EXCERPTS FROM TEXTS ON CATS 1851 TO 1899
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).
EXCERPTS FROM "ILLUSTRATED NATURAL HISTORY" BY REVEREND JG WOOD (1853) 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.
EXCERPTS FROM "ILLUSTRATED NATURAL HISTORY" BY REVEREND JG WOOD (1853)
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.
FROM: THIRTY PLATES ILLUSTRATIVE OF NATURAL HISTORY BY THE SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING CHRISTIAN KNOWLEDGE, 1845-47.
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."
EXCERPTS FROM "ANIMALS, THEIR NATURE AND USES" BY CHARLES BAKER. c.1875
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.
USES OF MAMMALIA FOR FOOD
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.
THE NATIONAL NATURAL HISTORY, LITTLE FOLKS LIBRARY, Published by F Warne & Co (c. 1875)
THE PERSIAN CAT.
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 CAT.
The Angola, or Angora, Cat has long hair, of a silvery whiteness, and very silky. It is much valued as a pet.
DOMESTIC CAT AND KITTENS.
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.
EXCERPTS FROM "ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES" (First Edition, 1859)
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.
EXCERPTS FROM "ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES" (Sixth Edition)
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.
EXCERPT FROM "CRITICISMS ON 'THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES' "
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.
THE VARIATION OF ANIMALS AND PLANTS UNDER DOMESTICATION (Volumes 1 & 2)
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.
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.
"DARWINISM, AN EXPOSITION OF THE THEORY OF NATURAL SELECTION WITH SOME OF ITS APPLICATIONS" BY ALFRED RUSSEL WALLACE (1889)
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.
THE ORIGIN AND VARIATIONS OF THE DOMESTIC CAT by W.B. TEGETMEIER (1881)
THE GENERAL IMPRESSION amongst persons who have not traced the genealogy of the animal in question is, that the domestic cat is a descendant of the common wild cat of Europe, Fells catus of Linnaeus. This derivation is not allowed by those naturalists who have studied the question ; they incline to believe that the evidence points very strongly to the conclusion that the domesticated cat is of a very mixed parentage, in which the Felts catus plays by no means a prominent part. That the common wild cat of Europe is the progenitor of our domestic variety is disproved by the extraordinary high value placed upon domestic cats in the middle ages, which would not have been the case had they been obtained from the wild breed. Then, again, the cylindrical tail of the wild, as distinguished from the tapering tail of the domestic species, is strongly opposed to the prevalent idea.
There appears but little, if any, doubt that the domestic cat of Europe is mainly derived from the Egyptian species, F. caligata ; but it is certain that in all parts of the world the cat partakes of the nature of the smaller wild Felidae native to the district. Thus, Sir W. Jardine states that in the north of Scotland the wild male crosses with the female tame cat, and that he cross-bred progeny can, in some cases, scarcely be distinguished fro the wild parent ; but such crosses are never seen in the south of England, where the wild cat has been long extinct. In North Africa the domestic cat crosses freely with the wild species of the country, and similar occurrences take place in South Africa, South America, Bengal, and other countries. As may be expected from these instances, the coloration and markings of the domestic animals partake in almost all cases of that of the wild species of the country in which they are found.
It may be objected by some persons that the fertility of all varieties of the domestic cat proves they are not hybrids between two distinct species, as these would be sterile mules, incapable of breeding. No idea is more prevalent than the erroneous one that all hybrids or cross-bred animals are sterile, the fact being that a large number are perfectly fertile, as, for example, those between the different species of true pheasants, the various smaller waterfowl, the Chinese and common goose, &c. The Angora or Persian cat is undoubtedly not descended from the same original as our common varieties ; yet the two interbreed, and the cross-bred progeny are fertile, not only with the race of either parent, but also inter se.
The coloration and markings of the domestic cat, as might be expected from its mixed origin, vary exceedingly. The wild Felidae, which range in size from that of the lion and tiger down to the pretty rusty-coloured or rubiginous cat of India, which is only some sixteen inches in length, excluding the tail, vary very much in colour, and also in the disposition of the marks, not only in the different animals, but also in the same species. So much is this the case, that no less than four or five supposed species have been made out of one, namely, the American ocelot ; and the leopard and panther, though regarded by most naturalists as mere varieties of the same species , are popularly regarded as being distinct.
As such variations take place in well-defined species, it is not surprising that they should occur in the mixed progeny of the smaller race which constitutes our domestic variety. Thus, we have the tawny colour of the lion in the small Siamese domestic oat ; the stripes of the tiger are reproduced in many tabbies, these stripes breaking up, as they do more or less perfectly, into spots, not only in many wild species , but also in those cats that are shown as spotted tabbies at our cat shows.
