This was the first animal hospital in the country. In 1855 Thomas Brown M.A., LL.B., who lived in both Dublin and London, left £20,000 to the University of London to found ‘an Animal Sanatory Institution’ which was to be concerned with “investigating, studying, and without charge beyond immediate expenses, endeavouring to cure maladies, distempers and injuries, any Quadripeds or Birds useful to man may be found subject to.” The legacy was subject to many complex conditions including a 19-year time limit (or the money would go elsewhere) in which to set up an institute within a one-mile radius of Westminster, Southwark or Dublin. It was founded in 1871 and staffed by a succession of able directors, most of whom became Fellows of the Royal Society. It was located at 149 Wandsworth Road, Vauxhall (the street has since been renumbered) and following rebuilding of the site during 1877–78, it was fronted by shops with street numbers 143–155. The Institution opened in 1871 as the Brown Animal Sanatory Institution [i.e. Sanatorium] in Wandsworth Road, Vauxhall in July 1871 and comprised two departments – the laboratory and the hospital. A Professor-Superintendent was in overall charge (and also had to give at least 5 free public lectures per year) though he did not live on the site, assisted by a veterinary assistant (a qualified veterinary surgeon), a porter/stableman and a housekeeper. The first Professor-Superintendent was Dr J. Burdon-Sanderson and the first veterinary assistant was William Duguid MRCVS.

The laboratory, carried out scientific research on animal diseases, animal physiology, surgical procedures and animal nutrition and had the first pathology laboratory in the country and these made important contributions to veterinary and medical knowledge. Research was carried out on experimental animals, distinct from the sick animals brought in by owners, and some of the researchers had a callous attitude towards their experimental subjects. Dr Emanuel Klein accepted the unpaid post of scientific assistant. The first course of five lectures was given at the Institution in 1872. Anti-vivisectionists criticised Dr Klein's operations on animals. The Institution was registered with the Home Office for the performance of experiments under the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1876, and Dr Klein and others were granted licences. All experiments likely to cause pain had to be performed under anaesthesia and the animal would not be allowed to regain consciousness if it was likely to suffer pain.

It was primarily a veterinary institution and hospital for the treatment of sick animals, but the work carried on in its small research laboratory was directed as much towards the service of human as to that of veterinary medicine. The other department was for the treatment of sick or injured animals. It catered for the poor, many of whom relied on their working animals. Sick animals were treated in a dispensary, most as outpatients but about 4% as residents. Almost three quarters of the patients were horses, the motive power of London, and a fifth were dogs, but other livestock and pets were also treated. Consultations were free, thanks to Thomas Brown’s bequest of over £20,000 to the London University to provide a hospital for diseased, injured and starved animals. Brown had stipulated the hospital should be within a mile of Westminster or Southwark, but this proved impossible so it was situated on Wandsworth Road. By 1890, over 45,000 animals had been treated; 34,600 were cured, and the rest were humanely destroyed. During it first 20 years around 50,000 animals were treated, rising from 4000 per year to a peak of 8000 in 1905–10. Unfortunately, the Institute was badly underfunded and was rather neglected by the veterinary profession. The busy out-patients section was supplemented by an in-patients section. The founding of other, more modern and better resourced, laboratories towards the end of the century led to its gradual eclipse, culminating in its physical destruction during the Second World War. Both its beginning and its end were the subject of tense financial struggles, leading to litigation and during the first half of its life it was dogged by financial insufficiency.

The hospital side of the work at the Institution was under the care of the veterinary assistant. To start with, about 4000 animals were brought for treatment every year, of which 70% were horses and 20 % dogs, but the number increased till by 1905 it had reached nearly 8000. Thereafter it gradually fell, and by 1939 had sunk to 1000. By then most of the patients were dogs and cats. The fall in the total number of animals was due partly to the opening of other dispensaries for treatment, and partly to the replacement of houses in the neighbourhood by flats in which the keeping of animals was forbidden. Most of the animals were treated as outpatients, but a number, varying with the type of animal, were retained as inpatients in the limited accommodation available. The veterinary assistants, of which there were over a dozen during the course of 70 years, were provided with residential accommodation, and received a salary of £100 a year in 1871, rising to £175 in 1914, and to £250 in 1919.

