CATS AND CAT CARE - 1950s - 1960s: GENERAL WELFARE & ADOPTION
This article is part of a series looking about cats and cat care in Britain from the late 1800s through to the 1970s. .
Soderbergh, P M; "Your Cat" (1951) (using 3rd edition; 1959)
Soderbergh, P M; "Pedigree Cats, Their Varieties, Breeding and Exhibition" (1958)
Tenent, Rose; "Pedigree Cats" (1955)
Jude, Albert Charles; "Cat Genetics" (1955) (reprinted 1967, 1977)
Mery, Fernand; "The Life, History and Magic of the Cat" (1966) (originally published in French)
Cats Protection League (various leaflets from 1960s & 1970s)
Other sources are as credited in the text with additional personal information and commentary.
ABOUT CATS - A 1950s VIEW
In "Your Cat" (1951), a book in Cassell's Pet and Livestock Series, P M Soderberg wrote "No one would attempt to deny the popularity of the cat as a household pet. It has been the fireside companion of man in these islands for well over a thousand years, while in countries of the ancient world the cat bad been domesticated at least two thousand years before the opening of the Christian era. Undoubtedly it became the companion of man as a result of its utilitarian qualities, for in the fertile valley of the Nile the humble cat protected the nationís food supply against the ravages of vermin. In course of time the Egyptians began to venerate the cat, and temples were built in honour of an animal whose virtues were so apparent and whose character possessed a mystic quality beyond the comprehension of man.
To-day the cat, except in physical appearance, seems to differ little from the animal of these ancient times. It is still kept as a household pet because of its value as a destroyer of rats and mice, but for most cat-lovers there is something else. The cat on the hearth is a symbol of homeliness. The independence of this creature which cannot be forced to do what it does not desire, the affection which it is prepared to give but must not be expected as a result of ownership, are all qualities which persuade the Englishman to share with it that castle which is his home.
It would be interesting to know how many cats there are in this country, but it is impossible to obtain any reliable figure, for cats, unlike dogs, need no licence. What is probable, however, is that there are more homes where a cat is to be found than there are without one. The cat population, therefore, must be a very large one.
Most of these cats are well cared for, but there are still tens of thousands which have been left to fend for themselves. This is not a very kind fate for any cat in these days of so-called civilization. Obviously there should be no neglected cats, but because there are, that is one reason for the writing of this book. If you keep a cat it is your duty to know how to treat it. Kittens are the most attractive little creatures and provide endless amusement with their antics and games, but every kitten that survives has to become an adult cat which is much more staid and far less entertaining. If you cannot face the time when the playfulness largely disappears, you should not have a kitten. To abandon it when it was adult would be a heinous crime, yet thousands of such crimes are committed every year.
Before you become the owner of a cat there are a number of problems to be faced. In the first place, of course, any form of livestock is a tie. You can go away for a day without troubling very much about the cat, but you cannot go away for a fortnightís holiday with-out making suitable arrangements for its welfare during your absence. Every year some people do just that without any apparent twinge of conscience. Nor is it a happy solution to have the animal painlessly put to sleep because you find it an encumbrance, though death is far preferable to desertion. No, before you obtain a cat or kitten make quite certain that you realize fully what you are about to undertake.
If you decide to have a cat, you must then make up your mind whether it is to be an adult or a kitten. For most people it is far better to start off with a kitten, for adult cats become used to places and people, and settling down in fresh surroundings is not easily accomplished. There is a belief that cats are attached to places and not to people, but this idea is quite false. Human companionship is appreciated, and human beings mean far more to a cat than any particular building or locality ever could.
If you make up your mind to get a kitten, the next point is whether it is to be a pedigree animal or just an ordinary cat which someone or other is always willing to give you. From the point of view of pleasure there is nothing in it, for the ordinary cat can be as good a companion and probably a more useful one than any pedigree cat. To such a sweeping generalization there must be exceptions. It all depends on what you want and also upon what you are prepared to pay."
Soderberg later continues "the vast majority of cats in this country belong to a class which cannot name its ancestry. They are just cats which have been produced by haphazard mating at the whim of the individual animal. Yet despite their lack of pedigree, these British cats have qualifies which distinguish them from all other breeds and make them respected companions at any congenial fireside. The British cat is kept because of its usefulness, and did it not exist the ravages of vermin on our food would be far more serious than they are at present. These losses are so serious that the law now demands that occupiers shall keep their premises free from vermin. Friendly by disposition and possessing intelligence of a high order, the ordinary house cat can hold its own against any of the aristocrats of the feline world on the score of popularity. There are some breeders who try to separate the different colour types of the British breeds, and by mating like to like in the end produce true breeding varieties which can then boast a pedigree because their ancestors are known. For anyone who is interested in the breeding of cats, this can become a fascinating hobby and one well worth the effort entailed."
