenty of game. Here she remained for some eighteen months in spite of several attempts made by her former owner to recover his lost favourite. Several times she had been captured and brought to his house, and on one occasion a kitten was retained as a hostage. But every endeavour was vain, and leaving her offspring in the hand of her detainers, and resisting all temptations, she set off again for her quarters at the mill; in her eagerness to get back to the mill even fording the river, “taking Cuddie at the broad side,” as that action is popularly termed.

On the 18th of October, 1853, at ten o’clock in the evening, as the former owner of the Cat was standing by the church porch, his attention was caught by the fugitive Cat, which was purring and rubbing herself against his legs as affectionately as in the olden times. He took the cat in his arms, and when he attempted to put her down, she clung tightly to his breast, and gave him to understand in her own feline language that she was going home with him. Six hours after this return of the wanderer the mill was discovered to be on fire, and in a short time was reduced to a heap of blackened and smouldering ruins. Since that time the Cat has remained complacently with her former companions at Bigglesknowe, in spite of the ancient adage, which says that, “in Bigglesknowe, there is neither a bannock (i.e. oatmeal cake) to borrow nor lend.” Reference will be made to this mill in a future portion of this work.

An objection may be made to the term “prescience” in this case, on the grounds that the fire might possibly have been smouldering when the cat left the mill, and that the creature might have taken the alarm from seeing the fire in existence, and not from a prospective intimation of the future conflagration. But even supposing that this conjecture were true, it must be remembered that cats are remarkable for their strong attachment to a fire, and that this animal would rather be attracted than alarmed by the grateful warmth of the burning wood. Moreover, from the time when the Cat found her former master to that when the fire was discovered, six hours had passed, and we may reasonably conclude that the animal had left the mill for some little time before renewing her broken acquaintance. It would be hardly probable that if the fire had been sufficiently powerful to make the Cat decamp from her residence, so many hours would have elapsed before the flames manifested themselves.

Among other differences between the habits of wild and domesticated animals, the effect which fire has upon them is very remarkable. We all know how the domestic Cat is always found near the fire, perched on the hearth-rug, or sometimes sitting inside the fender, to the imminent danger of her fur and whiskers. Yet there is nothing which so utterly terrifies the wild felidae as the blaze of a glowing fire. Surrounded by a fiery circle the traveller sleeps secure, the waving flames being a stronger barrier between himself and the fierce hungry beasts than would be afforded by stone or wood of ten times the height.

Another cat, also an inhabitant of Scotland, exhibited a mysterious intuitive power, which equalled, if not surpassed, that which has just been narrated. She was the property of a newly-married couple, who resided towards the north of Scotland, where the country narrows considerably by reason of the deeply-cut inlets of the surrounding sea. Their cottage was at no great distance from the sea, and there they remained for some months. After a while the householders changed their locality, and took up their residence in a house near the opposite coast. As the intervening country was so hilly and rugged that there would have been much difficulty in transporting the household goods, the aid of a ship was called in, and after giving their Cat to a neighbour, the man and his wife proceeded by sea to their new home. After they had been settled for some weeks, they were surprised by the sudden appearance of their Cat, which presented itself at their door, weary, ragged, and half-starved. As might be expected, she was joyfully received, and soon recovered, her good looks. It is hardly possible to conceive whence the animal could have obtained her information. Even if the usual means of land transport had been taken, it would have been most wonderful that the cat should have been able to trace the line of journey. But when, as in the present instance, the human travellers went by water, and the feline traveller went by land, there seems to be no clue to the guiding power which directed the animal in its course, and brought it safely to the desired goal.

A rather quaint use was lately made of the strange capacity which is possessed by Cats of finding their way home under difficulties which would cause almost every other animal to fail. Eighteen cats, belonging to different persons, were put in baskets, and carried by night to a distance of three miles, when they were set at liberty at a given moment. A wager was laid upon them, and the Cat that got home first was to be the winner. One of the animals arrived at its residence within an hour, and carried off the prize. Three only delayed their arrival until the next morning.

Although the natural disagreement of Cat and dog is so great that it has passed into a proverb, those two animals will generally become very friendly if they are inhabitants of the same house. In such a case the Cat usually behaves in a tyrannous manner towards her canine friend and treats him in a most unceremonious manner. She will sit on his back and make him carrv her about the room. She will take liberties with his tail or bite his ears, and if he resents this kind of treatment she deals him a pat on the nose, and either sets up her back at him defiantly, or leaps upon some elevated spot where he cannot reach her, and there waits until she supposes his ire to have subsided. The attachement of the dog and the Cat is sometimes curiously manifested.

In a large metropolitan household there had been a change of servants, and the new cook begged as a favour to be permitted the company of her dog. Permission was granted, and the dog took up his quarters in the kitchen, to the infinite disgust of the Cat, who thought her dignity insulted by the introduction of a stranger into her own special domain. In process of time, however, she got over her dislike, and the two animals became fast friends. At last the cook left the family, and took away her dog with her. After an absence of some length she determined on paying a visit to her former companions, her dog accompanying her as usual. Pussy was in the room when the dog entered and flew forwards to greet him. She then ran out of the room, and shortly returned, bearing in her mouth her own dinner. This she laid before her old friend, and actually stood beside him while he ate the food with which she so hospitably entertained him. This anecdote was related to me by the owner of the cat.