The Institute closed at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 when the Veterinary Assistant left to join the army. By this time it received only 1,000 patients a year, mostly cats and dogs, because working animals were in decline and new flats often did not allow pets. The building was hit by German bombs in 1940 and 1943 and suffered devastating damage in July 1944 when it was hit by flying bombs. It never reopened and the site came under a compulsory purchase order in 1953. There was still the matter of the Institutions assets and it took 25 years of legal wrangling to divide these between the universities of London and Dublin, the orginal locations named in Brown's complicated legacy. The London share was used to endow the Thomas Brown research fellowship in veterinary pathology at the Royal Veterinary College.


'The first sketch," says our artist, "represents ' Out patients,' On Monday mornings,' about 9 A.M. or a little after, the patients begin to flock in. There are horses, cattle, donkeys, sheep, pigs, dogs, more especially horses, with their attendants, and they are attended to by the Vet. or surgeon, who, in a most careful and kind way endeavours to alleviate as far as possible their complaints. The cat sitting in the left hand corner of this sketch is inseparable from the hospital. No matter how many dogs are in the place he stalks among them unharmed, and selects the most sunny spot to wink and blink in.

No. 2 shows 'The Kennels,' a most interesting place. Here are dogs, some very good breeds 'in' for mange and one or two cases of tumour, When I was there a large dog of the sporting genus is had been but lately operated on successfully. The large retriever in the corner of the drawing was sent by the Railway Company from Waterloo Station, the poor beast having been run over by an engine. The 'Kennel ' on the left at the extreme end contained a poor little fellow who, on a second visit, I was told, had succumbed. They have a splendid airy place, are well cleaned out every morning, and in fact 'live like princes.' No. 3 is a mangy moke.' This donkey was suffering from mange; he belonged to some poor coster[monger] or other; but from the food I heard he had, I should fancy he'd wish always to have the mange: food per diem - three feeds of corn and water sufficient. Horses ditto.

No. 5 exhibits a “Consultation Room,” which is a room in the institution. The visitors, with their charges, are numerous and various. In the left corner is the e surgeon attending on a small parrot who has a cold in his head. Its mistress is somewhat wordily enumerating his little ailments. Behind him (the Vet.) is an old lady with a favourite cat, probably with a very severe torn ear from fighting. Next to her is a lady with a small Madeira dog, who has caught his leg in the parrot cage at home, and put his shoulder out of joint. Next to her is a boy with a goat which has a cold. In the foreground is a boy with a sick monkey, but who nevertheless cannot totally give up his antics. Next comes some little fellow with his mother or sister with a favourite guinea-pig which has some fancied illness, and, lastly, an old lady who no doubt has in her cage some canary or other small bird with the 'pip.'

Altogether, 'tis a most interesting place, and well worth a visit. The advice is given gratis, but medicine is charged at cost price of ingredients. For instance, for six balls for a horse, the patient's guardian pays 3d., the same would cost 2s. if supplied by a Vet., but no one but the truly poor are attended to. Cabmen largely avail themselves of this capital institution. The road approaching the hospital is sometimes lined with horseless cabs. 'The Mangy Moke' and the dogs in 'The Kennels' are 'In Patients.' The head Vet. and his subordinate are most worthy of thanks, every facility being given me by them."


Cats Home at Battersea (Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 1884)

Battersea Dogs Home was set up in 1860 as the "Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs" by Mary Tealby in Holloway, London, moving to Battersea in 1871. In the 1880s and 1890s, it sometimes took in 35,000 to 42,000 stray and unwanted dogs in a single year, housing them in communal pens. While Battersea Dogs' Home is best associated with dogs, in 1883 it also became involved with rescuing and rehoming cats. This is an excerpt from “The Home For Lost Dogs” published in The Strand Magazine, January to June, 1891: One corner of the premises is particularly interesting, and we look in whilst passing. It is the cats' house. These are in many instances stray cats, picked up in West-end areas, and brought to Battersea by benevolent ladies. They are fed twice a day. In the morning they get new milk, and a varied diet of the customary horse-flesh and fish. Many parcels of fish are sent as presents for the cats. The frolicsome pussies have decidedly comfortable quarters, and they, too, have a playground, in which are planted tree trunks, of which they freely avail themselves. One of the cats' houses is peculiarly noticeable. These are the boarders, for cats may be left here at a charge of 1s. 6d. per week. This little collection in front of us is the property of a lady who has no fewer than a dozen here. All have their pet names, and she frequently comes to feed them herself. These splendid Persians and Angoras — the latter with a marvellous tail — have been residents here for some three years, and amongst them may be seen a fine specimen of a Russian cat with a wonderful head, which seems to while away its time by curling itself up in its own particular box or sleeping apartment ; and a bob-tail may also be found playing merrily.