Soderberg wrote elsewhere in the book: "For many cat lovers one of the greatest pleasures of their hobby is the breeding of kittens. Certainly anyone who has ever seen a litter of young kittens must have been attracted by their beauty, their energy and playfulness. It is not only the kittens of the pedigree cats which possess these attractions, for the ordinary house cat has a family as delightful as that of her more aristocratic sister. In the case of the ordinary house cat the owner does nothing about the matter, for the lady is quite capable of dealing adequately with her own affairs. In due course she will, without any assistance, produce a family which gives her, at least, intense satisfaction.
Pedigree cats, however, have their family affairs arranged for them, and there are many points which must be considered by the owners of such cats. The pedigree queen cannot be allowed to run wild when she is calling or she will be mated by any stray torn of the neighbourhood who will first of all have warned off, either by will-power or combat, all the other enthusiastic males who may have considered courting the lady."
"If you wish to exhibit a cat, the first thing to do is to look out for a suitable show. Show dates and venues are advertised in periodicals which devote part, if not all, of their space to cat affairs. Such periodicals are Fur and Feather, Cats and Kittens, The Cat Fancy, Our Cats."
ABOUT CATS - A 1960s VIEW
"The Life, History and Magic of the Cat" was written by Fernand Mery in 1966 and translated from French into English. Mery had strong opinions where certain breeds were concerned and of wildcat hybrids he said "It is certainly possible to cross domestic cats with all kinds of wild cat. But the progeny are fragile and delicate throughout their lives, often die young, and rarely succeed in producing a second cross-breed generation. This point, more than any other seems to set the domestic cat apart from the various wild species. ... In my opinion the domestic cat cannot successfully interbreed with the European wild cat."
Today there is concern over the mongrelization of the Scottish Wildcat which is being gradually supplanted by more vigourous, faster breeding hybrids. In his statement, Mery displayed a degree of ignorance since in 1939 Frances Pitt had made experimental wildcat crosses, reporting the hybrids to be fertile. Still earlier, in 1896, naturalist Edward Hamilton wrote "I found many indications of a mixture between the wild and domestic cat. It seems the original wildcat as it existed in olden days has been almost exterminated throughout Europe. Its place has been taken by a mongrel race, the result of continual interbreeding during many centuries ...". Even at that early date, Hamilton claimed that such hybrids were fertile.
Though seemingly unaware of Jean Sugden's Asian Leopard Cat crosses of 1963 (the inspiration for the modern Bengal), Mery noted that Dutch breeder Mme Falken-Rohrle was attempting to breed tame Margays (F wiedi) and tame Little Spotted Cats (F tigrina, oncilla) by socialising them with Abyssinian cats when by chance "...a small cross-breed kitten was born as a result of the mating of a tame Abyssinian with a wild oncilla ... the same Abyssinian fathered on the same oncilla mother three more cross-breed kittens, and all are doing well." Sadly there is no information on whether the cross-breeds survived to adulthood or were fertile.
Some thirty years on, with the keeping of wild species as pets strongly discouraged, hybridisation is almost commonplace with the Bengal (x Asian Leopard Cat), Safari (x Geoffroys Cat), Chausie (x Jungle Cat), Pixie-Bob, American Lynx and Desert Lynx (all x Bobcat) though no oncilla cross-breeds.
Regarding cat breeding, Mery wrote: "THE SCIENTIFIC BREEDING OF CATS. It was curiosity that first inspired a small number of breeders to try to cross the few natural breeds that were once known across the world. These were principally the Siamese, the Birmans, the Persians or Angoras, the cats of Gambia, the cats of Malta (the blue Chartreux and the red of Tobolsk), the cats of Spain and Portugal, and the cats of the Cape of Good Hope. Surprisingly quickly, however, these early producers and breeders succeeded in reaching agreement on international standards for the varieties of cats issuing from their mixtures. By now there are very precise standards that impose official canons of beauty on cats of the pedigree or show world. But these inevitably are subject to change. New breeds, the result of crossings, selections, the application of the principles of genetics and other patient researches of breeders, come to be recognized and then developed further."
Another source from a similar period to Mery's work is the literature of the Cats Protection League (CPL) now known simply as Cats Protection. In the 1960s, it was based in Slough. The CPL leaflet "Some Facts About Cats" CPL leaflet circa late 1960s. This contains a great deal of information on the care of cats, much of which is intriguing by modern standards and some quotes for the nostalgic reader e.g. "At the League's Headquarters Clinic there is always a need for clean blanket and linen pieces, and newspaper". I still meet cat lovers who remember tearing up sheets to send to the CPL to help "bombed out" and stray cats.