The extraordinary electrical character of the cat is well known. On a cold, bright day, if a cat be stroked, the hairs of the fur bristle up, and electrical sparks issue therefrom, accompanied with a slight crackling. It appears, too, that the animal may be so surcharged with electricity that it will give a severe shock to the holder. In order to obtain this result, the Cat should be placed on the knees, and one hand applied to its breast while the other is employed in stroking its fur. Cracklings and sparkles soon make their appearance, and in a short time, if the party continues to stroke the animal, he will receive a sharp electrical shock that may be felt above the wrists. The cat seems to suffer as much as the experimenter, for on giving forth the shock she springs to the ground in terror, and seldom will permit a repetition of the same process. This electrical endowment may probably account for the powerful effects which are produced upon Cats by slight means. For example, if a hair from her mistress’ head were laid upon “Pret,” the Cat would writhe about on the floor and twist her body into violent contortions, and would endeavour with all her might to shake off the object of her fears. Even the mere pointing of a finger at her side was sufficient to make her fur bristle up and set her trembling, though the obnoxious finger were at six inches’ distance from her body. On account of the superabundance of electricity which is developed in the Cat, this animal is found very useful to paralysed persons, who instinctively encourage the approach of a cat, and derive a gentle benefit from its touch. Those who are afflicted with rheumatism often find their sufferings alleviated by the presence of one of these electrically gifted animals.

It is worthy of notice that Cats do not invariably display the same amount of electricity, but give out more or less of that marvellous power, according to the person who handles them. This phenomenon is evidently caused by the different amount of electricity which resides in different individuals. There are some persons who are so highly electrical that whenever they take off an article which they have worn next the skin slight crackling is heard, accompanied with little electrical sparks. This outpouring of electricity becomes more powerful if the person drinks some exhilarating liquids, such as wine or spirits. Many delicate experiments have been made on this interesting subject, but as yet with few and unsatisfactory results. It has, however, been elucidated, that healthy men generally are positive in their electricity, while women are negative; in both cases there is an augmentation of power, electric or otherwise, towards and during the evening. Without warmth, the electrical phenomena are not shown, so that in winter a warm atmosphere is needed for conducting the experiments properly. Rheumatic affections seem to absorb or destroy the electricity, for during their presence the phenomena cannot be obtained.

Many instances are recorded of misplaced, or rather strangely placed, affection in Cats. They have been known to have taken compassion on all kinds of animals, and to have nourished them as their own. The well-known anecdote of the Cat and the leveret, which she brought up, is too familiar to be repeated in this work, but I have been lately favoured with an account of similar conduct on the part of a Domestic Cat. A lady possessed a young rabbit, which fell ill and was carried by its mistress to be warmed before the fire. While it was lying on the hearth-rug the Cat entered the room, and seeing the sick rabbit went up to it, and began to lick and fondle it as if it had been one of her own kittens. After a while she took it by the neck, in the usual manner which the Cat adopts for the transportation of her young, and carrying it upstairs laid it, in her own bed, which was snugly made up in a bandbox. However, her benevolent wishes were frustrated, for in spite of the attention which she lavished on her protégée, the poor little rabbit continued to pine away, and at last died. Pussy’s grief was so distressing that another young rabbit was substituted, and for a while the cat bore it to her bed, and seemed as affectionate towards the little animal as towards its predecessor. As; however, with all her benevolent intentions she could not feed the rabbit, it was taken to its own mother for the purpose of receiving the nutriment which its foster mother was unable to give. Being thus separated from each other, the temporary link that bound the two creatures together appeared to be broken, and the Cat soon forgot her dead and living foster children. A Cat has been known to take to a family of young squirrels, and to nurture them in the place of her own little ones which had been destroyed. This circumstance took place in the vicinity of the New Forest. The squirrels were three in number.

Cats are possessed of a large organ of love of approbation, and are never more delighted than when receiving the praises and caresses of those whom they favour with their friendship. To earn such praises puss will often perform many curious feats, that of catching various animals and bringing them to her owner being among the most common. My own Cat would bring mice to me quite unhurt, and permit me to take the terrified little creatures out of her mouth. She appeared not to care what happened to her mice, only looking for her reward of caresses and laudatory words. It would be well if our favourite cats would restrict themselves to such game as rats and mice, for they are rather indiscriminate in their zeal, and pay a tribute which may appear very valuable to themselves, but is by no means acceptable to the receiver. For example, when pussy jumps on one’s knee, and deposits a cockroach, commonly called a “black beetle,” in the hands or on the shoulder, it is impossible to resist a wish that she had tempered her zeal with discretion, and either left the long-legged nauseous insect to wander where it chose, or destroyed it at once with a blow of her paw.

Birds, stoats, weasels, rats, rabbits, fish, and all kinds of animals, have been thus brought as a tit-bit of affection, and on more than one occasion the owner of a grateful Cat has been startled by the sudden gift of a living snake, which has been laid writhing and hissing in his hands. The birds and mice that have been thus captured are seldom injured, although they often feign death as soon as they are within the resistless grip of their feline foe. So, after a bird has been laid on the floor or placed in the hands, it has often been known to awake as it were from a swoon, and to fly away. Perhaps the sudden grasp of the Cat’s paws and teeth may have the same effect as has been already related of the lion’s teeth and claws, and for a time produce insensibility to pain, and in some instances utter unconsciousness.

When Cats have been several times deprived of their kittens they become very cunning, and conceal their little ones so closely that they rear several successive families without detection. One of our own Cats was singularly ingenious in contriving a hiding place for herself and family; taking advantage of some defective laths in an outhouse roof, she squeezed herself through the aperture, and made her nest in a spot between the ceiling and the slates, where she could not be reached unless the slates were removed or the ceiling broken through. We could always hear the little maternal conversations that were carried on between the mother and her children, but could never get at one of the family until they chose to emerge on their own account. One of them turned out a thorough vagabond, and after he had attained his full growth used to scratch and bite his mother shamefully, wresting from her by force the food which was intended for herself. He was such a savage animal, and so determined a robber, that as a last resource a death warrant was issued, and would have been carried into execution but for one preventing cause - the animal would not die. He was several times shot - I have seen him knocked off a wall by a charge of shot, and laid apparently lifeless on the ground; yet, when he was approached, he jumped up, spat, snarled, and escaped. He had an arrow through him once, he was poisoned two or three times, and was once fairly pinned to the ground in his place of refuge among some hampers, by a long, sharp, steel spike, at the end of a pole. But he would not die, and did not die; but continued to haunt the place with such cool pertinacity that we yielded the point.