A VISIT TO THE DOGS’ HOME AT BATTERSEA. [. . .] There is also a portion of the building allotted to cats, and such warm comfortable compartments they have. Any lady can, for 1s. 6d. per week, have her pet cat well fed and cared for during her absence from home for a few weeks, and the attendants are all very kind to the animals. There are also places for the lost and starving cats that are found and brought in by the police. No cruelty of any kind is permitted under the pain of instant dismissal. (Sporting Times, 17th December 1904)


The Mayhew Animal Home in West London was established by the Bell Family (the people behind the Vegetarian Society) in 1886 for the benefit of “the lost and starving dogs and cats of London so that they should have sanctuary from the cold inhumanity they are being dealt outside.” The London shelter was named after Anne “Annie” Mayhew who was the superintendent. Mayhew sought good homes for older cats (thought to be impossible) and even offered lifetime sanctuary to the unwantables. To give a potted history of this organisation; in 1925 it was in disrepair and was rescued by the RSPCA, becoming their North Middlesex Branch. In the 1980s they found it too expensive to run and it was rescued by the board of Trustees.

THE CAUSE OF THE CAT. (Westminster Budget, August 17, 1894). This being the time of year when more London cats are allowed to join the army of martyrs than at any other season, a short account of the “ Home for Starving Cats and Dogs ” at Willesden may cause at least some of the unconscious evil-doers to see the error of their ways. Let Miss Mayhew, who for nearly fifteen years has advocated the cause of the cats, put their case before you. I wish you could see her as she does so — the little elderly lady whose jovial kindly face belies her words as wrathfully she denounces those who would dissuade her from carrying on what is indeed a work of mercy. She does not live at the Home, but she is the heart and soul of it. Now she has come to meet me there, and sits in the gay little drawing-room, with a prosperous-looking dog at her feet. Toby (he is an “ Eskimonio,” as Mrs. Scatley, the head of the establishment, explains with a loving look at the Greenlander) was a bruised and wounded starveling two years ago when he came to the Home ; he is now the honoured policeman and surveyor of the place, who walks in and out among the cats with the dignity becoming to a dog who can sneeze and beg and talk to order.

“ People say to me,” says Miss Mayhew, indignantly-raising her voice and tenderly stroking the Esquimaux’s smooth head, “ people say to me, ‘ Why don’t you look after children instead of looking after these animals? Surely you love your fellow-creatures better than these, ugly cats and dogs.’” And then the little lady gives you some assurances which, if her beaming face did not tell you otherwise, might make you think that she was not of good Abu Ben Adhem’s mind, who asked the angel writing in the book of gold, “'Write me as one that loves his fellow men.” But Miss Mayhew owns to loving cats instead; cats and dogs, but cats most. Not the ordinary well-fed and well-housed creatures — they are nothing to her. It is only the hungry, homeless, tortured, suffering, and desolate ones on which she bestows her affections.

“There is need that somebody should look after them,” she goes on, in righteous indignation, “ and since nobody else seemed to do it I did, when I could no longer stand the cruelties I saw going on all around me. It is just at this time of year, when the rich folks leave town for their country houses, that most cats are left to starve. They go away and take everything with them except, the poor cat. That is left either to look after itself, or, what is infinitely worse, it is locked up in the empty house and left to starve.”

“ But surely not purposely ? ” — “ Yes, purposely, and in this so-called Christian country. And then, if I try to save the poor animals from a death by inches, I am reproached by the hypocrites with caring more for cats than for my fellow-creatures. But I say this, that when children are born into the world they have their natural protectors. Let these be made to do their duty. The poor cat, when it is locked in a cupboard in an empty house, has no one to look after it. And this happens times without number. Only a few days ago we got a cat (you shall see her presently) that had been locked up for twelve days in a house from which the people had moved. The policeman on the beat heard its cry day after day, till he could stand it no longer, and came to tell us about it. Of course, we cannot force our way into empty houses, but the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals help us where they can. One of their officers came and insisted upon the doors being opened. You should have seen the poor creature! I had it in my arms till nearly three o’clock at night We found that, in its hunger, it had actually , eaten pieces of coal. It was a beautiful creature, as you will see. Another time, in an empty house, the cat was seen from the outside to lift the blind, asking for help in that way when it was too weak to cry. I could tell you of hundreds of cases of this kind. Shall we go and see these poor things ? ” Toby arises, and leads the way. He knows his place. Four lovely cats have a dainty white-washed cell all to themselves, and a little courtyard beyond it. “ These are the boarders,” Miss Mayhew explains. “They belong to Lady —-——" (mentioning a well-known name). “ She is moving into the country, and sends us her cats, so that they might not suffer while the moving is going on. We take boarders if we can get them. Eighteen-pence a week for ordinary cats, two shillings for Persians. It helps to pay the expenses. The freehold ground and building were paid for by my friend Mr. K. Barlow Kennett. He intended to endow the Home, but died very suddenly. Since then I have had to depend solely upon subscriptions. Therefore, you see, we have to be very careful.”