The little rubiginous cat figured in the engraving, which has I repeatedly interbred with the domestic cat of India, is a good example of a spotted wild cat of small size. The markings of the clouded tiger, F. macrocelis, are reproduced in many of our varieties. The black variety of leopard, which occurs wild, has its analogue in our black cats, and some of the wild cats occupying the snow-covered mountains of India are almost white.
From the vagrant and nocturnal habits of cats, there is more difficulty in breeding them true to any particular colour and marking than occurs in the case of most other domestic animals ; but, nevertheless, much has been done in determining the transmission of colours, and some exceedingly interesting facts have been ascertained. The true tortoiseshell, as distinguished from the tortoiseshell and white, occurs only in the female (excepting in very rare instances); on the contrary, the red or sandy tabby marking, which is common in the male, is rare in the female. In fact, the sandy tabby male may be regarded as the mate of the tortoiseshell female ; by due care, however, both of these markings can be produced in the two sexes. In what is called the tortoiseshell and white, which occurs frequently in both sexes, the sandy and black are not mixed together, as occurs in the pure tortoiseshell, but separated into large patches of pure colour. In some pied cats there is a tendency to a symmetrical arrangement of colours; this is most noticeable in the black and white. Another singular mixture of colours, which may be noticed occasionally, is the combination of grey tabby, red tabby, and white, the last being irregularly and variously distributed. The long hair of the Angora breed is analogous to the natural variation sometimes occurring in wild species, as the woolly cheetah from South Africa, and the long-haired tigers of the north of Asia.
The more erratic forms of domestic cat that have been perpetuated by breeding from variations occurring spontaneously, such deformed animals as tailless or Manx cats, six-toed cats, &c., are deformities that have only been perpetuated by the interference of man ; and, like all other such monstrous variations, they would soon be los t if the animals were allowed to relapse into a state of nature.
THE NATURALIST. VARIATIONS IN THE CAT. by W.B. TEGETMEIER (e Field, 25th October 1890)
The Annual Cat Show at the Crystal Palace, which took place this week, affords an opportunity of investigating the progress that has been made in producing or intensifying variations in the domestic cat during the score of years the show has been established. In one direction there has certainly been a decided progress. On the occasion of the first show, fancy cats were so little thought of, that Mr Wilson, at that time naturalist to the Palace, told me he had to make up the number of entries by exhibiting some of the numerous cats kept in the building as rat catchers, and showing them in the names of the employes; whilst at the present time the "cat fancy" is in the ascendant. We have not only a National Cat Club, but a cats’ house - for boarding the animals during their owners' absence which we are told is supported by "sympathising subscribers;” but the proposal for a cat and cage-bird necropolis, which was gravely started by a deceased bone-setter, and supported by various titled personages, proved too great an absurdity for the public, and reached no farther than the issue of the prospectus. There is, therefore, little chancre of the remains of our favourites being ground into manure for the benefit of the inhabitants of some yet uncivilised island a few thousands of years hence, as recently happened to the cats entombed by the ancient Egyptians at Beni Hassan. Nevertheless, the cat fancy progresses. Six hundred animals of the different varieties of Fells domesticus were on view at Sydenham on Tuesday and Wednesday last, where they were arranged in some fifty classes, and competed for 150 prizes. This large number of classes exceeds that of the known varieties, and was formed by separating the sexes and ages of the animals, and giving a duplicate set of prizes to the cats of the proletarians.
The animals were arranged primarily into short-haired and long-haired; those in each group being shown in classes according to sex, age, and colour. The chief self-colours - to borrow a term from the florists' vocabulary - are black, white, and a smoky tint, by courtesy called blue. The striped cats - termed tabbies - are divided into those with brown ground colour, those with a light or "silver" ground, and the sandy, or "red" tabbies. There are also classes for such as have the stripes broken up into spots. The tortoiseshell offers some singular phenomena to the naturalist - in the tortoiseshell without white the colours are mingled black and reddish sandy. She tortoiseshell cats are not uncommon, but males are of extreme rarity, and consequently of considerable pecuniary value. In the tortoiseshell and white the colours are in much stronger and larger patches, and more distinctly defined. This marking prevails in both sexes. As a show cat, a tortoiseshell tom would be a great acquisition, only one having been on view during the whole of the Palace shows. Various attempts have been made to produce the variety by careful selection of parents. The result of one of these experiments, which was by courtesy called tortoiseshell, was shown at the Palace - a dark, badly coloured grizzle, showing that much more careful experimenting must be had recourse to if the desired result is to be obtained. That this can be accomplished there can be no doubt; for, a few years since, sandy or "red" tabby females were exceedingly rare, but, by careful selection they have been bred, and at the show no less than six specimens were exhibited.