A cat of whom I lately heard chose a very curious spot in which to rear her little family. She made a nest on the summit of a pollard oak, and there brought up her kittens. Her spot of refuge was betrayed by the little animals in the tree, who were desirous to crawl down the stem, and, not daring to adventure on so perilous an undertaking, set up a loud and pitiful mewing.

Cats really seem to vary in their temperament as much as human beings. There are refined Cats, who find their proper sphere in the drawing-room; there are boorish cats, who are out of their element when removed from the kitchen or cellar; there are robber cats - of which the vagabond animal was an example - carrying on an open system o marauding; and there are trickish cats, who cheat their companions of their dinners. In fine, there is hardly a trait of human character which does not find its representation in one of these animals. Some cats appear to have a strong sense of honour, and will resist almost every temptation when they are placed in trust. Still, some temptations appear to be so powerful that the honourable feelings cannot resist them. For example, “Minnie” will resist every lure except a piece of fried sole; and “Pret” could never withstand the allurements of a little jug of milk or bottled stout. She would have boldly averted her head from the very same liquids if they were placed in a basin or saucer; but the little jug, into which she could just dip her paw and lick it, possessed irresistible fascinations for her. That the palate of a Cat should be pleased with milk is natural enough, be the milk in jug or saucer; but that bottled stout should delight the animal appears passing strange. Yet I have known several cats who possessed a strong taste for fermented liquids, and I have seen one of these creatures eat a piece of bread soaked in pure brandy, and beg earnestly for a further supply. I conclude these remarks upon the domestic cat with an authorized account of some Normandy Cats.

In a chateau of Normandy lived a favourite cat, which was plentifully supplied with food, and had grown fat and sleek on her luxurius fare. Indeed, so bounteously was her plate supplied, that she was unable to consume the entire amount of provision that was set before her. This superabundance of food seemed to weigh upon her mind; and one day, before her dinner-time she set off across the fields, and paid a visit to a little cottage near the roadside, where lived a very lean Cat. The two animals returned to the château in company, and after the feline hostess had eaten as much dinner as she desired, she relinquished the remainder in favour of her friend. The kind-hearted proprietor of the château, seeing this curious act of hospitality, increased the daily allowance of meat, and afforded an ample meal for both Cats. The improved diet soon exerted its beneficial effects on the lean stranger, who speedily became nearly as comfortably sleek as her hostess. In this improved state of matters, she could not eat as much as when she was half-starved and ravenous with hunger, and so after the two Cats had dined there was still an overplus. In order to avoid waste, and urged by the generosity of her feelings, the hospitable cat set off on another journey, and fetched another lean Cat from a village at a league’s distance. The owner of the château, being desirous to see how the matter would end, continued to increase the daily allowance, and had at last, as pensioners of his bounty, nearly twenty cats, which had been brought from various houses in the surrounding country. Yet, however ravenous were these daily visitors, none of them touched a morsel until their hostess had finished her own dinner. My informant heard this narrative from the owner of the château.

In the conduct of this hospitably minded Cat there seems to be none of the commercial spirit, which actuated the two Mincing Lane Cats, but an open-pawed liberality, as beseems a cat of aristocratic birth and breeding. The creature had evidently a sense of economy as well as a spirit of generosity, and blending the two qualities together, became the general almoner of the neighbouring felines. There must have also been great powers of conversation between these various animals, for it is evident that they were able to communicate ideas to each other and to induce their companions to act upon the imparted information.


This was a series of animal prints (artists unknown) aimed at Christian youngsters in Britain. The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (founded 1698) was an arm of the Church of England, but also published works on popular science. These prints were available either individually or as a part work (four parts, each with thirty plates). The animals are depicted in unthreatening poses with some information below each print.

"The effects of education in softening the temper and improving the manners are clearly seen in the cat. The wild cat of this country has been called, from its fierce habits, “the British Tiger;” while the tame cat, which is represented above, is gentle creature, and often becomes a favourite with each member of the family in which it lives. It is fond of warmth, and lies close to the fire during the winter. It likes being noticed, and when fondled by those who are kind to it, shows its pleasure by purring. Its sleep is very light, being disturbed by the slightest noise. If frightened, or attacked by dogs, it raises its back, and shows its teeth; the hair stands out from the skin ; the tail appears suddenly to increase in size ; and the animal utters a harsh and disagreeable growl. Its use in destroying rats and mice is well known. It is so fond of fish that it has sometimes been known to seek this food in water, much as it dislikes to wet its feet. It is attached to the place to which it is accustomed , more perhaps than to persons, and has been known to cross rivers to return to its own dwelling. It is very kind mother, and shows much attention to its kittens."


The point of view is a Creationist one not an Evolutionist one. Some of the statements show considerable arrogance, ignorance or misunderstanding plus a good dose of long live the British Empire and some anti-French comments. Some of the suggestions e.g. of establishing herds of eland in Britain seem laughable today. It is one of my favourite books for looking back on how we once viewed of animals and foreign people! I have had this book since I was 5 years old - it is very battered and has a faded cover with no visible date. It bears this inscription on the fly-leaf "Aston Rowant National School, 1st Prize awarded to John Croxford, 1st Class, August 10th 1877"

MAN, while yet savage himself, was but ill-qualified to civilize the forest. While yet naked, unarmed, and without shelter, every beast was a formidable rival; and the destruction of such was the first employment of heroes. But when he began to multiply, and arts to accumulate, he soon cleared the plains of the most noxious of these rivals; some were taken under his protection and care, while the rest fled to the desert or the wood. Many of the quadrupeds are now the assistants of man; upon them he devolves the most laborious employments, and finds in them patient and humble co-adjutors, ready to obey, and content with the food and care bestowed upon them. It was not, however, without long and repeated efforts that the independent spirit of these animals was broken; for the savage freedom in wild animals, is generally found to pass down through several generations before it is totally subdued. Those cats and dogs that are taken from a state of natural wildness in the forest, still transmit their fierceness to their young; and however concealed in general, it breaks out on certain occasions.