MERY ON WELFARE ORGANISATIONS (1960s)
Mery mentions some of the societies aiding cats. In his entries for Britain he mentions the RSPCA and PDSA and adds "Finally, in 1927, there was founded a specialist organisation, "The Cats Protection League" which has numerous affiliated bodies in England and Ireland. It is dedicated exclusively to providing medico-surgical help for cats." This makes the CPL sound like the Red Cross rather than an organisation devoted to rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming cats! Perhaps he based his description on the CPL's neutering programmes, rather than on any investigation of the rescuing, sheltering and rehoming work which the CPL performed at the time.
It is interesting to note that in 1966 Mery quoted statistics that there were 4,250,000 pet cats compared to only 4,000,000 pet dogs in Britain. Yet recent statistics claim that the cat has only recently overtaken the dog as most common pet. Who are we to believe - the modern figures and claims or the figures Mery quoted in 1966?
GENERAL CARE IN THE 1940s : CLAW CLIPPING, COLLARS AND SANITARY TRAYS
To keep a light-coloured cat clean, Cox-Ife suggested cheap Eau de Cologne (when obtainable) applied with cotton wool to remove surface dirt. A short-haired cat can be cleaned with hot bran, but if a cat gets soot in the coat, a hazard in the days of hearth fires and chimneys, the only thing to do is to bath it!
Cox-Ife did not approve of claw-clipping since "a catís claws are its natural means of defence and in addition are used to stretch the muscles of its legs, an action that is mis-called claw sharpening." In her opinion, it was cruel to hamper this activity by clipping the claws. To prevent damage to furniture, she recommended a small log for a "scratching post" or a strip of unpainted wood about a foot and a hail high which could be fixed in some unimportant part of the house and the cat encouraged to use this and discouraged (by a sharp "no") from using other places. France also discouraged the clipping of claws "except in very exceptional circumstances" since they were natural weapons of defence for the cat. Remember, in the 1940s, the majority of cats had access to outdoors.
When writing of choking, France mentions the dangers of collars and gives some common sense advice: "if a cat must wear a collar or anything round its neck, insert a short length of elastic so that the collar will give if caught on the branch of a tree or similar object."
Regarding the use of the litter tray, or as it was then known "the sanitary tray", Cox-Ife explains that kittens are trained to use the tray by their mothers. However accidents may happen in the new home because "The kitten has been accustomed to finding its tray in a particular place. In the new home it may at first, from sheer bewilderment, elect to use the carpet or some other undesirable spot, and it will therefore need a little help until it becomes accustomed to the new arrangement." She advises that suitable litters are sawdust, earth, sand, or even newspaper, "but the best of all is fine peat moss; it is clean and easy to tidy up if any gets scratched out of the tray" and cautions that sawdust is liable to get into a young kitten's eyes and ears.
Cox-Ife is quite forward thinking in her discussion of keeping indoors cats, or at least cat in situations where they cannot go out unaccompanied. Her response to a query about keeping a cat in an upstairs flat is that lots of cats live very happily under such conditions and that some can be trained to walk with their owners on a lead. Cox-Ife adds "In large towns this is much the safest way for a cat to get outdoor exercise as so many cats are stolen daily for the sake of their fur".
GENERAL CARE IN THE 1950s : GROOMING, CLAWS, COLLARS AND HOUSE-TRAINING
Soderberg tells the reader "All animals should be restricted in their use of chairs and settees, for there is no reason why all the furniture should be covered with hairs, and cats will moult twice a year whatever one likes to do about it. There is just one point to add to this. A sick cat which is accustomed to sleeping in its own bed is far easier to deal with than one which has not acquired the habit of sleeping in one place."
"The value of exercise for cats cannot be over-emphasized, yet there are many cat fanciers who do not pay sufficient attention to this detail of management. The ordinary house cat is usually granted complete freedom and thus can take its exercise at will. When a pedigree cat is kept, however, it is often confined in very close quarters, and as a result becomes lethargic and often far too fat. It should occasion little surprise that animals treated in this way are inclined to become poor breeders.
The advice Soderberg gives on outdoors exercise is related to whether the cat is neutered. He considered an indoors-only lifestyle to be cruel as his last sentence in this quote shows: "An entire male presents something of a problem, as be can rarely be granted complete freedom either in the house or outside. In the house he will spray on the furniture and produce that well-known tom cat smell which is objectionable to so many people. Outside there is always the danger that he will meet another entire male of less aristocratic breeding, and there may be fighting with consequent damage to both sides. If, however, you have a reasonable-sized garden, such a male should be allowed freedom as often as possible but under supervision. If the worst comes to the worst you can take him for a walk on harness and lead, but if you can do none of these things, do not keep an entire male. Have him neutered and most of the difficulties will disappear.
All females can be granted a very large measure of freedom. They should always be allowed the complete run of the house and also long periods out in the fresh air. Apart from those times when the queen is calling, she can be allowed to come and go at will and will suffer little harm if she can take her exercise away from busy roads. Of one thing you can be quite sure. If you do not allow your cats freedom, you will never be a successful breeder and you will hardly merit the title of cat-lover."