The Siamese breed, dun in colour, with all the extremities, nose, ears, feet, and tail black, has become much less definitely marked than when first imported. The long-haired cats of various colours - which are usually termed Persian or Angora, after the place from whence they are generally obtained - are remarkable, not only for the length of the hair, but also from the fact that in many there is incomplete development of the sense organs. The eyes are blue, like those of a kitten before being opened; and in many, but not all, the internal ear is correspondingly undeveloped, and the animal consequently deaf. These longhaired varieties are more delicate than the common breed, and are subject to epileptic attacks, during which they dash about in an alarming manner, but usually recover if they are allowed to remain perfectly undisturbed in the place in which they endeavour to conceal themselves.
The origin of the domestic cat is doubtless of a composite character. The ancient Egyptians mummified their domestic variety, derived from Fells maniculata, a North African species; and in every country in which the cat has been domesticated, it has crossed with the smaller wild Felidae of the district, and acquired new characters; so that the cat of the more secluded districts of the western world are unlike those of Europe, which again differ from the cat of Persia, as they do from the animals of the still further East. The exact history of the long-haired Persian is not recorded. It probably was derived from an animal in which a natural variation occurred, which was valued and carefully bred from. Long hair is not uncommon in the Felidae. Not long since a long-haired variety of the cheetah (Fells jubata) was received at the Zoological Gardens, Regent's Park, where it was immediately raised to the dignity of a distinct species, and called Fells lanea. It is doubtless owing to the multiple origin of the cat, and the difficulty under ordinary conditions of regulating the parentage, that the numerous varieties are due, and that so little dependence can be placed on the colours of the kittens in any particular litter.
Although written later, this letter from the same publication is a natural addendum to the above:
(The Field, 4th September 1897) SIR - You would greatly oblige me if, through the columns of your paper, you would kindly give me information as to the origin of the long-coated, domestic Persian cat, and say if in any way he could be a relation of our Gato pajero, or wild pampas grass cat of this country. I have been so frequently struck with the resemblance between these cats and the tame Persian that, now having in the house a young Gato pajero, every day I am the more struck with the striking resemblance that exists. My cat is about six months old, and measures from tip of nose to tail 24in.; tail, 6-and-a-half inches; height at shoulder, 8-and-a-half inches; breadth of chest (outside measurement), 5-and-three-quarter inches; weight, 3 kilos. Throughout the predominant grey runs an almost imperceptible tan colouring, which is more pronounced on the front of the fore legs and the back of the hind; face and hack grey, whiskers white. The tiger spots, just visible through the long fur on the sides, become beautifully mixed with stripes on the belly and legs ; the tips of the ears are jet black, and the tail very short and blunt. Few cats are ungainly walkers, yet the Pajero does so with a very awkward roll, this being due to the phenomenal breadth of chest, causing the elbows to turn outwards; the hindquarters have the appearance of being lunched; the fur is almost as long as that of the Persian on the back and sides, the head of the Pajero having very much shorter fur, and the tail being less full. Few, indeed, are the animals in a wild state that are unable to make a proper toilet, yet I have frequently killed there cats, with the long fluffy hair matted and soiled on the back, the matted locks being full of dead hair. These cats prey upon the small tinamou, or Pampas partridge, giving a sound blow, rather than pouncing upon their prey. Please pardon me for the length of this description, but the cats (wild) of this country are so varied and beautiful that they have always been a source of the deepest interest to me. I should also add that these Pajero cats never climb trees; mine is decidedly nervous when placed on the limb of a willow I have near the house. It is, however, a charming pet, has all the habits of the domestic cat, purrs, spits, loves heat, but signally fails when it tries to mew - uttering only short, sharp, guttural sounds. W. MELVILLE.
The writer's query as to any relation between the domestic Persian cat and the Pampas cat must be answered decidedly in the negative. There can be no possible connection between the two. There can be little doubt that the domestic cat, which has been taken by navigators to all parts of the world, has in many instances interbred and produced fertile offspring with the small wild cats of the different countries to which it has been conveyed. It would be exceedingly interesting to learn whether this specimen belonging to Mr Melville, the sex of which is not stated, would interbreed with any of the ordinary domestic cats. There is no record of their having done in the Zoological Gardens, but there the cats are in small cages, and any interbreeding is practically impossible,
As cat shows are now so much in the ascendant, and various noble ladies are exhibiting their feline favourites, it may be possible that some of them would like to be informed that they might secure a prize or two by the introduction of some of thses wild cats, which, as in the present case, are readily domesticated.
DR STRADLING ON “CATS”
(Watford Observer, 2nd November 1889)
On Saturday evening last, under the auspices of the Shorthand Writers’ Association, Dr. Arthur Stradling lectured on the subject of “Cats,” in the hall at the Public Library. There was a large audience, as there always is when Dr. Stradling is announced to lecture. He spoke in his rapid and most interesting manner, yet by no means exhausted the mine of information he has so readily at command.
