CATS AND CAT CARE - A RETROSPECTIVE: THE EARLY 1900s - FEEDING, HEALTH AND GENERAL CARE (PAGE 1)
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.
Though compiled in 1903, Frances Simpson's "The Book of the Cat" is largely drawn from her earlier works and was therefore a good description of cats and cat care from the 1880s to 1903. 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.
Notes on Cats from “Animal Life and the World of Nature” (1902–1903)
The history of the animal world contains no parallel to the rise of the cat in local status. Not so very long ago Puss was regarded as part of the life below stairs; but times are changed. The modern representatives of the feline race occupy a prominent position in the aristocratic world. They are prized for their blue blood. Their pedigrees are traced for generations. They are carefully housed, fed on the best, nursed, waited on and generally treated as if they belonged to a superior race. Fashion of course may have much to do with the apotheosis of the cat, but there is little doubt that merit has won for itself an acknowledgment well deserved.
It is doubtful however whether the general public have any idea of the extent to which cat culture has attained. They know that there are short-haired and long-haired cats and that is about all. Of Chinchillas, and silvers and shaded silvers, of blues and smokes, of creams, and various other classes whose finely drawn qualifications are a standing puzzle to judges themselves, they have but slight acquaintance.
But that the attraction, the fascination we might say, of cat breeding is gradually extending is shown by the increasing number of cat societies not only in England but all the world over. The cat shows, pure and simple, are for the most part held in the autumn and winter, for that is the time when coats and frills are in perfection. The National Cat Club leads off at the Crystal Palace in October. The Cat Club Show at the Westminster Aquarium is in January, but meanwhile there are Brighton and many other smaller exhibitions. It is noticeable that the custom of exhibiting cats at dog shows is on the increase. The Ladies’ Kennel Club admit them at their big show in the Botanic Gardens in June, an event which, if the weather is but propitious, is most enjoyable. The cats themselves may not be in such good coat as earlier, but the kittens just blossoming into the first beauties of feline childhood are bewitching.
We propose in future numbers to devote some portion of space to the best interests of our furry friends, not in any way interfering with the journals which chronicle their doings, but to endeavour to secure for them the recognition they deserve by encouraging the study of the numerous varieties, their habits and customs, their vices and virtues, their friends and their enemies. The pictures here reproduced from photos by Mr. Landor, the well-known cat photographer, will convince even the most hardened sceptic that there are cats to which the kitchen would be an insult. Hitherto the cat was popularly supposed to be an animal unworthy of the friendship of man and fit only for the companionship of old maids; fortunately these silly ideas are dying out, though they die hard as do all false traditions, let us hope the time is passed when cats were the despised and rejected of all domesticated animals.
There is no doubt that the Persian cat is the most delicate variety to keep. Perhaps it is that they suffer from good treatment, but whatever be the reason, it is an undoubted fact that they are very liable to attacks of enteric trouble, and those who take a fancy to keeping Persian cats must therefore make up their minds to diet them on sound lines. To begin with it is very undesirable to feed Persians on sweets and dainties; a little raw meat, fish (which must be perfectly fresh), milk, and brown bread which has been made palatable for them by being soaked with gravy - these may be regarded as the staple courses.
Of the several varieties of the Persian cat the two commonest are the tabby and the blue. There is a white variety (sometimes called the Angora), and there are various other colours, but on the whole it will be found that the best to keep is one of the quieter colours. They need constant attention to their coats in the way of grooming; but if a comb and soft brush be used regularly and the cat be not allowed to get the hair into a matted condition, this attention need not occupy many minutes a day.
Cats need to have as much variety in their food as possible, and as a rule the single cat in a household gets a good variety - so; too, do cats kept on farms where they can prowl. But for those kept in catteries a varied course of diet must always be provided. I often recommend people whose cats are not thriving to give them coarse, wholemeal, brown bread soaked in gravy or milk. This seems to have an excellent effect on the system. Fish, too, is very good for eats by way of variety. It is a mistake to give cats much starchy food such as potatoes and white bread; they need vegetable food, of course, and any one who has noticed cats (and dogs too for that matter) which have been let out into a field after being shut up will have observed how fond they are of eating a little grass. It is a very bad plan to feed cuts on “lights.” The lungs of animals are very often the seat of tubercular disease even though it may not be apparent, and cats are liable to be affected as a result of eating this kind of meat. On the other hand law lean meat is undoubtedly the cat’s most natural food, but it is better that what is provided should be wholesome butcher’s meat.
The best way to get an animal’s coat into condition is to groom it regularly - that will do far more good than anything in the way of medicine, although the latter, of course, is desirable at times. The cat is a very cleanly animal and can usually be depended upon to keep its coat tidy; but where long-haired cats are concerned they must be groomed with a comb and soft brush at least twice a day. A cat with eczema or other skin trouble will always derive benefit from the use of a brush; friction of this kind has an excellent effect upon the skins of animals. There are good patent brushes on the market suitable for dogs and cats, and these can be obtained either hard or soft. according to the animal for which it is required.
This is the description of pet cats given in the 1909 edition of "The Children's Encyclopaedia" edited by Arthur Mee.
WILD CATS AND TAME CATS, AND A CAT THAT KILLED A MAN. You can make great friends of cats, but they are never quite so free and loving as dogs. They are always a little more shy, a little more independent. They retain a little more of their wild nature than a dog does.
Some cats never have been tamed. We used to have great numbers of wild cats in this country, and there are just a few left even now, right away in the far north of Scotland. They are very savage, and live amid deer and eagles and other creatures such as we never see in England. They are bigger and stronger than the tame cats. They make their homes in hollow trees or in tiny caves. They are the most savage animals now living in Britain. One of them attacked a man near Barnborough. He fought it and beat it, and tried to get away; but it followed, fighting him all the way. Both were so badly hurt that they fell down and died side by side in the porch of Barnborough Church.
We have nothing like that to fear from the ordinary house cat, which is a very different animal, though, if it is badly treated, it can be a terrible enemy with its sharp teeth and strong claws. Our house cats were probably first tamed in Egypt. There are many sorts to-day - white cats; black cats, blue cats, grey cats, sandy cats, tortoiseshell cats, cats with long fur, cats with long tails, cats with bushy tails, cats with no tails at, all. These latter come from the Isle of Man, and are called Manx cats.THE CATS THAT KILL THE RATS THAT SPREAD THE PLAGUE. If left all to itself, the cat would go wild in the woods, where it can catch birds and mice and rabbits. It is useful, as we have already learnt, in killing field mice, which destroy the nest of the humble bees. It is important, too, in killing the great ugly rat. So important is this part of its work that men now send large numbers of cats from England to India to kill the rats which spread the disease called the plague there.
Cats can never be trained quite as dogs are, yet they have wonderful brains and loving natures. There was one which lived in a house where a dog was kept. The cat did not like the dog, until a cruel man struck the dog and injured its eyes. Then the poor dog could not see at all well. As it returned to the house it would sometimes run against the doorpost and hurt itself. The cat watched this several times, then it used to go. out into the garden after the dog and guide it back in safety. The two would trot back to the house together, side by side, and they never quarrelled again as long as they lived.
CATS AND DOGS THAT LIVE TOGETHER - AND BECOME GREAT FRIENDS. When we talk of a “cat-and-dog” life, we mean the lives of people who are always quarrelling. But cats and dogs do not always quarrel. When they live together they generally become the best of friends. There was a naughty little puppy which used to tease a big, stately cat. Puss was too full of dignity to hurt the puppy, hut you could see that she was cross. Well, this cat’s kittens all died, and her grief was dreadful. She mourned and went about the house as if she would never be happy any more. The dog could not understand it. He ran about after her, not teasing, but anxious to know what made her sad. At last he seemed to! understand. He rushed into the garden, scratched up some soil, and found the place where the kittens were buried. He carried these into the house and laid them down before the cat. She saw then that they really were dead, and she saw that the dog was sorry for her. She ceased to fret for the kittens, but then and there made friends with the dog; and, after that, wherever the one went there the other was sure to go.
Some cats can ring bells and open the latch of a door. One cat could not reach the bell of the house at which! it lived, so as a lady was passing it seized her skirt and gently pulled her towards the door, and waited until she had rung the bell. Then puss said a little “thank you” with her mewing, as well as she could, and passed with dignity into the house, as though this were all just as it should be.
"A menagerie race in a garden" This image from 1909 shows a popular pastime (for well-to-do children at least). The little girl has harnessed a white Persian kitten with ribbon. The captions read: "One of the best methods of brightening up a dull afternoon is to hold a menagerie race. First of all we must collect the animals and birds, such as cats, dogs, rabbits, or fowls, that are to take part in the race, and harnessthem with string, as shown here, so that we can drive them. There need be no cruelty of any kind. As a rule the animals will go anywhere but in the right direction, which causes a great deal of laughter."
And from a similar period we have "Domesticated Cats" by R Lydekker (1849-1915), as printed in Harmsworth Natural History (1910).
"In the account of the last few species it has been incidentally mentioned that the domesticated cats of various countries interbreed with, and more or less closely resemble in the colour and pattern of their fur, some of the species of wild cats inhabiting the same districts. It has also been stated that the ancient Egyptians were in the habit of taming and training their indigenous wild cat, which has been regarded as the ancestral stock from which were derived all the domesticated cats of Europe. The most likely view of the relationship of wild to tame cats is that the Egyptian race of the African wild cat was, to a great extent, the original parent stock of the domesticated breeds of Europe, but that there has probably been, at least in many districts, a large amount of subsequent crossing of the original domesticated breed with the European wild cat. It is, however, possible that most of the domesticated cats of India may have had a totally independent origin from those of Europe, and that the desert cat may have been the original parent stock from which they were derived.
The common occurrence of spotted domesticated cats in India - which are comparatively rare in Europe - is, indeed, highly suggestive of an origin from one or more of the numerous spotted wild species now inhabiting that country, while the prevalence of striped cats in Europe is in favour of their origin from the Egyptian wild cat, with more or less crossing with the European wild cat. The prevalence of spotted domesticated cats in India may be solely due to the effects of crossing with their wild compatriots, but the former seems the most natural view. Without going into the question of the origin of the domesticated cats of other regions, the evidence seems to point to the conclusion that the whole of the breeds found in Europe and Asia have not been derived from one single parent stock.
In connection with the various breeds of domesticated cats (Felis domestica), these are distinguished from one another mainly or entirely by such characters as colour, length of hair, or, more rarely, length of tail, and do not present the marked structural differences distinguishing the various breeds of dogs. This general similarity may be partly accounted for by the fact that all cats are required for much the same purpose, so that there has been no special inducement for breeders to modify their structure. A more important factor in the case, however, is the greater specialisation of a cat as compared with a dog, as is particularly shown in the shortness of the face, the diminution in the number of the teeth, and the peculiar structure of the cheek teeth, these points rendering it obvious that an animal with a short face and few teeth is not capable of those modifications in the length and proportion of the skull which can be so readily induced in creatures with longer muzzles and a greater number of teeth. But that cats are capable of perpetuating for a longer or shorter period structural modifications is proved by a family of these animals with six toes on each foot, in which the peculiarity was inherited to the tenth generation.
Here it is important to observe that two distinct types of colour pattern are noticeable among European domesticated cats. In the one type the pattern on the fur takes the form of dark barrings, or stripes, which on the head are longitudinal, but on the body mainly run in a transverse direction. These striped cats are evidently the type which has been derived from either the Egyptian or the European wild eat, or from both. In addition to these striped domesticated cats there occur other cats in which the markings take the form of broad bands arranged in a somewhat spiral manner on the flanks and hind quarters; and it is apparently only to cats with this type of colour pattern that the name of "tabbies" properly belongs; the word "tabby" originally meaning the well-known pattern on watered or brocaded silk. This pattern may occur in cats of all colours from grey to sandy, and in Persians as well as in Europeans, although it is by no means certain that it has not been introduced into the former breed by crossing with the latter. These tabby cats appear to breed true, and it has been suggested that they are descended from a stock quite different from that which gave rise to the striped phase of domesticated cats. This view, however, requires further evidence before it can be definitely accepted.
As regards colour, European cats are commonly black, white, sandy, tortoiseshell, dun, grey, or the so-called "blue" ; the two last-named colours being rarer than the others. In this respect they follow wild breeds, sandy cats representing the rufous and yellow, and blue cats the grey phase already noticed as characteristic of wild species; while white and black eats respectively represent the albino and melanistic phases, which are, however, much more common among domesticated than among wild cats. [Lydekker was wrong about white cats representing albinos in cats.]. All these different colour varieties will generally breed more or less nearly true if prevented from crossing, but it frequently happens that litters will contain different-coloured kittens. Formerly the ordinary European cats were short and smooth-haired animals, but in modern times there has been a large amount of crossing with the Persian breed, which has resulted in the production of a number of long-haired cats.