And now we have reached the dwelling-places of the starvelings and martyrs : whitewashed cells, with clean hay-beds, in wooden boxes, all round the walls ; with a basin of clean water, a little plot of grass — the cat’s medicine chest — and with a door opening into the sunny little playgrounds where the inhabitants may disport themselves in the open air. In winter the cells are warmed by means of hot-water pipes, but now all the doors are wide open, and the soft air blows through the place from end to end. What a curious crowd they are, to be sure ! Some are regaining health and beauty, and look at you with big solemn eyes in the intervals when they rest from the labour of cleaning their coats. Others, lean and hungry-looking, and with air the gloss of their fur departed, look shyly at you and try to get into a dark corner. A small blue-eyed kitten has forgotten how to play, so heavily has the burden of life already fallen upon it ; one black youngster has left an eye on the battlefield, and there are scars and other signs of the war on most of the creatures.

“A very touching thing happened the other day,” says Mrs. Scatley, who, together with her husband, is in charge of the place. “ A young man came and asked for one of our cats. We are always glad to find homes for them ; and as a rule we do. But only in the suburbs or the country; never in London. London cats are exposed to too much suffering. Well, I took the young man to choose from the cats we had in, and he took one that had only one eye. I pointed this out to him, because I thought he might not have noticed it. But he smiled, and said, ‘ That is just why I chose this one. I also have only one eye. So, you see, we belong by rights together.’ ”

“Don’t they often fight when you get so many together?” — “ No, never; they are much too miserable when first they come, and afterwards they get accustomed to each other.” Mr. Scatley, the venerable head of the house, with as kindly a face as have the two ladies who share with him the responsibility of looking after the cats, has come in. He stoops down, and in a second half a dozen of his charges at least have taken possession of him. Two sit on his arms, two on his shoulders,, one toils up his back, and one, more enterprising and more ambitious than the rest, mounts with great dignity upon his tweed travelling-cap. It is a scene that would do credit to any company of trained cats, in this case kindness only has been the teacher, and there have been neither lessons nor rehearsals.

“ This is the hospital,” Miss Mayhew goes on, pointing to a cosy little room separated from the rest. “ You have no idea in what state cats are often brought to us. Their eyes poked out deliberately, their limbs broken, wounded and bleeding they come. In. many cases they have to be killed. One cat was brought to us that had been dipped into tar.

“And the curious thing is that it is mostly the middle and upper classes who torture their cats, or starve or desert them. The poor are good enough to their cats. A poor charwoman came here, the other day, weeping bitterly, and carrying her cat in her basket. The creature bad been her one pleasure. In the morning before she went; out to work she played with it for a minute, and in the evening it was a friend to meet her on coming home. She kept it beautifully, and it was perfectly clean. One day she found it bleeding and bruised at her door. It had been caught in a trap. She brought it here, in despair, but we could do nothing for the poor thing. Both its hind legs were broken, and it had to be taken to the chemist and destroyed. She took it home, and dug a little grave for it in the back garden.”

“ Who sets the traps ? ” — “People who have birds and chickens, mostly. They think only of themselves and their pets, and it never enters their heads that perhaps other people may also have pets and be attached to them. But, Mr. Scatley, here is a gentleman writing that there is a cat starving in an empty house at Shepherd’s Bush. You had better take your basket and fetch it”

CATS’ HOME LIBEL CASE. Morning Post, 4th July 1895
Queen’s Bench Division, before Mr. Justice Wills and a Special Jury
Scatley and Wife v. Crofton.
This was an action for libel. The defendant said that the words complained of were written bona fide [in good faith] and without malice, and that the occasion was privileged. Alternatively, the defendant pleaded that the words were true in substance and in fact. Mr. Candy, Q.C.. and Mr. Gollan were for the plaintiffs ; and Mr. Murphy, Q.C., and Mr. J. E. Bankes for the defendant.