The Cat must be considered as a faithless friend, brought to oppose a still more insidious enemy. The domestic cat is the only animal of the tribe to which it belongs, whose services can more than recompense the trouble of its education, and whose strength is not sufficient to make its anger formidable. Supple, insinuating, and artful, it has the art of concealing its intentions till it can put them into execution. Whatever animal is much weaker than itself is an indiscriminate object of slaughter, - birds, bats, moles, young rabbits, rats, and mice, - the last named being its favourite game.

IT has been well observed, that there are few things in which the public have so great and general an interest, and concerning which they possess so little real knowledge, as of the traffic in animals, live and dead, in their own country. They know even less of the various kinds of flesh which are held in estimation in distant countries. The average quantity of animal food of all kinds consumed in France is stated on good authority- that of M. Payen - to be as low as one-sixth of a pound per diem to each person. Even in the cities and large towns, especially Paris, the amount of food upon which a Frenchman lives is astonishingly small. An Englishman or an American would starve upon such fare. In proportion to its population, New York consumes as nearly as possible the same quantity of meat as London, about half-a-pound a day to each person; more beef, however, is consumed there and less mutton, and the latter fact may be accounted for by the comparative inferiority of quality.

The natives of the Malay Peninsula eat the flesh of the Tiger, believing it to be a sovereign specific for all diseases, besides imparting to him who partakes of it the courage and sagacity of that animal. Some people have ventured to eat the American Panther, and say it is very delicate food; and the flesh of the Wild Cat of Louisiana is said to be good to eat. Mr. Wallace, when travelling up the Amazon, writes - ‘Several Jaguars were killed, one day we had some steaks at table, and found the meat very white, and without any bad taste.’ It appears evident that the common idea of the food of an animal determining the quality of its meat, is erroneous. Domestic poultry and pigs are the most unclean animals in their food, yet their flesh is highly esteemed, while rats and squirrels, which eat only vegetable food, are in general disrepute.


Of Domestic Cats, the Persian is one of the most beautiful. It is slate-coloured, with very long hair N the neck and tail, and is a much valued pet.

The Angola, or Angora, Cat has long hair, of a silvery whiteness, and very silky. It is much valued as a pet.

It is not known, exactly, when the Cat first became a household friend: but it is believed that the ancient Egyptians, who looked upon the Cat as a sacred animal, first domesticated it. They, certainly, taught it to catch birds for them (not for itself,) as their paintings show. The skill of the Cat in catching rats and mice renders her an almost necessary servant to man. It was long thought that she did not possess the generous instinct of the dog, that of attaching herself to her owners; it was believed that she cared only for the place in which she had been used to live : but this rule has had many exceptions, we believe. There is a story of a favourite Cat of Sir Henry Wyat’s, who, when her master was imprisoned in the Tower, found him, and brought to his window, almost daily, a pigeon, which she had killed. An old portrait of the Knight and Cat commemorates the intelligent fidelity of the animal.

Cats are excellent mothers, and have been known to adopt other animals, when deprived of their kittens. Mr. White, of Selborne, tells us that a friend of his “had a little, helpless leveret brought to him, which time servants fed with milk from a spoon.” About the same time, his Cat kittened ; and the kittens were drowned and buried. The hare was lost, and was supposed to have been killed by some dog or cat. “However, in about a fortnight, as the master was sitting in his garden, in the dusk of time evening, he observed his cat, with tail erect, trotting towards him, and calling with little, short, inward notes of complacency, such as they use towards their kittens; and something gambolling after her: which proved to be the leveret.” The Cat had adopted it instead of eating it!

The Cat has also been known to nurse squirrels and even mice.

The Kitten is a very playful creature. It is born blind, and remains so for nine days. Its gambols are the perfection of grace.

The Cat is a very clean animal, and very fond of strong-smelling plants, especially of valerian, in which it rolls in wild excitement, when it can find any in the garden.

The fur of the Cat, when dry and clean, is very full of electricity; and will give off sparks when rubbed.

The Cat is naturally dishonest, cowardly, and suspicious. It is very fond of hunting birds, and will also catch fish, of which it is fond; though it dislikes going into the water, and will not even wet its feet, if it can help it.

By Charles Darwin

There are many laws regulating variation, some few of which can be dimly seen, and will be hereafter briefly mentioned. I will here only allude to what may be called correlation of growth. Any change in the embryo or larva will almost certainly entail changes in the mature animal. In monstrosities, the correlations between quite distinct parts are very curious; and many instances are given in Isidore Geoffroy St. Hilaire's great work on this subject. Breeders believe that long limbs are almost always accompanied by an elongated head. Some instances of correlation are quite whimsical; thus cats with blue eyes are invariably deaf; colour and constitutional peculiarities go together, of which many remarkable cases could be given amongst animals and plants. [...] Hence, if man goes on selecting, and thus augmenting, any peculiarity, he will almost certainly unconsciously modify other parts of the structure, owing to the mysterious laws of the correlation of growth.

On the other hand, cats, from their nocturnal rambling habits, cannot be matched, and, although so much valued by women and children, we hardly ever see a distinct breed kept up; such breeds as we do sometimes see are almost always imported from some other country, often from islands. Although I do not doubt that some domestic animals vary less than others, yet the rarity or absence of distinct breeds of the cat, the donkey, peacock, goose, &c., may be attributed in main part to selection not having been brought into play: in cats, from the difficulty in pairing them; in donkeys, from only a few being kept by poor people, and little attention paid to their breeding; in peacocks, from not being very easily reared and a large stock not kept; in geese, from being valuable only for two purposes, food and feathers, and more especially from no pleasure having been felt in the display of distinct breeds. The number of humble-bees in any district depends in a great degree on the number of field-mice, which destroy their combs and nests; and Mr. H. Newman, who has long attended to the habits of humble-bees, believes that 'more than two thirds of them are thus destroyed all over England.' Now the number of mice is largely dependent, as every one knows, on the number of cats; and Mr. Newman says, 'Near villages and small towns I have found the nests of humble-bees more numerous than elsewhere, which I attribute to the number of cats that destroy the mice.' Hence it is quite credible that the presence of a feline animal in large numbers in a district might determine, through the intervention first of mice and then of bees, the frequency of certain flowers in that district!