Mr J.W. Robins who occupied the chair, said that he had not the slightest notion why he was placed in that prominent position, He was under the impression that a chairman on these occasions was only necessary to introduce the lecturer to the audience. That seemed to be quite unnecessary on the present occasion, Dr. Stradling being known to almost all of them. His name was a household word, while his face and figure had the entry of a very great many houses in the parish. He was glad to see him both as a friend and professionally, though he preferred the former certainly. He was going to lecture that night on a very strange subject - cats, that is, the quadruped cats. (Laughter.) Cats at the present time were all the go. Many present had no doubt seen the great exhibition of cats at the Crystal Palace, and amongst them some curious ones, which he hoped did not indulge in the discordant music that other cats did - caterwauling. One of the leading journals had lately had an article a column and a half in length devoted to the history of cate. Possibly the editor knew that the doctor was going to lecture on them and gave that sketch on purpose to take the wind out of his sails, but he was sure that it would not do that. (Applause.) He (Mr. Robins) was thinking of bringing some specimens of cats himself, but as the Government and the County Council had been so severe as to request them to muzzle their dogs, he was afraid if be brought the cats, he should be told to muzzle them, and then what would become of the rats and mice? Laughter)
Dr. Stradling said that the Guaranas have a tradition that in the beginning this world was inhabited by men and domestic cattle only. For a while everything was peaceful and prosperous; men lived in harmony with one another, tending their horses, oxen, and sheep, and nothing occurred to disturb the serenity of their existence. But after a time there was discontent, quarrels, and sounds of murmuring and rebellion in the land, men were no longer satisfied with their pastoral conditions. The great Spirit then placed cats, locusts, end women on the earth for men's special punishment. It was not within their province that night to discuss how it was that amongst the instruments for the punishment of rebellious man was included the harmless cat, and if any apology seemed necessary for such a homely animal being taken as the subject of a lecture, he would remind them that the cat came from a very ancient and honourable family, a family whose descent was lost in the mists of antiquity. They were not aware that any ancestor of the present cats did the correct thing by coming over with William the Conqueror; cats were most probably established here before that time, but when the Romans came doubtless the domestic cat was not known. Centuries before that they found the cat flourishing in the East, in Egypt, where temples were built in their honour, and they had priests devoted to their service. The cat was certainly domesticated there 3,500 years ago; that was known by direct evidence; but there seemed to be indirect allusions to the animal 800 or 1000 years before. There was an unmistakable mention of it 1684 years before Christ, sixteen years before the first mention of the horse, which occurred in 1668 before Christ. But these records, ancient as they were, did not make the cat or the horse the most ancient animal, because the pigeon was recorded 5000 years ago. The earliest pictorial representation of the cat was to be found in an Egyptian tablet now in the Leyden Museum, where it was depicted sitting a chair, the date of the tablet being fifteen centuries before Christ, just about the time cats were dedicated to Pasht or Bubastis. Behind the temples were a number of pits in which were the mummied bodies of cats. They appeared to have been all tabbies, there were no white or black or long-haired cats, they all appeared to be smooth. It was therefore inferred that the varieties of cats had arisen since, but he did not think that necessarily followed. It may have been that tabby cats were selected tor especial reverence and honour for some particular reason, and that other varieties may have been more or less set aside. Worship, even of a disreputable kind, was by no means incompatible with domestication. It may have been the same kind of respect that the Chinaman pays to his Joss. If he does not get all he wants, if he has a bad day's fishing or loses his net, he knocks off the head of js Joss or beats him, and withholds presents. It may have been so with cats.
The cat in Egypt was emblematical of the sun. it was alleged that the pupils of the eyes dilated and contracted in accordance with the height of the sun, while the colour of the eyes varied with the seasons, and with the age [stage?] of the moon also. Cats were represented in ancient Egyptian pictures, sometimes as wearing necklaces and earrings and carrying jewels on their foreheads. When a cat died the household went into mourning, and when a fire occurred the cats were saved first of all. There were very exemplary punishments, moreover, prescribed for cat killers. The ancient Egyptian word for cat was meow.
The creature was never domesticated amongst the Hebrews, although it was domesticated 2000 years ago in India. But there was s domestic animal which corresponded in use to our cat and generally accepted as being the cat; but Professor Robertson has suggested it was an animal akin to the weasel, the white-breasted pine marten. But there was no doubt that the cat was domesticated in Europe some time before the Christian era, and there was little doubt that it was brought from Egypt to Rome. Among the ruins of Herculaneum was found a beautiful fresco painting of a cat seizing a thrush, amidst Egyptian surroundings. There was a popular fallacy that the Crusaders introduced the cat into Europe, but it must be a fallacy, because it was known long before. They seem to have been held of great value where they were introduced, judging from very ancient laws and statutes, which enacted fines and punishments on the ancient slaughterers of cats. One of these ordered an offender to pay as much corn as would cover a cat when suspended by the tip of its tail with its nose touching the ground. Pope Gregory the great is said to have had a pet cat, and they were said to be particularly favoured by unmarried ladies and bachelors.
