CATS AND CAT CARE - A RETROSPECTIVE: THE EARLY 1900s - FEEDING, HEALTH AND GENERAL CARE (PAGE 2)
This article is part of a series looking about cats and cat care in Britain from the late 1800s through to the 1970s. It has grown since originally written in 1996 (web version 1999) and was split into separate web documents in 2003 (to speed loading time) with some overlap between the parts. Each part is split into topics and the contents of each topics are ordered chronologically as far as possible with added "then and now" commentary. In this way I hope to keep it an ongoing work! It is interesting to note how attitudes have changed, as well as how our knowledge has increased.
Although there is inevitable overlap in the series of retrospective articles, this article is primarily concerned with the period from 1900 to the end of the 1930s. There are separate articles giving brief histories of cat shows and showing and cat rescue respectively.
BRIEF HISTORY OF GENERAL HEALTH CARE
From the 1880s to the 1920s and 1930s, it was generally believed that cats were becoming weaker than their predecessors. In the early 1940s this was blamed on poor diet, inbreeding, delicate pedigree cats and kittens being given away too young. One thing which almost certainly contributed to early death was poor understanding of feline health and the use of remedies which were actually toxic to cats.
Early remedies included eating a whole kipper (including bones) to remedy constipation. To cure diarrhoea, the cat was dosed with crushed clay pipes. A regular dose of fish oil not only kept cats regular, it supposedly protected them against worms. In 1901, the only documented feline ailments were colds, pleurisy, distemper, mange, worms, fits, diarrhoea and constipation.
In 1901, "How to Keep Your Cat in Health" was written by "Two Friends of the Race" and contained such advice as "If your cat should be taken ill, have as little as possible to do with drugs, unless it be in the homeopathic form". Cats with colds could be given a tonic of tincture of arsenicum in a spoonful of milk. The same treatment was advised for other ailments such as distemper, along with a mixture of eggs, cream and brandy. Tincture of arsenicum could also be given for mange. The symptoms of mange were to be treated with sulphur ointment, carbolic acid ointment, green iodide of mercury ointment and acid sulphurous lotion. Arsenic was used as both a tonic and an antiseptic. Prussic acid was used as an anti-spasmodic and also for pain relief. Lead was used as an astringent and also a sedative. All are poisonous as is mercury and carbolic. Little wonder that cats life-spans were shorter than those of their ancestors.
Pedigree cats were believed prone to dyspepsia (indigestion). "Two Friends of the Race" wrote "[Dyspepsia] is more often met with in highly-bred and notably show specimens, when a too-fixed and stimulating system of feeding is adopted". At the time, pedigree cats were not usually fed horse meat (fed to household cats) but lean chopped mutton.
To set a broken bone, a papier mache cast was made. Brown paper was soaked in boiling water, the excess water was squeezed out and the papier mache was moulded onto the broken limb. Strips of calico fabric or linen were laid over this to hold the cast in place. Fractures could also be splinted using wood, pasteboard or leather. Bandages soaked in gum, starch or plaster of paris might also be used. Warm pitch was used to prevent the splint from slipping. Quite complicated fractures could be treated and many cats made an excellent recovery though a few complicated or infected cases required amputation. This treatment (immobilisation using a cast) is familiar, even if the materials are not.
In the days of hearth fires, burns were common due to embers spitting from the fire. Large cinders could ignite the cat's fur and cause deep burns and great panic: "A cat aflame is a dangerous creature, for it may rush to any part of the house, and set fire to other materials. This disaster is treated by the application of equal parts of linseed oil and lime water, covered over with cotton wool... poulticed and warm emollient fomentations may be required." If a large amount of skin was lost to a burn or scald, the damaged area could be removed entirely and the skin drawn together: "When... a considerable blemish follows the healing process. that portion of the skin creating the eyesore... may by careful surgery be removed, and the union of the edges of the surrounding skin so neatly affected as to disguise the fact that puss is so much integument short."
The most serious feline disease was distemper. Some of the early descriptions make it hard to determine whether this was cat flu (calicivirus etc) or feline infectious enteritis (panleucopaenia). It is often identified as enteritis however, descriptions of distemper from the 1940s and 1950s suggest cat flu, especially as the authors describe enteritis separately. It was believed to be caused by high temperatures or drought and that outbreaks diminished in cooler weather. Cats with symptoms of distemper were treated with a mixture of castor oil and liquid paraffin which supposedly cleared bile. The owner was instructed to dose the cat every three hours with a dessertspoon of egg white mixed with ten drops of brandy to settle the stomach.
In 1893, an anonymous author calling himself "A Veterinary Surgeon" produced a book called "The Diseases of Dogs and Cats" in which he blamed longhaired cats of spreading distemper (they were considered weak and carriers of various diseases). He wrote, "To develop coat, colour or other points, unsuitable animals are mated... [diseases] are frequently traceable to cousin or even closer marriages. Cats did not formerly suffer from distemper when wild in back gardens the noble tabby ran, but since the long-haired varieties have been largely bred, and the meanest-looking cat may give birth to a long-haired kitten through some casual acquaintance, distemper has become quite common, and many lovely kittens succumb to it despite the most careful nursing and attention. A good old English Tabby is so hardy an animal as to have acquired for his tribe the reputation of having nine lives. Anyone who has visited a cat show with his eyes open must have seen how many weak and diseased animals are shown, only to go home and die in a few days. The Manx cat really can be classed as a monstrosity, having been developed probably by inbreeding or some freak of nature in the form of a cat which inhabited the Island of Man at an early period."" In fact distemper has apparently been with us since the 15th Century, with major outbreaks in Britain and Europe in 1796 and another in the USA in 1803.
"Show fever" was an ailment of cats which had returned from cat shows in the early part of the 20th century and was sometimes blamed on a jealous competitor poisoning cats. Many cats were packed off to shows unaccompanied in baskets, or even in sacks (some cats were lost or escaped in transit) and would very likely come into contact with cats carrying distemper or enteritis. If the show cat made it home safely, it might bring these then deadly diseases back with it. Up until the 1930s, cats were believed to carry the deadly diphtheria; a cat with a sore throat was often euthanized.
In 1900, diarrhoea was treated by dissolving I oz of fresh mutton suet in a quarter pint of warm milk. A teaspoon of the mixture was given every two hours. For the braver owner, feline constipation could be treated with an enema of water and glycerine. The other cure for constipation through the ages was a tablespoon of olive oil. Olive oil and cod liver oil (or halibut oil) were cure-alls and preventatives for many years and are still given as supplements today. A suitable treatment for an out-of-condition cat was a mixture of olive oil, milk, cream and salad oil beaten together. Alternatively the cat could be given oil from a can of sardines. A pregnant cat was given a teaspoon of olive oil at least twice a week for the last three weeks. If cod liver oil was not to be had, fried bacon and bacon fat could be given instead.
Cats were believed to become off-colour in the spring, losing their appetites, developing foul breath and unkempt coats. A daily dose of cascara tablets (a laxative) would prevent the symptoms from worsening. Failure to treat these symptoms would result in constipation, diarrhoea, runny eyes, running nose and suppurating ears! If untreated, the cat would die from nervous exhaustion, heart failure, enteritis, pneumonia or pleurisy. In all likelihood, the cats were going through a combination of spring moult, hair balls hormonal changes and were picking up external parasites such as fleas and mites. Tomcats were believed particularly prone to summertime skin troubles which could be remedied by a twice weekly dose of olive oil. Female cat sometimes developed skin problems after having kittens (probably hormonal) and this was blamed on her mating with an out-of-condition tomcat! For very many years, an epithet for an ill-kempt person was "mangy tomcat".
It is likely that increased fighting and mating in spring and summer led to cross-infection and spread of parasites between cat. An early treatment for external parasites such as lice, was treated by combing the cat with a mixture of vinegar and water. A lotion could be made of one part sulphur mixed with ten parts train oil and applied all over the fur. Alternatively, a wash of equal quantities of hydrogen peroxide and water could be used (but would bleach the fur).
Fleas were associated with dirty households. To flea powder a cat, the powder was tipped into a drawstring bag and the cat placed in the bag with only its head sticking out. It stayed this way for 15 or 20 minutes, with the powder being patted onto it. Flea powders included flowers of sulphur, powdered tobacco or Persian insect powder. If Persian insect powder was used, the cat was placed on a sheet of newspaper, the powder sprinkled over it and then brushed out. The paper - and the temporarily stunned fleas - must immediately be burned.
Early wormers were toxic to cats and would have killed a good many. In the mid to late 1800s, cats with worms were dosed with turpentine. Turpentine also causes the urine to develop a floral smell. However, it also caused cystitis (inflamed bladder) and no doubt kidney damage. The cystitis could be treated with hot hip baths, linseed poultices between the cat's thighs, warm gruel enemas and opiates. It was far safer to prevent worms in the first place and in the early 1900s, a pinch of salt with every meal was supposed to prevent worms. In 1901, regular doses of cod liver oil were considered an excellent antidote to worms. Although safer treatments were available in the 1950s, it was still considered unwise to worm cats as the it would cause more trouble than good!
Obese cats might suffer from apoplexy which could be treated by applying leeches to areas from which fur had been clipped or shaved. Dropsy (accumulation of fluid) could be treated by "tapping" i.e. removing the fluid, bandaging the affected area and then dosing the cat with brandy in warm milk as a stimulant. Little was known of dental or oral problems. Mouth or tongue ulcers indicated "internal derangement" and were treated with Milk of Magnesia.
Cats in the early 20th century were apparently prone to fits, in which case smelling salts were waved under their noses. Fits were believed due to a variety of causes such as eating raw meat, or a female cat having all her kittens taken away (i.e. destroyed) at once. Female cats would supposedly never have fits if they had at least one litter of kittens. Other early treatments for fits were a warm bath and an enema (in the case of female cats whose kittens were removed), or slitting the cat's ears and expelling a few drops of blood. A good many fits were probably caused by the many toxic medications then given to cats.
In 1901, J Woodroffe Hill, FRCVS, brought out "The Diseases of the Cat" illustrated with photos of cats being treated. He described ailments in great detail; with none of the investigative methods we now take for granted, diagnosis was based entirely on observation. Equally, none of the familiar modern drugs were then available and the treatments described now seem primitive and hit-or-miss.
Before the advent of vaccination, "Nasal Catarrh" or "Cold in the Head" was common. "The cat becomes languid, is less inclined to play or hunt, and may show a varying degree of inappetance. A thin mucous discharge issues from the nostrils, which the cat endeavours the quicker to expel by constant sneezing. There is also a watery discharge from the eyes, a warm, dry nose, and usually attended with a normal or slightly elevated temperature." The disease (upper respiratory tract infection) was variously considered to be due to damp, cold or contagion or to a sedentary or confined life.
Suggested treatment for mild cases included keeping the cat warm and treating it with camphor water and spirits of ether nitrate. More severe cases required steaming of the cat's head with an infusion of poppy heads or 2% Jeyes fluid. "For the purpose of administering vapours, it is suggested that it may be expedient to place the cat on an old chair with perforated seat, beneath which is placed the steam kettle, the whole being surrounded by a rug." Eucalyptus oil was used as an antiseptic, but was to be applied to the cat's forehead, because if it was dropped into his bed, he would probably refuse to sleep in it. Some early vets recommended a liberal, stimulating diet, but others advised a diet of warm milk.
Far more severe was Feline Distemper: frequent shivering fits, with sneezing, coughing, retching and vomiting, watery discharge from the eyes and nose, laboured breathing and snuffles. It might be followed by any of the diseases of the respiratory system. Treatment was the same as for nasal catarrh, with the addition of twenty or thirty drops of whisky or brandy. Distemper was known to be very contagious, so isolation of infected cats was advised. There were crude canine distemper vaccines available (these being as dangerous as the disease itself!) and one early vet suggested that his inoculation system for dogs should also be used for cats.
A disease recognisable as Feline Infectious Enteritis was described: "A special form of inflammation of the stomach and bowel combined frequently attacks cats, and has lately been somewhat prevalent, assuming the appearance of an epidemic and being undoubtedly infectious... Symptoms in many respects simulate typhoid. The disease is accompanied with great prostration, offensive diarrhoea, often of a dirty green colour, or resembling pea soup. There is increased pulse, injection of the mucus membranes, furred tongue - especially dark at the edges - high temperature, abdominal enlargement and tenderness, disinclination to move and in advanced cases the animal lies stretched out on the side. In some cases there is frequent vomiting and intense thirst. Before death the animal may become comatose or delirious."
Treatment consisted of ½ grain of napthol in salad, hot fomentations or poultices to the abdomen, doses of sulphate of copper and opium (then easily available), starch enemas, fluid, mucilaginous food and iced milk. Strict cleanliness and disinfection was to be rigidly observed. Should the cat survive, it could expect to convalesce on "a diet of Eastons syrup and cod-liver-oil, with the yolk of an egg and cream beaten up, and by degrees a little shredded or scraped raw meat can be introduced; but the greatest caution should be exercised in giving solid food, as the gastric and intestinal membrane remains in an extremely sensitive condition for a considerable period."
Early anaesthetics were unsophisticated and risky, being either chloroform or chloral hydrate, and were therefore largely reserved for euthanasia. Feline surgery was mostly restricted to neutering (spaying was available, although not common), repairing wounds and fractures and alleviating obstructions of the bowel.
Obstructions of the gullet, stomach or intestine were apparently common. Cats frequently seemed to swallow needles, buttons, bones, hairballs etc and dire consequences were predicted. Treatment involved a probang (a sponge tied onto a cleft stick, flexible cane or piece of whalebone) being used to force the obstruction down into the stomach, with the cat restrained, but not anaesthetised. If the gullet was damaged (either by the original obstruction or, more likely, by the treatment) the animal was to be starved for a week or two and given nutritious enemas. If the obstruction was in the stomach or intestines, a dietary lubricant such as coarse oatmeal and sardine oil was administered to help it pass through. Some books of the period mentioned the possibility of surgery and the considerable danger of peritonitis (antiseptics were poor and antibiotics non-existent) though surgery should only be risked by an expert abdominal surgeon.
The following were common home treatments for ailments most often diagnosed by the owner rather than by a vet:
The giving of medication was a vexatious matter and owners were advised to use persuasion and subterfuge rather than force. Sometimes force or restraint were necessary and in the absence of sedatives, this meant physical restraint: "Take the cat by the loose skin of the neck with one hand and by the skin of the pelvis with the other and place it on a table pressing down until the breast-bone in front and under surface of the pelvis behind are held firmly against the table." A cat might be restrained for a longer period by wrapping it in a sack of cloth, leather or indiarubber or in a towel or piece of sheet.
First aid for cats in wartime included ointment for gas burns – 2 parts bleach powder and one part petroleum jelly (Vaseline). Sedatives were recommended for cats during air raids, but these were not without their problems. Bromide caused depression if used frequently. Luminal and chloretone had to be given as tablets. Aspirin was used as a sedative and no doubt many cats died as a result.
AT THE HOSPITAL FOR THE AFFLICTED DOGS [AND CATS] OF THE RICH.
BY HAROLD E. WOLF.
The Inter Ocean, 8th October, 1905
Chicago has the only dog and cat hospital in the country. Here it is that blue ribboned canine and feline aristocrats are sent by their millionaire owners to be mended by trained nurses and skilled physicians and surgeons. It was at this hospital, 78 Twenty-Sixth street, that "Granny,” a Boston terrier, owned by Herbert L Swift, the packer, had its eye taken out last Wednesday and will have a glass eye put in.
Lord Gwynne, the most famous white cat in the world, had its last tooth pulled out by Dr. White following the operation on “Granny,” Wednesday. His lordship's molars have been ruined by rich food and high living. His teeth decayed and he was sent to the hospital by his mistress, Mrs. Clinton Locke, 2825 Indiana avenue. He is to have a false set of teeth. Lord Gwynne is the father of over 2,300 kittens. His lordship is one of the few white cats in the country with blue eyes. He was brought from England by Mrs. Clinton Locke ten years ago and added to her household of cats, which is the best known and most valuable in the city. He gathered all the blue ribbons in sight. Lord Gwynne has won thirty first prizes for beauty, but is through with competition now. However, he always exhibits himself at the cat shows and looks with scorn on the young bloods who aspire to the position which he has held in polite feline society.
Lord Gwynne was not put under the influence of chloroform to have his teeth pulled. He submitted to the operation without a whimper, and it was even unnecessary to tie him down to the operating table, as it is with most of the patients [note: the tooth must have been extremely rotten]. When Lord Gwynne returned to the cat ward, toothless, from the “meowing” set up by his four white coated mates it was evident they knew what bad occurred to their liege lord. The four cats are Babette from Marion, Wis.; Lassie, from Ypsilanti, Mich., owned by Miss Alice Barnes of that city; Wendella, and Senior.
The patients at the cat and dog hospital are cared for the same as patients at an institution for the treatment of human ills. Some animals are on "soft” diet and some on "full” diet. The principal dog foods consist of cooked and raw beef, fish, dog crackers, boiled bread, and bread with meat gravies. The cats eat sardines, salmon, raw meats, and predigested foods. At 6 o'clock in the morning the attendants at the hospital give the animals fresh water and their medicines. The wards are swept and disinfected. Especial care is taken in the contagious ward, which is on the main floor and as far removed as possible from the rooms where the noncontagious diseases are treated.
From 10 o'clock until noon the operations are performed. Dr. White makes about twenty major operations a week and half a dozen minor operations in a day. In the afternoon he visits his "patients” at their homes. Like some persons, there are dogs and cats who have an aversion for hospitals — at least their mistresses (generally they are mistresses) — have this aversion.