The striped cat may have been the most common English variety. Its proper ground-colour is grey, marked with a black stripe down the back. The rare grey cats may be regarded as striped cats which have lost all their stripes, with the exception of two transverse bars on the fore legs. Black cats are in all respects analogous to black leopards, since, even when pure-bred, young kittens of this colour almost invariably show the stripes of the striped grey cat. Usually black cats have some white hairs, more especially on the throat, and by an ever-increasing mixture of white a perfect transition may exist from black to white cats, the same holding good with regard to the other breeds. In pure-bred black eats the eyes are of a clear yellow. In white cats, on the other hand, the eyes may be of the ordinary greenish yellow tinge, or of a pure blue, while in some cases one eye may be blue and the other yellow, this feature being particularly admired in white Persian cats. As is now well known, white cats with blue eyes are usually deaf, this deafness being probably attributable to the lack of dark pigment characterising the eyes also extending to the ears; such dark pigment being, in some mysterious way, connected with the sense of hearing.
The pure-bred tortoiseshell cat - a colour-phase which is now much rarer in England than it was formerly - should be of an orange-fawn colour, irregularly blotched with black, without any admixture of white. Such cats are almost invariably females, although there is at least one good instance of the occurrence of a pure "tortoiseshell tom." The proper male of this breed, however, is the sandy cat; this difference in the colouring of the two sexes of this breed being very noteworthy, seeing that the males and females of all species of wild cats, with the single exception of the South American jaguarondi - in which the female is the brighter of the two - are coloured alike. Occasionally female sandy cats are to be met with, while sandy-and-white and tortoiseshell-and-white cats may be of either sex [Lydekker was incorrect; sandy/sandy-and-white cats can be either sex while tortoiseshell-and-white cats are almost invariably female]. The so-called blue," or Carthusian, cat is characterised by its long and silky hair being of a uniform greyish blue colour, while the soles of the feet and the lips are black.
Turning to Asiatic cats, it has already been stated that many of those of India have more or less distinctly spotted coats like their wild compatriots, such colouring being almost unknown in Europe. The most celebrated of all the Asiatic breeds is the Persian, or Angora, cat, its second title being derived from a town in Asia Minor. These cats are characterised by large size, long silky hair - most developed on the throat and under parts - and thick bushy tail. The colour is generally uniform, varying from pure white to a yellowish or greyish tint, while the lips and soles of the feet are not uncommonly flesh-coloured. The occurrence of individuals with one blue and one yellow eye in this breed has been already noted, while allusion has likewise been made to the opinion that the Persian cat is descended from the manul cat of the Asiatic steppes, an opinion which has failed to obtain support among naturalists. It has been reported that the breed of these cats in Angora has been greatly reduced in numbers, owing to their skins having been in large demand as furs.
The Siamese cat is a very distinct breed, in which the general colour is fawn, with the face, ears, limbs, and tail dark. The eyes are blue, and the forehead has two bare spots. The limbs are relatively short, and the hind quarters high. The kittens are white. It has been suggested that the Siamese cat is descended from the wild bay cat of the Indo-Malay countries; and, although such a pedigree is not generally accepted, the marked distinctness of the Siamese breed seems to indicate that it has an origin separate from that of any of the domesticated cats of Europe and Western Asia. Siam and Burma are the home of another breed known as the Malay cat, in which the tail is only half the usual length, and often, through deformity in its bones, tightly curled up into a knot. These short-tailed Asiatic cats lead to the mention of the tailless cats of the Isle of Man, in which the tail is either reduced to a mere stump, or almost wanting. Owing, probably, to the introduction of ordinary cats from the mainland, Manx cats are now to be met with having tails of all lengths up to 10 inches. Tailless cats also exist in the Crimea and Japan. Other domesticated breeds to which allusion may be made here include the Mombasa cat from the eastern coast of Africa, said to be distinguished by its stiff and wiry hair, and the Paraguay cat of South America, which is much smaller than ordinary cats, with a long body covered with close-lying short and scanty hair.
Like many of the smaller wild species, ordinary domesticated cats have the pupil of the eye reduced to a narrow vertical slit when at its smallest dimensions. They also agree with their wild cousins in the extremely small development of the sense of smell, depending chiefly upon sight and the exquisite sense of perception residing in the "whiskers." The effects of domestication, however, have considerably increased the reproductive powers of the cat, the tame breeds having young three or four times during the year, and producing from five or six to eight or nine kittens at a birth.
On account of their invaluable qualities as destroyers of mice and vermin, domesticated cats have been introduced into almost every country in the world. There is, however, still some degree of uncertainty as to the period when they were first known in Europe, although they were in existence there before the Christian era. The animal used by the ancient Greeks for the purposes for which we employ the cat, and called by them ailuros, was long considered to be the same as the modern cat, but Professor Rolleston, of Oxford, brought forward a considerable amount of evidence to show that the ailuros of the Greeks was really a marten, and this view receives some support from the fact that no remains of cats have been discovered among the ashes of Pompeii and Herculaneum. That cats continued to be comparatively scarce and valuable animals during the Middle Ages is proved by the laws made in several countries for their special protection, and the fines imposed on those who injured or killed them.
The terrible pests that domesticated cats which indulge in nocturnal poaching, or have taken to a completely wild life in the woods, become is known to all who have to do with rabbit-warrens or game-preserves. Darwin states that a few cats, which had been originally turned loose in St. Helena, in order to destroy the rats and mice, increased in numbers so as to become a perfect plague. And the same observer mentions that in some parts of South America the domesticated cats which had run wild had become modified into larger creatures of exceeding fierceness, inhabiting rocky hills [Note: this is unlikely, possibly observers confused feral domestic cats with South American native breeds]."
In "The Children's Encyclopedia" (1927) edited by Arthur Mee (editor of "The Children's Newspaper"), domestic cats warranted only a small mention in the chapter on "Big Cats and Little Cats": "Our puss shows what man’s selective care can do. Arising from a common stock, we have dozens of breeds of pet cats. It is a wonderful choice - white, black, blue, cream, tabby, sandy, silver, brown, and all the combinations desirable from a blend of those colours. There are longhaired cats, there are short-haired cats, there is even a horrid hairless Mexican cat. Chinchillas, tortoiseshell, Persians, Russians, Manx, without a vestige of a tail, nor even a bone of one; Abyssinian, Indian, Siamese; white cats that are deaf, white cats that are tailless - what would you have? Every sort and size, every colour and disposition, is available, a triumph for scientific breeding."
A 1928 author summed up the differences between pet cats and pet dogs: "There has always been a certain traditional dislike between cats and dogs. But unfortunately the feeling is magnified falsely in the minds of many people. The dislike is not between The Cat and The Dog [meaning the species], but between individual cats and individual dogs. Cats and dogs which grow up together usually live in normal harmony, and often manifest affection for each other. The chief point of difference between cats and dogs as pets is one of personality. As soon as you realize what that difference is you will have no difficulty in getting along with either, or both.
Complete devotion to his master is the dog's dominant trait. If well trained, he belongs body and spirit to his owner. The cat is equally devoted, but in another sense. Cats respect your likes and dislikes, but your conduct must be reciprocal. The cat is never your slave; it is your equal. Just as you will conform to the laws of society but still hold sacred the right to follow the dictates of your own free will, so the cat maintains its right to private thinking and independent action. Basically you are an individual. So is the cat.
Cat pets have one admirable feature which modern owners must consider. More than any other pet, the cat is completely adapted to live its entire life in an apartment. From the day you bring a kitten home to the hour when your faithful cat dies, there is no absolute necessity for once taking it outdoors if you don't want to do so. The cat gets sufficient exercise indoors, and, if you supply its food needs, the cat's welfare in the house is assured. This statement is not intended to be a fast rule that cats should always be kept indoors, because this pet will derive some benefit from hours spent in the open air. A cat that sleeps in its own outside house is apt to have a more luxurious coat because Nature will provide it with needed warmth to withstand the cold weather. The point is that a cat can stand to live a lifetime indoors if it is more convenient for its owner. In general, cats give less trouble than any other pet, because the cat is the most self-sufficient of all pets."
In the 1920s, Miss Edith Carrington, author of "Workers Without Wage", wrote of "The unselfish devotion of cats is not kept for their babies alone. They are capable of most passionate attachment to those who own and love them. They are faithful unto death, and come very little short of the dog, in proving this affection." She believed that although a cat was quite as capable of affection as a dog, it was very sensitive and "will not, like the dog, show affection in spite of everything. If you neglect or ill-use a cat it will not fawn on you, but will run away whenever it sees you, or become the unlovable creature so many find her after they have made her so."
Also in the 1920s, in his book "Cats", Dr W Gordon Stables wrote, "The opinion of all cat-lovers, nearly all cat breeders, and the large majority of people who keep a cat for utility, is that cats are as a rule more attached to their owners than to their homes. This question then must be considered as set at rest, and a stigma removed from the name and character of our friend, the cat. The popular fallacy, that cats are fonder of places ,than persons, first took its origin in the days, long gone by, when cats were kept for use only and never as pets; and it only obtains now among people who look upon pussy as a mere animated rat-trap, and who starve, neglect, and in every way ill-treat 'the poor thing. Although of a nature not so demonstrative as that of the dog, still a cat is capable of loving its master or mistress with a love equally strong, if not stronger.
The following is excerpted from an encyclopedia printed in around 1937, "The Wonderland of Knowledge" edited by Ernest Ogan. By 1937, domestic cats got a whole chapter to themselves, compared to the few lines in "The Children's Encyclopedia".
MISTRESS PUSS and HER WILFUL WAYS : Some Interesting Facts About the Habits and Noble Ancestors of One of the Best-loved of Our Four-footed friends.
Next to the dog, the cat is our most familiar four-footed friend. But Pussy’s ways are not the dog’s ways. A dog that shares our hearth and home wants to do something to prove his affection for us. He will guard his master’s property against all comers, greet him with wagging tail and joyful barks, come when he is called, lie patiently at his master’s feet, be ready at all times to go for a walk, and if he is a well-trained dog, will trot obediently at his master’s heels. But Mistress Puss is not like that. If she condescends to walk with us, she does not follow, but usually leads the way. She lives with us in our home, expects to be fed and petted, appropriates the cosiest corner by the fire and the most comfortable chair as her right; but she never expects to do anything in return for these favours.
Although Puss will catch mice, if there are any of these troublesome little animals about, she does this for her own pleasure - not to please us. She will come when she is called if she has a mind to do so, but not otherwise. She walks in and out of doors as she chooses in the most independent manner, and behaves, in fact, as if the house and all it contains actually belongs to her. Yet, in spite of all her airs and foibles, Puss is a most lovable animal and very affectionate to those to whom she attaches herself.
There is really some excuse for Mistress Puss’s being so reserved and independent. She belongs to the great cat tribe, and so is entitled to claim relationship with the king of beasts - the mighty African lion, which stands at the very head of the family - and with the lordly tiger of the Indian jungles. In many ways Puss shows her kinship with her imposing relatives - the lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar and puma. She is a born hunter, and she stalks her prey in the very same way as the big wild hunting cats stalk larger game in the forests and jungles all the world over. Her feet are shod with soft, elastic pads; and with silent, stealthy steps she creeps nearer and nearer to her victim, and then springs upon it with a sudden bound. Or she will lie in ambush, ready to pounce out on any luckless mouse or bird that comes within striking distance of those very sharp, curved claws of hers.
Sharp Claws Within a Velvet Paw
When she is walking about or playing with you, Puss draws her claws right back within sheaths of thick skin; and the paw she pats you with feels as soft as velvet. But those hidden claws are shot out in a flash to seize her prey, or to give anyone who annoys her a nasty scratch, So it is not only cruel, but foolish to tease a cat. Wild cats keep their claws sharp and ready for use by tearing at the rough bark of the forest trees. Mistress Puss keeps hers in order by clawing the legs of the chairs and tables, in addition to the bark of trees.
A cat walks daintily on the tips of her toes, as does a dog. She is not a champion runner, however, as a dog is; but if she is chased, Puss can usually escape her enemy by springing up into a tree or to the top of a high wall. There the dog, who is not so nimble as a cat, cannot follow her. And from her post of vantage, with arched back and lashing tail, Puss spits and swears at the disgruntled dog in the most menacing fashion.
When Puss goes hunting, she trusts to her sharp eyes and her quick ears to locate her prey. Her sense of smell is not very keen, so she does not hunt by scent. In this, she is very different from some of the dog tribe. In the daytime, as you may often have noticed, the pupils of a cat’s eyes contract to narrow, vertical slits, through which the cunning animal can nevertheless see just as much as she wishes. In the dark the pupils expand to let in every available ray of light, and at such a time a cat’s eyes gleam like two round green or yellow lamps. It is because of this adjustment of the eyes that, when prowling about at night, cats need very little light to guide them, although they are not able to see in absolute darkness. But cats have another sense by means of which they find their way about when the light fails them altogether. Those handsome whiskers of theirs are really highly sensitive feelers, or organs of touch, with which they feel and test everything that comes in their way. Wild cats depend chiefly on their whiskers to help them to thread their way through dense thickets and jungles on dark nights.
Although cats are not so, quick and ready to learn as dogs, they are really very intelligent; and if their education is taken in hand when they are kittens, they can learn to do, or not to do, a great many things. But in training a cat one must always be very patient and persevering. You can do nothing with it unless you gain its confidence and affection. If you lose your temper with your pupil, the case is hopeless. Your cat will never learn anything in that way.