The derivation of the cat was quite uncertain. It was conjectured that the wild cat of North Africa call par excellence the Egyptian cat, was the ancestor. Others said that the present cat is a mixture of many kinds of cats, and there was a theory that the Persian cat was descended separately from an Asiatic wild cat other than the Egyptian. At any rate it was certain that the Egyptian cat differed little from the present cat, and there must have been a vast interval of time between that and its savage ancestor. It was a singular fact that with one or two trifling exceptions no addition had been made to our stock of domestic animals within the time bridged over by history. There were signs of the cat in the bronze age and of the dog very much earlier; there were unmistakable signs of the dog in the newer stone age and possibly in the Palaeolithic also.
It was supposed by evolutionists that cats were descended from a weasel-like animal, partly because there was such an animal with cats’ teeth, and a cat now remarkable weasel-like in form. If they were called upon for a minute description of the cat, to make a model of a cat, it was possible that they might be at fault in one or two particulars. Would they know whether it would be right to give a cat eyelashes, or how many toes it had got? The first thing that struck one was the loose way in which the skin is attached to the body. The jaw of the cat is very strong, and the most perfect specimen perhaps of the hinged jaw, or typical carnivorous jaw, that we have. The large muscle which holds it to the side and the way in which the bones are articulated allows no movement but opening a shutting. They could see that without any dissection, merely by watching the cat eating; they had no doubt notice how it turned its head from side to side.
Some big cat-like animals of the tertiary period had their teeth very much developed. In one or two the teeth had grown to such an extend that they were outside the jaw, and it was certain that the creature must have used them as weapons for striking. The tongue of the cat had a very curious spindle-shaped body in the middle of it, which was supposed to help the creature in lapping. The cat purrs very melodiously, but could not whistle because of the division of its upper lip into two lobes. The senses of the domestic animals are less perfect than those in a wild state, because they have not the same necessity to use them; they have not the same large and expanded sense of smell, and hunt by sound. The eyes are noteworthy on account of the pupil; this was a long line, and although it obtained among the smaller cats, was quite an exception among the larger ones; the lion, tiger, jaguar, and others have a round pupil like that of a man, but a very large tree cat, living in the East Indies, had it. Their perception of light was inconceivably more rapid than ours; that had been proved by photography. The cat had no eyelashes at all.
On coming to investigate its muscles, we should be struck with the insignificant proportions of those attached to the forelegs as compared with the hind. The forelegs were very little used except for supporting the body, and the body was hung very loosely between them. A very beautiful illustration of this might be seen in Dore's picture of the “Christian Martyrs," the animals there depicted being small African lions. The impetus which the animal has is almost entirely given by the hinder legs. If they analysed the movements of the cat, they would find that it never runs, or only for very short distances, its natural mode of progression is walking, and its running is a series of short bounding springs. Cats are very good swimmers. Tigers swim across rivers and arms of the sea, and the domestic cat will go voluntarily into water to rescue her kittens and even to fish. He had seen cats swim considerable distances and come out of the water none the worse. He had seen a cat fall off the bows of a ship and swim to the ladder that was lowered for it, and he had known a cat swim all night from pile to pile until rescued, when assistance could not be rendered it in the dark on account of the water being crowded with crocodiles The toes of a cat are four in number on the hind feet, and five on the forefeet or hands. They would see from the hand or forefoot of a lion (which was handed round) that the toe which corresponded to the thumb was very short indeed. Nocat had the power of putting its foot wholly to the ground; they walk entirely on the toes, with the heel always raised.
If he were asked what animal was most like a cat he should instance an animal of Madagascar, which had more or less cat's teeth, bat put the whole of its foot to the ground, being plantigrade instead of digitigrade. if ladies went on wearing high-heeled boots they would become digitigrade in time. Last but not least, the cat has quite a tail of its own, quite an exceptional tail, the muscles being essentially from those of a dog.
The different binds of cats are classified more according to their colour than anything else; they were not species, but only different varieties - white, black, tortoiseshell, and so on. The true tortoiseshell was one of the rarest. A tortoiseshell cat created a great sensation at the first show held at the Crystal Palace in 1871, and those shows were a proof of the interest taken is the cat now. When the shows were first promoted, chiefly by Mr. Harrison Weir, he met with great opposition; the directors were quite sure that no people would come, that no one would take sufficient interest, and that the cat show was an absurdity; but 19,310 people paid for admission to the Crystal Palace on the first day. The tortoiseshell cat was priced by its owner at £50, meaning of course that to be a prohibitory price, but he found that its market price would have been considerably above that, and was only just in time to go round and buy it in. A tortoiseshell cat should be black and yellow only, without any admixture of white.