It appeared that from the early part of 1891 the plaintiffs were employed as caretakers of a Home for dogs and cats in the neighbourhood of Harrow-road. It took care of stray dogs and cats found in the streets, and also boarded these animals for private persons. The action for libel was brought against a lady who lived at Shooters-hill, Greenwich, and was a member of the Committee of the Home, upon a letter, dated December, 1894, and addressed to Miss Mayhew, the Lady Superintendent, in which the defendant said that she was horrified to hear that a cat belonging to a lady had been shamefully neglected to such an extent that it died, and that another lady had much the same story to tell about her cat; that she supposed the Scatleys (the plaintiffs) had not cared what became of the cats, and had simply spent the money on themselves. She also requested that her name should be removed from the Committee instantly, as she would be ashamed to look any of the subscribers in the face. The defendant added that she hoped the Scatleys would be at once got rid of, and that the new caretakers would be constantly supervised and not left to their own devices. The plaintiffs sought an apology, but none was forthcoming, and the present action was brought. Their case was that the animals were properly fed and cared for, and that no complaint was ever made of their treatment until the defendant wrote the libel.

Mr. Scatley, the male plaintiff, said he had been for 40 years an engine-driver on the Great Northern Railway and had retired on a pension. He denied that any of the dogs or cats were starved or neglected, and said that they never put into their own pockets any of the money which they received for the food of the animals. Cross-examined, the plaintiff said they had sometimes as many as 60 cats in the Home. None of them were disgracefully thin for want of food, and the place was not in a dirty state. One lady complained of the condition of her cat, but it fretted after its kitten. (Laughter.) One cat a lady took away dead. It was very thin because its food did it no good. Some of the cats were made away with by direction of the veterinary surgeon. Mrs. Scatley gave corroborative evidence. The cats, she said, had three meals a day - milk and fish for breakfast, meat for dinner, and milk and fish again for supper. Sometimes they had an afternoon tea. Her husband acted as butler. (Laughter.) Some of the stray cats were so bad when they came that they nearly collapsed in her hand.

At the conclusion of the evidence for the plaintiffs, Mr. Bankes submitted that the occasion was privileged, and that there was no evidence of malice. Mr. Justice Wills said though he was of opinion that the occasion was privileged, he could not withdraw the case from the Jury. Miss Crofton, the defendant, was then called. She said she was the daughter of Admiral Crofton, and resided with her father at Shooters-hill. She had taken great interest in the protection of animals, and was a member of the West London Society. A Miss Snow told her that when she went to the Home to see her kitten she found it very emaciated and in a wretched state; that while she was at the Home a Mrs. Stanley came to fetch away her cats, and that Mrs. Stanley's cats were in a terribly emaciated condition, one of them dying before her eyes. Miss Snow sent for her kitten on the day following her visit to the Home, and found that it had died. Miss Snow also told her that she believed her kitten and Mrs Stanley's cats had been starved. She wrote to Miss Mayhew the letter of which plaintiffs complained. She made no charge, but simply stated her suspicions. In cross-examination defendant said she did not withdraw any portion of the letter. She thought she was quite right in doing what she did. The further hearing of the case was adjourned.

THE CASE OF A CAT CRECHE. CURIOUS LIBEL ACTION. Lancashire Evening Post, 5th July 1895
At the Law Courts, yesterday, before Mr. Justice Wills and a special jury, the case in which Mr. Scatley, the caretaker of a Home for Dogs and Cats, and Mrs. Scatley sue Miss Crofton for damages for libel was resumed. Miss Maria Bonney, residing at Earl's Court-road, who was called in support of the defence, said she sent a cat and a kitten to the Home. At the time both were in excellent condition, but when she subsequently saw them at the Home the cat was in a bad condition – in fact it was nothing but skin and bone. Some of the other cats were dead, and others were crying out bitterly, as she thought, for food. She removed her cat, and with proper food it recovered, and afterwards took a prize. In cross-examination, witness said she visited the Home on January 4th last and found a decided improvement in the Home. The cats looked healthier, and the kitten which she had left there was quite well.