Regarding housetraining, "The place for a cat to deal with its personal needs is the garden. if you have one, and they usually do little damage to the flower beds with their scratching. If, however, cats and kittens cannot get out into the garden at will, then a sanitary tray must be provided in the house. This can be kept in some inconspicuous spot, but always the same spot. and even kittens will soon learn to use such a tray. The best type of tray to use is an enamelled one, for this can be easily cleansed and freed from all unpleasant odour. These trays, such as those used in developing large photographic plates, are expensive, but with careful treatment will last a long time. Ideal material for use in the tray is peat moss which is very absorbent. Some breeders, however, favour a number of thicknesses of newspaper which can be easily collected and burned. Dry soil is also of value if you have a garden. The sanitary tray must be emptied and cleaned at least once daily, for cats are fastidious creatures, and some of them refuse to use a tray which has been soiled."
Having earlier dismissed Shorthairs and concentrated on descriptions of pedigree Persian longhairs, Soderberg finds some merit in shorthaired cats - they are easier to groom!
"Short-hairs are much less trouble to groom than long-hairs; just because the coat of a short-hair always looks well groomed because of the catís own efforts to keep itself spick and span, that is no reason to withhold a good stiff brushing for a couple of minutes each day. This brushing will remove much of the dust and dirt in which the ever-menacing flea likes to live, and will also dispose of dead hairs which would otherwise be shed all over the place. Even when a human male is almost bald, be regards a daily brush as one of the essentials, so why deny your cat similar treatment. For a Persian daily grooming is essential or the coat will soon become so matted that endless hours of toil will be needed to get it into condition again."
Common advice given to owners of longhairs was to powder the coat. These days, cats are rarely powdered (dry-shampooed) unless they are being prepared for a show.
"When the coat has been opened by the brush, it is a good idea to shake some powder into it. Powder will combine with the natural grease on the hair and with further brushing will act as a dry cleaner. A greasy coat always picks up more dirt than one that is frequently treated with a suitable powder. A coat which has been powdered always looks much more attractive. There are many powders that can be used, some perfumed and others not, but a very simple one which can be bought at any chemist is light carbonate of magnesia. It is both cheap and effective."
Failure to groom, could result in a matted coat and veterinary de-matting under anaesthetic was not an option in the 1950s.
"Short-haired cats never suffer from a matted coat, but this condition is easily achieved by Persians even when daily grooming is the rule. The knots of hair which may be formed after even a day are not very serious and the hair can usually be disentangled in a minute or two. When, however, a longhaired cat is neglected, the matted portions may be so large and tightly bound that hours of work are necessary before the coat is again in good condition. This state of coat may be a tax on the patience of the owner, but it is no doubt much more so to the cat. The only sensible plan to adopt is to do only a little at a time and then the patience of neither is lost. Before any attempt is made to untangle tightly-matted hair ft should be moistened, as damp hair comes apart much more easily. Sharp-pointed scissors should never be used for this work and a blunt-ended knitting needle is a much safer instrument.
A neglected coat may take weeks to get right, and thus the crime of neglect carries its own penalty, but unfortunately the cat also has to suffer. Sometimes the undercoat becomes so tightly matted that ft has to be cut. When this is necessary ft is a pity, for months will elapse before new hair grows to replace what has been removed."
Regarding claws and claw trimming, Soderberg wrote "A catís claws rarely need attention if freedom in the open is permitted, for by instinct the animal knows how to deal with these useful appendages. Occasionally such a cat will break off a piece of claw and leave a jagged edge which catches in everything. When this happens a nail file is the best thing to use, for any attempt at cutting with either scissors or clippers may make the trouble worse. Cats have an unfortunate habit of "sharpening" their claws on any article of furniture which attracts their fancy, but this bad habit is much less in evidence when the animal can go outside and make use of a tree trunk. If the cat is confined to the house, it is an excellent idea to provide a piece of tree trunk of suitable size for the purpose. Most cats can be persuaded to leave the furniture unmolested if they are taught from an early age to make use of a scratching log."
Unlike France or Cox-Ife, Soderberg had his own theories on why cats "sharpened their claws" in this way and he wrote (erroneously), " Actually the cat is not sharpening its claws when it performs this characteristic action. It is merely a survival of the past when in the wild state the animal had to use its claws to tear its food." Modern readers will know that wild cats (e.g. lions) don't tear apart prey with claws. Cats use claws for gripping large prey, but use their teeth for tearing it apart. Most cat care books try to improve upon past knowledge, but in this instance a later author has introduced a misconception.
Although collars are these days almost a necessity for cats (though microchipping is rapidly gaining ground), Soderberg felt that collars and bows were more dangerous than useful. "Some cats wear collars and others are adorned with handsome bows of coloured ribbon, but it is more than probable that neither is necessary and certainly either may be dangerous. There is an argument for a cat who would not otherwise get exercise to be taken for a walk in a collar and on a lead, and Siamese in particular do not seem to object to a stroll on such terms, but the indiscriminate use of a collar cannot be recommended.