Fifty per cent of the animals, he said, are brought to the hospital because they have been overfed with rich foods. Almost daily dogs and cats which have been injured by automobiles are hurried to the operating room in the ambulance. In tfie picture is shown Thora D., a Great Dane dog, being removed from the ambulance by Dr. Stevens. Thora D. was run down by an automobile at Twenty-Ninth street and Michigan avenue on Wednesday. [. . .] The automobilist who ran down the dog pulled his speed lever and was soon lost to sight.
The great society event of the year in exclusive canine circles, of course, is the dog show. The swells of catdom look forward all the year to the cat show. The cat show takes place the end of December. Long before that time all good looking felines are preparing for the event. The cat and dog hospital is turned into a beauty parlor, where the blue ribbon aspirants are trimmed and primped and pulled Into shapeliness.
Dr. White is the only veterinary in the country, and perhaps in the world, who devotes his time exclusively to the treatment of dogs and cats. He said that pure love of these animals drew him to the work. It pained him to see household pets killed instead of cured. Since his creation of a new field in his profession, the Chicago Veterinary college has established a department of canine and feline pathology. Dr. White is the Instructor in this department.
FELINE HEALTH CARE IN THE 1930s
The following is largely drawn from a American sources published 1938.
[You can] re-word the old saying to read "Lack of care killed a cat," and you have a reasonably accurate explanation for most cat ailments. The larger part of cat illnesses can be avoided by proper care and diet. In a sense, there is no need for your cat to be ill unless an accident occurs, or the cat gets a chill, or visits the wrong playmates, or you bring home the germs of some cat disease on your clothes. Yes, barring accidental sources of infection, your cat will live a long, healthy, and pleasant life if you care for it properly and feed it correctly.
Ailing cats differ from ailing dogs. Cats do not contract infection so often, but when a cat becomes ill the nursing problem is more difficult, because the cat has an active distaste for medicine, and usually misunderstands your intentions when you attempt treatments. Sick cats do not like to be handled, and usually prefer to go into a corner and mope. Cats are very sensitive to a change of scenery during illness, and a cat has a better chance of recovery if kept at home in familiar surroundings. This fact must not stop you from taking your pet to a cat hospital immediately if its ailment is serious, or if it has been gravely injured.
Cats have ailments similar to those from which people suffer, such as diseases of the throat, lungs, stomach, and liver. But in general, most cat illnesses yield to simple medication and diet. The cat is careful to avoid disease. It eats carefully and shuns getting wet. Danger signals of approaching illness in a cat are: lack of enthusiasm at play, a loss of appetite, and a decreasing interest in caring for its coat. Loss of appetite alone may not be serious, because the cat stops eating under an emotional strain, such as moving to a new house. If a cat persists in not eating, it is probably ill:
1. Feed properly. Meat is the chief food, winter and summer. Be certain the meat is fresh.
2. Brush and comb the cat often. Daily is best.
3. Allow plenty of fresh drinking water.
4. Have green grass available at all seasons.
5. If you have played with another cat, wash your hands thoroughly before playing with your own pet.
6. See that the cat has daily elimination. Constipation should be tended to immediately.
7. Fresh air and sunshine, and exercise are necessary.
8. Be certain that your windows are screened, so the cat will not fall from a window ledge and injure itself.
COLD: This is the source of many cat illnesses. Colds are contracted from a wetting, from sleeping in a draft, from a sudden winter exposure to which the cat is not conditioned, etc. Through the doorways of the nose and throat the cold germs enter, and while they may not be serious themselves, they may result in pneumonia, bronchitis, and other pulmonary diseases, or even distemper. No cat cold should be taken lightly. Treat your pet immediately, and continue until it is fully recovered.
SYMPTOMS; Sneezing, a warm dry nose, occasionally a discharge from the nose, watering of the eyes, lethargy, lack of interest in food. If the attack is mild, the cat may not have a loss of appetite.
TREATMENT: If you have other cats, isolate the one with the cold immediately. Keep the ailing cat in a warm room, and make its bed comfortable with a hot water bottle, or an electric pad (low heat). Give it half an aspirin once a day (no more than three doses). Vapour inhalations several times a day help (see note following). Vaseline will help relieve any soreness around the nostrils, and will make any discharge of mucus easier. Reduce the amount of food somewhat. If the cat will not eat meat, try searing a piece of beef, then cut the meat into strips and press out the juice with a potato masher. Cats will usually take this nourishment even when very ill. If there are evidences of constipation, a teaspoonful of mineral oil should be given twice the first day, and once the following day. Continue to treat the cat for a week after the last sign of cold is gone.
Cats in general do not approve of medical treatment. It is wise to train your cat in kitten-hood to be handled, to take liquid from a spoon, and to allow its mouth to be opened while you insert a small particle of food. Later this trained cat will take medicine without trouble, and will allow you to open its mouth and administer a pill.
Giving medicine to sick, untrained, grown cats is usually a strong-arm operation. To give liquid medicine or tablets, first wrap the cat's legs, body, and neck securely in a heavy towel. If you are working alone, it is best to pin the towel with safety pins. With your left hand on top of the jaw, grasp the thumb and forefinger back at the rear of the cat's mouth. Put pressure on the cat's cheeks, pushing them inward against the teeth. This has a double purpose: it causes the cat to open up, and it keeps you from getting nipped. If your pet has confidence in you, you can put the tablet far back in its mouth by hand-otherwise, it is safest to give the tablet with a spoon. There is a fair chance that you will not have difficulty in giving the cat liquid medicine. Some cats will lap the liquid readily.
Some medicines may be mixed in a cat's food. Bismuth mixes well with meat, mineral oil may be combined with some tuna, etc. Since meat is often the best food in time of illness, the cat should be urged to eat it. Ball up a little meat in dabs and try hand-feeding. Liquid medicines sometimes may be fed, through a medicine-dropper. If the cat is jumpy, an orange spoon is safer, because the cat may break the dropper and be cut by splintered glass.
WARNING: There is danger of the cat contracting mechanical pneumonia if medicine goes down its windpipe. So dose with care. Do it slowly.
INHALATION TREATMENT: Inhalations are valuable in fighting colds, but you will have a hard time convincing the average cat that inhalations are necessary. Place the cat in a box of screen wire. Prop the box on chairs so that you have a clear space below. Drape the top and sides of the box with a sheet, then place a pan of boiling water and inhalant below the cage so that the rising medicated steam will be breathed by the cat for ten or fifteen minutes, whether kitty approves or not. Oil of eucalyptus, or a similar inhalant, will be satisfactory: If the cold is severe repeat the treatment several times a day. Be sure the cat is kept warm after the treatment.
These diseases sometimes follow a difficult cold. If your cat does not respond to the cold treatment in two days, you have reason to suspect other complications. A cough is a usual accompaniment of bronchial or lung trouble, and continued high fever is another sign. While nursing and treatment at home may bring your cat to recovery, a trip to the veterinarian is the safest solution. Treatment of respiratory diseases at home requires the continuation of the cold treatment. Heat must be kept up, and if the cat has pneumonia it is well to put it in a warm jacket. The jacket should cover the neck and chest completely, and may be supplemented with poultices or hot applications.
Remember, a sick cat must eat; tempt it with its favourite foods. Don't hurry convalescence. Give the cat time to recover, or you may have the nursing job to do over.
DISTEMPER: This is the cat's most dangerous germ disease. It may attack a cat in several ways, and it is possible that each separate form may be an individual type of germ infection by itself.
Distemper that attacks the air passages may be lethal not entirely because of its own effects, but because it induces severe pneumonia. Intestinal distemper strikes speedily and is usually violent enough to kill the cat without the aid of other infections. One thing is known for certain about distemper; the germ that causes it has an exceptional amount of vigour. Highly contagious, this cat-slayer is easily contracted, hard to dispose of, and harder still to eradicate from a cat's living quarters after a recovery. To keep distemper localized you must follow these sanitary precautions:
1. Place the cat's box in a warm, well-ventilated place that can be cleaned easily.
2. Make the bed from crumpled newspapers, with an overlay of blanket, or ticking. Remove and burn the papers daily-wash and sterilize the blanket daily (better have two blankets).
3. Keep all water or food pans, spoons, cups, etc., used during the cat's illness sterile by scalding.
4. Burn immediately all swabs or cotton used to remove mucus.
5. Empty, scald, and refill the cat's toilet pan several times daily. Be sure to use paper filler, because it can be put in the furnace and burned.
6. Following the illness, the cat's box should be disinfected and repainted, or burned. Thoroughly fumigate the room used by the cat. The course of the disease will probably immunize your pet, but no other cat should be allowed to come into the sickroom for at least four or five months afterward. If your cat dies from distemper, allow perhaps half a year to pass before you try to bring up another cat :n the same apartment.
If these sanitation rules sound rigorous enough for a plague, remember that distemper is a plague. Like a well-trained gangster, distemper doesn't fool around when it starts into action.
AIR PASSAGE DISTEMPER: This type is most subject to cure. At the start, this type of distemper may look very much like a common cold, so all colds should be watched. There is always fever, watery eyes, and discharge from the nose that is first thin, but later turns thick. Watch the cat's coat. Under the pall of distemper the cat neglects grooming, and the coat will form into noticeable spikes or wads of hair. There may be some diarrhea. Most cat owners will find it advisable to take the pet to a veterinarian for treatment. If kept at home and treated, aspirin may be given to adult cats-half tablet doses once a day. Warmth, isolation, and fresh air (no draughts) are part of the cure. Beef juice, egg and milk, chopped or scraped beef, or liver extract should be fed. Swab discharge from eyes and nose frequently, using a dilute solution of boric acid on the swabs. Inhalations are often beneficial.
Unless this distemper is very deep seated, recovery will take place in about four weeks. However, the cat should be kept under supervision for at least a month and a half longer. Keep it away from other cats for at least four months.
NOTE: A virulent form of distemper settles in the throat, where in time it may so ulcerate the throat tissue that recovery is next to impossible. A usual symptom is a pro fuse flow of saliva and a heavily inflamed throat. In advanced stages the cat is unable to swallow, and it is the humanitarian act to end the cat's suffering. Treatment should be left to a veterinarian. If arrested in time, this type of distemper can be beaten. Your cat stands a fourto-one chance of recovery.
ABDOMINAL DISTEMPER AND INFECTIOUS ENTERITIS: These diseases are so parallel in the way they attack a cat that many authorities believe them to be one disease. If you can imagine yourself beset with a violent case of intestinal flu, coupled with a vomiting attack, you have an idea how enteritis acts on a cat. Whether they are two diseases or not, cat mortality, without adequate treatment, is unusually high. The development of vaccines and serums for enteritis has made encouraging headway during recent years, and any competent veterinarian can give this preventive treatment. Serums are usually administered in the early stages of the disease, and even though the diagnosis is not positive it is better to let the cat have the serum shots than to make the mistake of fooling yourself with a latent case of enteritis.
SYMPTOMS: Loss of appetite, complete lack of play interest, a tendency to sleep too much. The cat vomits a yellowish liquid at frequent intervals, and the bowels produce a mucus-like discharge; sometimes blood appears in these watery stools. The cat weakens rapidly. It develops a very high fever. In severe cases, death usually occurs in 48 hours.
TREATMENT: The attack of this disease is so rapid that it is foolish to try to combat it at home. However, while preparing the cat for a visit to the doctor keep it warm, and make it as comfortable as possible. During the recovery period, remember the precautions that apply in any case of distemper-sterilize and fumigate; and keep your cat away from other cats.
WORMS: The two chief types of worms that infest cats are round worms and tape worms. But dangerous as worms are to cats, their treatment by unskilled owners is often more dangerous. The constitution of your cat will not stand the kind of worm medicine that would be good for your dog, so suggestions for treatment had better be left to your veterinarian. It is extremely dangerous to give any kind of worm medicine to young kittens, and full-grown cats too do not have much resistance against a violent vermifuge. Worms are fairly common, since the eggs come to a cat through things it eats, but there is no reason for supposing that all cats have worms and are in need of worming treatment.
SYMPTOMS: If the cat has round worms, evidences of the worms themselves may be vomited, or the eggs passed with the cat's bowel movement. A wormy kitten is usually rather obvious because of its pot-belly, while cats and kittens alike show their condition by a coat that lacks gloss and smoothness. With worms the appetite loses its governor, and the cat has a tendency to eat in fits and starts sometimes being very greedy, and the next meal not interested in food at all. The cat will usually be disinterested in play or exercise. Tape worms are less easy to detect, but a cat may pass part of a tape worm in its stool. If you suspect tape worm, take a bit of the stool on a card, place the card in an envelope and take it to the veterinarian. His microscope will decide whether medicine is needed.
TREATMENT: Keep all food and water from your cat for 24 hours before you give the worm medicine prescribed by the veterinarian. Generally, you will not have to wait long for the medicine to act. Wait for about an hour after the worms have passed before feeding your pet, then make the feeding light. Following the worming, the cat's trousers should be carefully swabbed off to prevent any worm eggs from remaining. Keep your cat under observation for at least a day after the worming.
HAIR BALL: Hair balls are apt to trouble any cat, but long-haired pets Hair have the greatest hazard from this source. As I have said balls before, in licking its pelt your pet easily picks up quite a few hairs on its tongue, which it transfers to its stomach, forming catdom's most perilous triple play. Ordinarily, a cat will not get enough hair to trouble it, and what does get to the stomach passes out in a bowel movement. A cat that has plenty of grass provides its own remedy by eating grass and then bringing up both grass and hair. There are no positive symptoms of hair balls, although this condition if left untreated leads to digestive disturbances that are positive enough. Sometimes the cat will have a series of upsets and vomit forth a light froth-or the hair ball itself. The cat with a hair ball usually has little appetite.
TREATMENT: Mineral oil or olive oil will usually free the cat of small hair balls. One teaspoonful a day for two days, or possibly three, is usually sufficient. In stubborn cases a cat should be taken to a veterinarian for an enema or an emetic, depending upon the pet expert's diagnosis.
VACCINATION: You can practically vaccinate a cat against hair balls if you'll only be a good Samaritan and use the brush and comb on your pet daily.
SKIN TROUBLES: There are usually three different orders of skin troubles- those caused by digestive upsets (dry or moist eczema); troubles brought on by animal parasites (mange); troubles which are the result of fungus infection (ring worm). Of the three, mange is the most contagious to other cats; ring worm is contagious to other cats-and to people as well so guard yourself against infection when you handle a cat that has ring worm. All three of these skin ailments have their own identifying marks, but it is easy for an untrained person to make a mistake in diagnosis. If you are not positive about what troubles your cat's skin, ask an experienced cat owner, or your veterinarian. In general; here are the signals of these skin diseases:
1. ECZEMA: Two varieties exist. Dry eczema usually starts around the ears and face and its chief symptom is the cat's distress-Puss will tear at ears, nose, and eyes until the hair falls out. You can see the scales of dry eczema in the bare patches.
MOIST ECZEMA: This outbreak is more easily identified. Inflamed red patches, somewhat moist in appearance, are characteristic. The eczema may appear all over the body, but will concentrate in the less hairy spots. The cat's skin will be hot and sensitive.
2. MANGE: (Sarcoptic mange) is characterized by tiny red pimples on the cat's skin. As the attack advances, these pimples burst and form matted scabs. The cat's skin becomes so irritated by scratching that blood will appear.
3. RINGWORM: Watch for ring-shaped, scabby patches raised on the cat's skin.
Before being specific about cause and cure, I want to point out that many ointments that would be suitable for your own skin are absolutely taboo for your cat. Before you apply treatment, be certain the remedy is mild enough to prevent injury. Now for the troubles themselves:
1. ECZEMA is a manifestation of error in the cat's diet. Revise its food supply immediately to eliminate all starches, fish, pork, and other foods you suspect to be disturbing elements. Concentrate on feeding raw beef, whole wheat toast, and add two drops of haliver oil to the cat's food once a day. Keep the cat's bowels regular. Give it a dose of mineral oil, or a milk of magnesia tablet.
2. MANGE: As with dog mange, this skin ailment in cats is caused by a minute boring pest. The parasites have strong constitutions and may lie dormant for a long time. A cat kept in the house is in little danger of contracting mange, but owners of house cats should always consider the possibility of mange. This disease is intensely irritating to a cat, so there is constant danger that a cat will re-infect itself from the spots where it has drawn blood. A skin that is scratched too much will be permanently damaged. Do not wash mangy spots with soap. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a mild antiseptic and ointment. Bathe the spots, then apply the ointment. Keep the cat's bed fresh. Burn the paper filler after each change. Hair around the mangy spots may be carefully clipped, but avoid depriving the cat of too much fur.
3. RINGWORM: House cats are not protected from ringworm. Your cat may catch it from the mouse it captured yesterday, and unless you use caution, your cat may give it to you. Apply tincture of iodine (carefully) to the infected places. It is safer to use rubber gloves while applying this treatment. Remove and burn scabs that form on the cat. Clip the hair around the infection. Better ask a cat expert or a veterinarian to advise an ointment to relieve this fungus infection.
NOTES ON SKIN AILMENTS: Try to devise a method to keep your cat from scratching or licking itself while it has a skin disease. Some fanciers use a three-inch card-board collar which is slid over the cat's head through a hole in the centre. Make the collar comfortable by winding it with gauze, or cotton tape. This is something like the equipment used to keep a cow from jumping fences. In general, a cat will not tolerate grease on its skin. Turpentine is definitely bad for a cat, and so are coal tar preparations.