The nature of the bond of correlation is very frequently quite obscure. M. Is. Geoffroy St. Hilaire has forcibly remarked, that certain malconformations very frequently, and that others rarely coexist, without our being able to assign any reason. What can be more singular than the relation between blue eyes and deafness in cats, and the tortoise-shell colour with the female sex; the feathered feet and skin between the outer toes in pigeons, and the presence of more or less down on the young birds when first hatched, with the future colour of their plumage; or, again, the relation between the hair and teeth in the naked Turkish dog, though here probably homology comes into play.

Natural selection cannot possibly produce any modification in any one species exclusively for the good of another species; though throughout nature one species incessantly takes advantage of, and profits by, the structure of another. But natural selection can and does often produce structures for the direct injury of other species [...] It is admitted that the rattlesnake has a poison-fang for its own defence and for the destruction of its prey; but some authors suppose that at the same time this snake is furnished with a rattle for its own injury, namely, to warn its prey to escape. I would almost as soon believe that the cat curls the end of its tail when preparing to spring, in order to warn the doomed mouse.

Natural instincts are lost under domestication [...] All wolves, foxes, jackals, and species of the cat genus, when kept tame, are most eager to attack poultry, sheep, and pigs; and this tendency has been found incurable in dogs which have been brought home as puppies from countries, such as Tierra del Fuego and Australia, where the savages do not keep these domestic animals. How rarely, on the other hand, do our civilised dogs, even when quite young, require to be taught not to attack poultry, sheep, and pigs! No doubt they occasionally do make an attack, and are then beaten; and if not cured, they are destroyed; so that habit, with some degree of selection, has probably concurred in civilising by inheritance our dogs.

Embryology. -- It has already been casually remarked that certain organs in the individual, which when mature become widely different and serve for different purposes, are in the embryo exactly alike. [...] A trace of the law of embryonic resemblance, sometimes lasts till a rather late age [...] In the cat tribe, most of the species are striped or spotted in lines; and stripes can be plainly distinguished in the whelp of the lion.

By Charles Darwin

Breeders believe that long limbs are almost always accompanied by an elongated head. Some instances of correlation are quite whimsical; thus cats which are entirely white and have blue eyes are generally deaf; but it has been lately stated by Mr. Tait that this is confined to the males.

Thomas H. Huxley (1864.)

For the notion that every organism has been created as it is and launched straight at a purpose, Mr. Darwin substitutes the conception of something which may fairly be termed a method of trial and error. Organisms vary incessantly; of these variations the few meet with surrounding conditions which suit them and thrive; the many are unsuited and become extinguished.

According to Teleology, each organism is like a rifle bullet fired straight at a mark; according to Darwin, organisms are like grapeshot of which one hits something and the rest fall wide. For the teleologist an organism exists because it was made for the conditions in which it is found; for the Darwinian an organism exists because, out of many of its kind, it is the only one which has been able to persist in the conditions in which it is found. Teleology implies that the organs of every organism are perfect and cannot be improved; the Darwinian theory simply affirms that they work well enough to enable the organism to hold its own against such competitors as it has met with, but admits the possibility of indefinite improvement. But an example may bring into clearer light the profound opposition between the ordinary teleological, and the Darwinian, conception.

Cats catch mice, small birds and the like, very well. Teleology tells us that they do so because they were expressly constructed for so doing--that they are perfect mousing apparatuses, so perfect and so delicately adjusted that no one of their organs could be altered, without the change involving the alteration of all the rest. Darwinism affirms on the contrary, that there was no express construction concerned in the matter; but that among the multitudinous variations of the Feline stock, many of which died out from want of power to resist opposing influences, some, the cats, were better fitted to catch mice than others, whence they throve and persisted, in proportion to the advantage over their fellows thus offered to them.

Far from imagining that cats exist 'in order' to catch mice well, Darwinism supposes that cats exist 'because' they catch mice well--mousing being not the end, but the condition, of their existence. And if the cat type has long persisted as we know it, the interpretation of the fact upon Darwinian principles would be, not that the cats have remained invariable, but that such varieties as have incessantly occurred have been, on the whole, less fitted to get on in the world than the existing stock.

If we apprehend the spirit of the 'Origin of Species' rightly, then, nothing can be more entirely and absolutely opposed to Teleology, as it is commonly understood, than the Darwinian Theory. So far from being a "Teleologist in the fullest sense of the word," we would deny that he is a Teleologist in the ordinary sense at all; and we should say that, apart from his merits as a naturalist, he has rendered a most remarkable service to philosophical thought by enabling the student of Nature to recognise, to their fullest extent, those adaptations to purpose which are so striking in the organic world, and which Teleology has done good service in keeping before our minds, without being false to the fundamental principles of a scientific conception of the universe. The apparently diverging teachings of the Teleologist and of the Morphologist are reconciled by the Darwinian hypothesis.