THE CATS' HOME LIBEL CASE. London Evening Standard, 5th July 1895
Miss Edith Lucy Kearey, residing at 226 Earl’s Court-road, stated that in August last year she took her cat to the home as a “boarder.” After it had been there five weeks, she went to fetch it away. She found it very thin indeed. She took it to Mr. Gray, veterinary surgeon. The home was not very dirty, but it was very bare.
Mr. Candy. - There were no pictures for the cats to look at? (laughter.) - No.
You did not expect the Scatleys to provide entertainment for the cats? (laughter.) - No. I saw no food at the home, but I was not there during the dinner hour.
Mr. Henry Gray, veterinary surgeon, gave evidence to the effect that he examined Miss Bonney 's and Miss Kearey's cats, and found them in a very emaciated condition. In his opinion, the cats had not been supplied with proper and sufficient food. He visited the home in January, and found it in a filthy condition. The cats were in a miserable state, and some were as light as a feather. They would have stood a better chance if they had been turned into the road. He made a report to the Committee, who appointed him as hon, surgeon to the home. The cats were properly looked after now. Further evidence having been called to show the condition of the cats and the quantity of food supplied to the home at the time the Defendant wrote the letter complained of, Mr. Justice Wills summed up the case. He held that the occasion was privileged, and asked the Jury whether they thought that the Defendant was actuated by malice. The Jury found that there was no evidence of malice, and Mr. Justice Wills entered judgment for the defendant with costs. [She was justified in reporting her suspicions to Miss Mayhew, and any libellous words were between herself, Miss Mayhew, the Scatleys and (possibly) the vet, not the public at large]


Britain’s oldest "cats only" charity was the Cats Protection League, now re-branded as "Cats Protection". Its aims were to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome unwanted cats and to educate cat owners on proper care of their pets. Population control has long been one of the CPL’s aims. Early on this was through persuading cat owners to have surplus or unwanted kittens destroyed (by a vet) at birth rather than letting them stray and to keep male cats, rather than females, as this would reduce the number of breeding cats around. In more modern times, thanks to modern veterinary care, this has changed to a message of neutering though the underlying message of population control is unchanged.

Early CPL volunteers faced ridicule or incredulity. Cats were not considered worthy of protection in the same way as dogs and were often considered little better than semi-wild hangers on! The CPL was viewed as little more than a society of crazy cat-loving old ladies! However, the society persevered in their work and messages and had grown to over 200 branches by 2003.

Well into the 1960s, the CPL ran the Tailwavers Club to help bombed out cats after the Second World War. In 1938, they had advised that it would be necessary to put cats to sleep if air raids began, to save the cats from mutilation and pain. Cat owners were urged to decide then whether to do so, in order that there was no hesitation or loss of time if the danger was to materialise. Pets faced great hardship during wartime. Pets were not allowed into public air raid shelters; some were evacuated, but many were put to sleep or lost their homes in bombing raids. Cats were not allowed on the transport provided by authorities during compulsory evacuation. All the owners could do was leave a day’s food and water for the cat and advise the police or a local animal welfare authority that there was a cat in the house. Many were destroyed. Others became strays or joined feral colonies. A few survived to be reunited with returning families and other lucky survivors were rescued and rehomed.

Realising that many pet owners would rather risk their lives than leave their pets, the National Air Raid Precautions for Animals (NARPAC) was set up and, among other things, gave advice on building a gas proof kennel from a large wooden box covered in a wet blanket! Those with gardens took their cats into the air raid shelters they dug there. There are reports of cats warning their families of impending bombs by taking refuge in the shelter before any warning was sounded. In May 1942, dozens of cats fled Exeter, Devon shortly before it was devastated by bombs. One tragedy of the war was that many cats survived when their owners did not.

These days Tailwavers has gone and Cats Protection (the modern name of the CPL) has other initiatives. One is its junior section which produces a junior newsletter. CP also provides teaching packs for schools. There is also a wide variety of cat care leaflets, including basic cat care information in a variety of languages. The CPL now has over 200 branches and a number of HQ run shelters.

I found this report of a Cats Protection League activity in Essex in 1934. It was reported in the Chelmsford Chronicle, 16th November 1934: CATS AS SCARECROWS CRUELTY CHARGE DISMISSED. On Friday at Chelmsford Petty Session, E. E. Farringdon, Esq., in the chair, James Buchanan, Fristling Hall, Stock, pleaded not guilty to cruelly ill-treating two cats between Oct, 14 and 18. Mr. D. Ward represented the defendant, and Mr. D. Ryan appeared for the Cats Protection League. Mr. Ryan, Inspector for the Cats Protection League, in evidence, said he visited Hall on Oct. 18, and in a field about 30 or 40 yards from the road found a cat tethered in a place where wheat had been sown. The material round the cat's neck was white cotton about 3ft. long, attached to a peg which was driven into the ground. There was box 18 inches long and 15 inches high to which the cat had access. He saw another cat fair condition pegged to ground with cord about 3ft. long. This cord was round the cat's neck. He went to defendant and said : " You are cruelly ill-treating two cats by making scare-crows of them on your farm." Defendant replied: "It good for them, and they must remain there until the grain comes through."