FLEAS: Outdoor cats have most of the fleas, but indoor cats may have them. If your cat wakes from slumber to make a hasty stab at itself, followed by a frantic, biting chase for the hopper-it has some fleas. Aside from the discomfort, the cat is in some danger of infecting itself while it has fleas-either by damaging the skin or by taking in the germs or eggs of some cat disease lying in wait on the body of the flea. Tape worm may be contracted this way. While bathing with antiseptic is sometimes recommended to kill fleas, the danger of catching cold is too great to make this anything but a last resort in the hands of an experienced pet-handler. Flea powder is safer. BUT, remember a cat's skin is sensitive, and "any kind of flea powder" won't do. Obtain a safe brand from a pet store, or a veterinarian.
TREATMENT: Sprinkle the cat thoroughly with powder, working it down from the face, head, and ears to the tip of the tail. Guard the cat's eyes from powder, and try to prevent it from licking the powder. It is wise to use a cat jacket, or the collar of card-board. After two or three hours, depending on the directions for the powder you use, stand the cat on newspapers and brush and comb it thoroughly. Really BE thorough, because the fleas will be only punch drunk and you will have to comb them out. Burn the papers immediately.
While the flea powder is working, remove your pet to a different part of the house so you may give its bed and general camping ground a flea-killing treatment. Flea powder, or a spray, should be poked and shot into every possible breeding-ground. If a liquid spray is used, be certain the residue is all evaporated before you return the cat to its usual living quarters. You may have to give the flea treatment twice to kill all fleas. It is possible that you will get only the adult fleas ON the first attack-there may be another hatch coming along to plague the cat later.
These are common focal points of infection in cats, especially the ears. One or a dozen illnesses may come to your 40 pet through its ears. Parasitic canker of the ear is one of the worst-and the most common. Eye inflammation (conjunctivitis) is the second. The eyes and ears of a cat are sense organs that have no business harbouring infections. Such ailments cause the cat considerable pain, and since its paws are its only instruments of surgery, there is constant danger of scratching and further infection. But more important, eye or ear ailments may seriously hamper your pet's activities.
PARASITIC CANKER: Unlike common ear canker found in dogs, this ailment is caused by an organism somewhat similar to the one causing mange. The easily recognized evidence of an attack is a brownish discharge and, since most cats are subject to it, examine your cat's ears regularly. Left unchecked, the canker spreads downward in the ear to a region difficult to treat, and may eventually injure the cat's hearing. General inflammation of the ear is usually the result of not treating soon enough. Inflammation causes the ear to swell up, and the cat may have fever and general discomfort.
TREATMENT: Begin treatment as soon as you see the first trace of the brown wax. Never use soap and water, the cat's ears weren't meant to be washed inside. Warm a little olive oil and gently swab out the ear, using a prepared swab or a dab of absorbent cotton twisted on a toothpick. Dry up the oil with fresh swabs and finish the treatment by dusting the cat's ear with powdered boric acid. One treatment won't cure the canker, because there are probably colonies of pests still active. Keep after them, but remember that the cat's ear is sensitive: proceed gently. Extreme cases need and deserve the care of a veterinarian.
EYE INFLAMMATION: This frequently follows colds, or may be the result of continued exposure to dust-filled air. As with ailing human eyes, the cat's eyelids become red and puffy. Tears form, and later a sticky discharge begins to gather and leak down the cat's face. Sometimes the eye will be covered by a film.
TREATMENT: Apply a dilute solution of warm boric acid with a saturated dab of cotton. Take care to wipe away the excess, and also any mucus that may have formed. Protect the cat's eyes by bandaging. This treatment is for simple eye disorders only. If your cat has what appears to be serious eye trouble, take it to a veterinarian.
INDIGESTION: Most digestive distress in a cat traces back to one cause wrong feeding. Indigestion, dyspepsia, colic, gastritis, and chronic constipation may be prevented by sane feeding. Indigestion and constipation seem to occur together, and it is probable that one results from the other. Constipation is easily cured if you watch your cat. When constipated the cat may vomit froth.
TREATMENT: Keep food and water from the cat for a day, its stomach needs a rest. Give a teaspoonful of mineral oil twice a day, or a teaspoonful of milk of magnesia at five-hour intervals.
NOTES ON INDIGESTION: As soon as the treatment has an effect, begin to feed the cat sparingly. Revise its menu and eliminate foods you think may have caused the trouble. Usually the cat has been getting too much starch or fat, or not enough fresh meat and grass. A straight meat diet may sometimes cause indigestion because the cat digests meat thoroughly, without leaving enough bulk to cause a proper bowel movement. Try adding asparagus to diet. More serious digestive ailments require professional care. Remember to watch your pet's elimination.
NEUTERING: Neutering is not a crime against the cat; it is often a humanitarian practice. By nature cats are very fertile-a cat can produce several mewing litters of kittens a year. This fact causes countless hordes of stray, diseased, homeless cats. Too much kitten bearing will shorten the life of a female cat. Remember this if you enjoy and value your pleasant household cat.
If you have a male cat and you expect to keep him in your apartment, castration is a practical necessity. The tendency of cat fanciers is to develop a cat of neutral sex characteristics and a fine, friendly disposition. Any male cat, kept perpetually at home, develops argumentative tendencies, a habit of yowling to the sky during mating season, and a touchy disposition.
SPAYING THE FEMALE CAT: Have this done during the latter part of the cat's first year. The operation is fairly difficult and the cat needs partial maturity before it takes place. The cat should be free from worms, and in general good health, before the operation.
NEUTERING MALE CATS: This is a comparatively simple operation, and should be taken care of between the fourth and seventh month of life. Good health is a pre-operative requisite.
[GENERAL] If you take your cat travelling, by car or train, don't feed it en route. Water is necessary, but food will bring trouble. Keep the cat in a satchel or ventilated box. Never allow pussy to be loose in your car, especially when the windows are open. Be sure your cat returns with you from a ride. An abandoned cat, particularly a sheltered pet, has little chance to survive. Don't believe the old fib that a cat can take care of itself.
Don't let your cat be a "tin can cat:" Shun, shun the can opener; it gives your cat wrong eating habits. Canned fish and canned cat food are pleasant delicacies for occasional feeding-cats love them-but they're not the foods for steady eating. Don't let your cat trick you into thinking it will tolerate nothing but a caviar diet. Just cut out ALL food for twenty-four hours and see what the cat thinks about its usual raw beef and cooked green vegetables then.
Even if you do think kitty looks cute that way, don't tie a ribbon around its neck. There's too much danger of strangulation.
If your cat is an outdoors cat don't let it drink icy water in the winter time. Warm the water a bit.
A well-fed cat catches more mice than an underfed cat believe it or not. The reason is simple. A plump cat has more energy, is more active. Catching the mouse is the cat's chief game of skill. Your cat probably won't eat all the mice it snares, but catching the quick mice is a welcome release for energy. No underfed cat has excess energy.
Never forget that cats are easily poisoned by antiseptics, soaps, or medicines that are harmless to human beings, or dogs: Tar, lysol, soaps containing carbolic acid, gasoline, turpentine, or any powders containing these things, may be fatal to a cat.
COLDS AND RESPIRATORY AILMENTS (1936)
Colds and What They Lead To: A cat with a cold in the head is just as uncomfortable as you are when you have the snuffles; and you have the solace of a handkerchief, while even the most intelligent cat can never be taught to blow its nose. Colds are sometimes called nasal catarrh, or coryza, or rhinitis, but by whatever name we call them they are just as annoying and dangerous. The beginning of a cold may be the first symptom of distemper, or influenza, or really serious catarrh, and for this reason, and also because colds are contagious among cats, you should, if you have more than one cat, isolate the infected animal at once.
Cats that are soft from a sedentary life, or logy from overeating, are more likely to contract colds than those that are sensibly fed and have plenty of exercise. Exposure, a draft, a run-down condition may bring on a cold. If you bathe your cat and do not dry it properly, it is apt to have an attack of the snuffles. Kittens are especially susceptible, and a tendency to colds is often found in youngsters purchased from pet shops or catteries where the animals are crowded together in quarters lacking air and sunshine.
A cat with a cold coming on is usually languid, and sneezes and shakes its head, trying to expel the mucus that clogs its nostrils. Examine the nose and you will find that it is warm and dry, sometimes with a thin discharge issuing from it. The eyes, too, are watery. Usually there is fever, but this you can determine only by using a thermometer, and as a cat's temperature is taken in the rectum it requires dexterity to do it. As I mentioned in Chapter II, there is a rectal thermometer for small animals, but an ordinary clinical thermometer can be used. Often, with nursing, a cold clears up in a few days, and it is not necessary to call a veterinarian. Just keep the patient warm and quiet, away from drafty windows, and give it inhalations of medicated steam several times a day to clear out the head. I have heard cat-owners say that when they tried this the cat scratched and bit and upset the steam kettle, but I think this was the fault of the owners. Accustom your pet from the first to accept necessary ministrations, and if you are firm and gentle you will not have much trouble.
I used half a teaspoonful of Vick's VapoRub in a cupful of steaming water, but five or six drops of any volatile oil, such as eucalyptus, will do. I set my cat on a chair, draping a blanket over chair back and cat like a tent, and with one hand bent its head over the steam kettle, which I held with the other hand. But if your cat struggles it is best to use a chair with a perforated seat, and set the kettle under the chair. A drop of oil of eucalyptus brushed on the fur of the forehead so that the patient will inhale the vapour is a good measure. If the mucus in the nose is obstinate, put two drops of argyrol (5 per cent solution) in each nostril twice a day. If your pet's afflicted nose is sore, rub on a little white Vaseline to soothe it. When the throat is inflamed it may help to swab it with a 10 per cent solution of argyrol. Swabs are easily made by winding absorbent cotton securely around the end of an orange stick.
Medicines, I think, should be avoided in dealing with cats, except when prescribed by a competent veterinarian. But aspirin is simple and can do no harm [a dangerous misconception: aspirin is poisonous to cats]; a quarter of a five-grain tablet three times a day for two days has been known to break up a cold. At any rate it soothes the headache that accompanies a cat's cold, just as it does yours. And be on your guard against constipation. At the first sign of it administer milk of magnesia in the morning and again at night for one day, repeating this treatment the following day in obstinate cases. The dose is from one-half to one teaspoonful of the liquid milk of magnesia, or one tablet for a small cat, two tablets for a large cat. Directions for administering medicine in its various forms will be found in the chapter on The Importance of Nursing.
A common cold does not usually affect a cat's appetite, except in severe attacks, where there is general inappetence. Unless there is fever it is well to heed the old adage and feed the cold; but remember that right feeding is doubly important at such times. Sometimes a convalescing cat is debilitated, and then half a teaspoonful of cod-liver oil is a good builder, unless it disagrees with the patient, as it does with some cats. Some take oil nicely from a spoon; for others it must be mixed with the food or put in a capsule.
Superior folk who suppose that the human race has a monopoly on diseases are surprised to learn how many respiratory ailments cats can have. And often it is a cold that ushers one of them in. Laryngitis is not uncommon in cats, and they have sinus affections, which hurt them just as much as yours do you. They have acute bronchitis, and chronic bronchitis, and bronchopneumonia, and the more serious lobar pneumonia. They have pleurisy, they have influenza, and they have cat distemper, which is not quite like dog distemper but is bad in its own way. And many a neglected cat has wasted away from tuberculosis, just as poor human beings did in pathology's dark days. Most of these diseases have their own danger flags. If you are informed you can pretty well guess, from the character of the cough, the changed breathing, or some other symptom, what it is. But do not experiment with treatment. Call the veterinary.
All respiratory diseases of course cause disturbances of one sort or another in the breathing. In some of them respiration is quickened, in others it is laboured and heavy. Abnormally fast breathing may of course result from other causes-from excitement, or fear, or exertion-but that is temporary. If you note that your cat in its own home, with nothing to frighten or disturb it, is having trouble with its breathing, then it is time to consult the doctor. Difficult breathing may come from some growth that is pressing on the air passages, but that too calls for prompt action. Into a busy New York animal clinic, one day, two women brought a magnificent tiger cat. "He can't breathe," they said. "We think he must have swallowed something."' So the veterinarian made a swift examination.
"How long," he asked, looking pityingly at the cat, who was lying down, and struggling up, and panting, and stretching out his neck in the effort to suck oxygen into his tortured lungs, "how long has this been going on?" At first the women said they had only noticed it the day before, but then they admitted it had been longer. The doctor smiled rather grimly. "A tumour on the windpipe," he said. "His breathing must have been distressful for a month or two at the very least." Poor Tiger died on the operating table. Probably he never could have been saved, but if his owners had been watchful and truly kind he might have had a quicker, easier end. Obstructed breathing, or dyspnoea, which may come from disease but is oftener due to a growth or some foreign object in the nose or throat, can be distinguished from an ordinary increase in the number of respirations by the muscular effort that the animal makes to overcome it.
Of the respiratory diseases, bronchial pneumonia is one of the most dangerous to cats. It may come from any one of various causes. If when you give your pet medicine the liquid goes the wrong way and gets drawn into the lungs, pneumonia may supervene. Exposure to the cold or wet may bring it on; so may accumulations of mucus from bronchitis. Sometimes it just seems to spring from an enfeebled condition, as in the case of a beloved Persian of mine, a very old cat whose liver became affected as livers sometimes will in old age. She was apparently recovering, when one morning I noticed a curious little catch in her breathing, and knew it for pneumonia. The veterinarian did not advise medicines or a pneumonia jacket; sometimes, he said, nursing is the only thing. When I coaxed her she would raise herself and take a little chicken or scraped beef or beef juice from my hand, and I think nursing would have pulled her through, only she was so old, and the weather was cruelly hot.
Nursing is the best help, but medicines are sometimes necessary, and there is great value in applications such as Antiphlogistine (a clay which is used as a poultice) and in mustard plasters and other counterirritants. But use them only on the advice of a competent veterinary. Do not torture a sick cat with experiments. To shave any part of a cat's body in order that the skin may be more easily reached is not, I think, a good thing to do unless it is absolutely necessary. It robs the animal of the covering that nature put there, and the coat takes a long time to grow again.
Signs of pneumonia are quick breathing, a heightened temperature, and sometimes a murmuring sound in the chest, which you may detect by pressing your ear against it. In the catarrhal form there is a short and painful cough, but in some forms there is no cough at all.
Pleurisy, which is an inflammation of the lining membrane of the thoracic cavity, generally comes on as a cold does, with listlessness and loss of appetite. As it develops the cat shows pain when moved or lifted; it uses the abdominal muscles as an aid to respiration; and if you listen closely you hear a rustling sound in the pleurae. Pleurisy is sometimes the first indication of tuberculosis in a cat.
Laryngitis, rather common among cats, is not so serious. Its symptoms are a dry cough, unwillingness to swallow solid food, and frequent retching. It may be serious if the parts swell suddenly; once I knew a cat that was saved from death by smothering only by the quick use of a tiny tracheotomy tube. But it is usually cured if taken in time, so if your pet shows an inclination to sit with its head outstretched, and coughs when you press a finger on its throat, you may guess laryngitis, and keep the cat warm and quiet, and send for the veterinary.
A symptom of bronchitis is a dry, deep cough. In this, as in most of these troubles, the medicated steam kettle brings great relief. Asthma, which most frequently attacks old cats, particularly if they have been allowed to get fat, is generally accompanied by a spasmodic cough; an asthmatic cat, like an asthmatic person, wheezes terribly at any exertion. There is not much to be done except to cut down the diet and guard against constipation. Of course if paroxysms of coughing occur, medicines are needed to relieve them.
But the best cure for respiratory diseases is good nursing; the best preventive is right feeding, sunshine, and fresh air.
DISTEMPER, TUBERCULOSIS AND INFECTIOUS ENTERITIS (1936)
Of all the diseases that afflict our cats, these three are the least curable, the most to be dreaded: distemper, tuberculosis, and infectious enteritis. Feline distemper is different in some ways from canine distemper, and though it is very contagious among cats, it is said that dogs do not catch it from them. Puppies have been known to associate with cats suffering from distemper and to remain immune. However, it is not a good thing to let healthy animals mix with sick ones. Just as with dog distemper, no scientist has succeeded in finding out much about the microbe that causes cat distemper. Really we know only that it is very virulent and that it manifests itself in many ways, of which the commonest is the deceptive one that seems to be a cold at first. This is variously called infectious catarrh, the snuffles, influenza, and, from the way that it sometimes sweeps through a cat show and even follows the champions home, "show fever."
Watery eyes and a running nose are the first symptoms of catarrhal distemper. Oddly enough, it sometimes affects just one eye, which will be so inflamed and sensitive to the light that you might think it had a cinder in it. The cat sneezes and has fits of shivering, and its hair roughens up into untidy points. Medicine is of little avail in these cases. From one to three grains of aspirin once a day for two days may check the attack and certainly will do no harm, and if there is much diarrhea (a little is salutary because it carries away the poison in the system), a pinch of bismuth subnitrate with each meal is advisable. But it is generally conceded that nursing, not dosing, is the important thing in distemper. Most veterinarians when summoned tell you this.
Make the patient as comfortable as possible in a warm, sunny room (isolated from other cats, of course), and if it shivers dress it in a cosy sweater. Protect it from drafts, but admit plenty of fresh air. Coax it to eat nourishing things. Scraped beef, beef juice, chicken jelly, egg, and milk are best. In the abdominal forms of distemper, however, meat should be avoided, lest it irritate the intestines. These attacks call for arrowroot, white of egg beaten up in milk, and similar soothing foods that are rich in albumin.