By Charles Darwin


Cats have been domesticated in the East from an ancient period; Mr. Blyth informs me that they are mentioned in a Sanskrit writing 2000 years old, and in Egypt their antiquity is known to be even greater, as shown by monumental drawings and their mummied bodies. These mummies, according to De Blainville (1/88. De Blainville 'Osteographie, Felis' page 65 on the character of F. caligulata; pages 85, 89, 90, 175, on the other mummied species. He quotes Ehrenberg on F. maniculata being mummied.), who has particularly studied the subject, belong to no less than three species, namely, F. caligulata, bubastes, and chaus. The two former species are said to be still found, both wild and domesticated, in parts of Egypt. F. caligulata presents a difference in the first inferior milk molar tooth, as compared with the domestic cats of Europe, which makes De Blainville conclude that it is not one of the parent-forms of our cats. Several naturalists, as Pallas, Temminck, Blyth, believe that domestic cats are the descendants of several species commingled: it is certain that cats cross readily with various wild species, and it would appear that the character of the domestic breeds has, at least in some cases, been thus affected. Sir W. Jardine has no doubt that, "in the north of Scotland, there has been occasional crossing with our native species (F. sylvestris), and that the result of these crosses has been kept in our houses. I have seen," he adds, "many cats very closely resembling the wild cat, and one or two that could scarcely be distinguished from it." Mr. Blyth (1/89. Asiatic Soc. of Calcutta; Curator's Report, August 1856. The passage from Sir W. Jardine is quoted from this Report. Mr. Blyth, who has especially attended to the wild and domestic cats of India, has given in this Report a very interesting discussion on their origin.) remarks on this passage, "but such cats are never seen in the southern parts of England; still, as compared with any Indian tame cat, the affinity of the ordinary British cat to F. sylvestris is manifest; and due I suspect to frequent intermixture at a time when the tame cat was first introduced into Britain and continued rare, while the wild species was far more abundant than at present." In Hungary, Jeitteles (1/90. 'Fauna Hungariae Sup.' 1862 s. 12.) was assured on trustworthy authority that a wild male cat crossed with a female domestic cat, and that the hybrids long lived in a domesticated state. In Algiers the domestic cat has crossed with the wild cat (F. lybica) of that country. (1/91. Isid. Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire 'Hist. Nat. Gen.' tome 3 page 177.) In South Africa as Mr. E. Layard informs me, the domestic cat intermingles freely with the wild F. caffra; he has seen a pair of hybrids which were quite tame and particularly attached to the lady who brought them up; and Mr. Fry has found that these hybrids are fertile. In India the domestic cat, according to Mr. Blyth, has crossed with four Indian species. With respect to one of these species, F. chaus, an excellent observer, Sir W. Elliot, informs me that he once killed, near Madras, a wild brood, which were evidently hybrids from the domestic cat; these young animals had a thick lynx-like tail and the broad brown bar on the inside of the forearm characteristic of F. chaus. Sir W. Elliot adds that he has often observed this same mark on the forearms of domestic cats in India. Mr. Blyth states that domestic cats coloured nearly like F. chaus, but not resembling that species in shape, abound in Bengal; he adds, "such a colouration is utterly unknown in European cats, and the proper tabby markings (pale streaks on a black ground, peculiarly and symmetrically disposed), so common in English cats, are never seen in those of India." Dr. D. Short has assured Mr. Blyth (1/92. 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' 1863 page 184.) that, at Hansi, hybrids between the common cat and F. ornata (or torquata) occur, "and that many of the domestic cats of that part of India were undistinguishable from the wild F. ornata." Azara states, but only on the authority of the inhabitants, that in Paraguay the cat has crossed with two native species. From these several cases we see that in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, the common cat, which lives a freer life than most other domesticated animals, has crossed with various wild species; and that in some instances the crossing has been sufficiently frequent to affect the character of the breed.

Whether domestic cats have descended from several distinct species, or have only been modified by occasional crosses, their fertility, as far as is known, is unimpaired. The large Angora or Persian cat is the most distinct in structure and habits of all the domestic breeds; and is believed by Pallas, but on no distinct evidence, to be descended from the F. manul of middle Asia; and I am assured by Mr. Blyth that the Angora cat breeds freely with Indian cats, which, as we have already seen, have apparently been much crossed with F. chaus. In England half-bred Angora cats are perfectly fertile with one another.

Within the same country we do not meet with distinct races of the cat, as we do of dogs and of most other domestic animals; though the cats of the same country present a considerable amount of fluctuating variability. The explanation obviously is that, from their nocturnal and rambling habits, indiscriminate crossing cannot without much trouble be prevented. Selection cannot be brought into play to produce distinct breeds, or to keep those distinct which have been imported from foreign lands. On the other hand, in islands and in countries completely separated from each other, we meet with breeds more or less distinct; and these cases are worth giving, showing that the scarcity of distinct races in the same country is not caused by a deficiency of variability in the animal. The tailless cats of the Isle of Man are said to differ from common cats not only in the want of a tail, but in the greater length of their hind legs, in the size of their heads, and in habits. The Creole cat of Antigua, as I am informed by Mr. Nicholson, is smaller, and has a more elongated head, than the British cat. In Ceylon, as Mr. Thwaites writes to me, every one at first notices the different appearance of the native cat from the English animal; it is of small size, with closely lying hairs; its head is small, with a receding forehead; but the ears are large and sharp; altogether it has what is there called a "low-caste" appearance. Rengger (1/93. 'Saugethiere von Paraguay' 1830 s. 212.) says that the domestic cat, which has been bred for 300 years in Paraguay, presents a striking difference from the European cat; it is smaller by a fourth, has a more lanky body, its hair is short, shining, scanty and lies close, especially on the tail: he adds that the change has been less at Ascension, the capital of Paraguay, owing to the continual crossing with newly imported cats; and this fact well illustrates the importance of separation. The conditions of life in Paraguay appear not to be highly favourable to the cat, for, though they have run half-wild, they do not become thoroughly feral, like so many other European animals. In another part of South America, according to Roulin (1/94. 'Mem. presentes par divers Savans: Acad. Roy. des Sciences' tome 6 page 346. Gomara first noticed this fact in 1554.), the introduced cat has lost the habit of uttering its hideous nocturnal howl. The Rev. W.D. Fox purchased a cat in Portsmouth, which he was told came from the coast of Guinea; its skin was black and wrinkled, fur bluish-grey and short, its ears rather bare, legs long, and whole aspect peculiar. This "negro" cat was fertile with common cats. On the opposite coast of Africa, at Mombas, Captain Owen, R.N. (1/95. 'Narrative of Voyages' volume 2 page 180.) states that all the cats are covered with short stiff hair instead of fur: he gives a curious account of a cat from Algoa Bay, which had been kept for some time on board and could be identified with certainty; this animal was left for only eight weeks at Mombas, but during that short period it "underwent a complete metamorphosis, having parted with its sandy-coloured fur." A cat from the Cape of Good Hope has been described by Desmarest as remarkable from a red stripe extending along the whole length of its back. Throughout an immense area, namely, the Malayan archipelago, Siam, Pegu, and Burmah, all the cats have truncated tails about half the proper length (1/96. J. Crawfurd 'Descript. Dict. of the Indian Islands' page 255. The Madagascar cat is said to have a twisted tail; see Desmarest in 'Encyclop. Nat. Mamm.' 1820 page 233, for some of the other breeds.), often with a sort of knot at the end. In the Caroline archipelago the cats have very long legs, and are of a reddish-yellow colour. (1/97. Admiral Lutke's Voyage volume 3 page 308.) In China a breed has drooping ears. At Tobolsk, according to Gmelin, there is a red-coloured breed. In Asia, also, we find the well-known Angora or Persian breed.