Witness and P.s. Mumford removed the two cats, which were handed over to defendant's wife. In witness's opinion it was wanton cruelty. In reply to Mr. Ward, witness agreed that the defendant denied there was any cruelty. Witness added that apparently it was a practice in the district, and it was desirable that it should be wiped out. In answer to Mr. Ward, witness did not know if the material with which the cats were tied was old stockings. P.s. Mumford, Ingatestone, said defendant told him his trade paper recommended stuffed cats as scarecrows. Witness told defendant they were not dealing with stuffed cats, but domestic animals, and advised him to remove them. Defendant said, "I shan't remove them. Get on with it; what you like. I can go to prison, it will a change from farming. Replying to Mr. Ward, witness said he considered the cruelty was the exposure to which the cats were subjected. The Chairman: Is it usual to chain or tie a cat up? Witness: I have never heard of it. (Chairman) Do you consider it cruel tie a cat up? (Witness)I think it is cruel to tie up any domestic animal in an exposed condition.

Mr. Ward, addressing the Bench, said Buchanan had been plagued with rooks. He had read in a farming journal that stuffed cats were excellent scare-crows. He did not want to shoot his own cats, and so he tethered them there with excellent results. He was not the only one who did it. Defendant had done it for a considerable time in full view of the public, and no one had complained except a lady from London and Mr. Ryan. There was no more cruelty tying up a cat than a dog. Farmers had had a bad time, and if they could find something that protected them from pests they should not be stopped from using it as long as it was done in a proper way. Defendant said had tried every method of scaring rooks, but found it unavailing except for a few hours. The cats were tied with silk stocking. The box was removed from the cats each morning and replaced at night. He did not think he was doing anything cruel. When Mr. Ryan called witness thought he had come for a subscription.

Reginald H. Spalding, Great Baddow, said he had kept Siamese cats for years, and during the day they were on a line because they were so nervous. There was difficulty in training them. Francis G. Haines, Margaretting, said the cats seemed contented, and in his opinion they had adequate shelter. It struck him that this was a new method of scaring rooks, and he was interested in it. He did not think it cruel. After a retirement the Chairman said the Bench found that defendant did not have guilty knowledge, and the case would dismissed. The Bench, however, did not approve of this method of scaring crows. Domestic animals should not be tied in this manner.

This retrospective was part of an editorial written by Albert Steward in “The Cat” June 1967 to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the founding of The Cats Protection League.

“In the life of the C.P.L. a number of Societies whose interest were mainly cats, and some cat magazines appeared and disappeared: we recall the activities of the Feline Defence League founded in 1902 by the late Miss Kate Cording, a copy of the F.D.L.’s terms of reference is on our files. It is interesting to note, that their brochure states “Our Feline Defence League is an organised attempt to deal with the stray cat problem is a practical way”. It also states “Some people believe in feeding stray cats, and leaving them homeless in the streets, rather than taking them to a Shelter. By so doing, they are feeding them up to breed, and bring other unwanted. cats into the world, thus increasing the evil”. That this applies today is only too true. As you will no doubt have gathered the F.D.L. no longer exists.

Another cat welfare organisation that came into being and had but a short life was the Honorable Company of Cats, its activities were centred on dispensaries in the London area but unfortunately the support was not forth-coming to enable the organisation to fulfil its aims. Another well intentioned effort to improve the status of the cat was attempted by the Mieaow Club and appeared to have been sponsored by the proprietors of a magazine called “Cat World and Cats and Kittens”. The Mieaow Club too lasted only a very few years. Another organisation promoted, or attempted to do so, a Haven of Rest for Cats. In theory it was perfect; the premises they hoped to have, the use to which they were to be put were all commendable, but alas, it was one of those schemes that went astray.

We have no doubt there have been other attempts to establish Cat Welfare organisations and we know there are a number of “local” movements outside the framework of the C.P.L. that do a great deal of practical work in cat welfare. We have commented on this in the Editorial column. Other cat magazines have come and gone, creating considerable impressions and advocating the cause of our feline friends in their respective ways. We recall ‘Our Cats’ and ‘Cat Gossip’ early in 1900 period. ‘Cats and Kittens’ and ‘The Cats World’ 1930’s and ‘Our Cats’ of recent years but now alas out of circulation.