In serious attacks of catarrhal distemper the discharge from the eyes and nose becomes a thick, clogging mucus, and this should be wiped away often. Put a pinch of boric acid in a cup of warm water, wash the eyes gently with soft cotton, and clear the nostrils with a tiny swab made by wrapping a bit of cotton around the end of a wooden toothpick. This is important; we know how uncomfortable we feel if our breathing is impeded, and neglect of the eyes at such a time may mean blindness. Remember, too, that cats are unhappy if their fur is soiled, and keep all stains wiped off. Cats usually recover from mild catarrhal distemper in three or four weeks, but they should be quarantined for eight weeks longer. The distemper germ is long-lived. The room in which a cat with distemper has been kept and the bed and other articles which it has used must be thoroughly disinfected, and even when this is done it is unwise to take a healthy cat into the place in less than three months.
When the distemper germ settles in the pharynx there is trouble indeed. The cat dribbles at the mouth and hangs over its food as if it wanted badly to eat but was afraid to try. Look into its mouth, and on the throat you will see tiny inflamed cysts, which break and turn into ulcers. Unless the disease is halted, a putrid deposit presently collects in the throat, and the patient, unable to swallow, suffers so much that the merciful thing is to put it to death. There is a pulmonary form of distemper which sometimes manifests itself in pneumonia, bronchitis, or pleurisy. Abdominal distemper generally starts with vomiting and diarrhoea, and it can strike so swiftly that at the first danger signal you should call the diagnostician. The death roll in distemper is large, and the victims who recover may be left with ulcerated eyeballs, or skin eruptions, or weak digestion. Veterinarians tell me that chorea, a nervous twitching resembling St. Vitus's dance, which dogs sometimes have following distemper, is not known in cats. But I have read of cats that were left with a palsied shaking of the head, so there you are.
Infectious enteritis, the cat plague, fatal as the black typhus is to man, is sometimes hardly to be distinguished from acute abdominal distemper. Symptoms of this disease are fever, the throwing up of yellow slime, bloody diarrhoea, and great weakness. Often there are convulsions at the end. Like distemper, it has a deadly contagion. One cat lover I know lost four Persian kittens from it, in succession, in a year. After the death of a kitten she would wait three months before taking another, but the germs were still in her apartment.
Does your cat drink fresh milk? If it does, be sure that the cow has been tested for tuberculosis and found healthy, for milk from tubercular cows is the great source of this disease in cats. But cats who dwell in slums sometimes get it from eating the stuff thrown out from tenements and cheap restaurants, and from the dirt they must swallow in making their toilets, and if your pet is permitted to mingle with these unfortunates it may contract the disease from them. Tuberculosis in cats develops slowly, with increasing emaciation and weakness, and sometimes, though not always, a cough. The layman cannot distinguish it from the wasting type of distemper, which also brings loss of appetite and flesh, but, unlike distemper, it can be communicated to human beings. Just as in humans, tuberculosis will attack various parts of a cat's body-the abdomen, the bones, the kidneys and bladder, as well as the lungs. It is almost never cured, and it means great suffering for the cat.
I once found, in the dark, wet cellar of a building that had lately been vacated by a speak-easy [a sort of bar], a cat far gone in tuberculosis, and I did not soon forget the haggard misery in that feeble creature's face. It is painful to put an end to any spark of life, but I was glad to end that one. Dr. Hamilton Kirk says that death is best for all tubercular cats, whether they be homeless strays or treasured pets. And he speaks not as a cold scientist, but as a real lover of cats. Tubercular cats have been kept alive for some time by care and good food, by owners who thought they loved them, but I do not think life meant much to these cats, and I doubt the genuineness of such affection.
TROUBLES OF THE DIGESTIVE TRACT (1936)
Digestive ailments make a long story, for they extend all the way from the teeth to the anus, from pyorrhoea to rectal abscesses, from stomatitis, or sore mouth, to colitis. They make up the greater part of the cat cases at animal clinics, and for this we cat-owners ought to take shame to ourselves, because wrong feeding is the chief cause. But I hope not many of us are as foolish as the coloured girl who brought a white Persian cat, miserably sick, to a veterinarian late one night. "What have you been feeding him?" the doctor asked.
[The girl answered] "Horatio had sausages and a chicken bone and fried potatoes foh dinnah. Then mah girl friend across the hall had a pahty, and she treated him to ice cream. Horatio shuah does appreciate ice cream. 'Nothah thing he likes is cigarettes. It does tickle folks to see Horatio gobble the end of a cigarette. It's a trick mah boy friend learned him." The boy friend had run to the drugstore when Horatio succumbed, and bought castor oil and buckthorn to pour down his throat. They were naively surprised that this made him worse. Now this may be an extreme case, but there are many just as outrageous.
Cats that are allowed to roam pick up things that upset the digestion, or worse. Country cats sometimes get thin from eating too many grasshoppers and beetles. And, contrary to the general belief, mice are not wholesome for cats, but fortunately well-fed cats seldom eat the mice they catch.
I do not suppose that four cats out of five have pyorrhoea, but as they grow old they are subject to it, and the cause is what it is in humans: too much soft food. If your cat rubs its face with its paw, picks at its food, dribbles from the corners of its mouth, and has indigestion, you may guess pyorrhoea. As pyorrhoea develops the teeth are loosened and the gums become soft and inflamed. Often the first indication is tartar on the teeth; this is the time to take it in hand, and clean the teeth with a soft brush or a swab dipped in a one per cent solution of hydrochloric acid, or in bicarbonate of soda. Real pyorrhoea requires the veterinarian, for it may be a case for the forceps.
Stomatitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane of the mouth. Your pet may get it from being scalded by hot food, or from strong medicine, or from indigestion. The symptoms are bad breath, difficulty in eating, fever, and a tendency to sit with the head held stiffly forward. Open the mouth and you will find it inflamed, perhaps ulcerated. Sometimes there is a deposit at the back which the timid take for diphtheria, but it is not really that, and you need not fear contagion. The mouth should be cleansed with an antiseptic solution and the ulcers painted, but a layman should not attempt to treat ulcers.
Pharyngitis, or inflammation of the cavity into which the nose and mouth open, is a sort of extension of stomatitis, harder to deal with because the pharynx is less easy to reach. It may be caused by chills, or by bacterial invasion, or by a bone lodging in the throat. The most serious form, that caused by distemper germs, was described in the chapter on distemper. A cat with pharyngitis almost always coughs, especially when it tries to eat; but if the throat is very bad it refuses food, becomes very nervous, and hides away in corners. In its mild form this disease soon yields to treatment. Keep the patient warm, coax it with soft nourishing foods, and pin a baby's wool sock snugly around the throat, with camphorated oil rubbed into the skin under it. Two per cent lime water is a good wash for a sore throat.
Gastritis, to which cats are rather subject, usually comes from bacteria taken into the system with food that is not fresh. Cats get it from eating mice, or poisoned baits that have been put out for vermin. A distressing symptom of gastritis is thirst along with an inability to drink; the sufferer will sit by the water dish eyeing it longingly, or if it does drink or eat anything, up it comes directly, accompanied by froth. Cats lose strength fast in gastritis; the sooner the doctor comes the better. There may be gastric ulcers, and they are very serious.
Gastritis is inflammation of the stomach, enteritis is inflammation of the bowels. If your pet cries with pain when you press on the abdomen, you may conclude that the trouble has gone on down. The toxic results of constipation can bring on enteritis, but do not experiment with purgatives, for they may do more harm than good. The cat's strength must be kept up (if it recovers enough to take nourishment) with small doses of beef juice, rice water, barley water, milk, and white of egg in water. In bad cases these are introduced by way of the rectum, but this, and the drugs that are needed to relieve pain, are matters for the veterinarian.
Plain dyspepsia often troubles cats fed not wisely but too well. They show it by hiccoughing instead of purring, by emesis, constipation, halitosis, and a dull demeanor. It is a good plan, when you suspect dyspepsia and cannot immediately have an expert opinion, to starve the cat for a day or two, and to empty the bowels with an enema of warm soapy water. You can easily do this with a soft rubber ear syringe, and if your pet has been properly trained to handling it will lie quiet on a rubber apron across your lap. Fractious patients must of course be held by an aid, and their claws muffled in a towel.
Colitis, or inflammation of the lower bowel, is as painful to cats as to humans. Most veterinarians put the sufferer on a milk diet, and give enemas of starch or opium. Abscesses near the rectum are painful too. A very old cat of mine had them, and they hurt her so that I decided to see if enemas would not correct the condition, and happily they did. Kittens are subject to colic, and occasionally adult cats have it too. Usually they tell you; they cry and are very restless. A harmless remedy is a ten-grain tablet of bicarbonate of soda in water every few hours till the bloating is reduced. And a hot-water bottle on the tummy is as grateful to a cat as it is to a human being with a midriff ache.
It cannot be said too often that constipation, diarrhoea, bad breath, loss of appetite, and an abnormally large appetite are danger signs. Never neglect constipation. If your cat does not evacuate once a day, you must give it milk of magnesia, as prescribed in the chapter on Colds and What They Lead To, make sure that he has plenty of fresh water to drink, and check up on his diet to see that the cook is not giving him spaghetti or something equally harmful. And remember that a cat with diarrhoea is a sick cat.
An increased appetite may indicate worms, or intestinal catarrh, or diabetes. Refusal to eat, if persisted in, shows illness, except in the case of a homesick or grieving cat.
I met, one day, a man who had often told me of his intelligent old cat, Plato. He looked as if he had lost his last friend. He is a solitary, shy sort of man, and Plato was the whole of his family. "Plato is dead," he told me, "and I killed him." Having had to leave the city for a time, he had put his cat in a cats' boarding place, and Plato, unable to understand the separation and perhaps thinking it final, had refused to eat. And the stupid attendants who collected the dishes from the boarders' cages after a meal never noticed that Plato's meat was untouched. This had gone on till Plato died of starvation. Doctors know that it is hard to get a homesick cat to eat, and so they advise keeping ill cats at home rather than in a hospital.
WORMS AND HAIR BALLS (1936)
Worms are not good things for cats to have inside them, but I do believe they are less harmful, by and large, than are some of the remedies used to expel them. The mistaken notion that all kittens have worms and must be wormed as a matter of routine has brought a great deal of suffering to our pets. It never occurred to me to worm my cats, and so far as I knew they never needed it. I think worms do not often trouble cats that are born under sanitary conditions, that are kept clean and free of lice and fleas, and that do not eat mice or the offal of animals. Filth, vermin, and body pests are great breeders of intestinal parasites that can be communicated to cats. Of course if yours is an outdoor cat you can hardly guard it against all contamination, but fortunately cats are dainty, and the well fed ones especially so.
But if you buy a kitten from a careless breeder or a badly kept pet shop, look out for worms. There was a bargain-hunter who bought a Siamese kitten "cheap" at a pet shop, only to find when she got it home that it was infested with worms. Kittens are not born with worms, as some people think, but sometimes a few are imbedded in the fur under the mother's tail, and her babies pick them up. The bargain-hunter did not deem it necessary to call a veterinary; a bottle of vermifuge that she had used to worm her police dog had been standing on her bathroom shelf ever since its death, and she gave the wee Siamese a generous dose. She was afraid that the stuff had lost its strength, standing so long, but it had not. It was the kitten that lost its strength, and in a fortnight it was dead from enteritis. For worming is not a business for amateurs, and worm remedies that are all right for dogs may be entirely too drastic for cats. Their inner machinery is more delicate than that of dogs, and some drugs which are used with excellent results on dogs have been known to poison cats.
Cats are subject to several kinds of worms, and sometimes a laboratory test is needed to determine the kind and what the treatment ought to be. The two sorts from which they commonly suffer are the round worm and the tape worm.
The round worm is a threadlike pest, from two to five inches in length,, white or cream-coloured. Its eggs are spherical and very tiny, and very numerous in an infected cat's intestines. Sometimes the cat throws up worms; almost always the appetite is capricious, now abnormally keen, now failing; and most significant of all, the cat loses all pride in its personal appearance. Its coat looks rough and untidy, and it does not care. That is when there is a really serious invasion; if the invasion is not checked, diarrhea is likely to set in, and catarrh of the intestines or something equally bad.
Tape worms are diabolical creatures, for their hideous heads are capable of sprouting segments indefinitely, so no matter how many segments are gotten rid of there will be more as long as the head remains. Though the taenia peculiar to cats may be eight inches long, the segments measure only a tiny fraction of an inch, and are hard to identify.
There are vegetable treatments, I am told, that clear out worms effectually. Pumpkin seeds are one. The lady who recommends them says that her tiger cat, a martyr to worms, was cured by pumpkin seeds, which she shelled, broke into small pieces, and mixed with his food for several days. Miss Elsie G. Hydon believes in dosing the animal with tomato_ juice and carrots. She gives about a tablespoonful of the seedless juice to each cat once a day, poured over its food. If there are worms, this is almost sure to take them away, she says, and in any case tomatoes, with the seeds eliminated, are wholesome for cats. The cooked carrots she mixes with their meat, and she boils carrots in the meat stock she gives them.
Hair balls are the cat's most insidious enemy. You can prevent them by regular grooming, but once a hair ball forms it is difficult to remove. Long-haired cats are in the greatest danger; about ten years ago The Veterinary journal, an English publication, reported the case of a Persian who had to be chloroformed because it was choking; a post-mortem revealed a hair ball as big as a walnut in the oesophagus. The poor thing had been ailing for over a month, but the owner thought it was only off its feed. It is amazing how these obstructions, growing hair by hair, can clog the stomach and bowels. Sometimes you can detect them with your fingers by the spongy feel of the parts. Then it is best to have the veterinary, for he knows how to give effective emetics and the high enemas that are so good for clearing out. Sometimes it is necessary to use a small stomach pump or even to operate. Cats can be relieved of small amounts of hair by a pinch of bicarbonate of soda in water, followed in twenty minutes by a teaspoonful of mineral oil. White Vaseline is good too; most cats will lick it down from your finger. Cats will launder their coats with their tongues, but keep the loose hairs brushed out and provide them with growing grass for an emetic, and you give the ounce of prevention that excels a pound of cure.
DISEASES OF THE NERVES AND BRAIN (1936)
Not much was known of the diseases of the brain and nervous system in 1936. Some of the descriptions below could relate to tumours, high fevers, poisoning, terminal stages of feline viral diseases or (since the article originated from the USA) rabies. Nebulous, and ultimately meaningless, descriptions such as "inflammation of the brain" or "congestion of the brain" were given to these conditions. With no way to determine the cause, vets and owners were at a loss as to how to treat the ailment.
A school-teacher friend who lived with her cat and dog in a little house she had built on the outskirts of a Westchester town telephoned me in great distress. "Bill has gone insane," she said. Bill was her twelve-year-old cat, one of the most sensible and poised individuals I ever had the privilege of knowing. My friend used to say that it was most soothing to come home to Bill after a day spent with forty riotous eighth-grade children. It was edifying to see Bill's tolerant manner toward Fluffy, the dog, a rather feminine and inconsequent creature. I could not imagine Bill losing his senses. Besides, do cats go insane? But yes, Bill had.
Two nights before, a Friday night, she let him out for the brief stroll he always took at bedtime, and he did not return. My friend did not sleep much that night, and the next day she searched and called, called and searched. Sunday morning she remembered that she had not looked under the porch of the house next door. She went down on her stomach and wriggled under, and from the far corner two eyes glared at her. It was Bill, and yet not Bill, for he didn't know her. He flew at her, snarling, then retreated and crouched in the shadows, shaking in a terrible convulsion. The veterinary came, but they could not reach Bill, and what could he do? She agreed with him that Bill's misery must be ended. The policeman came and did it, swiftly, mercifully, with a bullet in Bill's brain.
My friend buried Bill in the garden; she never knew what had befallen him. The doctor thought he had had inflammation of the brain, which might have been caused by some injury or fright, or might have struck with no apparent reason. I believe that diseases of the nerves and brain, when they occur to cats, are mostly from some outside cause. Cats have extremely sensitive nervous systems, but, curiously enough, they are not as subject to diseases of them as are dogs, if they lead normal lives. But they have always been targets for teasing by dogs and bad boys.
Inflammation of the brain may centre in the brain substance or it may be in the brain coverings. The victim's first desire is to hide, as Bill's was. In the milder attacks they are just stupid; in the more acute they are maniacal, rushing about and tearing at things, and often the temperature reaches 105 degrees [Fahrenheit]. This disease may be provoked by a fractured bone pressing on the brain, but whatever the cause it is difficult to diagnose and almost impossible to cure. Sometimes the patient passes into a chronic depression-for cats can be depressed, just as people and the times can.
Congestion of the brain is a milder disease than inflammation, with no fever. It may accompany distemper, and it has been known to follow sunstroke, for cats do get sunstroke, even though they are less foolish than dogs 'about playing in the hot sun. Being worried by dogs or children is a frequent cause of brain lesions; an unconscious cat once brought into an animal clinic was found to have a cord tied so tightly around its neck that brain congestion had set in. Some of the symptoms of congestion are muscular twitching, wild eyes, and a frightened air. If the cat is kept quiet in a dark corner, and a little ice pack held on its head, the chances are that it will recover, but on the other hand inflammation of the brain may be near.
When a cat has apoplexy it falls unconscious, and this coma is followed by paralysis, which sometimes is permanent. Light attacks of apoplexy generally yield to treatment-ice on the head, a laxative, and an enema of warm soapy water. In epilepsy the cat falls to the ground but does not lose consciousness; it stares wildly, quivers all over, and sometimes froths at the mouth.
Anaemia of the brain is a slow and hopeless disease, coming from poverty of the blood or from depletion by haemorrhage. The cat will be dizzy at times, dull, and sick at its stomach. An abscess on the brain is another difficult thing to treat. With an abscess there are some of the symptoms of inflammation of the brain; also, the cat shakes its head and holds it in an unnatural position.