Angora cat by J B Huet, 1808 "Collection des Mammiferes de Museum d'Histoire Naturelle" (Paris)

1889 longhaired cat - Harrison Weir

The domestic cat has run wild in several countries, and everywhere assumes, as far as can be judged by the short recorded descriptions, a uniform character. Near Maldonado, in La Plata, I shot one which seemed perfectly wild; it was carefully examined by Mr. Waterhouse (1/98. 'Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle, Mammalia' page 20. Dieffenbach 'Travels in New Zealand' volume 2 page 185. Ch. St. John 'Wild Sports of the Highlands' 1846 page 40.), who found nothing remarkable in it, excepting its great size. In New Zealand according to Dieffenbach, the feral cats assume a streaky grey colour like that of wild cats; and this is the case with the half-wild cats of the Scotch Highlands.

We have seen that distant countries possess distinct domestic races of the cat. The differences may be in part due to descent from several aboriginal species, or at least to crosses with them. In some cases, as in Paraguay, Mombas, and Antigua, the differences seem due to the direct action of different conditions of life. In other cases some slight effect may possibly be attributed to natural selection, as cats in many cases have largely to support themselves and to escape diverse dangers. But man, owing to the difficulty of pairing cats, has done nothing by methodical selection; and probably very little by unintentional selection; though in each litter he generally saves the prettiest, and values most a good breed of mouse- or rat-catchers. Those cats which have a strong tendency to prowl after game, generally get destroyed by traps. As cats are so much petted, a breed bearing the same relation to other cats, that lapdogs bear to larger dogs, would have been much valued; and if selection could have been applied, we should certainly have had many breeds in each long-civilised country, for there is plenty of variability to work upon.

We see in this country considerable diversity in size, some in the proportions of the body, and extreme variability in colouring. I have only lately attended to this subject, but have already heard of some singular cases of variation; one of a cat born in the West Indies toothless, and remaining so all its life. Mr. Tegetmeier has shown me the skull of a female cat with its canines so much developed that they protruded uncovered beyond the lips; the tooth with the fang being .95, and the part projecting from the gum .6 of an inch in length. I have heard of several families of six-toed cats, in one of which the peculiarity had been transmitted for at least three generations. The tail varies greatly in length; I have seen a cat which always carried its tail flat on its back when pleased. The ears vary in shape, and certain strains, in England, inherit a pencil-like tuft of hairs, above a quarter of an inch in length, on the tips of their ears; and this same peculiarity, according to Mr. Blyth, characterises some cats in India. The great variability in the length of the tail and the lynx-like tufts of hairs on the ears are apparently analogous to differences in certain wild species of the genus. A much more important difference, according to Daubenton (1/99. Quoted by Isid. Geoffroy 'Hist. Nat. Gen.' tome 3 page 427.), is that the intestines of domestic cats are wider, and a third longer, than in wild cats of the same size; and this apparently has been by their less strictly carnivorous diet.

[South America] Feral cats, both in Europe and La Plata, are regularly striped; in some cases they have grown to an unusually large size, but do not differ from the domestic animal in any other character.

Black cats, we may feel assured, would occasionally produce by reversion tabbies; and on young black kittens, with a pedigree (13/66. Carl Vogt 'Lectures on Man' English translation 1864 page 411.) known to have been long pure, faint traces of stripes may almost always be seen which afterwards disappear.

The Manx cat is tailless and has long hind legs; Dr. Wilson crossed a male Manx with common cats, and, out of twenty-three kittens, seventeen were destitute of tails; but when the female Manx was crossed by common male cats all the kittens had tails, though they were generally short and imperfect. (14/8. Mr. Orton 'Physiology of Breeding' 1855 page 9.)

On the other hand, breeds of cats imported into this country soon disappear, for their nocturnal and rambling habits render it hardly possible to prevent free crossing. Rengger (15/3. 'Saugethiere von Paraguay' 1830 s. 212.) gives an interesting case with respect to the cat in Paraguay: in all the distant parts of the kingdom it has assumed, apparently from the effects of the climate, a peculiar character, but near the capital this change has been prevented, owing, as he asserts, to the native animal frequently crossing with cats imported from Europe. In all cases like the foregoing, the effects of an occasional cross will be augmented by the increased vigour and fertility of the crossed offspring, of which fact evidence will hereafter be given; for this will lead to the mongrels increasing more rapidly than the pure parent-breeds.