Albinism in cate is rare, but melanism is very common indeed, as, in fact, among larger animals. Black cats and other animals are said to owe their blackness to the presence of a great deal of iron in the blood; there was such a theory, but he did not know whether they could turn one black by administering Parrish's food or steel wine. The black cat was really a tabby, as when young all the stripes could be seen. Black cats are most interesting on account of their association with witchcraft. As recently as August, 1768, an old man was “swum” for witchcraft, and his black cat was thrown in with him and drowned. The poor old man, who was over 80 years of age, though he was not drowned, died in consequence. The devil himself, according to popular report, had occasionally assumed the form of a black cat, and a French witch confessed while under torture that the keeping of a black cat was a perpetual sacrifice to the evil one, and that by its means a demon could be raised. In an old French volume of necromancy it was said that the possession of three hairs plucked from the muzzle of a tiger would confer the property of invisibility upon a person. It did not say whether the tiger was to be a live one; if sp, no doubt the operation would largely conduce to the result. He had often wondered whether the electricity developed by a black cat could have had anything to do with these things. If they stroked a black cat's breast on a dry day, they would elicit two or three sparks, and if they kept on long enough there seemed to be an accumulation of these sparks, and they experienced a sharp shock, felt above the wrist. He thought that in the days before electrical phenomena were investigated persons who felt this shock attributed it to something supernatural, because the cat felt it, and would run away with every symptom of terror.
Persian cats have very slender jaws, mouth small, fur long; to wash the fur the cat is obliged to suck it, and being very fine it very often conduced to death because so much was swallowed. They are not so strong and vigorous as the common cat. There were other varieties, such as the tailless cats of the Isle of Man and the Crimea, the cats of Burmah and the adjacent countries, and it was said there were lop-eared cats in China, but he believed that was discredited as much as the breed with extra toes reported from Africa. There was a very ancient one in Siam, with a black muzzle like a pug dog, clear blue eyes and two bald spots on the forehead.
The biggest English cat that he had ever seen weighed 22lbs. When he was a student at St. George's Hospital, he used to live near the arch which at the time spanned Constitutional Hill, surmounted by the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington. The cat was brought from St. George's Hospital and given to his predecessor in the rooms, Mr. now Sir William Dalby. It took a prize at the first cat show at the Crystal Palaces. He could hold his arm straight out and the eat would clear it without touching it. When the cat stood on the floor he could reach with its forefeet to the table to feed. He had a great fondness for potatoes, and to see him carry away a hot one was s sight in itself. He would turn away from meat or fish to eat raw potato parings. Having been lost for a week he was at last discovered on the top of the arch. There was a trap door under the horse, and probably when the door was opened he went out and got shut out. When rescued he was found to be quite fat and well, no doubt having lived on the pigeons, of which there were a great number on the arch, drinking the rain water. He was perfectly clean, in spite of the smoke and soot. There was only one animal that would compare with the cat for cleanliness, and that was the rat. if they took a rat out of the foulest sewer they would find that it had a clean, bright coat. The common English cat is bigger than the tiger cat.
No other domestic is so little likely to die, except as the result of old age or violence. Last year 977 dead cats were fished out of the Seine, and considerably over 2000 dogs. That illustrated, he thought, the relative mortality between the two animals. The cat he had spoken of lived to the age of 18, and that struck him as being so patriarchal that be ventured to put it on record; but it elicited a great many well authenticated cases of cats who had lived to a greater age than that, even to the great age of 22 years. The lion bas been known to live in captivity for 40 years. A very celebrated old lion, Pompey, who died in the Tower of London in 1760, was said to have been there for 70 years. A tiger in its wild state had been identified for 20 years.
Cats spend a good deal of time in sleep, like a good many other animals; they seemed when they had nothing better to do to be always asleep. A philosopher the other day brought out the theory that the natural state of all animals, including man, is sleep. It was very certain that the cat does not sleep very soundly, but that it can be roused by small provocation. Perhaps that was why those little dozing sleeps were known as “cat’s sleeps,” the little nods people take during sermons, lectures, and so on.
Cats are like snakes in some respects, they love heat bat not light. They bask in the sun for heat, but prefer the shade. Lions get into the shade of rocks or trees. If a tiger is compelled to travel during the day he may be traced by the blood from his paws, the heat of the ground makes the pad under his paws quite raw. It seemed quite strange to talk of a tropical animal being killed by heat in this cold, foggy island of ours; but on jubilee day, 1887, two young lions in a travelling menagerie in Cornwall died from heat, having been placed in full son. A number of young rattlesnakes born in the Zoological Gardens were removed from their dark case and put in the son; they were almost all baked up and dead. Two young polar bears died because they were left out in the rain without shelter. They love cold, and water, but cannot stand damp. If they attempted to bring fish home in a ship, unless the motion of the vessel containing them were perfectly swung, the motion of the vessel would kill them. No cat hibernates, as so many other animals do.