There were once two beautiful longhaired cats - called Nicky and Clootie - which were trained from kittenhood not to catch birds. To catch birds is a natural instinct which all cats have. Both these pussies could be trusted in the yard where tiny, newly-hatched chicks were running about; they would never touch one of the little creatures. Sometimes, when the cats were lying down, the chicks would jump on their backs or foolishly try to scratch for seeds in their long, fluffy hair! The birds in the garden, too, lost all fear of Nicky and Clootie, and, when the cats were out on the lawn, would fly down and pick up crumbs right under their noses. Another cat once made friends with a tame pigeon, and the strange pair were often to be seen in the garden together, the pigeon strutting beside the cat or nestling down fearlessly and comfortably by her side.
How Master Tom-Cat Opened the Door
Clever cats often find out things for themselves without being taught. The tale is told of a fine, smooth-haired tom-cat which discovered how to open the dining-room door. If be was not already in the room at meal-times, the door would suddenly swing open, and Master Tom, with tail erect, would come running in to demand the titbit he always expected from his master. At first it was supposed that someone in the house opened the door for the cat. But everyone said, “No, I did not let Tom in.” So Tom was watched. He was seen to trot up to the door, stand on his hind legs, clasp the handle with his two paws, and wriggle it backwards and forwards until it turned the catch.
Although cats do not like water and detest being washed, they are the cleanest of animals, and are most particular about their toilet. A well-cared-for cat will spend a long time in grooming herself, patiently licking her fur over and over again with her rough, pink tongue - which makes an excellent clothes-brush. If her coat is not sleek and glossy, you may be sure that your cat is not in good health. A mother cat is extremely fussy about her kittens, too. She washes the little things, one after another, several times a day, holding them down firmly with her paw, no matter how they kick and struggle, while she licks them all over from nose to tail! Kittens, like most other babies, are not very fond of being washed. They prefer to play. They are the prettiest, most delightful creatures, always frisking and frolicking about, chasing leaves or scraps of paper and rolling over and over together until they are tired out and fall asleep snugly curled up in a bunch.
Kittens, like all young things, have a lot to learn as soon as they are old enough to sit up and take notice. Mother Puss undertakes the greater part of their education. Among other things, she teaches her children how to catch mice; but there are still many things which they have to puzzle out for themselves. One of the funniest of sights is a kitten’s behaviour when it first makes acquaintance with its own reflection in a mirror. It will prance gaily up to the glass, eager to play with the pretty little stranger which it imagines is running to meet it. Then it starts back in surprise at finding itself greeted in the most unfriendly manner by a hard bump on the nose! Kitty sits down to think about this. Presently she puts out a cautious paw and makes little dabs at the reflection - growing more and more puzzled as she finds that her friendly advances are always checked in some mysterious way.
This is really most annoying. Kitty grows cross. She tries once more to bounce through the mirror to reach the provoking little image, which looks so soft and fluffy, yet feels so unpleasantly hard. Then, struck by a bright idea, Kitty makes a sudden dash behind the glass - only to find that there is no fluffy little stranger hiding there. Kitty will probably make several attempts to come to grips with her own reflection before she abandons the experiment. But at last she seems to realize that it is of no use trying to play with the kitten in the looking-glass, and she trots away to find a real playfellow. Kitty has learned her lesson.
The ancient Egyptians, so far as we know, were the first people to keep tame cats, for there are records of the existence of these pets in Egypt more than three thousand years ago. The Egyptian cats, which were the descendants of a race of African wild cats, were regarded as sacred animals, and were always treated with the greatest respect by their owners. If a fire broke out in a house, the safety of their precious cats was the first thing people thought of; and anyone who harmed a cat was severely punished. Mummies of cats, all bound with many wrappings and covered with sacred writings, have often been discovered in old Egyptian tombs. For when a cat died it was buried with great ceremony and the members of the family to which it belonged put on mourning garments. European cats of to-day are believed to be the descendants of these sacred Egyptian cats, which were something like our ordinary grey-striped tabbies. From the Continent the cats found their way to England, brought over, it is said, by the Romans. As time went on, they were carried in ships over the sea to other countries, where they made themselves so useful in catching mice and rats that they were always warmly welcomed. So to-day descendants of the sacred Egyptian cats are distributed over almost all parts of the world.
There are short-haired cats and longhaired cats; black cats, white cats, sandy cats, tabbies and tortoiseshells, and others which are a mixture of two or three varieties. Short-haired cats are the most hardy and the best mousers, while long-haired cats, or “Persians,” as they are often called, are the most aristocratic [A photo caption reads: The Persian, or Angora, is the aristocrat of cats. It has beautiful long, silky hair and a bushy tail and is much esteemed as a pet.] . Persian cats, with their long, silky coats, big ruffs and huge fluffy tails, make delightful pets, although they are sometimes rather delicate. The white Persian, with its snowy coat and its turquoise blue eyes, is a lovely creature. There are also black, blue, and striped Persian cats. Their eyes should be orange or amber in colour.
Two curious and rather rare cats are the Manx cat and the Siamese cat. The Manx cat, as its name implies, is a native of the Isle of Man. The strange thing about this cat is that it has no tail - or a mere stump - while its hind legs are so much longer than its fore legs that it seems to hop, skip and jump along, very much as does a hare. A tailless cat is found in Russia, and the cats of some Eastern countries have abbreviated tails. The Siamese cat is a “royal” animal, accustomed in its native land to a pampered life in the courts of the kings of Siam. But the Siamese cat is not at all proud. It is a friendly and interesting little animal, more like a dog than a cat in its ways. It will follow its master or mistress all over the house, and would be pleased to go for a walk with its friends, if allowed.
What the Siamese Cat is Like
[A photo caption reads: The Siamese cat is quite different from all other domesticated cats, and it is very probable that it comes from a different ancestry. It has blue eyes, and a coat of a fawn shade, with dark brown face, tail, ears and legs. In spite, however, of these varied shadings in the adult, Siamese kittens are white.] The appearance of the Siamese cat is quite as striking as its ways. Its coat, which is very short and somewhat woolly, is of a pale fawn or cream colour, while its face, legs and tail are a dark chocolate brown. Its eyes are pale blue, and, to complete the picture, its long, thin, tapering tail usually has a decided kink, or a small bend, in it. In Siam the commoner native cat has a bent tail, and it is probable that the kink sometimes found in the “royal” Siamese has developed through cross-breeding.
But the most curious cat of . all is the Mexican hairless cat, which has a smooth, I mouse-coloured skin that is entirely bare, except in the winter, when a light fur appears on the back and along the ridge of the thin, bony tail. This peculiar animal is now so rare that, in all probability, it will soon become extinct [Note: It was likely already extinct by the time those words were published around 1937].
 THE CARE OF CATS from The Pittsburgh Press, 13th August, 1905
Never overfeed a cat, especially in summer. Don’t cuddle it in your arms on hot days. Feed the animal twice a day, once in the morning and again at night, giving nothing between meals. A pet should eat its meals as a person does and when finished the dishes should be cleared and put away, instead of leaving them around all day with scraps of food for the pets to eat if they want it. The best kinds of food for hot weather are fine chopped beef, lamb or liver, with an occasional feed of fish, either fresh or cooked. Rice and beef or mutton made into a stew is very good on hot days. If a cat has been brought up on fresh chopped beef this diet should not be changed even to cooked beef, or if cooked vegetables have been fed meat should not be substituted. Most cats like catnip and It should be given about once a week.
If milk is given then it should be plentifully diluted with water, about one-quarter water to three parts of milk. Fresh water and plenty of it should always be kept In a dish where cats can get it, and in hot weather they should be given a fresh, cool drink as often as they will take it.
Persian and Angora cats must be protected from draughts. They take cold easily and often die of pneumonia. Keep the cat outdoors as much as possible. Make it a bed of excelsior in the yard and let it sleep there. Comb and brush the long, hairy coat once a day, and each week scrub it with lukewarm water and suds. A cat’s mouth should frequently be looked into, and if a large amount of tartar has collected on the teeth around the gums it should be scratched off with a sharp instrument either by the owner or a veterinary surgeon. A decayed tooth should not be allowed to stay, for it will readily affect the others and often cause the cat to refuse food until it becomes weak and sick from hunger.
If the claws of the house pet grow too long they should be carefully trimmed. Should the cat show evidence of fleas use a prepared soap for this purpose in frequent baths. If in hot weather it claws its hair until the skin is sore, rub in zinc ointment.
FANCY CATS, FEEDING AND MEDICINE
EXHIBITION CATS Preston Herald, 16th November 1901
The recent, cat show, though it attracted some little attention, seemed to afford evidence that the feline race is not likely to eclipse the canine just yet. Many very beautiful specimens were exhibited, yet somehow or other cats do not seem to have caught hold the general public dogs have. The merest amateur nowadays prefers for the most part to have a really wellbred dog as his companion. Some few, it is true, cling to the old belief that a mongrel makes a better pet than a thoroughbred, yet so strong is the evidence against this that the fallacy is dying out. With cats the case is different, for, whether right wrong, the notice is prevalent that a common English cat is more useful - at all events as a mouser - than any fancy breed. This may or may not be true, yet really it is a pity that those who like to have a cat in the house purely as a pet not choose one or other of the very beautiful varieties now to be had. Of their mousing proclivities we say nothing, but as pets and ornaments they are surely to be preferred. The range of choice is a wide one, for though most people seem cling to the long haired Persian when they go in for a fancy cat, the smooth-coated blue Persian [the writer means Blue Shorthair] is very beautiful, and gives less trouble, while the curious feline from Siam never fails to attract attention, while those who have made a speciality of this cat speak very highly of its sagacity. Then there are, of course, others, for the family is growing every year, while the divisions of colour and coat are being increased from time to time.
Not long ago there was certain rage for starting catteries, there being an idea that these animals were becoming so popular as to promise pecuniary advantages. It is to be feared that expectations have hardly been realised, and that much capital laid out in this way brings in but a poor return. For those, however, who are content with small profits, the cat offers certain advantages. The demand for well-bred kittens appears to be fairly steady, though doubtless the price obtained leaves much to be desired. On the other hand cats do not take up as much room as dogs, and are in some ways easier to manage The great thing in starting, no matter in how small a way, is to go in for healthy, robust constitutions. Of course, that might be said of any pets, yet what we mean is that a great number of cats seem to be extremely delicate, while a delicate cat is the most meet difficult thing in the world to manage. Personally we would rather dose six dogs than one cat, while the way in which these animals will occasionally refuse all food, being apparently only bent on starving themselves to death, has driven many an owner almost to the verge of desperation. Given a hearty feeder of any class of animal and one can do almost anything. A mere change of diet often effects wonderful cures, while medicine, unless of a very noxious kind, can often be given with food. It is seldom, however, that cats can be relieved of their ailments in either of these ways, and when puss has to be given a dose of medicine a terrible struggle generally ensues. The recognised way is to wrap the cat in a shawl through which her claws cannot pierce, then open the mouth, if needs be, inserting a small cork, so that she cannot bite, and force the pill or draught down. An old hand may do this comparatively quickly, yet it is idle to deny that this needs practice, and it is idle to deny that beginners succeeds at the first attempt. Of course, if medicine can be mixed with the food this is a very great advantage, though it can seldom be done unless a cat is extremely partial to one article of diet. If there is such an article it is almost certain to consist of fish. Why an animal which has nothing in common with the seashore should be so fond of this article of food it is difficult to say, yet such is the case, and if a cat has either to be tricked into taking medicine or saved from self-starvation the best advice is to “try fish.”
GENERAL INFORMATION FOR CAT OWNERS IN THE (LATE) 1920s
In handling the cat be sure to do it in the way she likes. Never stroke her fur the wrong way. In lifting her from the ground, do not lift a cat by the upper part of her body, leaving her hind legs hanging uncomfortably. If this is done roughly there is danger of rupture. Lift her gently by placing one hand under the fore legs, and at the same time lift her hind legs with the other hand. In this way the whole body will be supported at once and she can be carried very comfortably. Do not take her up by the nape of the neck. A grown cat is too heavy to lift in that way.
If you keep a good-sized pan partly filled with dry earth (renewed when necessary) where the cat can always get at it, you need not, as a rule, fear that she will be otherwise than neat about the house. I know of a cat who has the range of the house day and night, and there is no trouble. A screen in the hall-way hides the pan. Be sure also that your cat has a warm place to sleep at night. Do not turn her out-of-doors. Give her a soft rug or shawl, all her own, spread upon an ottoman or within a basket, and your cat will show contentment and happiness in every soft curve of her graceful body.
A cat should always have a warm bed out of a draft. A box filled with newspapers, or a soft cushion with a cover that can be removed and washed (as a cat likes a clean bed), or, if in the country, a box filled with hay, will make a comfortable bed.
Three things are necessary for a cat's welfare and happiness: affection, warmth and neatness. A cat should never be punished, for she will not understand. Do not let her play with a mouse. Either take it from her or kill it; if she thinks you are going to take it from her she will kill it at once. When a cat is crying about the house you may be sure that she needs something, either food or attention. She may be hungry or thirsty. No one should keep a cat unless willing to see that it is well fed.