Spinal meningitis is a malady of the spinal cord, sometimes the result of an injury, and it is so painful that the patient can hardly bear to be touched. A frequent outcome of meningitis is paraplegia, or paralysis of the rear parts of the body. A cat with paraplegia is a pitiful sight, unable to move its thighs or hind legs. But I have seen one, in an animal hospital, massaged day by day for weeks by an attendant till it walked totteringly; finally it showed a complete cure.
Cat mothers have their share of brain and nervous troubles, like human mothers. Cats with their first kittens are most liable to puerperal eclampsia. Restlessness, fever, and convulsions are the signs, and when they appear the kittens must be at once removed, else the mother may do them harm. Sometimes the seizure is soon over, sometimes it lasts for days. The milk usually dries, but if any remains in the breasts it should be drawn off. Then the cat's owner has her work cut out for her-to keep the kittens alive till the mother can nurse them, if she ever can.
SKIN DISORDERS (1936)
There is a good deal of confusion in the lay mind about the skin diseases to which cats are subject, and this is not strange, for there are several of them, some parasitic, some non-parasitic, some contagious, some non-contagious, and often the eruptions look pretty much the same to the inexperienced eye. It is unfortunate, because the different diseases come from different causes and require different treatments. Also, many a poor cat has been evicted or destroyed by an owner who feared contagion to human beings, when the animal was suffering from a non-contagious breaking-out brought on by wrong feeding. The head resident veterinarian of a large animal hospital told me that he had hardly ever known of dermic trouble being communicated from a cat to a human being. However, I knew a woman who caught ringworm from her cat, and there is always this possibility in some types of skin ailment. So if your cat develops eruptions, it is wise to isolate the sufferer, to observe sanitary precautions in handling it, and to consult a veterinary, who will probably determine the nature of the disease by making a laboratory test of scrapings from the infected spot.
A brief description of the skin disorders that attack cats may be helpful. Cats are less liable to such disorders than dogs are. They are cleaner, they take better care of their persons, and they are more critical about what they eat. Garbage often has a curious attraction for dogs in the best society, but unless a cat is an absolute bum or is very hungry it is scornful of food that is not nice. But of course cats are not proof against wrong feeding imposed upon them by foolish owners, and they are not, if they are neglected or below par, proof against the parasites that are always lying in wait for them.
There is a wide difference between mange and eczema, which are the two principal skin diseases. Mange is a parasitic affection and may be transmitted from cat to cat, and in some forms from cats to human beings. Eczema is a danger flag that nature throws out to indicate that some part of the machinery-the stomach, the intestines, or the kidneys-is not doing its work, or perhaps that the nerves are out of order. It is not contagious, but is sometimes complicated with contagious troubles.
The commonest form of mange in cats is sarcoptic mange. It is an irritating, itching disease, and a bad feature is that it sometimes leads to auricular mange, or parasitic canker of the ear, which is difficult to eradicate once it gets deep down in the convolutions of that organ. The villain in this piece is an infinitesimal mite called the Sarcoptes minor, and, owing partly to the cat's habit of rubbing its head against things, this is the part of its body that is generally attacked. Like all these pests the sarcoptic mites love filth, and when they find themselves on a clean, well groomed, healthy cat they just, as a rule, sit tight and wait for favourable conditions. Their ability to exist a long time without declaring themselves is proved by the fact that sometimes this mange develops in cats who have been confined for months in an apartment where there was no chance of infection. Almost always it starts around the eyes or ears or on the cheeks or neck; if your cat begins to scratch its head, to rub it against furniture, and shake it as if trying to dislodge a troublesome invader, you may suspect mange. It is true that toothache or a foreign object, such as a needle, lodged in the jaw may cause such symptoms, but the uneasiness that comes from pain and the uneasiness that comes from itching may be distinguished from each other.
If it is sarcoptic mange you will find by looking closely, as the disease develops, very small red pimples or elevations, over which presently sticky scabs will form. Unless you have had experience it is not best to try to treat this yourself. You might be mistaken in the diagnosis, and if you set out to experiment with so-called cures there is grave danger that you will use some drug that is poison to a cat's sensitive skin. Cats are more susceptible than dogs. Never use preparations of tar, or balsam, or alkali, or carbolic acid, for they have been known to kill cats on whose skin they were rubbed. If you must carry on without a veterinary, get some good boric ointment and apply it to the sore place, first cleansing this with a weak solution of Lysol. Soap, even the pure unscented soap which is the only kind that ought ever to touch cats, is irritating to a mangy surface. If the eruptions are of some extent, the hair should be carefully clipped around and above them. Never grease a cat's whole body or even a large part of it, for the discomfort and the interference with the pores might bring on a depression that would end in death.
If your cat has mange, do not let it associate with other cats, and do not let it lie on cushioned furniture. Give it a bed of its own in a warm, quiet place, a bed lined with cloths that can be frequently changed (and the old ones burned). There is really no risk to yourself if you are careful. It is very bad for the patient to lick the doctored spots, and if these are where a light bandage can be applied, or if an Elizabethan collar (described in the chapter on The Importance of Nursing) can be adjusted and worn without hurting the sores, some such check should be employed. Sarcoptic mange at its worst, as it is sometimes seen in homeless cats, can be very terrible. Once in a tenement street I picked up an old cat whose head was so covered with hardened, thickened scabs that it looked like an elephant's skin. The poor thing was nearly blind and starved to a skeleton, yet it managed a rusty purr when I lifted it and carried it away to be mercifully put to death.
Any irritation of the skin is weakening, so the victim ought to be well fed on simple, nourishing things, especially when convalescence sets in. A daily teaspoonful of cod-liver oil is excellent if it agrees with your cat, but with some it does not agree. As a tonic I have found nothing better than pure beef juice, which I make by broiling round steak just enough to start the blood, and pressing it out. Sarcoptic mange may run a week, or a month, or longer, but if it is taken in time and properly treated the sores will heal, the mousy odour will disappear, the hardened skin will become soft and supple, and the hair, if it has fallen out or been cut away, will grow again as beautiful as before.
Happily for cats they have little liking for the cake and candy that so many spoiled dogs beg for, and get. This and the fastidious distaste of cats for meat that is not fresh make them, as I have said, less subject than dogs to that frequent result of wrong feeding, eczema. However, there is enough wrong feeding of cats to make eczema a not uncommon trouble among them. Some owners have queer notions. For example, salt fish and horse flesh are considered by many people good provender for cats, but both can cause eczema. Happily, there is not much horse meat now, except that used in some prepared rations for cats.
Eczema is a non-parasitic, non-contagious disease, though it may be complicated with a contagious form of mange. There are two types of eczema, the dry and the moist. Dry eczema is most likely to be seen around the ears and on the eyelids, or rather its results are seen, for the pimples by which it manifests itself are too small for the naked eye to discern. What you see is a worried cat scratching its head till the skin is sore and the hair falls out. Persian cats with their long thick coats are peculiarly liable to moist eczema, though the shorthaired breeds have it too. It breaks out along the back, on the head, on the forelegs, at the base of the tail, and on the abdomen. The skin is hot and tender, little sores form, pus exudes, and the hair becomes matted and dirty. If it continues, the hair follicles may be destroyed and baldness ensue.
Outside applications cannot cure eczema, and ignorantly employed they may torture the sensitive skin, perhaps poison the patient, possibly cause death. Even soap and water are too irritating to a skin so sore. Of course in moist eczema it is necessary to remove the dried pus and perhaps to clip away the matted hair, that the skin may be reached for soothing treatment, but this should be done only under skilled supervision. Debilitated cats have died from shock and chill after the reckless cutting away of too much hair, and some of the lotions that are cleansing, no doubt, are absolutely toxic to a cat. The internal treatment is the important thing. The bowels must be cleared out. The safest laxative for an amateur to use is milk of magnesia, given as prescribed in the chapter on Colds and What They Lead To. The diet must be carefully regulated. Give nourishing food, but nothing stimulating. No salt fish, none of the richer fresh fish, no rice or potatoes or bread or spaghetti, no pork, no liver, only lean beef, cooked lamb and rabbit and codfish, brown-bread toast, milk, and non-starchy vegetables. Do not overfeed, but if there is anaemia a tonic, say half a teaspoonful of cod-liver oil daily, is advisable. Moist eczema has a sad tendency to recur even after it seems to be cleared up, but it can be conquered if you keep your pet scrupulously clean and on a rigid diet. [Note: although laxatives don't cure eczema, there is some truth in the observations on diet; many forms of eczema are due to dietary imbalance or food allergies/intolerance.]
Ringworm is a fungoid skin disease, one of the few dermic woes that human beings can catch from cats, and cats from humans. Mice and rats have it, and they are the chief source of infection for cats. It starts with small yellow specks, which grow larger and lift slightly, with hairs piercing the scabs. They spread in a circular shape, and are sometimes as large as a penny. Ringworm often runs its course and goes of itself, but it is better to have a veterinarian, for a good fungicide will hasten the cure. And if there are dusty corners or floor cracks where the cat has lain they should be cleaned out, for these vegetable parasites infest such places.
There are various other skin troubles, and they come from various causes. Pruritus, which, is simply the Latin for itching, has been known to appear for no apparent reason. Or it will follow the use of turpentine or kerosene or any '; other stinging agent, which some people are mad enough to use to free a cat's coat from paint, or birdlime, or other messes into which unfortunate cats do sometimes blunder. Or sickness may bring it on. Its symptoms are swelling and redness, discharges and scurf, and the treatment should be soothing applications to the skin and attention to the diet.
Baldness is something we hate to befall our pets, for an abundant, fine, healthy coat is one of the cat's great beauties and a proof of its condition. Old cats have a right to get a trifle bald around the ears, but bald spots and even thin places on a younger cat indicate something wrong. They may result from inbreeding of the forebears, or from parasites, or from malnutrition of the skin. When baldness follows accidental burning or scalding, or a bout of skin disease so severe as to destroy the hair follicles, not much can be done about it. When there has been no injury to the skin you must look for other causes. In any event, a wellnourished body is necessary for a good coat, and grooming is the best stimulant. There is nothing like a good bristle brush regularly used to give life to the hair follicles, and, by cleaning out the dead hair, to make room for a new growth.
FLEAS AND OTHER PESTS (1936)
There is no excuse for the owner when fleas appear on an indoor cat, unless they are brought in by some visiting cat or dog. For the flea is a creature of filth, and its eggs are usually deposited in dust and grime, in neglected chinks and corners. Cats that are below par, cats that are not kept clean, cats that lead sedentary lives, or that are anaemic from bearing and nursing too many kittens are always the most likely to be the prey of fleas. Of course an outdoor cat is not easy to guard. Though fleas breed in hidden unclean places they get about a good deal, and they are often lurking in weeds and underbrush, waiting to invade your cat as it takes an innocent stroll. They infest rabbits, fowls, and pigeons, and hop lightly from them to cats and dogs, not caring who their host is so long as they get a good drink of mammalian blood.
The cat-flea egg is a whitish speck, from which comes a grub that in the course of several weeks develops into the jumping, biting flea. If your cat, dozing peacefully, suddenly starts up and scratches itself or makes a desperate grab with its mouth at some part of its anatomy, and if, on examination, you see an infinitesimal brownish longish speck which is there and then not there, probably it is a flea. The flea itself is not dangerous, but it sometimes carries the eggs of the tape worm, which the cat, licking itself, takes into its stomach, to its future undoing. Cats cannot rest or sleep properly when fleas are at work on them; then, by scratching themselves, as they will, they bring on skin diseases and finally get moth-eaten looking and debilitated.
There are various powders for the eradication of fleas, but one must be cautious about using them except by expert advice. I believe Pulvex to be safe; veterinarians I know and trust say it can be used on cats, and they are mindful of the fact that these animals are more sensitive to drugs than dogs are. Pulvex should be dusted well under the hair and allowed to remain a few hours, so as to stun or kill the fleas. I feel that when applying any powder or other medicinal agent to a cat's body you should put an Elizabethan collar on it to prevent it from licking itself. In the chapter on The Importance of Nursing you will find directions for making these collars. A little linen coat serves the same purpose, but it is more troublesome to make and put on. When the Pulvex has done its work the fleas must be removed, and this is important, for they are probably only stupefied, not dead. I am told that if you stand the cat on a newspaper and brush it vigorously the unconscious fleas will drop on the paper, which can then be burned, but I never found fleas so accommodating; in my experience they stuck to the cat till I combed them out or picked them out with my fingers.
Some authorities prefer a bath to dry powder, using warm water with some soap or oil that is lethal to fleas. But such a bath should be given only under expert supervision, first, because the soap or oil must be selected with care, second, because there is danger that the cat will be chilled. It is best done in an animal hospital. I always preferred to catch fleas alive, looking through my cat's fur till I found one and nipping it with a thumb and finger. With practice you can do it, but then my cats never had many fleas. When they come in battalions the thumb-and-finger method will hardly serve.
It is humiliating to think that our pet cats can have lice, but even the cleanest children have been known to come home from school with these pests in their hair. But lice have one virtue, they cannot hop about as fleas can; your cat acquires them only through direct contact with some infested animal or object. Like other vermin, lice flourish in unsanitary conditions and on cats that are debilitated from disease or that have long, thick, neglected hair. The cat louse, a biting louse that eats scurf, is hardly visible unless you use a hand lens. The nits may be laid on any part of the body, and they are, by the way, very much harder to slay than the lice. When they hatch you can know it only by the cat's uneasiness and by the appearance of scurf. In time the hair loses its lustre, and lesions appear on the skin. It is sometimes difficult to tell whether your pet has eczema or just lice. When in doubt, or if you know it is lice, consult the veterinary, for it is not easy to destroy these pests. I once heard a discouraged practitioner say that he believed they flourished on vermicides. There are effective methods, such as creolin baths, but they are not for amateurs to attempt, for if not rightly given they are dangerous. And remember that it is useless to take your pet to a doctor to be cleansed of lice if you bring it back to infested surroundings. Have a thorough housecleaning of the cat's bed and the other articles with which it has been in contact. And after it has been returned to you keep it healthy and well brushed, and parasites will stay away.
DISEASES OF THE EYES (1936)
The cat's eyes are its most remarkable feature; their luminous beauty and power of seeing in the darkness had much to do with the awe in which this animal was held by the early Egyptians and its prominence in witch lore and strange religions. The Egyptians believed that the cat's phosphorescent eyes mirrored the sun's rays when it was hidden from man, and so cats were the attendants of Bast, the goddess of the moon, the Sun-god's eye at night. Plutarch affirms that the cat's eyes grow larger and smaller with the waxing and waning of the moon. It is a fact that cats have the largest volume of eye, compared to their weight, of all animals. And it is their sensitiveness to light, the way the pupil contracts to a slit in strong sunlight and opens in darkness till the iris almost disappears, that helps to give them the touch of the mysterious that we feel.
These marvellous organs, however, are not immune from disease. All sorts of ills with long Latin names, conjunctivitis, keratitis, oedema, trichiasis, entropion, and various others, can afflict a cat's beautiful eyes. Cats have cataracts, they get motes in their eyes, their sight becomes dim in old age. And no way has been found to induce them to wear spectacles. Artificial eyes are made for them, and I knew a noble Thomas who, having lost an orb in a nocturnal escapade, was required by his mistress to wear a false one when she had guests for tea. He hated it, for the eye was not practical-always falling out and having to be stuck back in again.
Probably conjunctivitis, or inflammation of the mucous membrane of the eye, is the commonest visual trouble with cats. It may come from an attack of distemper or start with catarrh, or it may be caused by smoke, or dust, or poisonous gases. Sometimes both eyes are affected, sometimes only one. There is redness and a swollen look, and the sufferer weeps tears which presently become a discharge that excoriates the skin and leaves bald spots unless you promptly wipe it away. Often the cornea looks quite opaque. Mild conjunctivitis can be relieved by bathing the eyes with a warm solution of boric acid and water and keeping the cat from the light. Of course she will try to scratch the affected parts, and of course this must be prevented. There are little wire eye guards for the purpose, but a light bandage will serve. There is a purulent conjunctivitis which attacks kittens, and, less often, cats. It is a painful malady, with a thick discharge, and sometimes blindness follows. The eyes of young kittens should be carefully looked to for signs of congenital disease, though to be sure this does not often occur. A kitten's eyes should open when it is nine days old, but in rare instances, as I have already said, nature must be aided by gentle rubbing and bathing, or possibly an operation.
Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea. It is sometimes found in a tubercular cat, but it has other causes. Fighting toms have gotten it from a well placed jab of an opponent's paw. The worst case I ever saw was in a grocer's cat that had been trapped in a smoky fire in the store. Like conjunctivitis, keratitis makes the eye red and angry and brings a slight film over the ball. For slight cases the treatment is the same, but there is an ulcerative form that calls for a veterinarian.
Trichiatis, or ingrowing lashes on the eyelid, is an annoying trouble, which we rarely recognize, thinking that our pet has a cold. Fannie Hurst, the novelist, tells how she learned that her cat was suffering from a troublesome eyelash by having one of her own. She remarked to her doctor that her Persian's eye was watering just as hers did, and he, being a true healer, immediately examined the cat, found that it had the same ailment, and treated it with the same care that he had shown the mistress.
There are many types of ophthalmitis, or inflammation of the eye, as many as there are parts to this intricate organ. In any of them it is important to keep the eye aseptic, and it is a good plan to give the patient a laxative. But if your cat's eyes are affected, it is best to take it to a veterinary, for something serious may be on the way. For example, cases are known in which choroiditis, or inflammation of the choroid, the thin vascular coating that nourishes the retina and lenses, was the first symptom of tuberculosis.
Entropion is a curious disease. It is an inversion of the eyelid, and is sometimes so complete that it shuts off the sight. I knew a dog who was born with it and never saw until, when he was four years old, a surgeon took a piece out of the upper eyelid, drawing it up, and enabled him to see. I never knew a cat to have it so badly, but they do have it. Nothing helps but an operation, and it must be very skilfully performed or the result is permanently disfiguring.