The Feline Defence League was largely a one-woman crusade between 1902 and 1911, when the only form of "rescue" was the euthanasia of diseased and injured cats. LONDON CATS' BEST FRIEND. (Press, Volume XLIX, Issue 14698, 21 June 1913, Page 11) carried an obituary: The cats of London have lost their best friend by the death of Miss Kate Cording, the foundress of the Feline Defence League. Miss Cording, largely at her own expense, collected stray cats - lately to the number of 11,000 annually - and secured for them a speedy and painless death in her cats' home at Islington. It is stated that her work is to be carried on by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Information about the Honourable Company of Cats is hard to come by, but there is this newspaper cutting from THE SYRACUSE HERALD, Buffalo, August 16th, 1938: Honorable Company of Cats Welcomes Tabby Heroine. Whitey the heroine cat who saved her kittens from a burning building, has received new honors from abroad. Whitey was a awarded a certificate of bravery from the American Humane Association for her act. Today she was a honorary member of the "Honourable Company of Cats" of London, England. Wrote the Hon Generable Organizer N D Hackett, of the Honourable Company of Cats to Tom Holling Esq, his Worship the Mayor of Buffalo, Town Hall, Buffalo, USA: "My committee has requested me to say how great an honour they will consider it if you will accept, on behalf of the little cat (Whitey), our badge of office and numbered disc, which we would be proud to offer her as an honorary member of this "Honourable Company of Cats." His Worship Tom Holling replied he would be delighted.

And this from “THE EVENING CITIZEN” Ottawa, Ontaria, Saturday July 16th, 1938: “Sir Richard Whittington” is a cat - a fat, comfortable-looking black cat. He Was given to the Lord Mayor by Sir Joseph Turner, Prime Warden of the Dyers’ Company, who had in mock indignation remonstrated with Sir Harry because, although the modern descendant of the fabled Dick Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London, he had no cat on the Mansion House pay roll. The other night “Sir Richard Whittington” distinguished himself and got much publicity. The Archbishop of York (Dr. Temple) was giving a health [a toast] at a Mansion House banquet and he asserted that the Lord Mayor’s favorite amusement at school was chasing cats. At this very moment, “Sir Richard” escaped on the banquet- table between Lord Mayor and Archbishop and interrupted the speech with a remark in cat language that set the entire company roaring with laughter. The proceedings could not continue until the Archbishop’s wife took Sir Richard in her arms and consoled him. “Sir Richard.” as the Mansion House cat, is patron of a new club - the “Honorable Company of Cats.”

It seems The Honorable Company of Cats may not have survived the Second World War.


Some of the societies were devoted to tackling cruelty while others provided medical care at reduced cost. A third group tackled specific areas of cat welfare.

The Feline Advisory Bureau (FAB) is concerned primarily with improving veterinary understanding. It also runs a cattery "excellence" register. It funds various veterinary work, including scholarships, and has produced manuals on building a FAB-approved cattery and on setting up and running cat rescue shelters. FAB ("We Know About Cats") provides a wealth of information to breeders, rescuers, veterinary staff and other professionals and volunteers working with cats – medical, genetics, behavioural etc.

The Cat Action Trust and the Original Cat Action Trust, both founded in 1977 (they were initially a single society), deals exclusively with feral cats – control through neutering, colony management (and relocation in some cases) and advising on providing shelter and food for managed colonies as well as taming and rehoming feral kittens young enough to be tamed. It pioneered the Trap-Neuter-Release method of feral cat control, noting that managed neutered colonies tended to remain numerically stable and dissuaded other ferals from entering the area.

In the 1980s "Cats In Industry" was a Sheffield-based charity dedicated to improving the conditions of an estimated half a million nominally homeless cats "working" as unofficial mousers at factories throughout Britain. The lucky ones were fed by cat-loving employees, but most lived in appalling neglect, unfed and in dirty and dangerous conditions. Few received veterinary care and many were ferals attracted to canteen scraps and the vermin such scraps attracted. Hammond lobbied factory managers to set up proper feeding stations for the cats and to provide veterinary care and vaccinations. Where that failed, she sought individual employees to adopt and take home the tamer cats.

Cats In Industry soon had several small shelters in places such as Middlesbrough, Southampton and South Wales, fundraising sales, food collections, appeals on behalf of working cats and around 500 subscribers. A strong campaigner for neutering, she realised that some factories were simply not going to stump up the £16 neutering fee. An alternative was to add contraceptives to the cats’ food.

Cats In Industry no longer exists. During the 1990s, there were fewer cats on industrial premises due to health and safety concerns. British heavy industry was also in decline. Some of the major charities were now helping to neuter the cats – domestic and feral – though many factories had the cats removed by pest controllers. A few premises and postal sorting offices still tolerate a few cats (but not ferals) and these are generally cared for by volunteers on the staff.



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