Cats become very intelligent under the influence of kindness, and develop an understanding of language which is quite surprising. If you wish to develop this intelligence, you must act so that your cat will trust you. Always be kind and gentle, not gentle one day and rough the next. If you watch carefully, you will find it very interesting to see how she will come to you and ask for what she wants and will use different tones of voice to express different emotions; and how she will in various ways, show how much she knows and understands.
Cats should be kept in the house at night. Leaving out of question the comfort of the cats themselves, it is a nuisance in any neighbourhood to hear them crying or fighting by night. Many invalids and tired persons needing sleep are kept awake by this noise, for which those who own the cats are responsible. A cat that is roaming about at night may be set upon by dogs or caught and injured. In order to get cats in at night, be regular about their supper, and make the supper hour late. Cats will come in to get their supper, and may then be kept in. In the country, at the time when birds are rearing their young it is especially important to keep cats in all night, for it is usually in the early morning hours that they catch birds. Some watchfulness is needed in the day time also, at this time of year, if we care to preserve the lives of our useful friends the birds.
When a family is leaving for the country, in the business and excitement of going, the poor cat is often left without a thought. It does not put itself forward as a dog would, but retires from the noise and confusion and if it is not at last shut up in the house by some heedless person to starve to death, it is left to be a lonely wanderer around the only place it knows as home; hungry, thirsty, and more miserable than any one can, guess who from observation has not learned the degree to which these poor creatures pine for home life and companionship, their natures being essentially loving and domestic. We have not yet reached the highest form of civilization. When we have, no respectable family will venture to neglect, in such a heartless manner, any helpless dumb creature. It is cruel to send cats from one place to another by express because they suffer such agony from fright. It is far kinder to chloroform a cat than to send her off in this manner.
But those who do try to move their cats when they go away, quite often end by losing them. Frantic with fear, they jump out of the ill-secured baskets in which they are to be carried, or, if they arrive at their destination, they are at once let out to wander at will over the new premises, whereupon they set out on a search for the old home, and are miserably lost. A little care, kindness, and common sense will avert all this. Baskets with open slats at the top and well fastened, are very good to use for tame cats, as sometimes during the journey it is not possible for the owner to take the cat from the basket and hold it. A full grown cat, which is at all wild or likely to run away if let out, can be moved in an ordinary rough box, of which a sort of cage can be made. Turn it on its side and screw slats over the front. The cat can be put in with a little pan of fine earth before the last slats are put on; if they are screwed on they will not frighten it so much as if they are nailed.
The slats can be far enough apart to allow of putting in food and water, and the cat will be happier than it would be if it could not see what is going on around it. The box should be lined so that the animal will not be injured by any rough or jagged surface, or by the heads of nails which may have been left in it. A leather strap can be attached so that the box can be easily carried, and it can be taken into the car in which the owner of the cat travels. The sight of some one it knows will give it some confidence. Do not send a cat or any animal by express, if you can avoid it, but take it with you, and then you can personally see that it has the attention such a helpless prisoner needs. In any case it is very important that the box in which the cat is carried should be strong enough to resist injury from other boxes or articles of baggage.
One person who is used to travelling with cats, has little difficulty with them. She says that as a rule the pet cat will be happier if she can see where she is going. A friend had a basket with holes sufficient for ventilation (tightly fastened) when she started on her journey, but as soon as she was settled in the cars, the cat was allowed to come out, and lie in her lap, and she made no attempt to escape. Another cat cried piteously until he was taken out of the basket and placed in a soft cloth travelling bag, with his head out, the bag being fastened so that he could not run away. He was quiet at once, and being carried (in the arms of his owner) and spoken to occasionally, he behaved very well and seemed much interested in all that was going on. Cats are very sensitive to a soothing tone of voice as well as to a gentle touch.
Another correspondent writes of a method which he has adopted for the last seven years in carrying a favourite cat to the seashore and back: "The cat is covered with what appears to be a long, white cloak such as infants wear, but which, in fact, is a bag sewed up squarely at the bottom and fastened nicely about the cat's neck. That prevents all accidents by securing her paws, yet gives her ample room to move them in any direction. When the new home is reached I let the cat out very gently, in a quiet room with the door shut. I feed it there and reassure it by petting and kind words. I let it remain in that room at least twenty-four hours, then I gradually let it investigate the new premises, taking care that it is not frightened. I do not let it go outside the house at first, and on no account let it remain out at night. If these directions are carefully carried out, and the cat is well fed and kindly treated, it will soon accustom itself to its new quarters. Cats are timid creatures, and it is extreme fright - often too well founded - that makes them frantically flee away from new places. In cases where a house is closed, and the cat cannot be taken with the family, nor any other good home found for it, the only right way is to humanely end its life."
1930s CAT CARE - THE ADAPTABILITY OF THE CAT
The following advice on acquiring a cat as a pet was published in America in 1936.
Cats are such unobtrusive creatures that never, except perhaps in ancient Egypt, have they had the honour that is due them. Yet consider what they do for us. They kill the rats and mice that would destroy our food, our clothes, our libraries, and our homes; and what does it matter if, as their critics say, they do it because they want to and not because we want them to? The point is, they do it. But this service shows only the practical side of the cat's character; what cat-lovers really treasure them for is their charming adaptability as pets. Modern life has crowded many people into city apartments, but it has not killed the human desire for a pet around the place. Occasionally a reformer announces that pet animals must be banished from cities, but one can imagine what a riot there would be if he tried to do it. Now cats, though they are essentially liberty-loving animals, can be kept healthy and happy in an apartment. They are naturally clean, they can get sufficient exercise inside four walls, and they have a philosophy that enables them to get endless entertainment from just sitting in a window and watching what goes on in the street.
Cats are dignified, and they will not truckle to anybody. That is why undiscerning persons consider them deficient in sense and loyalty. But take a cat and give it good care and sympathetic companionship, and unless it is an uncommonly inferior specimen it will reward you by being very much of an individual, loving and responsive. I used to know a black cat in Sutton Place, New York, originally an alley kitten, but so improved by prosperity that he was called the Sultan of Sutton Place. For eight years he shared the home of his mistress, a businesswoman. Then she died, and from that hour he refused to eat and fell into such a pitiful state that he had to be destroyed.
It is not true that cats love places better than people. There are many homes where the cat is merely tolerated-fed when the owner thinks of it, but seldom noticed. So what is there for the cat to be attached to but the place that shelters it? And to the cat, as to the dog, it means a great deal to have a place of which it feels, "This is my home, this is where I belong." However, cats can make excellent travellers. One of the characters of the suffrage campaign was a cat who toured the United States by automobile for "the Cause." The women whose mascot he was called him Citizen because he belonged to the sex which had the vote, and during the entire trip he lived up to his position with great dignity, riding on a specially constructed seat in the car, and watching the crowds at the street rallies without a trace of nervousness or fear.
There are various ways of acquiring a cat. Frequently it is thrust upon you. You are walking along the street, and you see a forlorn kitten, one that has probably been dropped by some heartless person, and you take it home, intending to turn it over to a humane society immediately. But the poor mite laps up the food you give it so gratefully, it finds a spool and plays with it so amusingly, it curls up on your knee and goes to sleep so confidingly, that you put off sending it away, and before you know it you own a cat. Such waifs may be healthy and of good blood, or they may not, but right feeding and regular grooming will do wonders. People who have frequented recent cat shows in New York will remember Sarah and Jane, two white cats who never failed to carry off prizes and were said by the judges to be remarkably good in build, coat, and intelligence. Yet they began life as flea-bitten kittens abandoned in a garbage can, from which they were rescued by a small boy who had heard in a "kindness to animals" talk in school that all homeless cats and dogs should be taken to the nearest humane shelter.
If you set out to acquire a kitten, choose it with care. If you wish a thoroughbred, Persian or Siamese or Manx or pedigreed short-hair, go to a reliable breeder. A good honest alley cat is better than a doubtful thoroughbred. But wherever you get your kitten, see that it is healthy and well formed. Select one with bright, clear eyes, for weak, watery eyes indicate a cold, or distemper, or congenital eye trouble. Make sure that the baby's bony structure is good. Each breed has its own standards as to shape, but whatever the breed the bones should be firm and well knit. A normal kitten is eager for play, and its breath is sweet. Avoid taking a kitten from its mother until its strength and its ability to eat are well established. The longer the baby is with the mother the better start it has in life. There is some magic in the maternal contact for which no amount of care from the owner can make up.
Right feeding is the most important point in caring for a cat. Wrong feeding is at the bottom of many diseases, both digestive and of the skin. There is a superstitious belief that meat makes cats vicious. That is nonsense. Cats are carnivorous animals, and though some will adapt themselves to unsuitable diets, the cat that eats raw beef, varied by cooked lamb and fish, non-starchy vegetables, milk, and stale brown bread stands the best chance of attaining a ripe old age. A cat needs some attention beyond feeding. It should be groomed every day, else in cleaning itself it will swallow hair, which will form balls in the intestines. If kept in an upper apartment it should be protected from falls by screens at the windows. It needs a log on which to exercise its claws, growing grass to nibble, fresh water to drink, and love and petting. If sickness develops, a veterinarian should be consulted. Unless you are able to give these attentions to your pet, do not keep a cat.
GENERAL INFORMATION FOR CAT OWNERS IN THE 1930s
The following information was dispensed to American cat-owners in a 1938 publication.
If kitty preens as it purrs, it will be a more pleasing and a healthier cat. So, encourage vanity in your pet. Brush it. Make a fuss over it. This attention raises your cat's sense of importance and induces it to give you effectual co-operation in grooming. You will be proud of your clean, neat appearing cat and you will have the satisfaction of knowing that grooming keeps your pet's skin and hair healthy and lessens the danger of mange or other annoying skin diseases. Your cat will need this personal equipment for successful grooming, and living:
1. A good bed. 2. Comb and brush. 3. A steel flea comb. 4. A ball (medium hard rubber, or celluloid). 5. A log. 6. A catnip supply. 7. Other toys to suit the cat's disposition (mice, rattles, catnip balls, etc.). A cat enjoys playing with familiar toys, so buy sturdy playthings that will last.
Every cat that lives indoors needs a scratching log. This should be a solid piece of bark-covered tree trunk in which the cat can claw to keep its nails worn to a comfortable length. An elaborate form of this log is a tree trunk several feet high, which gives an indoor cat a climbing playground.
Anybody who has watched a sleeping cat has noticed that these supple animals seem content, and able, to sleep anywhere. It is true that kitty can sleep on almost anything, but if it has a choice, it will pick out the softest spot in the house for a bed. This is certain evidence that the cat enjoys comfort. A grown cat, untrained to the use of a bed, sleeps anywhere in the house. While this may seem to be an easy disposal of the sleeping problem, you may regret it, because there are sound reasons why a cat should have a bed of its own. Bed training is especially valuable when the cat is sick. It naturally stays in one spot, and this prevents the spread of disease germs to other equipment in your home equipment that may re-infect the cat later. When the cat is over its ailment, it is much easier to disinfect its bed than it is to give the whole house germ-killing treatment.
When your cat sleeps in an official bed you have a better opportunity to keep down fleas. Just give your cat and its bed a flea treatment. If you own a Persian, a cat bed will help to keep its long hairs off the furniture. And if you move, and the new house is distressingly strange to your cat, Puss will find contentment if it can creep into its familiar bed and watch the excitement from that safe, known haven.
There are on the market many attractive wicker cat baskets, all of them equipped with soft cushions your cat will like. But you can also make a satisfactory, less expensive, cat bed from an ordinary box. Get a box about 18 to 20 inches long and six inches deep. Fill it to a depth of about four inches with shredded newspaper. Cover the paper with a little washable blanket-pillow ticking is satisfactory-but don't use a wool blanket. Some cats have a tendency to pull a wool blanket apart and swallow the shreds. A little flea powder, if necessary, should be sprinkled in the bottom of the box before the paper filler is placed. You will probably want to paint the box, because it will become part of the furniture of your home. Be certain that the paint is thoroughly dry and the box free from paint odour before you invite your cat to try its box bed. Cats like to sit and lie well above the floor level, so find an elevated place for the bed.
Cats must be taught to enjoy, or at least tolerate, brushing. Need for this training is one of the best reasons for buying a kitten pet rather than a grown cat. An adult cat, unused to the brush and comb, is apt to be a rugged individualist about the matter. Sometimes it takes two full-grown people and several pairs of gloves to administer a brushing. If your grown cat is violent about brushings, you must just be patient. Try using a soft, small infant's brush. For the first few times you use it the cat may get the idea that this is just another kind of petting. Soon you can substitute stiffer brushes. A kitten that is trained to brushings develops a liking for the treatment.
What kind of brush?
Buy a bristle brush. Special cat brushes are sold in any pet shop. They have the right springiness and penetration, and will be more satisfactory than just any brush you find around the house. The brush must not be too stiff or you will injure the cat's skin. This fact must be considered, too, in buying a steel cat comb. Be certain that the teeth are rounded. Sharp points may cut the cat's skin and open the way for annoying infections.
Being gentle is most of the job of cat brushing. Lay the cat across your lap and start brushing upward against the pelt to get the loose hairs out. Use short, upward strokes. As you brush out one area, finish by brushing with the pelt, using long smooth strokes. When the back, tail, and neck are finished, turn the cat over and use the same procedure on its undersides. (If the cat objects at this point stand it on its hind legs to brush the stomach.) Stretch the legs outward and brush in the same manner, giving special attention to the joints.