If an animal wearing a collar is allowed freedom, it is more likely than not that at some time it will become caught up in a branch and at best have to wait until it is released. It is most unlikely that such a cat would struggle sufficiently to strangle itself, but to hang by the neck would not be a pleasant experience. Collars which are made of leather in which there is little give are always dangerous, but there are collars made of rubber or of some similar substance which are much less dangerous. The final question on this point must be, "Why wear a collar at all unless under close supervision?" Of course, a collar or harness can carry a disc bearing the name of the owner, but few cats lose themselves, and if they disappear ft is more likely than not that they have been stolen. The conscience of a cat thief is not touched at the sight of the name and address of the owner."
ROSE TENENT ON GENERAL CAT CARE IN THE 1950s
Tenent wrote that when buying a pedigree kitten it would already be house-trained "Therefore, all you need to do is to provide the kitten with a similar tray, put him (or her) on it once or twice, and there should be no trouble." A shallow meat tin or enamel baking tray was recommended and, if possible, ordinary garden soil which should be changed very frequently. This had the advantage that the cat became accustomed to the "feel" of dry earth and would mroe easily take to using the garden when allowed outdoors. "I have known kittens which have been trained to use a pan containing peat-moss litter or cinders, return from playing in the garden just to use their sanitary tray. This of course is wrong and may even be due to bad training, for apart from night-time, or in bad weather, the tray should be dispensed with as soon as possible."
For flat-dwellers, there was a need to always provide a sanitary tray and the recommended litter was peat-moss from a garden supply store as it was easily disposed of after use. Other materials suggested by Tenent were sifted ashes (most homes still had fireplaces), sawdust or even torn-up newspaper. Sawdust was not highly recommended because it could stick to the kittenís coat, and in the case of Long-haired kittens it could mat the fur together. She noted that torn up newspaper was not hygienic and could lead to a cat messing on books or newspapers around the house.
"Of course you will keep the tray scrupulously clean. It should be renewed frequently, disinfected regularly, and the material in it changed at least once a day. Finally, never confuse a kitten by continually moving its tray from one place to another. It you do this you can only blame yourself if in its bewilderment it uses the carpet."
Because cats tended to keep themselves clean, many people didn't think about grooming them so Tenent reminded readers that longhairs needed daily grooming and shorthairs also needed regular grooming. "During the spring and summer moult, however, the careful grooming of any type of cat is absolutely essential. If this is not attended to they are almost certain to swallow large quantities of hair, and if this is allowed to collect in the stomach it may set up irritation and be very dangerous." For longhairs, she recommended a fairly stiff bristle brush, taking care that the bristles weren't sharp enough to injure the coat, and two or three metal combs: one for the very long hair, a finer one for the shorter hair, and a very fine one for the hair on the face and around the ears (and for removing fleas). "A Long-haired cat should be brushed in short, upward strokes, working from the tail towards the head. In other words, you brush the coat in the reverse direction. By this method you get right down to the roots of the fur and do much to prevent the formation of tangles. If, however, at moulting time the cat does get a knot or two, these can usually be loosened with the blunt end of a knitting-needle. If the fur is seriously matted, then you will have to cut the knots away. Do this with a pair of sharp scissors, but be very careful not to injure the catís skin. Never, for example, cut across a knot, or up to the skin, but always cut down the hair away from the skin."
"If your cat is a light-coated variety - say, a White or Cream Persian - then it should have a weekly powder treatment. If this is not done grease may collect in the coat, which not only looks unsightly but mats the hair together. Using any good talcum powder, rub it well into the coat after brushing as described. Do not forget the catís underparts, also the face and round the ears. Naturally, you will be very careful not to get any into the catís eyes. Many light-coloured Persians develop what is known as a Ďgreasy tailí. This means that grease develops in the tail and turns it a yellowish colour, which, of course, can ruin a catís appearance. Should the normal procedure of powder and brushing fail to remove the stains, the only remedy is to wash the tail. Do this with soap and water to which a little borax has been added. Rinse well and dry, then dust with talcum powder."
Short-haired cats were easier to groom; the owner needed a rubber brush, a short-toothed steel comb, and a silk handkerchief or piece of chamois leather. The silk or chamois was used to finish off the coat and produce a sheen on it.
After grooming, the inner corners of the eyes should be wiped with moistened cotton wool. Each week the ears should be cleaned: "squeeze out a small piece of cotton wool in boracic lotion and then wrap it round the end of an orange-wood stick. Insert this very gently into the catís ear, paying special attention to the crevices. You will find that it will remove all traces of dirt, as well as preventing the formation of canker. After treatment wipe carefully with fresh cotton wool and then dust with boracic or canker powder. Should there be any signs of brownish discharge in the ears, usually meaning canker, then they must be dressed daily with a little warm olive oil. Pour this gently into the ear and leave for about ten minutes. Meanwhile gently massage the base of the ear to make sure that the oil reaches the crevices where the trouble often starts. Dry out with clean cotton wool and dust in canker powder. Further suggestions on the treatment of ear canker will be found in the chapter on ailments".