The cat tribe is found all over the world, there being lynxes in Norway and Canada, the ounce in the Himalayas and the high lands of Central Asia generally; he believed the latter animal never comes below the snow line. That brought them to a wonderful fact, not only that they lived under circumstances incompatible to man, but that they breathed without difficulty at heights which seriously embarrass the human being. At 18,000 feet it was almost impossible for a man to breath; he found it very difficult at 1500 or 1600 feet in a balloon. But it was said that there was a special form of tiger in the highlands of Asia, recognised by the very dense character of its fur. Fur bearing animals tm cold countries always develop thicker fur, consequently if the domestic cat be taken there it develops the fur, while taken to the tropics it becomes scraggy.
The fondness of cats for fish is not confined to the domestic cat by any means - he had seen lynxes, cheetahs, jaguars, all fight for it. A great number of the smaller cats would go into the water, among them the cat of Malacca and the fishing cat of India, which lives a good deal on mussels. It was possible, however, that this might be a change of habits. Animals do change their habits very suddenly. For instance, there was the lately acquired carnivorous habit of the New Zealand parrot, which lived on fruit until the introduction of sheep, but now tears open the backs of sheep to get at their flesh, thus becoming almost entirely a carnivorous bird. Certain monkeys have taken to eating fish, and bats in Trinidad have given up insect eating and taken to fishing. Bees were also said, within the last 50 years to have taken to eating fruit. Cats are very fond of frogs; be believed that they preferred frogs to mice. He had a tiger cat which one night overthrew a case in which he had two dozen beautiful tree frogs, and swallowed the whole lot before morning. The common domestic cat is really one of the most wonderful animals on the face of the earth. It has lived so long on farinaceous food that its internal structure had begun to be akin to that of the herbivorous animal the sheep. Lions and tigers might be brought up on farinaceous food. Lions been brought up on green stuff and he was told-that a tiger he saw, which was almost blind, was brought upon grain. The animal had a beautiful coat, but was very weak, and had not developed any muscle at all. It was said that farinaceous food greatly conduced to blindness in those animals, and accounted for the blindness of cats in advanced age as well as that of animals in menageries. The brothers Seager had an old lion, which they used to take with them in their processions, in the representation of Britannia and the lion. He fell in with the circus in Southampton, and enquiring about their animals, he was permitted to do a little surgery for them, removing a tumour from the trunk of an elephant, and prescribing all round generally, and he was requested to look at the lion’s eyes to see if it were going blind. He thought that he should have to go into the cage, but the keeper led the lion out without difficulty down an inclined plane, and he came and sat down as well as any cat would have done. He did not make a very successful examination, because the light contracted the eye to a mere point, and he was not then used to being in such close company with wild beasts. It was said that long pupils in animals indicated that they were more nocturnal in habits, while those with circular pupils go about more in the daytime.
The cat is spread all over the face of the globe, being in every country to companion of sedentary man. He had seen it on the shores of the White Sea, among the Indians of Patagonia, and in the recently settled pueblas of the Indians in Central America. It had been favoured to be the companion of great and good men, such as Dr. Johnson and Wilkie Collins, while Sir David Brewster used to faint at the sight of one, and James II. could not tolerate a cat. Popularly they were favourites no doubt because they were self-supporting. One reason why they were held in such esteem in ancient Egypt probably was because there must have been a lot of rats in a country which was the grain store of the world. It is said that a cat will eat twenty mice a day, and they certainly frighten a great many more than they eat. Cats seem to increase the mice sometimes. The explanation was that rats and mice are seldom co-existent - never on board a ship, because the rats eat the mice. Rats are more frightened at cats than mice are, so that if cats are introduced the rats scurry out of sight and the mice come more to the fore. But cats do not always come off best in encounters with rats. He remembered a terrible instance on board a ship of which he was surgeon. The stewards were afraid to go down to the store room because of the rats, and the storekeeper asked him to lend him a favourite cat that he on board. They put poor Timmy down with a saucer of milk and shut him in. In the morning they found a large number of dead and dying rats, but nothing was left of the cat except gnawed bones and strips of fur. Cats had been introduced without much success for the rabbit plague in Australia, New Zealand. and the Falklands. He thought that the utility of the creature was proved by fact a tax was to proposed to be put on them, but he hoped they would not be muzzled. In certain of the Government naval storerooms there is a regular allowance made for the maintenance of cate, and when parsimony was the order of the day, the cats were docked 2d. a week.