Snarls and wads must be removed with caution, since one careless hair-pulling early in training may forever ruin the cat's toleration of brushing. In general, avoid giving pain; your cat will not understand it. If the wad or snarl seems too difficult to untangle, snip it off with a scissors. While this may cause a cropped spot to be apparent in the coat for a time, it is far better than turning the cat against brushing. After finishing with comb and brush, polish the cat. Yes-literally! Rub your pet well with a chamois or piece of velvet, and its coat will take on a sheen of which you will be proud.
This routine sounds very simple, and it is with a well trained cat. A cat that is accustomed to the brush and comb will relax easily, and will give full co-operation. So start brush-training during kitten-hood.
Haw often should the cat be brushed?
Once a day, if you have the time. Certainly not less than two or three times a week. During the season when your cat is shedding its coat, it should be brushed daily. Three or four times a month, brush cornmeal into the cat's coat, and then brush it out again thoroughly. This is the cat's dry-cleaning. For this special brushing stand the cat on papers. A lapful of cornmeal is awkward when you start to stand up, after the cleaning.
Notes on brushing:
Brushing is done for health as well as appearance. The bristles working next to the coat stimulate the circulation, nourishing the cat's skin and hair. Also, brushing helps prevent hair balls. As you know, a cat grooms its own hair almost constantly with its tongue. Often loose hairs are carried from tongue to stomach, and in time a hair ball may form which may cause chronic digestive troubles or even kill the cat. The long-haired breeds will require more brushing than short-haired cats. However, your short-haired cat must be brushed too, its pelt needs the stimulation.
Theoretically, it is thoroughly possible and practical that a cat should make its journey from the cradle to the grave without ever being inside a bath tub. Bathing the cat is a point about which there is considerable argument, and the best advice on the subject is: Don't bathe your cat unless you know exactly what you are doing. Plenty of cats enjoy a soaping, or a swim in the bath tub. One cat I know has the astonishing habit of getting right into the bath along with any member of his owner's family, unless the person bathing locks the cat out of the bathroom. However, since the cat seems to be occasionally subject to bronchial infections after a bath, it is better not to risk a bath unless you are sure your pet will be thoroughly dried afterward. If there seems to be sufficient reason for bathing your cat, use this procedure:
1. Don't dunk your pet into a full tub of water the first time you wash it. Better give the first bath in the wash bowl. Warm water, from a pan or pitcher, should be poured slowly over the cat until you have given it a thorough wetting.
2. Use a bland soap. Be careful not to get the soap into the cat's ears, eyes, or nose. Work the soap lather gently through the pelt, massaging with your fingers. A firm hold over the shoulders supports the cat and prevents struggling.
3. Rinse every particle of soap from the fur with mildly warm water.
4. Again, as when drying dogs, don't spare the towels in freeing kitty from dangerous dampness. However, while a vigorous rubbing will only increase your dog's pep, a too brisk drying may over-excite a cat. As a result you will probably have to get a stepladder and haul your half-drenched pussy off the chandelier. Take the drying easy, but be thorough.
5. Keep your cat in a warm place for at least six hours after a bath. A longer time is even better. The brush and comb should be used to hasten drying.
Important in a cat's life are a varied supply of playthings. Its toys give the cat exercise and relieve its boredom. The simplest cat plaything is a clothespin dangling from a string. Most cats will enjoy playing with a ball-but the ball must be hard. Cats will tear up sponge rubber balls, or soft-surfaced balls, and may swallow pieces of them. Cats seem to like toys that rattle, and they also get great fun out of small "wind-up" mice. Cats also like the catnip mice pet shops sell. Just because your cat has playthings, don't forget to play with it yourself. You'll enjoy the sport, and your cat will love it. Playing with a dog usually involves some of the exertions of a regular track meet, but it is possible to play quite adequately with your cat without leaving your chair. Any game involving a toy at the end of a string will find kitty interested.
To quote any dictionary, catnip is a member of the mint family. But if your cat could be quoted, you would probably learn that the scented minty leaves are a combination of old wine, the fountain of youth, Saturday night on Main Street, and the Fourth of July. Dried, and scattered a few leaves at a time where your cat can get it, catnip will usually send kitty to the seventh heaven of bliss. Catnip grows wild in many places, and the soft green leaves are easily recognized once they have been pointed out to you. As mentioned before, catnip playthings can be purchased. There is no set rule as to how often catnip should be given to a cat. Some owners use it as a means of rewarding pets for good behaviour.
1930s CAT CARE - GROOMING CATS (1936)
A woman brought a Persian cat into an animal hospital. The cat's hair was long, thick, and fine, the result of generations of breeding in which the fancier's object had been to produce, among other points, just this perfection of coat. Yet the coat was tangled and full of cots, hard lumps of hair so matted together that they felt like dried peas caught in the fur. The owner said that she had been too busy to groom her pet, and would the hospital please put him into shape? It took an attendant hours to do the job, and when it was finished the cat looked ragged, for most of the cots had had to be cut out. A ten minute grooming once a day would have kept the coat in good condition, and people who cannot spare the time or who grudge the trouble ought not to keep such an animal. A neglected Persian is a melancholy sight. They cannot valet themselves, for the small pink tongue which is a cat's washcloth and brush and comb is no match for long hair.
Brushing is not so essential for short-haired cats as for the long-haired, but it is good for them, for no matter how assiduously a cat makes its toilet your grooming will improve its coat. Moreover, when cats lick themselves they swallow the loose hairs, for the papillae on their tongues, being turned inward, carry the hairs on toward the stomach, which cannot possibly digest them all. And so are formed the hair balls that are often so troublesome and sometimes fatal. Brushing the coat free of loose hairs is the preventive. Cats love to be groomed if you accustom them to it from their kittenhood. It simplifies things if you have a beauty box for your pet, fitted with a brush and comb, absorbent cotton, wooden toothpicks for making swabs, powdered boric acid, and fuller's earth for cleansing the coat.
The best brushes are of bristles; the bristles slightly ridged down the centre of the brush and stiff enough to pass through the hair but not stiff enough to hurt the skin. They are sold at pets' specialty shops, as are the steel combs for cats. Some fanciers hold that combs tear the hair, but the right sort, which have teeth rounded at the tips, are useful and will do no harm if you take care not to pull with them. Place the cat on your knees in a crouching position and brush the neck, back, and tail, first with upward strokes to loosen the hair, then with long downward strokes to smooth and polish it. Turn the cat on its back and repeat the process, taking pains to stretch out each leg so you can reach the hair around the joints. Twice a week rub in fuller's earth and brush it out; if you have no fuller's earth, coarse, dry cornmeal will answer. If you want your pet to look particularly nice, complete the brushing by giving it a good brisk rubbing, first with a cloth or chamois skin and then with your hand. Wipe its eyes with cotton dipped in a warm solution of boric acid; swab out its ears with dry boric acid, or, twice a week or so, warm olive oil; and the cat is clean and comfortable at the cost of very little work.
Grooming a full-grown cat unused to beauty treatments is an ordeal. There is no limit to the number of claws some cats can muster when first introduced to a brush and comb. If the cat is strong, you may need stout gloves, and perhaps an attendant to hold the head and a few of the claws. But generally one can manage alone, if one is firm and gentle and does not try to do too much at a time. Take the cots separately, first moistening them with warm water, then teasing out the lumps with your fingers and a large darning needle. Sometimes it is necessary to slit a cot up through the centre with a penknife, which sacrifices some of the hair, but not very much.
Bathing is a moot point among authorities on cats. One of the best veterinarians I know, a man of twenty years' experience, warns his clients that washing is bad for cats, that dry cleaning is safer and just as efficacious. Against his opinion are instances such as that of White Aigrette, a champion in her day, whose owner, Miss Laura Hopkins, gave her a tub bath whenever her coat looked dingy. White Aigrette enjoyed it and swam around with her long hair trailing after her, like a mermaid. But undeniably there is danger of shock to a nervous cat in being plunged into water, and there is great danger that if the fur is not thoroughly dried pneumonia or some similar disease may ensue.
If you feel that you cannot keep a cat clean without bathing it, begin when your pet is young. If you must wash a grown cat for the first time, better not dip it in water, but stand it in a sink and pour the water over it. Test the water with a bath thermometer or your wrist, and be sure that the temperature is not above blood heat. Use pure soap, preferably a reliable liquid eucalyptus soap. If you use some of the patent soaps or disinfectants that are on the market, you run the risk of injuring your pet's eyes, or skin, or causing the hair to fall out. Avoid carbolic, tar, and mercurial preparations, for they are poison to a cat's sensitive skin. Rinse with clear water, then wrap the wet body in a Turkish towel and dry it thoroughly, and guard against drafts and cold rooms. Baths are no substitute for grooming. Brushing invigorates the skin and stimulates the hair follicles. It is particularly necessary in the spring and fall, the seasons when cats shed their coats.
WORKING CATS IN THE 1920s
The majority of cats were non-pedigree cats, many of which were working cats rather than pets. British readers may be unfamiliar with the name of Anna Harris Smith (who wrote the following words about working cats). In 1899, she was so infuriated at the growing number of cases of animal cruelty in Boston, Massachusetts, that she wrote to the Boston Evening Transcript calling for action to be taken. Over 100 citizens united and founded the Animal Rescue League of Boston; an organization still strong today. In its first year, the League cared for 1595 dogs and cats and attracted 654 new members. Its work was, and still is, funded solely by donations (mostly local). It set up a pet cemetery and rest home for horses in 1907. A horse drawn ambulance, the first of its kind in Boston, patrolled the streets to rescue homeless and injured animals. In 1912, motorized ambulances went into service. Two further shelters were added to serve the demand for aid in surrounding communities and branches were started in the North Shore (1915) and Cape Cod (1921). In 1928, Anna Harris Smith wrote emphasising the usefulness of cats in controlling rodents:
In the many articles I have read in the papers on getting rid of rats, I have failed to see anything about the help that cats have been in city and country, in houses, stores, factories, barns, chicken yards, in lessening the number of rats as well as mice. This seems to me to savour of ingratitude. The omission may be partly due to the determined attempt that has been made by a few prejudiced persons to make the public believe that cats are of no use, and particularly that they do not catch rats.
Cats are said not to be of much use as mousers, and of no use in catching rats. That some cats catch some birds, I do not deny, but on the very face of it the statements made as to the immense number they catch is all guesswork. If the numbers were as great as have been stated, considering the fact that cats have been domestic animals for over 3,000 years, we should not have a bird left in the country where cats are kept. Cats, they say, are the birds' greatest enemies, yet it is well known that over 5,000,000 men and boys are licensed to shoot every year, and besides these licensed gunners, there are hundreds that are unlicensed, men and boys, the latter with air guns, who go into the woods and fields, shooting any kind of birds or game they can spy out.
I have been sending out a circular inquiring at stores, factories and at private houses as to whether the cats they kept catch rats, and I have had a great number of replies saying that the cat or cats the writers own are good ratters, and their services are indispensable. A prominent Boston merchant had a cat which he said in so many words was worth her weight in gold. She had saved him thousands of dollars' worth of property a year. He had known her to catch fourteen large rats in one night. In a house and barn near Boston, where rats and mice ran riot, in spite of traps, and two dogs that occasionally caught a rat, a cat was introduced last summer. This cat first cleared the house of mice, then going to the barn he has caught rats so large that he had to drag them down the driveway to the house when he wished to exhibit them to his mistress. After he has received the praise he feels is his due, he leaves the rat in the yard and one of the dogs buries it.
I could multiply these instances by the hundreds. If the men and women who value cats highly for their usefulness in catching rats and mice should begin writing to your paper, your columns might be filled with letters in praise of the cat.
In tenements and lodging houses cats are of such great value that some lodging house or boarding house owners declare they would have to give up their business without their aid. Farmers, almost without exception, declare cats to be indispensable, and one woman wrote me that her chicken house was protected from rats by her cat. Before she had the cat the rats devoured her chickens. With the threat of the bubonic plague always before us, can we afford to ignore an agency that has proved of so much value? When the Japanese undertook to eliminate the plague from their country one of their first measures was to import a cargo of cats from the United States.
It is an interesting fact that every week we are having complaints because we have not more cats that we are willing to place in homes where they are wanted for the purpose of catching rats and mice.
If the Audubon Society and Humane Societies would circulate widely a simple leaflet instructing people who own female cats not to let all the kittens live and give them away indiscriminately; to keep their cats in the house nights and in the early morning hours when birds are getting breakfast for their young; never to desert their cats and so force them to seek their living in woods and fields; also to begin with the kittens and train them, as they would dogs, to let the birds alone, they would do much more for the interests of the birds and of humane education than to harp on the question of getting a law on our statute books which could not be carried out, or even be attempted, without cruelty, and which would, before a year was out, be deeply regretted even by those who advocated it.
It is a very serious matter to encourage this attempt to bring the cat into such bad repute. Some boys, not all, are only too ready to seize on any excuse for chasing and killing cats, or anything else, and already in some places where lecturers on birds have been denouncing cats, a crusade against them has been started, which caused much suffering to human beings and cruelty to cats. It is a direct set-back to humane education.