The haw, the cat's inner eyelid, is very useful when it behaves. This membrane is the White Wings of the eye, rising from the inner corner and sweeping over the ball, clearing away dust and moistening the cornea. But sometimes it protrudes unduly, and makes your pet squint-eyed. This may be caused by a tumor, or by anemia, or by some condition that cannot be ascertained. In some cases astringent applications, with a tonic, will reduce the haw, but others require an operation.
Cataracts are not so frequent with cats as with dogs. There is really nothing to be done about them. Removing a cataract is a ticklish job, and cats do not stand operations well. Cataracts come mostly to old cats; when they are old, too, they are likely to have a blurring of vision, an increasing difficulty in focusing. When my Mimi was seventeen years old she could hardly see me across the room, but she could come to me unerringly. Something told her where I was, and custom enabled her to get about the house without trouble.
Nature is kind, making one sense help out another. When medicine and surgery can help our pets, by all means let us invoke them, but sometimes it is best just to make the animal as comfortable as possible and let nature take its course.
DISEASES OF THE EARS (1936)
Cats have very acute hearing. At a convention of the American Otological Society in Atlantic City, a McGill University man exhibited a group of cats that had been trained to associate certain sounds with food, and showed that the cats responded to sounds that the listening scientists could not hear at all. It was proved, in terms of cycles per second, that a cat hears more than twice as well as a normal human. Perhaps that is why they are often so nervous. It must be very distracting to hear all the mice and caterwauling within such a wide radius.
Very few cats are deaf. When they are, it is usually due to an injury or to disease. One hears of deaf albino cats, but Clyde E. Keeler, of Harvard University, and Virginia Cobb, of the Boston Cat Club, who have made a joint study of variations in pigmentation produced by matings, state in an article in the Journal of Heredity for May, 1933, that "we have no indisputable record of complete albinism in the cat, and if it exists at all, it may possibly be confused with dominant blue-eyed white." I am told by some fanciers that deafness is found in blue-eyed whites oftener than in cats of any other colour, but an English breeder of whites, Lady Alexander, has been quoted as saying, "With very few exceptions all our cats have had perfect hearing." It is well that there are few deaf cats, for they are rather pathetic; they have a wistful look, and they appear stupid sometimes, when they are not stupid at all. Like most hard-of-hearing people, they talk very loud.
Ear hygiene is very important in the prevention of disease. Look out for wax, for it may be the first sign of trouble. Otodectic mange, commonly called parasitic canker of the ear, produces a brown wax which, when examined with a microscope, is seen to be swarming with minute organisms. Longhaired cats are especially subject to this disease, but no breed is immune; it is a very general feline complaint. Sometimes the parasites are very irritating, constraining their involuntary host to scratch its ears perpetually, but sometimes they have been found to be present when the cat showed no discomfort at all. The worst feature of otodectic mange is that it leads sometimes to otitis, a cruelly painful disease. Take it at the start, therefore, with a careful daily cleansing. Make little swabs with wooden toothpicks and absorbent cotton and wipe out the ear with ether, going as far down into the pink convolutions as you safely can, but gently, for it is easy to do harm. Twice a week or so use warm olive oil. Let a drop fall in, massage the ear a bit, then dry it out with cotton, and dust in some boric acid powder. The wax may continue to reappear for some time, for the mites often burrow far into the ear. Burn the removed wax and the swabs. This disease is contagious among cats, but not to human beings. There is no call for the fear timid folk have of catching it from our pets.
Otitis, or inflammation of the ear, may affect the external, or the internal, or the middle ear. It is oftenest the work of the symbiotic acari, the little demons that make the brown wax, but there are other causes in plenty. Mistaken owners who wash out a cat's ear with soap and water may bring it on, for water is bad for ears, and soap, like wax, can harden and press on the nerves and cause inflammation. Otitis can result from a blow on the head or from some injury that the cat, seeking relief from the itching, inflicts on itself by scratching. As this disease advances the ear will look swollen and be hot to the touch, and the cat will shake its head and hold it to one side and act worried and frightened, perhaps run away and hide. Sometimes there is an offensive discharge, which closes the canal so that deafness follows, and the cat may have convulsions and die. But no cat-owner, certainly none who knows by personal experience what otitis means, will let an animal suffer so. This ailment emphatically calls for a skillful veterinarian, and a kind one. If your surgeon employs instruments in the treatment, such as the speculum (a device for dilating and throwing light into the ear), make sure that he anesthetizes your pet. I know that this is too painful a business for a conscious creature to endure. And remember what Henry Gray, that humane English veterinary, said; "It is not wise to poke about in the ears too much."
Cysts and blood tumours [haematomas] on the ear flap occasionally happen for the torment of cats. They hurt badly, and if your pet is so unfortunate as to have one it will probably hide in corners, refuse food, and move its head distressfully. Examine the ear and you will find an oblong swelling along the inner surface of the flap. If the cyst comes from a bad bruise there may be blood in the watery contents. Sometimes these cysts are absorbed, and the swelling disappears without treatment, but, aside from the pain the cat suffers in this slow process, it is sure to result in a permanent distortion and ugly wrinkling of the lobe. This is one of the diseases in which an operation is needed, and, to restore the ear to its former shape and keep it standing up proudly as a cat's ear should, the operation must be carefully done and the cat kept quiet till the wound heals.
FELINE SURGERY IN THE 1930s
The following, in a chapter entitled "About Operations", was written in America in 1936 about veterinary operations on cats.
Speaking about operations on cats," said a man who had lost an old cat greatly beloved by his wife and himself, "there is only one thing to be said. They can't stand them." Happy had a cancer, and his owners refused to subject him to the knife. They kept him with them so long as his life did not belie his name, and when he began to suffer they put him to death. I believe most people who have much to do with sick animals would agree with Dr. Hamilton Kirk, who said, "When any tumour is definitely diagnosed as cancerous, the most humane course is to destroy the victim." It is not always easy. When Mimi the Second - mine since she was an orphaned one-day-old kitten seventeen years before - developed a limp that we thought was rheumatism till we found a little lump under the groin, and the veterinarian, after anaesthetizing her and examining the growth, said, "It is cancerous," there was only one thing to tell him. "Then don't let her wake up." So I know it is not easy.
But the saddest eyes I ever saw were the eyes of a gentle old cat who was dying of cancer in a hospital cage. He had been operated on twice, and each time the growth returned. Now he was too weak for anaesthetics, and the merciful doctor would have ended his pain, but his owners said they were so fond of him that they could not have him killed before his time. So he lay there, looking up with those despairing eyes when someone stopped at his cage, then tucking his head silently down again. I think the second operation on this cat was a cruel mistake. But in many cases operations are a good thing, and it is by no means true that cats cannot stand them. Undoubtedly they are more susceptible to shock and more easily overcome by anaesthetics than dogs are, but many cats have survived major operations and lived happily ever after.
I asked Dr. Alfred W. Meyer, who has performed operations almost daily for many years at the Ellin Prince Speyer Hospital for Animals in New York, to give me some statistics on the comparative ability of dogs and cats to withstand operations. "Impossible," he said. "We have figures showing how many cats are operated on, how many dogs, how many survive and how many die, but conditions differ in every case. For example, the owner of one cat takes it home after the operation and brings it back daily, if necessary, for treatment. The owner of another prefers or is obliged to leave it in the surgical ward. Now, cats do not stand hospitalization very well. They fret in a cage, in a strange place, and their chances of recovery are better at home. The age of an animal, its disposition, its general condition, the nature of its complaint, all these are factors in its reaction to an operation. So, statistics tell little, and we can only say that cats are more sensitive than dogs."
From one sort of operation the cat's native caution makes it almost immune. Dogs will bolt the queerest, most indigestible things; the Speyer Hospital charts record successful operations on several canine knife-swallowers, a collie that swallowed the twisted-wire handle of a stove-lifter, dogs that had dined off tennis balls, silver dollars, and rubber mice, and three police pups that between them had eaten several hundred wire nails. But cats rarely have intestinal obstructions, except indeed hair balls and needles. They love to play with strings and threads, and when a thread with a needle at the end gets into a cat's throat the needle is pretty sure to follow. I have not heard of many operations for hair balls. When they are present in the intestines, veterinarians as a rule prefer to work on them with enemas, emetics, and stomach pumps. An operation is the last resort. But the right instrument for hair balls is a good stiff brush in the owner's hands, used daily on the cat's coat before, not after, the ball forms.
Cats have been operated on for abnormal growths of many kinds, in the internal organs, on the body, in the throat, the ears, the eyes. Tumors are the most frequent, and if there are no serious complications they can be removed with a fair chance of their not recurring. Hernia, or rupture of the intestines, is not so common, but does happen; and it has been successfully operated on. But I have known a small hernia to be let alone and never give any trouble.
It is not well to rush into an operation except in an emergency. When Mimi the Second was quite young she developed a large unsightly swelling under her silken ruff. An operation was advised, but one day I marched in a Votes for Women parade, and my partner in line and I got to talking cats, and I told her of Mimi's goitre. "That's my husband's specialty," she said. "Take her to him." The husband was Dr. John Rogers, a physician of note; he could not have examined his human patients more carefully than he examined my little cat, advising against an operation, and prescribing treatment that in a short time caused the swelling to be absorbed. The cure was simple; massaging and tablets to reduce the glands.
Injuries, of course, bulk large in the surgical records of animal hospitals, and cats have their share of accidents. Fewer cats than dogs are hurt by automobiles, but they make up for that by falling from high windows and fracturing their legs and backs-or they are maimed by dogs-or they get into fights. It is amazing what mayhem two angry toms can commit upon each other. In my youth we would stick a bleeding warrior into a large stocking, binding down his claws, and tie up his wounds with strips torn from an old petticoat, but now they have modern methods. I met a cat in a hospital the other day whose torn ear, incurred in a duel, was costing his owner quite a penny.
Many of the animal hospitals today, both the large ones maintained by humane societies and the smaller ones owned by veterinaries, have excellent operating rooms., The operating room in the Speyer Hospital, for example, is quite as up-to-date as are the operating rooms in good hospitals for human beings. The operating table, the shadowless lamp, the sterilizing machines, the devices for electrical treatment, the dressing tables, the instruments-all the equipment is of the sort used for man, and the white walls, tiled from floor to ceiling, and the drainage arrangements insure safety from infection. The Angell Animal Hospital in Boston is very fine too, and there are splendid ones on the Pacific coast. I believe that England and France, despite their love of cats and dogs, have no great public animal hospitals like those in the United States. They have, however, some fine private hospitals maintained by veterinarians.
It is of great importance to have a cat in proper shape when it is to be operated on. It should not, as a rule, be fed for eighteen hours before going under the knife. I believe in the use of a general anaesthetic whenever pain is to be inflicted. Some veterinarians dispense with this in the smaller operations, but these men are not truly careful or truly kind. Work with the knife can be done better when the subject is perfectly still, and even the most expert handling cannot guard against sudden movements on the part of a conscious cat that is being hurt. And why impose unnecessary torture on a helpless animal?
Logically following on from "About Operations" was "The Importance of Nursing"
It is said that nursing is half the battle in treating a sick human being. It is more than that in dealing with a sick cat. Shut off from us by the barrier of language, not knowing the why of the hurt and the handling and the medicines and all the tiresome business of healing, cats doubly need the reassurance of affectionate care, of gentle hands and a soothing voice. For nursing means much more than just the practical details. I knew a cat who was accidentally poisoned. The veterinary came, administered antidotes, and went, saying that he doubted if the cat could recover. But Cedric's mistress sat down by him and tended him the night through, stroking him, coaxing him to take the drink he needed, crooning a foolish little ritual, "Cedric, get well for Missie's sake," and in the morning he was better; in a week he was well. Another cat, similarly stricken and given the same antidote but left alone for the night, died.
Of course the practical details are important, and if you cannot attend to them at home it is better to take your pet to a hospital: But you can manage them if you really want to, and home is the best place for a sick cat. I have often heard Dr. Bruce Blair say that the temperature of even a healthy dog or cat will rise when it is confined in a cage in a strange place. During the score of years that he was head of the Ellin Prince Speyer Hospital he never failed to advise owners to care for their pets at home if they could.
In nursing your sick cat the first detail is its bed. If it has had a favourite spot to lie in, a particular chair or corner of a sofa, it will as a rule want to stay there, and you should humor it if you can, but if the nature of the ailment or the conditions of your household forbid this, fix a bed in a quiet corner. It should be airy but not in a draft, near sunlight but shaded from the glare. Newspapers make a good mattress; they should be changed and the discarded ones burned every day. The blanket should be changed and washed daily. A cat that is badly hurt or so helpless as to be in danger of bedsores will find a rubber air cushion a very grateful relief. When a sick cat is inclined to move about to its harm it may be necessary to cage it. Canny owners accustom their pets to occasional cage life early, and that makes it simpler to confine them when the need arises. It is possible to buy attractive cages that will match your furniture.
Administering medicine to eats is a ticklish business. Liquids are most difficult, for the cat's muzzle is small, and it has not, as the dog has, elastic cheek pouches into which they can be poured. But patience does it. If you are nervous and hasty you get nowhere with a cat. Have the dose ready in a medicine dropper or a fountain pen filler, stroke the patient and talk to it soothingly, and then (if it is a quiet cat) you will be able to put your left hand around the back of its neck, pressing the jaw hinges open with your thumb and second finger, and drop the liquid down its throat. A fractious or frightened cat will have to be wrapped in a blanket to keep it still. Avoid making it struggle. And do not pour anything down hastily, or much at a time, lest it get into the lungs and give your pet pneumonia.
Tasteless potions can of course be added to a cat's food or water, if he is eating or drinking. Liquid paraffin, which relieves constipation, can be mixed with broken-up sardines. Olive oil can be given the same way. Bismuth powder, excellent for diarrhoea or vomiting, cannot be detected when added to meat. Milk of magnesia is fairly tasteless in cow's milk. But do not let the patient see you doctoring its food. I have known cats to wax suspicious at the mere sight of the medicine bottle.
When the drug can be had in the form of pills or can be put in capsules it is easiest to give it in that form, even though you cannot fool a cat as you often can a dog by wrapping a pill in a bit of meat. Cats decline to bolt things. But with small spring forceps you can drop a pill far back on the tongue, and down it goes. Powders can be dusted on the tongue, but never try this with bitter ones; your pet may be nauseated and refuse to take anything for days. Use a capsule for the disagreeable dose..
Getting an invalid or convalescent cat to eat is of the greatest importance, and here is the great advantage in having sick pets at home. They are more inclined to eat in familiar surroundings, and hospital attendants rarely have the time to use the artifices necessary to induce an ailing cat to take the nourishment it is too languid to want. Just to set down a saucer of food is not enough. Take a little scraped beef or minced chicken in your fingers and hold it at the cat's nostrils or rub it lightly against the mouth. I have seen very sick cats roused in this way to eat. But do not overdo it. A little at a time is the rule for stomachs sensitive from illness.
The type of food to give depends on the nature of the ailment. If your pet is anaemic and thin from a wasting disease, give milk with a little cream in it, beef that is a trifle fat, boiled codfish, boiled tripe, and similar foods. Half a teaspoonful of cod-liver oil daily is a good builder if it agrees with the patient; if it upsets the stomach, avoid it. Oil goes down best mixed with sardines. I believe strongly in beef juice, for it not only nourishes but stimulates, and when a cat is thirsty it will drink this quite readily. Prepared extracts are likely, because of the salts they contain, to irritate a cat's stomach, so make the juice yourself. Broiling the steak slightly makes it easier to press the juice out. Raw egg is good in fevers, beaten up in milk, one egg to half a pint of liquid. When the digestion is bad the white of the egg only should be used. Very sick cats have benefited by egg albumin forcibly fed. But forcible feeding must be done very cautiously, for it may cause an attack of vomiting that will result in heart failure and death. Arrowroot is nourishing and very useful in checking diarrhea. If the bowels are loose, it is best to give things with a little starch in them, or gelatine, rather than meats, oils, or vegetables.
Neat cats must be very sick indeed before they cease to go to the pan, and generally it is best to let them go. Place the pan near the bed, and change the sand or paper often. Never let a sick cat's coat become smeared, but clean it with damp absorbent cotton. Keep the eyes, the ears, and the nostrils clean too. When there is a discharge, as in distemper, it is very important to clear out the nasal passages.
A thing that must be watched out for in nursing cats with skin troubles is their inveterate tendency to wash themselves. An Elizabethan collar is the best guard. Cut a round of cardboard and make a hole in the centre just large enough to slip over the head. The collar should stand out from the neck about four inches. Wound with a strip of soft cloth it is not uncomfortable, and most cats, though at first they think it queer, end by tolerating it very gracefully.
Much nursing was done at home, hence "The Responsibility of the Owner" describes nursing and preventive care.
Some of the visitors to a huge animal hospital in New York City are surprised when they see, under the heading "diagnosis" on the cards that are tacked on the cages of the ward patients, such terms as enteritis, pleurisy, laryngitis, keratitis, otitis, cystitis, and spinal meningitis. Especially if the patient is a cat. That cats are subject to most of the diseases which afflict human beings and have nervous systems which render them acutely susceptible to suffering are facts that have been slow to penetrate the human mind.