The Carnivora, with the exception of the Plantigrade division, breed (though with capricious exceptions) about half as freely as ruminants. Many species of Felidae have bred in various menageries, although imported from diverse climates and closely confined. Mr. Bartlett, the present superintendent of the Zoological Gardens (18/17. On the Breeding of the Larger Felidae 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' 1861 page 140.) remarks that the lion appears to breed more frequently and to bring forth more young at a birth than any other species of the family. He adds that the tiger has rarely bred; "but there are several well-authenticated instances of the female tiger breeding with the lion." Strange as the fact may appear, many animals under confinement unite with distinct species and produce hybrids quite as freely as, or even more freely than, with their own species. On inquiring from Dr. Falconer and others, it appears that the tiger when confined in India does not breed, though it has been known to couple. The chetah (Felis jubata) has never been known by Mr. Bartlett to breed in England, but it has bred at Frankfort; nor does it breed in India, where it is kept in large numbers for hunting; but no pains would be taken to make them breed, as only those animals which have hunted for themselves in a state of nature are serviceable and worth training. (18/18. Sleeman's 'Rambles in India' volume 2 page 10.) According to Rengger, two species of wild cats in Paraguay, though thoroughly tamed, have never bred. Although so many of the Felidae breed readily in the Zoological Gardens, yet conception by no means always follows union: in the nine-year Report, various species are specified which were observed to couple seventy-three times, and no doubt this must have passed many times unnoticed; yet from the seventy- three unions only fifteen births ensued. The Carnivora in the Zoological Gardens were formerly less freely exposed to the air and cold than at present, and this change of treatment, as I was assured by the former superintendent, Mr. Miller, greatly increased their fertility. Mr. Bartlett, and there cannot be a more capable judge, says, "it is remarkable that lions breed more freely in travelling collections than in the Zoological Gardens; probably the constant excitement and irritation produced by moving from place to place, or change of air, may have considerable influence in the matter."

In order that selection should produce any result, it is manifest that the crossing of distinct races must be prevented; hence facility in pairing, as with the pigeon, is highly favourable for the work; and difficulty in pairing, as with cats, prevents the formation of distinct breeds.

Cats, which from their nocturnal habits cannot be selected for breeding, do not, as formerly remarked, yield distinct races within the same country.

Our domesticated quadrupeds are all descended, as far as is known, from species having erect ears; yet few kinds can be named, of which at least one race has not drooping ears. Cats in China ...

According to Daubenton, the intestines of the domestic cat are one-third longer than those of the wild cat of Europe; and although this species is not the parent- stock of the domestic animal, yet, as Isidore Geoffroy has remarked, the several species of cats are so closely allied that the comparison is probably a fair one. The increased length appears to be due to the domestic cat being less strictly carnivorous in its diet than any wild feline species; for instance, I have seen a French kitten eating vegetables as readily as meat.

There is apparently some correlation even in colour between the head and the extremities. Thus with horses a large white star or blaze on the forehead is generally accompanied by white feet. (25/9. 'The Farrier and Naturalist' volume 1 1828 page 456. A gentleman who has attended to this point, tells me that about three-fourths of white-faced horses have white legs.) With white rabbits and cattle, dark marks often co-exist on the tips of the ears and on the feet. In black and tan dogs of different breeds, tan-coloured spots over the eyes and tan-coloured feet almost invariably go together. These latter cases of connected colouring may be due either to reversion or to analogous variation,--subjects to which I shall hereafter return,--but this does not necessarily determine the question of their original correlation. Mr. H.W. Jackson informs me that he has observed many hundred white-footed cats, and he finds that all are more or less conspicuously marked with white on the front of the neck or chest.

Here is a more curious case: white cats, if they have blue eyes, are almost always deaf. I formerly thought that the rule was invariable, but I have heard of a few authentic exceptions. The first two notices were published in 1829 and relate to English and Persian cats: of the latter, the Rev. W.T. Bree possessed a female, and he states, "that of the offspring produced at one and the same birth, such as, like the mother, were entirely white (with blue eyes) were, like her, invariably deaf; while those that had the least speck of colour on their fur, as invariably possessed the usual faculty of hearing." (25/24. Loudon's 'Mag. of Nat. Hist.' volume 1 1829 pages 66, 178. See also Dr. P. Lucas 'L'Hered. Nat.' tome 1 page 428 on the inheritance of deafness in cats. Mr. Lawson Tait states ('Nature' 1873 page 323) that only male cats are thus affected; but this must be a hasty generalisation. The first case recorded in England by Mr. Bree related to a female, and Mr. Fox informs me that he has bred kittens from a white female with blue eyes, which was completely deaf; he has also observed other females in the same condition.) The Rev. W. Darwin Fox informs me that he has seen more than a dozen instances of this correlation in English, Persian, and Danish cats; but he adds "that, if one eye, as I have several times observed, be not blue, the cat hears. On the other hand, I have never seen a white cat with eyes of the common colour that was deaf." In France Dr. Sichel (25/25. 'Annales des Sc. Nat.' Zoolog. 3rd series 1847 tome 8 page 239.) has observed during twenty years similar facts; he adds the remarkable case of the iris beginning, at the end of four months, to grow dark-coloured, and then the cat first began to hear.

This case of correlation in cats has struck many persons as marvellous. There is nothing unusual in the relation between blue eyes and white fur; and we have already seen that the organs of sight and hearing are often simultaneously affected. In the present instance the cause probably lies in a slight arrest of development in the nervous system in connection with the sense-organs. Kittens during the first nine days, whilst their eyes are closed, appear to be completely deaf; I have made a great clanging noise with a poker and shovel close to their heads, both when they were asleep and awake, without producing any effect. The trial must not be made by shouting close to their ears, for they are, even when asleep, extremely sensitive to a breath of air. Now, as long as the eyes continue closed, the iris is no doubt blue, for in all the kittens which I have seen this colour remains for some time after the eyelids open. Hence, if we suppose the development of the organs of sight and hearing to be arrested at the stage of the closed eyelids, the eyes would remain permanently blue and the ears would be incapable of perceiving sound; and we should thus understand this curious case. As, however, the colour of the fur is determined long before birth, and as the blueness of the eyes and the whiteness of the fur are obviously connected, we must believe that some primary cause acts at a much earlier period.


The correlation of a white colour and blue eyes in male cats with deafness, and of the tortoise-shell marking with the female sex of the same animal, are two well-known but most extraordinary cases.




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