Regular grooming could prevent the need for insect powders, but if the cat did pick up "the odd flea" in warm weather "this is easily disposed of by combing the coat with a fine-toothed steel comb which has been dipped into a solution of Milton or Dettol." For a serious flea infestation, pyrethrum powder should be rubbed into the fur and the cat wrapped in a piece of clean sheet, with only its head exposed, for 10-15 minutes while the powder did its work. After 10-15 minutes the surplus powder and a lot of dead fleas could be brushed out. "While writing this I note that the PDSA recommends the use of flowers of sulphur and camphor in equal parts to rid a cat of vermin. Sprinkle this on the cat and then wrap a cloth round it as described above. Leave for five minutes and then brush out. Repeat every day for about a week."
Claw-clipping was not considered necessary in normal circumstances as most cats had access to suitable surfaces from scratching. "Nevertheless, some cats, especially Siamese, have particularly long claws and unless they are trimmed occasionally are apt to become uncontrollable ... Sometimes it is possible just to file down the tip with an emery board." For indoor cats, Tenent wrote that a scratching-board was required and could be made using a bark-covered log, preferably fixed in an upright position. "Another idea is to cover the leg of a table, or chair, with some very rough material such as hessian, and make it secure by tying in several places with thick string. If you wish to be really enterprising you will put some catnip between the post and the hessian before tying. Catnip is a tonic herb and attractive to almost every cat." On the vexing question of cats that scratched furnishings Tenent wrote "Much can be done to protect upholstered furniture from the claws of cats and kittens by sprinkling the furniture with a little inexpensive eau-de-cologne or lavender water. Cats do not care for scent, and you will find they will keep far away from it. Also, when buying materials for furniture covers it is advisable to choose those with a smooth surface."
Kittens have so much surplus energy that, unless you are prepared continually to romp with them, they should be provided with a few toys. Be careful, however, not to give a kitten any toy made of painted wood, rubber, fluffy wool, or, in fact, any material which might easily flake or break off. If the animal tries to bite at it and any of the pieces are swallowed the results can be very dangerous. A catnip mouse, however, or a ping pong ball suspended on a string will keep your pet amused for hours. For any cat which retrieves, undoubtedly a toy mouse is the favourite plaything, and these can be obtained from Miss DJ Ruxton, an enterprising member of the Catsí Protection League, who makes and sells them in aid of the Societyís funds. Made of grey felt, although not filled with catnip, these mice are extremely realistic-looking, and most cats love them.
On the subject of leashes she noted "Nowadays many cat-owners like to exercise their cats on collar and lead after the manner of dogs. Personally, I have never tried this method, as I do not think it necessary where there is a garden. For flat-dwellers, of course, the idea is invaluable; also many breeders find it a useful way of exercising their stud cats. If you decide to try it, do see that the collar is made of elastic, as recommended by the animal welfare societies. A leather collar can be very dangerous if a cat is in the habit of climbing trees. A harness is probably more comfortable than a collar, and there is a good one on the market, which, I understand, is elasticized for complete safety."
Although beds could be made from cardboard or wooden boxes raised a few inches off the floor and lined with newspapers and blankets, Tenent wrote that many cats preferred to sleep on a chair or sofa. "Where there is only one cat you may find that it prefers to curl up in the corner of a sofa or in an armchair. My Siamese much prefers this type of bed to any other, and as he is completely protected from draughts, I have no objection. For bedding I have experimented by placing a cushion at one end of the sofa and newspaper at the other. Almost always he prefers to sleep on the newspaper!"
RESPONSIBLE OWNERSHIP - PAUL EIPPER (1950s)
If we keep a cat, it is our duty to feed it and care for it in such a way that it will not run away and prowl around the countryside with an empty stomach, looking for prey. Once such an enforced return to the wild state has taken place, restraining becomes an impossibility; the house-cat has become an incorrigible poacher. Now I speak as a member of the movement for the protection of animals, and my heart burns with anger and shame within me. After the watch-dogs at innumerable farmsteads, market gardens, factories and country houses tied up day and night on a much too short length of chain, there is no greater crime, no greater sin against animals than the stray cat, the cat without home or master, wandering in the backyards and areas of large towns, on the outskirts of villages, and in parks, filthy, emaciated, eternally hungry and eternally on the run. This pariah among domestic animals, too, has a right to live, a longing for safety and warmth. Unhappily it also has the proverbial Ďnine livesí, and usually a long time has to pass before death will come to redeem it.