Veterinary science has been strangely backward in the matter of the cat, and of the dog also, but this century has brought a great improvement. In the old days, especially in the country, there would be perhaps one veterinarian for many miles around, and he a horse doctor, who if you asked him to help your sick cat would most likely give you a to help laugh. Even now this is the case in some rural districts, but the number of qualified practitioners who specialize in the diseases of small animals is growing, and there are more animal hospitals and clinics than there were. Not all hospitals are good, not all veterinarians are competent, but it is generally possible to obtain expert treatment for a sick cat. But many of us do not take the trouble, or do not take it till it is too late. A cat's sickness should be dealt with at the start. We must learn to know the signs, for our cats cannot say to us, "My stomach aches" . . . "My throat is sore" . . . "My ears hurt." Perhaps they would not tell us these things if they could, for cats have a tendency to draw away into corners when they suffer and to endure in silence.
When a cat loses interest in its usual pursuits, and mopes with its head tucked down, and sleeps a great deal, it is sick. Refusal to eat is generally a sign of physical disturbance, though in hot weather or after overeating a cat will sometimes decline food simply because it knows it ought to, and taken into a strange place it may lose its appetite temporarily. But a cat that is not overfed and is in good condition ought to have an eager appetite for its meals. Sick cats lose interest in their toilets; they cease to wash themselves, and their fur gets dull and spiky. This symptom does not hold so much with Persians, for they usually leave their valeting to their owners, and their long fluffy hair is not so quick to indicate sickness as is that of the sleek, short-haired breeds. However, any serious illness will cause a Persian's coat to deteriorate.
A healthy cat's eyes are bright, its gums are pink and its teeth white, and its breath is never foul. A healthy cat has a normal elimination of the bowels once a day; and a tendency toward either constipation or diarrhoea is a danger sign, possibly at first a slight one, but one that should not be neglected.
There are several important "don'ts" to be remembered when your cat is sick. Don't go to a drugstore and ask for medicine for a cat. A pharmacist's license does not qualify a man to prescribe for a cat. Don't attempt, without expert advice, to worm your cat. There are several sorts of worms, and the treatment differs according to the kind; anyhow most of the popular remedies are too strong and do more harm than good. Do not administer any castor oil, for it is irritating to a cat's intestines. For mild ailments home treatment is good if intelligently applied, and even a severe attack may call for first aid before the veterinary can be reached. It simplifies matters to have a cat's medicine kit, with these things in it:
Absorbent cotton.Orange sticks or wooden toothpicks. Narrow cheesecloth bandage. Gelatine capsules.A rectal thermometer. White vaseline. Oil of eucalyptus. Milk of magnesia tablets. Liquid paraffin. Bismuth subnitrate. Aspirin tablets. Argyrol (5% solution), Calcium lactate. Bicarbonate of soda. Sweet spirits of ammonia. Boric acid powder. Vaseline is needed for hair balls; eucalyptus, aspirin, and argyrol for respiratory troubles; milk of magnesia and paraffin for constipation; bismuth for diarrhea; calcium for rickets; sweet spirits of ammonia for prostration; bicarbonate of soda for cleansing the mouth; and boric acid for the ears. Detailed descriptions of the uses of simple medicines are given in the chapters on the various diseases, and in the chapter on The Importance of Nursing will be found directions for administering remedies to cats. An ordinary clinical thermometer may be used, but the special rectal thermometer for cats is better.
It is fortunate for cats that they take better care of their health than dogs do of theirs, for they are more difficult patients once they fall ill. Dogs, especially puppies, are impetuous about eating and sometimes devour food that is tainted, but watch how daintily a cat sniffs at things before tasting them, and how definitely it rejects them if they are not right. Cats are also more careful about getting their feet wet and less impulsive about rushing into danger. But cats are fatalists, and when disease attacks them they seem to feel that there is no help for it, that the only course is to submit. So much more independent than dogs, they must love and trust you very much before they will ask for aid; their natural dislike of being handled by strangers is intensified when they are sick. Because of this it is wise to- nurse a cat at home, except for the surgical and contagious cases that are best dealt with in a hospital.
A petted cat is like a child: it feels safest and so is most likely to recover in its own bed and among the people it knows. But, since it is often a bad plan to carry a sick cat back and forth for treatments, and since the veterinary's visits may be expensive, a good animal hospital may be a godsend for the owner of a cat.
HOME NURSING - A CAT WITH A WOODEN PAW (1938)
This account of a Cat with a wooden paw, was recounted by Wendell Margrave of Carbondale, Illinois, 1938: "Jack Storme was the local cooper and blacksmith of Thebes. He had a cat that stayed around the shop. The cat was the best mouser in the whole country, Jack said. He kept the shop free of rats and mice. But one day the cat got a forepaw cut off. After that he began to grow poor and thin and didn’t take any interest in anything because he wasn’t getting enough to eat. So one day Jack decided to fix him up a wooden paw. He whittled one out with his knife and strapped it on the maimed leg. After that the cat began to grow sleek and fat again. Jack decided to stay at the shop one night to see how the cat managed it with his wooden paw. After dark the cat got down in front of a mouse-hole and waited. Pretty soon a mouse peered out cautiously. Quick as a flash the cat seized it with his good paw and knocked it on the head with his wooden one. In no time that cat had eighteen mice piled up before the hole."
WHEN CATS GROW OLD (1936)
Compared with the normal span of a human life, old age and death come pathetically soon to cats. Ten years is the average length of the cat's life, and it is the tragedy of becoming attached to a pet that you must part with it in such a short time. However, as some cats die before they are ten, some live longer. It is not unusual for them to last twelve or fourteen years, and in various authentic instances they have doubled the natural span. Every one of these ancients that I have interviewed had been of regular and temperate habits. I only know of one, Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, a cat who lived twenty years and six months, and had the further distinction of wearing a wooden leg, who ever drank whisky, and he took it only when he was recovering from the amputation of his leg.
Mr. Winkle's story appeared in the New York Sun in November, 1928 It was told by his mistress, Jennie Correll Bartleman, whose companion he be came when both of them were very young. "He was the nearest thing to my heart always," she says. "I rarely moved without him. He went with us to our country place in Pennsylvania. Of a delightful disposition, of uncanny intelligence, it is no wonder that everyone fell in love with him." When Mr. Winkle was seventeen years old, but still agile, he was chased by a playful terrier and fell backward from a tree, dislocating a shoulder and breaking an ankle. A veterinarian pulled the shoulder into place, and said that nature would take care of the ankle. Apparently it did, but in fact one of the small bones failed to knit, and after many futile attempts to heal the lump that formed, the leg was amputated by Dr. Charles J. McAnulty of Ventnor, New Jersey. Mr. Winkle was under ether three quarters of an hour, but he revived and became well and strong. His mistress's brother, a surgeon, devised a wooden leg, which Mr. Winkle wore with dignity and dexterity till the end of his days. There was wide interest in the case; medical journals both in this country and in Europe commented admiringly upon it. And well they might. I never heard of another cat with a peg leg, and very few have lived as long as he. His faculties were unimpaired to the last, though he was, judged by human standards (calling the human span threescore and ten), almost one hundred and fifty years old.
At the 1933 show of the Boardwalk Persian Cat Club, in Atlantic City, a twenty-year-old male tiger cat, Jack, was exhibited by his owner, Mrs. Laura E. Warthman. He was in excellent shape and appeared to be going strong. A nineteen-year-old cat, Captain Jinks, died recently in the home of his owner, Mrs. F. A. Rogers, of Jamaica, Long Island. He, too, was bright and active, with good sight and hearing, till his last sickness came. One of the youngest old cats I ever saw was a roof acquaintance I had in Washington Heights, New York City. His owners would bring him to the roof for an airing, and his coat was so glossy, his eyes so bright, and he played so gaily with his ball that I guessed he was about six years old. No, they said, he was more than twenty years old, and they brought evidence to prove it.
When my Mimi the Second had to be put to sleep, at the age of seventeen years, it was not because of old age but because of a growth in the groin. She relished her dinner to the last, and there was no failure of her faculties save an inability to see clearly at a little distance. And she slept more. She would sit herself in a Morris chair in exactly the human attitude, her back against the back of the chair, her head up, her hind paws stretched out in front and the forepaws crossed on her stomach, but soon, to her embarrassment, she would begin to nod. And like an old lady she would catch herself and give me a look as much as to say, "You are mistaken, I was not asleep."
Cats do not show senile decay as dogs do [note: in fact they do, but this may have been missed by the 1936 author, or the cats were not living long enough]. Old dogs sometimes get grey; cats do not. The coat may roughen and thin in old age, but not, I think, if it has always been groomed. I have known well-cared-for cats to have beautiful coats when quite old.
As a cat gets old the teeth begin to look worn and lose their whiteness; a yellowish stain shows at the gums and creeps toward the points. The flesh falls away a little along the spine and around the eyes. The joints stiffen, though not so badly as in old dogs, probably because cats do not run around in the cold and lie out in the wet as much as dogs do. A cat is more careful of its health, and in old age it reaps the reward. Except when disease or infirmity assails them, there is no reason why old cats cannot be quite as happy in their own way as young ones. They just need a little special attention. Their food should be cut finer and should have (unless their digestion is too delicate to stand it) some extra richness and stimulation: raw beef juice on the chopped meat, a little cream in the milk. They want a warm corner in winter, and in summer they should be guarded against exertion and excessive heat, for old cats, like old people, are sensitive to both heat and cold. I once knew a granny cat (quite shrunken with age she was, and touched in the temper, but her owners loved her) who always wore a little sweater on bleak days and when it was hot had a tiny icebag for her head. And why should she not have been made comfortable? She had always done her duty, and her days had been long in the land.
THE START OF THE AMERICAN INDOOR VS OUTDOOR DEBATE
As early as the 1930s, cat experts were advising on the dangers of indoors vs outdoors. For apartment-dwellers, there was little choice in the matter and some cat care books providedinformation on keeping indoor cats content. For those who advocated an indoor/outdoor lifestyle, the dangers of the great outdoors were listed.
FELINE SAFETY IN THE 1930s
Written in 1936 in the USA, "Dangers That Await Our Cats" detailed the dangers perceived by cat owners in the 1930s.
"I had to choose between giving him a short life and a merry one or a long life and a dull," a woman said of her cat whom she had allowed to wander at will, and whose career was unfortunately cut short by poison. "And I don't believe in shutting animals up." If it were put to a vote of the cats I suppose many would say the same, at least the gay young blades would, and lively ladies like Don Marquis's Mehitabel. Of course what most cats prefer is home and a fireside when they want it, with the right to arise and go forth when the moon draws them. How can they realize the dangers that await them? But I have noticed that when they have their freedom there comes sooner or later a morning when the cat does not come back.
In the city and in the country dangers await the wandering cat. In New York, where the sanitary code allows janitors and apartment dwellers to spread exterminators around the premises without a permit, many cats and dogs die from eating poisoned baits put out for rats and roaches. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals gets reports of from three to ten deaths daily from this cause, and there are many cases which neither this nor any other humane agency hears about. I have not the facts about other cities, but the exterminator peril exists almost everywhere. We cannot blame it on the reliable exterminating companies, for they seldom use materials harmful to dogs and cats, and if they must resort to poison they do it with precaution. It is generally the janitors, who, acting under orders from the landlord, scatter cheap exterminators containing arsenic, strychnine, thallium sulphate, and other violent poisons. Then your cat, adventuring into a basement, finds a tempting morsel and tastes it, and creeps away to die in agony. If these landlords would spend a little more money and buy red squill or some other exterminator harmless to pets . . . but what is the life of an animal compared to keeping down the budget? So it is up to you, the owner of the cat. If you do not let your pet roam it cannot be poisoned. Cannot, that is to say, unless you take risks with exterminators in your apartment. Cats have been made very sick by stepping in phosphorous preparations and licking the stuff from their paws. And remember that some cats will eat insects, and an insect that has eaten noxious powder or even merely run through it is not a wholesome thing in the stomach of a cat.
Automobiles kill fewer cats than dogs, but it is not uncommon to see the body of a feline victim of a hit-and-run driver lying by the curb. Then there is the peril of cruel boys, for in spite of humane education in the schools there are still many boys who delight to tease and torture a helpless cat. Then there are the dogs that kill cats. Some dogowners have a strange attitude about this. I knew a dear old Persian who was chased into his mistress's kitchen and killed there by a neighbor's dog, and the neighbor kept his four-footed murderer and did nothing.
Ever present dangers to country cats are the traps that boys and men set to catch fur-bearing wild animals. But they catch domestic animals too, and the terrible thing about most of these traps is that they do not kill instantly, but clamp their jaws on a leg or other part of the hapless creature and hold it there in misery till the owner of the fiendish device comes, which may not be for days.
Many country cats are poisoned and shot, too. It is difficult to understand the man or woman who will put out ground glass in meat, for instance, for dogs and cats to eat, or will riddle their skins with shot; but since such people exist and often contrive to do their devilish work secretly, we should protect our pets from them. When it is impractical to confine a cat, as it may be if he is on patrol service against rats and mice in the barn and granary, we can train him not to wander much. A cat that is one of the family, that is petted and fed regularly, is much likelier to stay at home than is the neglected cat. Neutered cats do not stray much, and they are good mousers, too; neutering does not, as many people think it does, dull their ardour in that pursuit. In my old home we shut our mousers in the barn at night, a good plan when it is fixed so they cannot get out, and there is a haymow for them to sleep in. But a wild scramble it was to get them there! They had a flattering preference for the family circle, and such an uncanny sense of time that though at ten minutes of ten they would be lying serenely in our midst, at ten, barn-going time, they would have slipped mysteriously away, generally to the farthest corner under the biggest bed.
There are dangers awaiting wandering cats in city and country; there are even dangers in the confines of an apartment. High windows are one of these. Cats love to sit in a window and survey the world, but unless there is a screen to guard them there is always the chance that they will fall. Full-length screens hinged on one side and secured by a strong hook on the other are best if the architecture permits them. I have spoken of this before, but it cannot be mentioned too often. Putting a cat on the fire-escape for an airing is generally a mistaken kindness, and roofs, too, are rather dangerous playgrounds. Unless you watch your pet closely you may miss him, to find him lying, grievously hurt, on the pavement below.
CARING FOR INDOOR CATS (1936)
Put the rubber mouse away;
Pick the spools up from the floor.
What was velvet-shod and gay
Will not need them any more.
This verse in a poem about a dead kitten, which looked out at me in some forgotten time from the corner of a newspaper, has always stayed in my mind. It says with such simplicity how tragically short the lives of these little creatures are, how willing they are to be happy while their lives last. Even a kitten who grows up to be a cat has a pretty short span, and it is not beneath our dignity, when we keep cats for our pleasure, to make their stay with us as pleasant as we can. Though cats are philosophical and adapt themselves to apartment life so much more graciously than dogs do, they can be badly bored. They have big bumps of curiosity, and nothing quite makes up for freedom to a being descended, however remotely, from the wild. Since, then, in so many places we cannot allow our cats freedom with safety, let us consider by what devices we can give them variety and a fairly natural, healthy existence inside four walls.
There is no plaything a kitten enjoys as it does small celluloid balls that rattle. Kittens will play with non-rattling balls, either celluloid or rubber, but the rattle fascinates them. I think they cannot figure out how the rattle got inside the ball, and work out their puzzlement in batting the ball. There are shops which have all these balls for sale, and they also have play sticks, flexible sticks with balls attached, which are fine when you want to have a game with your kitten. Then there are play bags, small cloth bags stuffed with cellophane and catnip, and catnip mice; also rubber mice, and mechanical mice which when wound up run around in a circle. Cats that insist on tearing a catnip mouse apart to get at the stuffing ought not to have them, since they may swallow some of the covering, but most cats are content to bat them about and revel in the smell.
Cats have their own notions about playthings; what pleases one does not always please another. Once a friend brought my Persians a rubber mouse, thinking, because her cats liked rubber mice, that mine would. She set it on the floor; they eyed it; they sniffed at it; then both of them turned tail, scornfully, and walked away. Somewhat abashed, my friend and I went out for a walk, and when we returned, lo, the rubber mouse had utterly vanished, though there was no one except the cats in the apartment. We looked everywhere, behind furniture and in corners, and did not find the mouse, and for days I watched Fifi and Mimi apprehensively for signs of rubber in their little insides, but they remained hearty. They never did tell what they had done with that mouse. A log with thick bark on it is a necessity for an indoor cat. Claws must be exercised and the old sheaths got rid of as the new nails grow, and there is nothing like bark for that. Neglect to provide a log for your cats and they are likely to make ribbons of your upholstery, and small blame to them.
I set a tree in my hall, a maple with a trunk about six inches in diameter, the branches trimmed and the top cut off to fit the ceiling, and my cats had a grand time climbing it. Of course it was fixed to the floor. If you do not care for a tree, then a length of log, cut in half so that it lies firmly on the floor, does nicely. You can easily find the right sort of log in shops where firewood is sold.
Outdoor cats, country ones at least, can find grass when they need roughage in their diet or an emetic to bring up hair they have swallowed, but the indoor cat must be provided with grass. It is easy to grow it. Have three pots of earth, and plant them in rotation, one each week, with oats or rye or birdseed. In this way you will always have fresh grass, and cats love it. My Fifi, when she grew old and lost her teeth, would sit by her pot of grass and wait for me to pull off the tender blades and put them in her mouth. If cats are not provided with grass they are likely to nip your house plants, which is bad not only for the plants but for them, for the foliage of most plants is too harsh for a cat's stomach. Some veterinarians for this reason advise cat-owners to discard their plants, but I say, give them grass to eat and flowers for pleasure, because many cats have a real aesthetic delight in flowers. Mine, when I brought a nosegay into the house, would walk round and round it, smelling the blossoms with apparent enjoyment. I once saw a dying cat drag itself from its bed and throw its fevered body under the spreading fronds of a potted fern, as if it thought that green tent could give it relief from pain.