WORKING CATS IN THE 1930s: EMPLOYED CATS AND THEIR PAY (1936)
Though cats, like many human beings, do not understand financial systems, there was one feline government employee who took a paw in the making up of the national budget with excellent results to himself. That was Rufus of England, familiarly known as Treasury Bill, who wangled a pay raise of two cents a day in perpetuity out of Philip Snowden, Chancellor of the Exchequer in the MacDonald ministry, and said to be the most ruthless, icy, tight-fisted guardian of the state funds that ever ruled in the old Treasury Building in Whitehall, London.
There has always been a cat in the Treasury of England since the days of Cardinal Wolsey, Henry, VIII's great chancellor, who, being of course a bachelor, made a great companion of his cat. But these cats have something more than social qualities. That rambling block of buildings at No. 10 Downing Street, with panelled walls and shelves stacked with old papers, is a Mecca for rats and mice. It was the job of Treasury Bill and his predecessors to keep the hordes down. Bill was a noble ratter, but there came a time when he declined. Sir Warren Fisher, Permanent Secretary of H. M. Treasury, noted that he was thin and languid. The matter came up at a meeting of departmental chiefs, and a minute went to the Lords of the Treasury, submitting that Bill's prewar pay of four cents a day was insufficient to provide a hunting cat with food now that the cost of living had gone up. An increase of at least fifty per centum was recommended. Their lordships replied that after giving "careful consideration to the case" they were "unable to approve a raise." Then Bill took charge. Finding Mr. Snowden's door ajar he walked in and exercised some of those blandishments that cats know so well how to employ. The Chancellor looked at Bill, and his hard grey eye softened. He turned to his desk and made a note: "Treasury vote: approve increase in cat's pay."
A well-known London cat was Mike, from 1909 to 1929 one of the keepers of the gate at the British Museum. Black Jack, one of the old-timers, brought the kitten to the Museum entrance in his mouth and left it there without any explanations. Mike lasted, and became a fine ratter. He was not paid in money but in good red meat. Of course British official cats are not all males. Perhaps Mrs. Pankhurst saw to that, but at any rate lady cats have played their part in official London. There was, for example, Emily of the Home Office, who was picked up in the street by a charwoman, but became so wise and engaging that she always sat in at conferences with the Home Secretary.
The United States Congress makes a special appropriation for the maintenance of the feline guardians of Uncle Sam's mail. There are many of them, engaged in catching rats in post offices throughout the country. For nearly a score of years Champion Tom, the finest of them all, was stationed in the post-office building at Washington. Tom is dead now, after slaying so many rats that had they been laid in a row they would have stretched across the continent, or so it was said by his admirers. There are cats in the Department of Agriculture, too, and recently Uncle Sam paid a great compliment to their fastidiousness. He subpoenaed sixteen of them to sit in judgement on some relief beef, the recipients of which had complained that it was not good. When the cats ate it and miewed for more the authorities ruled that the meat was all right.
There were of course many cats serving during the World War, as ratters, or as camp followers providing a little touch and semblance of home for the nostalgic soldiers. Once the British government drafted five hundred cats and sent them to the trenches to be used as barometers to give warning of the approach of gas. Such is the sensibility of cats to all poisonous odours that gas overcomes them before human noses detect it. It was not a pleasant job for the five hundred, and it seems that some of them should have received decorations or some special honour; but perhaps the poor things all perished. The army records do not say.
Prince Edward Island offers a highly specialized career for cats. Only lady cats need apply. This little Canadian province off the coast of Nova Scotia has many fox farms, producing silver fox skins, but the mother foxes have a habit of killing their young. This is where the cats come in. They make admirable wet nurses. The sad thing is that their own babies are drowned, but they get very fond of the little foxes, and they lead pleasant lives on the farms, supporting their husbands in idleness.
I suppose the highest-paid cat known was Bobby, a self-made film player, who died not very long ago of old age at the home of his guardian, Miss Charlotte Delaney, in Los Angeles. Bobby's mother was just a stray that Miss Delaney picked up on the street fifteen years ago. But Bobby showed talent from his earliest kittenhood, and from the moment that he went on as an extra there was no doubt that he would succeed. He played beside Gloria Swanson and many other stars, and Miss Delaney watched and guarded his career, as well she might; Bobby drew a good salary, but he remained a simple, unassuming cat.
GENERAL HISTORY OF FEEDING OF CATS
While working cats were largely self-reliant, at the beginning of the 20th Century many pet cats were also almost self-sufficient, their hunting abilities perhaps augmented with milk and table scraps. The more well-cared-for cats ate meals prepared for them by their owners, plus leftovers. If the owner's meal consisted of something the cat did not eat (or like), then owners were advised to cater specially for their cats. If nothing in the family meal or the larder was suitable, then a lightly-boiled egg was recommended (unless you lived in London since London eggs could not ‘be depended upon’).
The suggested diet for the domestic cat was brown bread soaked in warm milk or milk porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast. Dinner might be fresh cooked meat with potatoes and other boiled vegetables, especially greens. Dessert was milk pudding (custard, blancmange, tapioca or ground rice pudding). Supper was the same as breakfast, possibly with meat or fish included. The recommended meats were rabbit, liver, tripe or lights (lungs - these have little nutritional value). This diet is remarkably human in style! Alternatively the owner could boil a sheep's head, rabbit's head or cods’ heads until the flesh fell off the bone. Another favourite was shin (presumably stewed), served with broken dog biscuits or hard-baked bread crusts. A cat which was off its food was sure to be perked up by a raw chicken's head complete with feathers or a fresh-killed sparrow, feathers and all (either shot or trapped by the owner).
During the First World War, the Cats Protection League magazine "The Cat" carried meal suggestions. One member recommended bread soaked in milk with a gravy of yeast extract. The excess milk was poured off. She mixed a small quantity of yeast extract (e.g. Marmite) in water, and sprinkled a teaspoon or two of this "gravy" over the milk-soaked bread. The editor of "The Cat" recommended making a good solid pudding as a substitute for meat. This comprised table scraps such as bread, potatoes, vegetables and cheese, all moistened with Marmite gravy, mashed together and baked in a pie-dish for about an hour. When cold, this set into a firm slab and could be sliced and cubed to provide several days' food.
In 1927, Spratts Patent Cat Food was advertised thus: "Custom has decreed that cats be fed from the leavings on the table. But why? The inadvisability of such promiscuous feeding is as obvious as the fact that the constitution of the cat is widely different from our own. Spratt's Cat Food is a perfectly balanced nourishing meal specially made for cats which, mixed with milk, broth, or gravy, makes a tasty and appetising general diet, productive of splendid health and condition. Spratts 'Fibo' is a biscuit meal containing 'Meat-Fibrine' and pure yolk of egg. It is particularly appetising, can be fed dry or soaked in milk, broth, or gravy, and is extensively used for the feeding of cats and kittens. Both these foods are easy to handle and to feed. Our dealer sells them, or can get them quickly for you. See him today." The advert added that Spratt's "Remedies for Common Ailments" of cats and dogs were also available.
By the 1930s, experienced cat-owner Arthur M Turner, advocated a diet of raw meat and water, but only for domestic shorthairs. When the cat reached 6 years old, it could also have a little ox liver (beef liver). At the weekend, cats might be given raw or stewed rabbit, but according to Mr Turner were observed to prefer raw. Sunday dinner (Sunday mush) for the cat might be rabbit sop (bread in rabbit gravy), bread and milk with a little sugar, and mashed vegetables in gravy. Mr Turner evidently thought little of the Persians and Angoras, stating, "Fluffy cats are, or have been, so artificially bred that they seldom take to a natural diet. Some of them will eat almost anything." He also thought little of tinned foods, finding tinned salmon useful for an emergency, but "a healthy, well-fed cat will seldom eat tinned stuff a second day."
In the years before World War II and rationing, the cats' meat man was a familiar sight in towns and many people still remember him with fondness. He toured the streets with a usually gaily painted cart, selling skewers of meat which was unfit for human consumption. This was often horsemeat and trimmings of other meats. It was sometimes dyed blue-green, something done to prevent unscrupulous people from re-selling as fit for human consumption.
Cat's-meat, cat's-meat, - meat, I cry,
On a skewer - come and buy;
From Hyde Park Corner to Wapping Wall
All the year I 'Cat's meat' bawl;
Cat's-meat, cat's-meat, - meat, I cry,
On a skwer - come and buy.
(Orinally sung in the mid 1800s to the tune of 'Cherry Ripe')
He sold meat on wooden skewers ranging from a ha'penny snack to a threepenny feast. With regular customers, he would post the skewer through the letterbox and be paid weekly. The meat was sometimes too rotten or foul for the cat to eat. Owners had to carefully inspect the meat, dipping it in weak vinegar and water, or in plain boiling water, then rubbing it with a cloth to remove flies' eggs and maggots.
The cat's meat man
Dried cat food began in the 1930s and was inspired by stale ships' biscuits which were thrown by sailors to strays on the dockside. Packets of Spratt's cat food cost a penny-halfpenny or 3/- (3 shillings) for a 7 lb bag. They were advertised as being free of the messiness of home-prepared cat foods, but unfortunately were not nutritionally complete. Kit-E-Kat canned food first appeared in the late 1930s. A 1939 Kit-E-Kat advert told owners to keep their rations and give the cat Kit-e-Kat. It vanished during the Second World War and reappeared again in the late 1940s. Many owners reported that their cats did not care for it. By 1949 a cat shelter worker said that 75% of the cats in her care readily ate canned food. My mother recalls early Kit-E-Kat and also that it could cause eczema in cats because relatively little was known about the special nutritional needs of cats in those days.
Spratt's Patent cake for cats was considered a useful occasional addition. Oatmeal porridge was said to form an excellent diet, and vegetables were to be given from time to time - with most cats apparently being particularly fond of asparagus and celery. In the early 1900s it was thought that cats should not be fed meat or should have only a small quantity of meat once a day. "They much prefer it raw and prefer mutton to beef. The traditional cat-meat of the cat-meat man, which is known so well in England is made of horse-flesh, and is a wholesome, good food... fish is a very favourite diet with the cat, and can be given from time to time .. boiled liver is useful once in a week or 10 days, or when the cat is a little off its feed, as it acts as a laxative." Nowadays it is realised that cats are obligate carnivores and depend on meat, although a few misguided people would still have it otherwise.
Some veterinary writers endorsed particular regimes or even brands of cat food, which they may have formulated themselves, for example: "The prepared cat food which in my opinion has the best claim to the title is that manufactured by Walker, Harrison and Garthwaite Limited, at the Phoenix Biscuit Works, Radcliffe Cross, F. The ingredients. which I have thoroughly examined, tested and apportioned, being pure, wholesome and adapted to the requirements of the feline stomach. form a suitable diet for all cats where any special invalid food is not required. A great feature in WH&G's prepared food is its easy digestibility and assimilation. Cats, especially show specimens, thrive well on it, improve in condition and retain the lustre of their coat so necessary in exhibits. Being handy. convenient, cleanly and inexpensive should bring the preparation into general favour with the feline fancy. Full instructions accompany each packet." He also advertised his own formula dog biscuit as being suitable for cats "cats […] thrive amazingly on my patent dog biscuit, manufactured by the above, broken up small and scalded with milk."
During wartime, many families kept a stockpot going. The stockpot contained plenty of water and any leftover meat, pearl barley, rice, haricot beans and lentils and would be left simmering on the back of the range. A rabbit could be added when available, as well as bones for flavour. The stock was brought to the boil for a few minutes every day and a little poured over well-toasted leftover bread or even served on its own as a slushy liquid meal.
In 1940, the Ministry of food declared it to be a punishable offence to waste food by giving it to pets. They later clarified this to mean where human food was used wastefully. Milk was rationed in 1941, but cats employed in controlling rats and mice in food warehouses were allocated an allowance of milk powder. Their allowance came out of powder damaged or otherwise unfit for human consumption.
The following treatise on the feeding of cats is from the America publication "The Humane Pleader" (1928) and was written by Margaret C Starbuck of the Animal Rescue League, Boston, Massachusetts. Much of it is still very similar to the diet recommended by Frances Simpson in her "Book of the Cat". Although commercially prepared cat foods were available in the 1940s, the revolution in cat feeding (a shift from home-made to convenience foods) did not truly happen until the 1970s when the cat's nutritional needs had been better researched.
"IT is best to begin feeding kittens at three weeks of age. You can start with diluted evaporated milk or some prepared baby food, but always prepare these foods in a double-boiler, cooking them long enough to make sure that all rawness is entirely cooked out... Eskay's Baby Food has been found to be very beneficial, as it has albumen in it, which is something many breeders overlook in feeding their stock. Others will thrive on other baby foods, just as some children will do better on one food than on any other.