The catís life is imperilled by vivisectors, fur dealers and those persons who desire to eat catís meat. The enemies of cats also include pathological animal tormentors and, most regrettably, a large number of badly brought up children. Lastly, I must chide the so-called Ďcat fiendsí, who out of sheer unthinking love stuff and pamper the powerful, lithe creatures, making them degenerate and desperately unhappy.
No sensible cat friend will deny that cats are passionate hunters. Without that characteristic they would never have been sought out by man. The pleasure which cats can give to individual people is not exchangeable into any known currency; but the usefulness of cats to the entire world is universally recognised. Even today, in the age of technical and chemical progress, there is only one absolutely effective means of dealing with mice and rats, and that is our cat. The Egyptians with their granaries knew it; so did the Romans and the Greeks. In Germany, too, people soon found out that the efficiency of the earliest mouser - the weasel - was exceeded a hundredfold by the catís.
Let me appeal to the human sense of justice and ask: how can a cat know that, though we want it to hunt mice, any other kind of hunting is a capital offence? Let me also appeal to the sense of responsibility within us and put a second question: why does the cat, a domestic animal which makes its home in our houses, go prowling through gardens and fields, woods and meadows, in the search for prey? Because we often fail to give it enough food and care, because we neglect the duties of an animal owner prescribed by our conscience and the law. How often do we hear, in town and country, the remark: "I never give my cat any food, nothing but skimmed milk, otherwise it will get too lazy to catch mice and rats." If a cat has to catch mice and rats from hunger, it will naturally catch birds and hares for the same reason. But it will catch vermin all the more efficiently if it is well fed, because it will then be driven entirely by the deep hunting instinct which is first manifested in the kitten at play.
I get a lot of letters from various people, and often these letters complain about the dirty habits of cats. "What shall we do? Our cat is always finding more and more impossible places for its Ďbusiness,í underneath the kitchen table, in the corner of the sofa, on the mattress, in the coal bucket." Each time I reply by inquiring about the condition of the cat lavatory. If this little box is not absolutely clean and free of smells, the cat cannot use it, because even wildcats avoid all dirty, malodorous places and bury their excrement in the earth. A person who knows anything about cats will keep two boxes or pans, preferably made of metal. These are exchanged every day; one is aired out of doors, while the other, lined with clean turf or sand, is in use. If all solid excrement is immediately cleared away with a small trowel, I can guarantee that any cat that is still more or less normal will become house-trained and stay so.
I have gone into great detail to show that the business of training a cat has to be learnt. To love animals without studying their nature is futile. In training cats there is the added factor that people have to undergo a certain amount of training themselves. People who cannot control themselves are never successful with cats. Raised voices, noise, draughts, injustice and beatings make a cat nervous, unfriendly and liable to scratch. Its confidence in people is destroyed. Let me come back once more to the so-called dirty habits of cats: how pathetic is the brutal method of training whereby a cat - intensely sensitive to smell as it is - has its nose, or even its whole face, pressed into its own excrement that has been deposited in the wrong place! The catís sense of cleanliness, again as a result of heredity, is positively fanatical. It isnít for nothing that it cleans and washes itself all day long; only with a perfectly clean coat can it be fit and at the top of its form.
ROSE TENENT ON TRAVELLING WITH CATS IN THE 1950s
In the 1950s, more and more people went away from home on holiday and Tenent admonished those who did not consider their cat's needs. "No real animal lover would think of going on holiday without making adequate preparation for a catís welfare. To shut a cat up in the house and leave it to fend for itself is not only very cruel, but even if your pet manages to eke out a miserable existence it is bound to fret and imagine that it has been permanently deserted. If you have no reliable friend or neighbour who can really be trusted to come in several times each day and attend to your cat, then it should be sent to a recommended boarding cattery. Unless the boarding establishment has been personally recommended to you, however, do try to visit it in advance. No proprietor of a reliable place will object to your visit - indeed, he will welcome it and be glad to show you his accommodation. It will also provide an opportunity to discuss any special details concerning your petís diet.
But where there are only one or two cats, have you ever thought of taking them on holiday with you? A change of air is as good for cats as it is for humans, and, provided you are with them, there is not the slightest risk of your pets trying to return home. Admitted, it is not very satisfactory taking a cat to a hotel, even if it would be welcome there. But where, say, a furnished bungalow or cottage is available there seems no reason to exclude puss. Your cat would also enjoy a caravan holiday, or it should be happy on a farm.
Travelling with cats is not difficult. You will need a strong, well-ventilated basket, and this should be both high and wide enough to allow the cat complete freedom of movement, but not so large that the animal rolls about with the motion of a vehicle. ĎLine the basket with several layers of newspaper and cover these with a piece of blanket. Adult cats each should have a separate basket, for to put more than one cat in the same carrier may call for exceptional feline friendship. Excellent cat-baskets can be obtained from the Homeworkers Department of the Royal London Society for Teaching and Training the Blind.