You can raise catnip from seed, but most cats prefer it dried. They cannot go on a real catnip jag on the fresh article; it must age, like wine and whisky. Dried catnip can be purchased in drugstores, but if you are a cat-lover you will always, when you are in the woods, keep an eye out for growing catnip, and carry some home to dry for your cat or somebody else's cat, or perhaps for a Christmas gift to the homeless cats in some humane shelter.
Of all the comforts you can give your indoor cat, perhaps a window porch is the most grateful. Cats love to sit in windows, and they are frivolously fond of looking out on life and movement. But an unscreened window is dangerous; as any animal hospital knows, many a cat casualty is due to a fall from a high window. So you must screen yours securely, and while you are about it why not throw out a little balcony from one of them and make a hot-weather retreat for your pet? The floor should be a board about sixteen inches wide, firmly nailed to the sill and held in place by two lengths of scantling running from its outer corners to the window casing near the top of the lower sash. Stout wire screening forms the front and sides. Of course, the porch should be all put together before being fastened in. With a cushion or two and a pot of grass at each end, this makes a nice place for cats to see the world from by day, and to sleep in on a hot night.
Did you ever hear of a cat commuter from a third-story window to the ground? Recently I was passing a house that stood next a vacant lot, and I perceived a basket, with a large cat sitting calmly in it, descending seemingly from heaven into this lot. The basket was attached to a rope and the rope was being paid out by a woman in an upper window. When the car reached the ground its passenger jumped out and scampered away. I was curious enough to question the janitress, who was beating rugs at the basement door. She told me that Tommy's mistress was a shut-in, and had invented this way of giving Tommy his outings. He was a model commuter and always returned promptly. Sure enough, while I stood there he trotted back and got into his basket and was pulled aloft.
FELINE SELF-RELIANCE (excerpts from "The Tiger in the House", Carl van Vechten, 1920)
I have written, how skilfully, I cannot tell, on the manners and customs of the cat [...] the pet of the hearth or the tiger of the heath, but always free, always independent, always an anarchist who insists upon his rights, whatever the cost. The cat never forms soviets; he works alone. We have much to learn from the cat, we men who prefer to follow the slavish habits of the dog or the ox or the horse. If men and women would become more feline, indeed, I think it would prove the salvation of the human race. Certainly it would end war, for cats will not light for an ideal in the mass, having no faith in mass ideals, although a single cat will fight to the death for his own ideals, his freedom of speech and expression. The dog and the horse, on the other hand, perpetuate war, by group thinking, group acting, and serve further to encourage popular belief in that monstrous panacea, universal brotherhood.
For the next war man will build ships which can make sixty or seventy knots an hour; submarines will skim through five thousand leagues of the sea with the speed of sharks; and airships will fly over cities, dropping bundles of TNT. Saigon, Berlin, Cairo, Paris, Madrid, and even Indianapolis are doomed to disappear. Man himself will become extinct; crude, silly man, always struggling against Nature, rather than with Nature behind him, helping him forward and across, beyond the abysses and torrents and landslides of existence. And presently everything we know will be over, another cycle of years will begin, and a new "civilization" will arise.
But the cat will survive. He is no such fool as man. He knows that he must have Nature behind him. He also knows that it is easier for one cat alone to fit into the curves of Nature than two cats. So he walks by himself. For Nature here and Nature there are two different Natures and what one cat on one side of the fence has to do is not what another cat on the other side of the fence has to do. But the great principles are obeyed by all cats to such an extent that twenty, a hundred, a thousand cats will willingly give their lives, which they might easily save, to preserve an instinct, a racial memory, which will serve to perpetuate the feline race. The result will be that, after the cataclysm, out of the mounds of heaped-up earth, the piles and wrecks of half-buried cities, the desolated fields of grain, and the tortured orchards, the cat will stalk, confident, self-reliant, capable, imperturbable, and philosophical. He will bridge the gap until man appears again and then he will sit on new hearths and again will teach his mighty lesson to ears and eyes that again are dumb and blind. Shylock’s doom was foretold by Shakespeare from the moment the poet asked the poor creature to say, "the harmless necessary cat." For it is possible, nay probable, that the cat, unlike man who forgets his previous forms, remembers, really remembers, many generations back; that what we. call instinct may be more profound than knowledge. And so Providence wisely has not allowed the cat to speak any language save his own.
We may dominate dogs, but cats can never be dominated except by force. They can be annihilated, at least a few of them can, but never made servile or banal. The cat is never vulgar. He will not even permit God to interfere with his liberty and if be suffers so much as a toothache he will refuse all food. He would rather die than endure pain. Thus, like the Spartan, he preserves the strength of his stock. He may at any moment change his motto from Libertas Sine Labore or Amica Non Serva to Quand Méme.
There is, indeed, no single quality of the cat that man could not emulate to his advantage. He is clean, the cleanest, indeed, of all animals, absolutely without odour or soil when it is within his power to be so. He is silent, walking on padded paws with claws withdrawn, making no sound unless he wishes to say something definite and then he can express himself freely. He believes in free-speech, and not only believe in it, but indulges in it. Nothing will make a cat stop talking when he wants to, except the hand of death.
He is entirely self-reliant. He lives in homes because he chooses to do so, and as long as the surroundings and the people suit him, but he lives there on his own terms, and never sacrifices his own comfort or his own wellbeing for the sake of the stupid folk with whom he comes in contact. Thus he is the most satisfactory of friends. The cat neither gives nor accepts invitations that do not come from the heart. If he tires of his friends sometimes, so do I. If he wishes to move he does so. Perhaps to another house, perhaps to the wilds. If he is suddenly thrown on his own resources in the country he can support himself on the highway; he can even support himself in town under conditions that would terrify that half-hearted, group-seeking socialist, the dog. The cat is virile, and virility is a quality which man has almost lost.
St. George Mivart insisted that the cat rather than man was at the summit of the animal kingdom and that he was the best-fitted of the mammalians to make his way in the world. I agree perfectly with St. George Mivart (St. George Mivart: "The Cat." p. 492: "The organization of the cat tribe may be deemed superior, because it is not only excellent in itself, but because it is fitted to dominate the excellences of other beasts"). I do not see how it is possible for anyone to disagree with him. But the cat makes no boast of his pre-eminent position; be is satisfied to occupy it. He does not call man a "lower animal" although doubtless he regards him in this light.
A well-bred cat never argues. He goes about doing what he likes in a well-bred superior manner. If he is interrupted he will look at you in mild surprise or silent reproach but he will return to his desire. If he is prevented, he will wait for a more favourable occasion. But like all well-bred individualists, and unlike human anarchists, the cat seldom interferes with other people’s rights. His intelligence keeps him from doing many of the fool things that complicate life. Cats never write operas and they never attend them. They never sign papers, or pay taxes, or vote for president. An injunction will have no power whatever over a cat. A cat, of course, would not only refuse to obey any amendment whatever to any constitution, he would refuse to obey the constitution itself.
A 1930s VIEW OF FELINE INTELLIGENCE AND FELINE BEHAVIOUR (1936)
This chapter on "The Soul of the Cat" (1936) - a strange topic by modern standards, but less so in a day and age before advanced veterinary medicine. In modern books, this chapter might be termed "Feline Intelligence and Behaviour". Today, intelligence and behaviour are well-studied areas in pet-care, but back in the 1930s many people considered cats and dogs to be dumb animals.
Though science has established that cats have brains to be diseased, and we are learning that the word "fits" does not cover the range of their brain and nerve disorders, the fact that cats have brains to think with and do think with them is not very widely recognized. It is so easy to disparage the "harmless necessary cat." It was once said by Dr. William B. Scott, professor emeritus of Princeton University, in a speech before the American Society of Mammalogists, that the first cats in what is now America, some 35,000,000 years ago, were stupid, dull, and chuckle-headed. And you meet people who say the same of our cats today. But there is plenty of proof that cats have brains, and souls too, or whatever the vital sparks are that enable us to think, to reason, to love, and to pity.
I suppose that pity is the highest of all attributes. Few believe that the cat is capable of it. Yet I knew a cat who not only pitied misfortune but did something about it, who could give some of our modern relief workers a lesson in quick action. He belonged to the editor of the Brodhead Independent, in the Wisconsin town where I lived as a child. Mr. and Mrs. Editor adored cats and always had anywhere from five to ten. They were well fed, and this old fellow, Arthur, was particularly honest, so there was much astonishment when he was seen stealing a chop from the kitchen table. He got away with it before they could follow him, but the next day he took a piece of steak, and that time they were able to trail him. He carried the steak down the path to the barn and around to the back, where there was a hole in the foundations, laid it down, and gave a little call. Then out from under the barn crept a cat that Mr. and Mrs. Editor had never seen before, a forlorn, emaciated creature, and it devoured the food with timorous glances about, while Arthur sat by and smiled. Yes, smiled. He did not have to steal again, for Mrs. Editor placed a heaped saucer behind the barn regularly until the stray decided to come out and join the family.
In that town we knew nothing of Persians, or Siamese, or any of the newfangled breeds, but we had some fine cats that I suppose were alley cats, though we had no alleys, only lanes. The dean of the Brodhead cats lived with the minister of the Union Free Church, a society of liberal men and women. This cat was nineteen years old, and he always had his chair and plate at the minister's table. The Presbyterian deacon who lived next door thought that was terrible, but he could not deny that the cat's manners were better than those of his own children.
When it comes to the deeds of daring that dogs are always being lauded for, such as pulling drowning people out of the surf, or rescuing travellers from the Alpine snow, cats naturally cannot perform these; but I know a cat who saved a kitten from death by exposure, and another who called help for his sick mistress. Peter is a handsome tiger cat who has spent the four years of his life with Mr. and Mrs. Newton L. Otis, of New York City. They have always treated him like a dog, talking to him, playing ball with him, taking him in the car on their week-end trips to the Catskills. And he is as responsive and as devoted to them as any dog could be. A charming white Persian kitten who lives in the same apartment house often calls on Peter, coming': along a cornice to his favourite window. There is a screen, but they converse in their own way through its meshes. One cold stormy night Mr. and Mrs. Otis returned late from the theatre, and Peter, who sleeps on their bed, would not settle down. He kept going to the window and crying, until they got up to investigate. And there in the beating rain was the Persian kitten. They had not heard a sound from it, and the curtains were closely drawn, but Peter knew. He was extremely pleased with himself, and attended with the greatest complacency while they took the baby in and dried it.
It was a Philadelphia cat who fetched aid for his mistress, Miss Mary H. Leopold, when she was taken suddenly ill. The only people in the house were two stories above, where the cat had never been, but when Miss Leopold said to him, "Oh, Maltie, can't you get someone to help me?" he went up there, miewed till he caught the attention of the people, and led them to his mistress.
Both cats and dogs have been known to show concern and grief over the death of an animal friend, as well as at the loss of a loved human being. Once a Brooklyn cat, just a homeless old tom, stood guard for many hours over the body of a younger cat that had been killed by an automobile and thrown to the curb [kerb]. Neither coaxing, nor threats, nor the offer of food could break his vigil, and when at last a street cleaner removed the body with a long-handled shovel he pursued the man's cart down the block until a blundering dog chased him away. I wonder what alley idyll of companionship was broken up by this tragedy.
It is motherhood that has inspired the greatest acts of devotion and courage in cats, as in other creatures, though female cats are said not to be so intelligent as the males. At a gathering of scientists at the American Museum of Natural History, May 23, 1930, Miss A. S. Firkins of Columbia University was compelled reluctantly to confess to the men who made up her audience that in a series of intelligence tests she had made with seventy-eight cats the Toms proved brighter than the Marias. Perhaps that was because the tests involved getting something to eat.
When a female cat has kittens to feed and protect she can be very brave, very cunning. There was a New York cat who when her kittens were threatened by a river-front fire carried them one by one past the flames, through the confusion of engines and hose and trampling firemen, under the spouting water, to safety. And there was a ranch cat in a far Western state who swam a river six times, six burdened journeys across wide rushing water, to carry her babies back to the home from which, for some reason mysterious to her, they had been removed. She deserved to be allowed to keep them, and she was.
There was planning required in the process by which a Long Island cat procured milk for her kittens. A farmer was puzzled to find a cat and four kittens in his barnyard every morning when he went to milk. They belonged a mile up the road, and how had the mother got them past his dog, who had a complex against cats? But the dog was not permitted in the barnyard. Once there the kittens were safe while they lapped up the warm milk the farmer gave them. The farmer's wife, being curious, stationed herself very early with a spyglass at a window commanding the house up the road. And presently she saw the regiment coming with the mother in advance like a scouting colonel; she seemed almost to hear the kittens being warned, "Take care now, wait till I see where the dog is; so, we'll skirt this field, the corn hides us; careful, I hear him barking; creep along this hedge, jump this fence and here we are."
There was a Chicago mother cat who took her blind kitten to the Association for the Blind, but I suppose we must not credit that to reason. But the Lighthouse attendants thought it very cute. They said that being a young cat she probably had not heard that kittens are born blind, and felt that she needed their help. Anyhow, she came one morning with the kitten dangling from her mouth, deposited it on the steps, watched while they picked it up, and then departed on business of her ownprobably to forage for food. In a few hours she called for the kitten and bore it away. This went on for some days, but there came a morning when she did not appear, and the Lighthouse never saw the two again.
Cats often open doors, even manage difficult latches, but I think the process by which a Connecticut cat gains entrance to the house at night is more subtle. This cat, called Fuzzy Dear, generally sleeps in, but she cannot resist a brilliant moonlight night. About four in the morning, however, she tires of prowling and wants to come in. But she does not cry at the door. She would not be heard there. Instead, she climbs a tree outside the bedroom of her master and mistress, and jumps down on a porch roof below the window. It is a tin roof that rattles even under her light weight and wakes her mistress, who goes to the window. The instant the head appears at the window Fuzzy Dear leaps down and runs to the door, where she is admitted. This surely is clear evidence that cats can not only reason from cause to effect, but they can deliberately go about producing the effect they desire.
THE STORY OF TIBBY THE CAT (1936)
This excerpt describing some of the habits of cats is from Vol 1 of the 1936 edition of "Newnes' Pictorial Knowledge An Educational Treasury And Children's Dictionary" edited by HA Pollock (main editor) Enid Blyton (associate editor), AC Marshall (Technical Editor) and AHJ Humphreys (art editor). Aimed at children, it is somewhat twee in tone.
TIBBY the Cat sits before the fire, blinking her eyes lazily. She is a house pet, but we do not love her as much as we love the dog. Neither does she love us so much as the dog does. She is a very self-possessed creature, with good manners and pretty ways, but she does not try to please us as do dogs. Perhaps you think you know all about your Tibby at borne, and could write a story about her and her ways yourself, but I wonder if you know how it is that she can “see in the dark”?
Like all the cat family, she can expand the black centres of her eyes at night, so that they take in every scrap of light there is. In the daytime the black pupils of her eyes narrow, to tiny slits. Since Puss goes hunting in the dark she needs very keen sight, and this she has, for so long as there is the faintest light about she can see well enough to catch her prey. But if you put Tibby in a completely dark room she could not see at all, because there would not be the smallest ray of light available to help her. She would use her fine whiskers then, for they are very sensitive to touch. She could run through a room crowded with furniture in the pitch dark, and yet never bump her head. As soon as her sensitive whisker-ends touch a chair leg or stool they warn her not to go that way, and she turns in another direction.
Have you watched her eating? You must have noticed how slow she is over her food. Even if you have a dog who will gobble up Tibby’s food if she isn’t quick she will not hurry. This is because she has always been a solitary animal, one that hunted by herself and not in a pack. She always had plenty of time to eat her meals slowly and in peace, and her age-old habit remains to this day. Half a dozen dogs will not make her gobble her food - she must eat daintily and slowly.
A Rough Tongue.
Her tongue is very rough, and this is so that she may rasp all the flesh off bones. Even a kitten’s tongue is rough, as you may have felt when it licked you. The cat cannot crunch up bones as a dog can, because her teeth are not made to do that, so she makes up for it by having a very useful tongue. If you could examine it under a magnifying glass you would see a great number of little horn-like projections on it pointing back towards her throat. It is these that rasp the meat from the bones. How is it that Puss runs so quietly after her prey? She has soft pads under her paws, so velvety that not a bird hears her coming; and pulled back by a strong muscle are her sharp claws, curved and cruel. She keeps them withdrawn when she walks or runs, for she does not want them to become blunted. She needs them for climbing and for scratching her enemies.
For hundreds and hundreds of years the cat has been domesticated, but we have not succeeded in teaching her to love us and be loyal to us as we have the dog. We cannot blame her for this, because she has always been a lonely animal in her wild state, and has never learnt to love or to be loyal to the leader of a pack or to comrades.
Her kittens are charming. They play delightfully, and there is a good reason behind all their pretty play. They will pounce on a cotton reel drawn along by a string, or throw a paper ball into the air, or stalk a flying leaf. All these things are preparing them for their grown-up life when they will pounce on rats and mice, throw them into the air, stalk birds, and so on. They learn in their play all the things they will do when they are fully-grown.
Our Wild Cat, or Cat-a-Mountain, lives in the Highlands of Scotland. It is a savage, fierce beast, quite untamable, and very handsome. Sometimes our own home cats become tired of their stay-at-home lives and go off on their own to poach in the woods. Then we hear of wild cats being found here, or discovered there, but they are not the real Cat-a-Mountain. They are, in fact, just poor imitations, and usually it is not long before they are shot by a gamekeeper.
Even people who do not like ordinary cats become fond of the Siamese cat, which is the handsomest and by far the most intelligent of its tribe. It has a dark face, black ears and feet, blue eyes, and a most peculiar voice quite different from that of its European cousins.