He did not think the cat was ever likely to supersede the barometer, but some people placed great faith in being able to tell the weather from the cat washing its face. Cats had been used to detect leaks in pipes. Valerian, for which cats have a great fondness, was sent down the pipe, and the cats would point at it as much as the dog did in truffle hunting. He had heard of a man who was entirely supported by three cats. He lived near hotel where a great many visitors came. He turned out his cats and they used to squall until morning, and then he collected all the articles which had been throws at them out of the hotel windows. He had heard too, but of course it was mere hearsay, of a man who made a musical instrument by getting a number of cats, and having ascertained the note of each would utter, mechanically pinching their tails. So he attempted to play the “Lost Chord” with variations, but the variations were more pronounced than the “Lost Chord,” and it was a great success.
It was very difficult to speak of the intelligence of the cat, or of any animal in fact, because that which we call intelligence is only that which is intelligible to our possibly limited comprehension; man’s terrible isolation cuts him off from community with nature, rendering it impossible for him to comprehend the powers of other animals. No doubt tales of cats ought to be regarded with suspicion, not because they are impossible, but because the surroundings of the imagination of the witnesses invests them with an appropriateness which is not their own. Last year there was a a cat in Hammersmith Cemetery which had been there for four years. It was stated that when its mistress died and was buried t followed to the cemetery, and as it would not leave, the people there made a little house for it and fed it. He doubted whether there was anything more in this than the house being disturbed and the cat being unable to find its way back from the cemetery. Such cases as those recorded by Sir George Mivart and Mr. Harrison Weir were few and far between. He saw an instance of a cat of his own of what appeared to be a deliberate falsehood. The cat was an inveterate thief, and when surprised on the table helping itself would not only slink away but run back to the hearthrug and curl himself up as if he had been asleep all the time. When it came to lying they must admit that a cat was getting very high on the scale.
He was a witness of what seemed to be a curious instance of reasoning power in a cat. Being at the Zoological Gardens one day, he strolled into the elephant house. All the animals were out except the rhinoceros. He sat down and was very quiet, and the rhinoceros was also very quiet. A mouse, encouraged by the silence, came out and began picking up crumbs of biscuit and bread. Presently the keeper’s cat came along the rail and made a dart at the mouse. The little creature went into the den and got in the straw, the cat in pursuit. The cat darted about hither and thither where the mouse might be, and presently the mouse seemed to get under one of the great feet of the rhinoceros. The cat put up her paw as if making an effort to lift the foot of the rhinoceros away. It seemed to him that there was conscious appreciation of two things on the part of the cat - in the first place, that the foot would be moved by her touching it as she did, as would not be the case if she had touched an inanimate object, and the second, that the animal would do her no harm.
He was persuaded that attachment for persons was greater in cats than affection for places. They were timid and conservative, liking to remain in one place and not liking to be disturbed. A spring cleaning had as many terrors for the cat as for the man probably. Very few people had any difficulty in moving cate. Cats had been found two miles away from home in the night poaching, and had returned in the morning. Their memory for persons was very great, while that for places was very little; after a few months their memory for places, he thought, disappeared altogether, while the memory for persons lasted many months. There were a great many houses into which he went that be had especially friendly relations with the oats. they came to him after months had elapsed. Being in his profession of somewhat nocturnal habits like the cats, he amused himself by picking them up. Having made friends with a cat and put it down again, it often happened that the cat had recognised him and allowed itself to be picked up without any coaxing. Cats do not lend themselves to training, though cats had been trained to do little performances, but not with much success. Old cats were more easily trained than young ones.
He meant to have a few words about the diseases of cats, and the connection between cats and hydrophobia, but he must hurry on. It would be unfair, however, to pass over our own British tiger, the wild cat. Very few were left now, though they might possible linger in the north of Scotland; he believed that no well authenticated case of their existence in England bad been known for many years. A case was reported in 1883 from Lancashire, but probably that was a domestic cat run wild, a very much more destructive animal than the wild cat. The wild cat was never known in Ireland, and was curiously rare in France. The number of species of cats known is probably 50 or less. The number of species of the smaller ones was possibly on the increase, if they were species, which he very much doubted.
Having spoken with regard to lions, and reverting to the common cat, he said that he hoped and believed that it had a great future before it. He thought they were justified in inferring from not only the cat shows but the formation of a National Cat Club, that great attention was being paid to its various points nowadays. He hoped so because the animal was so fitted for domestication. No man, woman, or child loved an animal without being the better for it, and it was worth study. When one came to consider the ancestry and origin of the oat, it seemed little less than a miracle of meekness and sociability. The tendency nowadays was to overrate the intelligence of the dog, though the dog had not been generally appreciated until of late years. It was notorious that Shakespeare had no word complimentary to the dog, but though the dog was more demonstrative, he thought that there were few animals more obviously grateful for attention bestowed upon them than the cat. (Cheers.)
The Chairman, in proposing a vote of thanks to Dr. Stradling, related how a cat that he had brought from Lima and left at home, died a week after he left, as it appeared, out of pure love for him. Mr C.E. Fry seconded the vote of thanks, which was very heartily accorded, and Dr. Stradling responded.