At four weeks of age, introduce a tiny bit of scraped raw beef. Scrape a piece of fresh round steak with a silver knife, then hold tightly between your fingers a tiny bit and let the kitten suck this slowly from between your fingers; the amount of this paste can be increased as the days go by. Never give this meat feeding near a milk feeding. Teach your baby kits to lap fresh drinking water by poking their noses right down into the saucer. Kittens can be fed four or five times a day, just a little each time. Never leave food about between meals. Always have fresh drinking water where they can get to it. As kittens grow older, let raw beef be the foundation food. You can mix with the raw beef cooked vegetables such as spinach, carrots, peas, green string beans, in fact any vegetable except potatoes. Rice can be used if boiled in several waters to get out all the starchy substance, then mixed about fifty-fifty with the raw beef. Cooked fish for a treat once in a while, but not as a steady diet. An egg beaten well can be given once in a while.
Some cats like a little square of cheese once in a while, others will coax for a well fried out, crispy piece of bacon, all of which are all right for treats. Prepared cat foods are well enough to help out, but we do not advocate them for a steady diet. Do not trim off all the fat from the raw beef. Cats require a certain amount of fats just as humans do. Cooked lamb or mutton is good for cats, but not the fat from this meat. You can use cooked beef for a change at any time. Always remember that solid foods are better for cats than sloppy foods.
Recipe For Bread For Cats
Take four quarts of bran, one quart of corn meal, two quarts of crushed oats, and one pint of animal meal. Mix into a stiff dough with skim milk or water, and bake in the oven four hours. Use the day after it is baked. [This would be a form of cat biscuit and would be fed with meat and gravy or with gravy alone.]
Recipe Given By Mrs J R Nichols
The breakfast food I recommended is Malt-O-Meal. It's a preparation of wheat and malt. In the preparation of it I alternate meat with canned salmon. For the meat mixture I get a cheap cut of lean meat and cook until tender, then remove from the liquor and cool the latter, then I take off the grease and thicken the liquid with this meal to about the consistency of gruel when hot. When it cools it is about the right consistency. With this I use the ground-up meat of course. This goes farther in feeding than straight meat, and I believe it is better for the cat. For a change I use canned salmon as the base for a like mixture adding one egg. In this way Muffy gets the joy of the salmon and other nourishment with it. "
Being concerned with animal rescue, M C Starbuck had a special interest in preparing large quantities of food and describes a recipe and regime for feeding large numbers of cats. The recipe she gives included onions, presumably to enhance flavour. The modern reader should be advised that onions must not be fed to cats as they cause a form of anaemia.
"How To Prepare Food In Quantity
Food for cats where a number of these animals are kept under one roof as in an Animal Rescue League or Shelter, where food must be prepared in large quantities, and at the same time be clean and fresh all the time: 8 lbs lean meat - a little fat on it; l lb carrots; 4 medium-sized onions; 1 lb rice; 1 level teaspoonful salt. Barley can be used instead of rice - wash and soak over night.
Cut meat in small pieces, add carrots, onions and salt, cover with cold water. Let it come to a boil quickly, then simmer slowly 2 hours. Let the meat cool in liquid. When the fat hardens on the surface, remove it. Grind meat and vegetables up in grinder, using the largest knife. Add the rice, which has been boiled separately in slightly salted water. Then add enough of the juice to moisten the mixture sufficiently to pack into moulds. Will keep in a cool place several days. In winter the juice which is left can be saved and added to the next quantity of meat loaf. It makes a very tasty dish for human beings as well as cats.
For the afternoon feeding we give one dish of the cooked meat and one dish of fresh raw beef, put through the chopper, using the largest knife, as the average cat does not like Hamburg Steak. Some cats prefer raw meat, while others like it cooked. The dishes are almost always empty in a few hours. Canned salmon is not advised as a regular diet for any cat, but we give it to the cats once a day for the benefit of those that do not care for the above food. The salmon is mixed with bread which has been softened by soaking before mixing and is given to them for breakfast. Fresh water is put down three times a day - Fresh Milk, night and morning - Catnip when we can get it.
The cats are given their breakfast at 7:45 A.M. At 11 o'clock the dishes are removed as we do not wish the cats to eat stale salmon and sometimes they do not eat it all when first given them. At 3:45 P.M. the night meal is given. As this food keeps well, it is not removed, so that the timid cats have a chance to come out and eat when all is quiet. If the care of cats is given to one who understands feeding, there will be little, if any waste, and no hungry cats. "
Of course, not everyone needed to make large quantities of food. The following owner's guidelines on feeding a cat date from around the same time:
"Cats should be fed regularly every day, and always have a saucer or pan of fresh water standing ready for them. This may save them from diseases of digestion, and from fits which usually come from indigestion. Sour milk is likely to produce digestive troubles. The dishes from which a cat is fed should be kept perfectly clean. They should be scalded. Whenever possible, a cat should have access to grass, as sickness is often prevented if she can eat a little of it in time. You will find her very grateful for a little catnip occasionally, and if you will warm her milk she will like it much better. Do not have it hot, but just a little warm.
Butter, cream, milk, all these are good for cats and necessary for their health. Butter is an excellent corrective for cats. Give them now and then a small piece - say a half teaspoonful; they like it, and it acts as a gentle laxative, besides keeping the fur in nice condition. Milk is not a sufficient food for any cat, but may be given as a part of the breakfast or supper. Milk can be given in the middle of the day as well as in the morning and at night. A kitten needs to be fed several times a day with warm milk and should have meat cut up fine once a day. It is well to mix vegetables with the meat, spinach, asparagus, grated carrots, whatever the kitten will eat.
Never give poultry or chop bones to cats or dogs. These bones splinter so easily and are so sharp, that they are apt to stick in the throat or injure the intestines. Dogs have been considered mad or have died as a result. Good authorities state that a cat should have meat in small quantities once a day. It is important that raw meat and fish given to cats should be perfectly fresh. Meat should be cut up into rather small bits, otherwise there is danger that a cat will not chew it enough, but will swallow large and stringy pieces which may cause bad attacks of indigestion. Meat, either raw or cooked, should be varied with fresh fish once or twice a week, always cooked and with the bones carefully taken out. It often happens that cats are choked by fish bones or get a bone in the throat which causes great suffering.
Some vegetables are good for cats. String beans, sweet corn with the kernels slit down the centre, and only the pulp scraped out, asparagus, squash, baked beans, oatmeal mush and milk, or bread and milk, puffed wheat crisped in the oven, brown bread crumbs in sardine oil. All these can be tried as a change of diet, but it is useless to force them on a cat. Cats know what they want and will go hungry a long time before they will eat what they do not like. Often when a cat has been kept on one diet steadily for some time it loses its appetite and appears dumpish or even ill, when a simple change of food will bring it back to itself at once. Boiled liver is useful once every week or two, or when the cat is a little off its feed, as it acts as a laxative. It is not, however, good diet for regular use."
1930s CAT CARE - FEEDING CATS (1936)
Advocates of right feeding for cats are sometimes confronted by this difficulty, that some cats, like some people, appear to thrive on food that has hardly any proper nutriment at all. Just as a debutante will put in a strenuous day of social engagements on a breakfast of orange juice and a luncheon of black coffee and cigarettes, so you find apparently healthy cats who eat nothing but liver, or salmon, or bread and milk, or something else that is lacking in the food qualities that an animal of the feline race requires. But if you follow these peculiar eaters long enough, you generally find that there is a day of reckoning. I once met a woman who had purchased a handsome Persian male cat. She believed that meat gave cats worms, also fits, and she boasted that she had worked out for her pet a perfect ration, consisting of a raw fishcake, a spoonful of baked beans, and a soda cracker, all mixed together into a paste. This was the cat's dinner, and he never had any thing else. He was a year old and seemed in great form. But a year later I saw the woman again and heard that her cat was dead. Some disease had attacked him, and he seemed to have no resistance.
A liver-fed cat may seem all right in fair weather, but it is the beef-fed cat that can resist disease. I have always believed in beef because, long ago, two beloved Persian blues of mine who had started life under a sad handicap (their mother died during an operation when they were born and at first they too were thought to be dead) lived, on a diet of the best round steak twice a day, to the great ages of fourteen and seventeen years.
Nature is the great guide. All feline creatures in a wild state are carnivorous, and you cannot do better than to feed your cat as the big cats in the woods and jungles eat, with the modifications that a confined life calls for. Wild cats run so much that they do not need much roughage in their food, and the little demanded is supplied by the feathers and other stuff they swallow with their game and the grass that they nibble when their stomachs ask for it. Our pets, living in the house, eating trimmed meat, must have more bulk in their diet, so we must mix vegetables with their meat, and provide pots of growing grass for them. It is said that cats require a certain nutritional property that exists in feathers. A good way to supply this is to give your pet an occasional raw chicken head with the feathers left on.
Breeders do differ considerably in their methods of feeding cats. The Champions, mother and daughters, who came to America from England a score of years ago, and whose Persian silvers were famous, were strong for meat and not very much else. In a manual published by Dorothy Bevill Champion, entitled Everybody's Cat Book, she wrote, "Cats should be fed strictly on a meat diet; no oatmeal, no rice, no potatoes, and no milk. Milk is a cause of dysentery, and no milk-fed cat is free from worms." But an English contemporary of the Champions, also successful as a breeder, gave her cats a varied diet including bread and milk; liver, boiled and raw; soaked dog biscuit; raw meat and breakfast oats stewed together; fish with boiled rice, turnips, carrots, parsnips, beans, and peas; and occasional meals of prepared cats' food.
Fanciers, raising cats on a large scale, are in a position to experiment. But it is safer for individual owners of pet cats to stick to a simple diet, and if you accustom your cat from the beginning to eat sensible things you will have little trouble. From the age of three months, two meals a day: breakfast in the morning and dinner at night-are enough, with a drink of milk at noon (fresh milk or evaporated milk thinned with water, as the cat prefers). Remember that your cat is like yourself: it likes its meals warm and appetizing, and slightly salted to bring out the flavour. Never leave food standing around when it has finished eating, and do not feed at odd hours.
Fastidious cats dislike chopped beef from the butcher's, and there is always a chance that it is not fresh. Buy good beef and cut it up, with scissors or a sharp knife, into fine pieces or long thin strips. Some cats like it raw, and some like it slightly broiled. For a change give broiled, roasted, or stewed lamb, mutton, chicken, any kind of fish that is not too rich, stewed rabbit, and almost any kind of game, but no pork, no fried food, and no fish-bones, chicken bones, or chop bones. A plate of chicken bones may seem a great treat for your cat, but they have a bad way of splintering and getting lodged in the throat or the intestines. With the meat at dinner mix some non-starchy vegetable-spinach, asparagus, string beans, or carrots. For breakfast the meat may be supplemented by brown bread toast, either crumbled and mixed with the meat, or broken up in milk. Nibbling a slice of hard toast is excellent exercise for a cat's teeth, and usually is enjoyed if the toast is buttered. Cereals are all right if they do not prove too laxative, but only as an accompaniment, not a substitute for meat.
Once a week, but not oftener, give a meal of raw liver. Olive oil, a teaspoonful once a day, is good for some cats, and they will take it readily mixed with flaked sardines. With some cats, however, it does not agree. If there is a tendency to constipation, add a teaspoonful of agar (a tasteless substance sold by druggists) to each meal. Bran can be used instead, but agar is less harsh. Remember that milk is not a substitute for water. Your cat's special belongings should include a water dish, and it must be washed and dried once a day and kept filled with fresh cool water. Most cats are thirsty little creatures.
The amount of food a cat needs must be determined, more or less, by the owner. Individuals differ. Of course there are rules, such as the orange test mentioned near the close of Chapter IV. Dr. Hamilton Kirk, the noted English veterinary, author of a standard book on The Diseases of the Cat, thinks that the daily average for grown cats should be half an ounce of food for each pound of body weight, and that three quarters of this should be meat. But some cats are more active than others and need more food, some are greedy and want too much, some are finicky and must be coaxed to eat. Watch your pet, therefore, and gauge its meals by its condition.
Cats that have acquired a stubborn taste for wrong foods are a problem. Sometimes you can cure them by letting them go hungry for a time, but I have known cats that would starve rather than give in. Diplomacy works better, if you can take the trouble. I once cured a sardine addict by mixing beef with sardines in increasing quantities until, in a few weeks, she was eating beef with only an occasional sardine on the side.
There are many prepared cat foods on the market. but to my mind their sole virtue is that they save owners some trouble. Advertisements tell us that the products contain everything that a cat needs, but nothing out of a can or a box equals good fresh meat and vegetables. At the Ellin Prince Speyer Hospital for Animals in New York, where about thirty thousand dogs and cats are received annually, only fresh foods are purchased, and this is the case with most breeders I know. One objection to canned foods is that some of them contain horse meat, and nowadays few horses are sent to the slaughterhouse except those that are old and diseased. Dry foods in boxes are safer, but too constipating for the average cat. Above all, never give any prepared dog food to a cat. The stomachs of the two animals are quite different.
The Animals Anaesthetics Act of 1919 obliged the use of anaesthesia in castrations of cats aged over 6 months old, though many vets opted to use it on younger cats as well. Few of the castration methods of the time described tying off the cord (presumably due to the risk of infection) so bleeding after castration was sometimes seen, especially in older patients. Cauterisation was used to prevent bleeding, but is a troublesome haemorrhage occurred the scrotum could be packed with cotton wool soaked in a weak solution of liq. fern perchlor. or in 1 to 1,000 solution of adrenalin. If bleeding continued, a ligature was applied, but often around the entire scrotal sac. Other complications included wound infection and peritonitis, though the vast majority of cats recovered without ill-effects.
Phyllis Lauder, author of "The British, European and American Shorthair Cat" (1981), reminisced about the neutering of cats in the 1930s. "Veterinary practice itself has changed in many ways over the years. It is not 50 years since I took a cat to be neutered at the surgery of a well-known and highly thought of vet [...] I turned off the road into a wide, cobble alleyway, leading to a smithy, and redolent of horses and harness with the occasional, at that time familiar, stamp of a hoof on the cobbles. There were small buildings, and I went into one of these, which was the waiting-room, and rang a bell. This waiting room was small, and not very light, with a table in the centre and one or two sporting prints on the walls, and from an inner sanctum came an employee of the firm, a man of great experience and no qualifications. I said sadly that i did not like anaesthetics for cats, but knew it was the law that you could not neuter a cat without anaesthetic once he was over six months old. He took my large, handsome, well-grown Brown Tabby, stretched him out on the table, looked at him and said 'Mm - I shouldn't think he's six months! Wait a moment!" Into the holy-of-holies went my cat; about five minutes of silence; then this remarkable man reappeared and said 'here! You can take him home now! That'll be three [shillings] and six [pence]."
"Female castration" was available and in its earliest form of spaying involved two flank incisions and removal of the ovaries only. Over the years, spaying became more common and in 1925, Hamilton Kirk's "Diseases of the Cat and its General Management" described sophisticated surgical instruments and their sterilisation by boiling; disinfection of the operation site; silk internal ligatures and skin sutures. The success rate was high (around 90%) though there could be anaesthetic or surgical complications such as haemorrhage, infection, wound breakdown and unexplained deaths in the first 2-3 days following surgery. A few owners considered spaying cruel and inhumane, preferring to drown or chloroform (in a sealed biscuit tin) litter after litter of unwanted kittens while giving little thought for the strain and distress to the mother.
In 1935 the CPL had advised: " If your cat is a female, do not keep all her kittens, only one Tom, take the others to a shelter to be put to sleep."
Compared to dogs (especially to dogs bred to extremes e.g. the large-headed Bulldog), cats had relatively few problems in giving birth. Caesarean section was highly risky, necessitating the most guarded prognosis. Hysterectomy was preferred, but only as a last resort. Early veterinary authors warned of the dangers of using forceps for delivery of kittens, though they described various hooks and loops of wire which could be used if manual manipulation of a stuck kitten failed. Injections of pituitrin (forerunner of oxytocin) and ergotin (still used today) were available to help stimulate contractions and reduce blood loss. The mother might also be given 5 to 10 drops of brandy or gin in water or milk as a tonic between kittens or after the whole litter was born.
According to an American manual published in 1938: "Sometime or other, unless the female is neutered, the cat owner will encounter the problem of what to do with an unwanted litter of kittens. Too frequently people keep the youngsters through kitten-hood, and then simply throw the young cats out on the cold world. Sometimes the kittens are sacked and drowned. Either method is cruel. If you have unwanted kittens the humane society or, if there is no local branch, take them to a veterinarian for disposal. He will kill them painlessly. Don't leave the kittens' fate to chance. Remember uncared for cats have a very poor chance of caring for themselves, and remember also, the stray cat is often a disease carrier, and therefore a menace to healthy cats."
ON NEUTERING CATS (1936)
Some people do not approve of the growing practice of neutering cats. They say it is against nature. But nature has one mighty purpose, to create, to guard against extinction, and the consequences of an oversupply mean nothing at all to her. "So careless of the single life," she neither knows nor cares whether there are homes for kittens or whether they must wander and starve.
I have seen many altered cats, and they are just as healthy and happy, as handsome and alert, as unaltered cats. The notion that it makes them stupid and dull and destroys their value as mousers is absurd. My Fifi was an altered cat. When she and her sister Mimi were two years old, and their kittens came, it was necessary to perform the Caesarian operation on both, and in the process the ovaries were removed. Two weeks afterward, in the country cattery where she convalesced, Fifi was prancing up and down her run and announcing to the astonished cats on either side that she was "cat of the walk." She was a vigorous character, and vigorous she remained through her long life. Mimi died, but her two daughters survived, and it was Mimi the Second who lived to the great age of seventeen years.
The castration of a male is a minor operation; spaying a female is a major operation. So of course the risk is greater with the female than with the male, but even with the former there is not much danger if the surgeon is skilful, if his instruments are properly sterilized, and the patient's previous condition and the aftercare are what they should be. Neutering is really the only way, if you live in an apartment, of having a satisfactory pet. "To keep breeding stock and not breed it," says Miss Doris Bryant, "means that the cat becomes a nuisance." And however much you love the cat, that is true. I do not think that mother cats are always happy, even when they are lodged and fed. I am acquainted with one, Prissy by name, whose owner boasts of the number of kittens she produces; they average at least twenty a year. The village is populated with them. But despite the lauded joys of motherhood, Prissy, though still young, has a harried, dragged down look. At three years she seems older than my Fifi did at thirteen.
Male cats may in most cases be castrated after they reach the age of four months. Some veterinarians advocate waiting till they are older. The advantage in putting it off, I suppose, is that it occasionally happens that an animal is not sufficiently matured at four months, and then the operation is not successful. One is told that it is not safe to castrate males of over six or seven months, but in a case I knew a four-year-old who had turned vicious was neutered; he survived, and his disposition was much improved.
Even the simplest operations have their pitfalls. Peritonitis has been known to develop after castration or spaying. Sometimes the subject will, for no apparent reason, refuse food, droop, and die. But still, considering the large number of male cats veterinarians are called on to neuter, and the not inconsiderable number of females, the percentage of fatalities is small. And think of the delight of having a Tom who never wants to go out on the back fence and sing, a Maria who enjoys spinsterhood and never shrieks for offspring.
I believe that even for the minor operation on the male the cat should be anaesthetized. Some veterinarians dispense with it, but the British Animals (Anaesthetics) Act, which became a law in 1919 provides that a dog or cat over six months of age shall not be subjected to castration without being under the influence of a general anaesthetic. Dr. Hamilton Kirk, whose wide practice among small animals entitles him to speak, thinks there should be no age limit. There is of course the danger of death under the anesthetic, but it is better to run this risk, a very slight one if the anaesthetist is careful, than to subject any creature to needless pain.
Most authorities put the proper age for spaying a female cat at from six to eight months, but it can be done later. Miss Bryant tells me that she had a Siamese spayed that was over three years old and had had fifteen kittens, and another that was nearly seven years old and had had forty kittens. "The operation caused them no suffering," she says, "and they are now as playful and happy as kittens."
Never have a cat neutered when its condition is not right. Cats that are fat, cats that are weakened by illness, mother cats that have lately had kittens, are not up to the operation. Female cats especially must be healthy to have it turn out well. They should be given nothing to eat for eighteen hours previous, save a little milk. Immediately after the operation the cat must be placed in a comfortable, warm bed to recuperate. The surgeon of course sees to it that the body is snugly bandaged to hold the parts in place and to prevent the cat from licking the wound and tearing the stitches. Possible complications - heart failure, haemorrhage, infection, loss of appetite, adhesions - cannot be overlooked. But in the great majority of cases, if the thing is done properly, it will turn out all right. Neutered cats are inclined, with their greater serenity, to take on extra flesh, but you can prevent this by regulating the diet.
1930s CAT CARE - KITTEN CARE IN 1936
A kitten is a charming thing, but whether the kitten you take into your home turns into a charming cat depends largely on you. A kitten is a baby, and the better its care, its food, and its training, the more likely it is to turn into the healthy, happy, well-mannered animal you want your pet to be. It is true that one sometimes meets homeless cats who, with probably no bringing up at all, are very attractive, but if you invest in a kitten it is best to take no chances.
Though kittens ought not to be weaned till they are eight weeks old, and do best if left with their mothers three or four weeks more, some dealers, anxious to make money, offer pitifully young kittens for sale. So unless you get yours from someone whose word you can trust, examine it very closely for signs of its age. A kitten cuts its milk teeth at about two weeks, and during the period from four to seven months it sheds these and cuts its second teeth. Be sure that the kitten you buy has its first teeth fully developed and can eat solids without trouble, that it is active and sturdy on its legs, and that its eyes are clear.
For delivery of a kitten a rather small carrier is best, and a leather one is preferable to those of wicker, especially in cool weather. As some kittens are timid in a strange place, and any kitten is hurt by too much excitement, it is wise to keep the new arrival quiet at first. Pet it and make it feel at home, but do not play with it much, and if there are other animals do not introduce them till the kitten has become accustomed to its surroundings. If one is six inches long and has been whisked from one's mother's side into the Great Unknown, it is very alarming, on top of all this, to have a huge dog loom up before one. Dogs and cats can make fine playmates, but as their social arbiter you need considerable tact.
Children must be taught how to handle a kitten, for a child, no matter how much it loves kittens, naturally does not understand that they can be injured by squeezing. Kittens and cats should not be lifted without a hand placed under the body to support it. Dangling them by the back of the neck with the legs kicking may injure the intestines, may even cause hernia. They should not be lifted by a leg, and certainly not by the tail, for the tail is a prolongation of the spine, and very sensitive. And do not blame a kitten if it scratches or bites when it is hurt. Its claws and teeth are the only defence it has.
Begin at once to train your kitten in the use of the sanitary pan. This should be of earthenware or some rustless and easily scoured metal, never of wood, and with sides not too high for the kitten's legs. Sand or torn paper is the best for filling. Sawdust is good, except that it clings to the fur and is carried through the house. The only objection to paper is that a cat sometimes will get the idea that it is all right to use paper wherever it finds some lying on the floor. Coarse sand is the natural thing, and if you have a place in which to store it a good plan is to buy a barrelful from a builder. Change the filling twice a day, for a neat cat will not use it when it is not clean.
Show your kitten the pan at the very first, before it has time to get bad habits. Most kittens are instinctively clean, so you will probably not have much trouble. But remember that a journey often upsets these small creatures for a time. If the kitten errs, the best way to punish it is to strike a folded newspaper on the floor beside it. This is alarming enough to a little animal but will not injure it, as a whipping might. When a kitten repeatedly fails to go to its pan it may be that there is some internal trouble, some pain or stoppage or some lack of control that needs a veterinary to put it right.
Give the kitten its own bed and train it to sleep there, and as some kittens will chew wool, a dangerous habit, never use woollen blankets. And for the protection of your furniture have a log, with the bark on, ready for the stranger on its arrival, and teach it to exercise its claws exclusively on this.
1930s CAT CARE - FEEDING KITTENS (1936)
One generally wants to feed a newly arrived kitten, thinking that it must be hungry after its journey, but it is best to wait four or five hours. Wait till it is relaxed and purring. In purchasing a kitten one must find out what it has been fed, and if a change is desirable it should be made gradually. Kittens that have been eating milk and cereal exclusively may have some trouble digesting meat at first, but a properly fed kitten has had a little scraped beef from the sixth week.
A nine-week-old kitten requires four meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a nightcap. Breakfast and dinner should consist partly of meat. Buy good round steak, and cut it up very fine. Chopped beef from the butcher's generally has too much fat in it and may not be quite fresh, so it is best to prepare it yourself. As the kitten grows it will enjoy having a long strip of raw beef that it can gnaw, and this is good for its teeth. Other meats that kittens may have are cooked lamb kidney, tripe, and rabbit. When they have dainty appetites they can be tempted with chicken and chicken jelly, but one must be careful that this is free from even the smallest fragment of bone. Their meat should be broiled or stewed, not fried.
Fine wheat cereal, well cooked in a double boiler and mixed with milk, is an excellent food for young kittens. Brown bread toasted and broken up in milk is good. Vegetables should be avoided till the baby is three months old, when it may have a little spinach, asparagus, boiled onions, or string beans mixed with its meat. Boiled cod and other fish that is not too rich may be allowed now. The noon meal and the nightcap should consist chiefly of milk. If it is fresh cow's milk, boil it. An egg beaten up in milk makes a nourishing meal. Some authorities advise evaporated milk mixed with water, two parts of water to one of milk for young kittens, and equal parts of the two later on. At four months the nightcap may be discontinued. Never leave milk or food standing after your pet has stopped eating, for it soon gets stale, and besides, it is not good for a cat to go back and nibble between meals. If it does not eat its ration at once, that shows either that it is not well or that you have given it too much.
The quantity of food needed differs with different kittens. Some are greedy, and some have to be coaxed, so you must watch and judge for yourself how much to give. But it may be said generally that a very young kitten's stomach is the size of a hickory nut, that at three months it is the size of a walnut, and that a full-grown male's stomach is as large as an average orange, a full-grown female's as large as a small orange. And they should never have more at one time than the stomach can comfortably hold.
All kittens need help in building their bony structure, else they may get the rickets, and a rickety kitten never makes a fine cat. Mix limewater with the milk, two teaspoonfuls of limewater to a cup of milk, and also give calcium with the food. A fourth of a teaspoonful of calcium lactate every day is about the right amount, and this should be given till the seventh month, when the second teeth are cut. When a kitten is cutting these teeth it is often, like teething human babies, rather fretful, and does not want to eat.