Do not imagine that your cat need remain in the basket for the whole of the journey. If you are travelling by railway, once you are in the train your pet will probably be far happier on your lap. The idea of the basket is only for such parts of the journey as crossing busy stations. For at those times the noise and bustle can be very frightening to a cat, and if you arc carrying it in your arms it might try to escape. Even if it is not successful you may easily get scratched or bitten, for a frightened cat is not responsible for its actions. If you are travelling by car, the basket may not be necessary. Even then, however, it would be a wise precaution to have the cat on a lead."
GENERAL CARE IN THE 1960s: ADOPTING CATS ... AND LOSING CATS
In keeping with many sections in the late 1960s CPL leaflet "Some Facts About Cats", the chapter entitled "Your Cat's New Home" is quite melodramatic and some of its advice based on myth rather than fact: "...the cat's intense distaste and dismay on finding his world suddenly and inexplicably torn from him, without necessity, from his point of view - a new world to which he is generally forcibly taken by a companion suddenly turned tyrant. ... Hence the tragedy of the gaunt, sad-eyed cat found sitting outside and empty house waiting, waiting for the answer to a dreadful riddle that his brain is incapable of solving."
Once the owner has moved into the new house with the cat and temporarily restricted him to one room "at the usual time give him a specially nice meal and, before leaving him, butter his paws liberally. The object of this is to keep him busy with his toilet and give him no time for fretting. ... Continue the paw buttering daily."
The paw-buttering is an old wives tale and it seems odd that the CPL included it, except to make the rest of the information more acceptable, such as keeping the cat confined to the house "until he has been perfectly calm in his new surroundings for a week. When he is let out, he should be watched and not left alone too much." which is more familiar advice to modern cat owners. The leaflet advises owners to arrange the cat's bed and feeding areas in the new house in a similar way to the old house to help him settle, and I feel that this is excellent advice, along with the suggestion that "If he settles in the very corner when you want to put a chair, don't move him away, the chair can wait; it is better to have one piece of furniture in the wrong place for a few hours than a lost cat."
Since, in those days, many people viewed cats as largely self-sufficient, the leaflet qualifies the "keep cat indoors until settled advice" with "This advice is intended for owners of cats that have been treated with great consideration, what most people would call - stupidly - "pampered". For cats that have been used to "roughing it" ... the paw buttering, the presence of [familiar objects and address collar] should suffice." Nowadays it is recommended that all cats, pampered or otherwise, should be kept in for at least two weeks after moving home and there is no mention of the paw buttering; although a few would-be adopters still enquire whether this should be done when they let their new cat outdoors for the first time!
The following few quotes show just how much times have changed:-
"If, in spite of all your precautions, your cat escapes, communicate at once with friends near your old address and see that everyone there is warned to be on the lookout for him."
"Ask a friendly neighbour, a tradesman, or a policeman, to keep a sharp look-out for any cat resembling yours, with instruction to let you know at once should one be seen around the place." (If cat goes missing prior to moving.)
"It is a good plan, too, to get in touch with the local inspector and the police immediately on your arrival at the new house, to give them full description of the cat, and ask them to be on the watch for him." (If cat goes missing following the move.)
In those days the local police weren't too busy catching ram-raiders and vandals to keep an eye on the neighbourhood's cat population, and most people knew their neighbours and local tradesmen well. Should you be unlucky enough to lose your cat, "Some Facts About Cats" offers the following advice:
"Contact and report your loss to animal welfare organisations in your district or town. The addresses can usually be obtained from the Police who should also be informed. Sheds, garages, greenhouses etc., in the immediate vicinity of the catís home should be thoroughly examined with the consent and co-operation of the neighbours. Cats have been found in lofts, especially store rooms, warehouses, cellars, basements and empty houses; church boiler houses too and rooms that are seldom used at institutions. In the catís own home, cupboards, laundry baskets, the chimney, under the floor boards or an overturned box, behind a grating or even the "bottom drawer" should be inspected. A crate in a yard, the church organ loft or crypt, coal shoot in the middle of a pavement, the boot or bonnet of a car are all places in which a eat can hide or be trapped. Cavity walls can be entered through a broken air brick. A cat will squeeze through a small space such as a slightly opened skylight and become marooned on the roof. It can be chased by a dog or children up a tree, it can get into a van or a car and be driven away and not be found until the traveller reaches his destination. Road men and refuse collectors will sometimes be able to give information about a cat that has been killed on the road and taken away. The postman who delivers the morning mail may have seen such a cat here or there.
Advertising in the newspapers can be very successful but it can also be the means of cats that are not lost being picked up and brought to the advertiser. A full description is therefore advisable. The use of small advertisements outside shops or handbills in the windows of friends etc., will draw attention to the loss.
Searching is best done late in the evening when it is quiet. The cat should be called by name in the hope of it responding. Anything with which the cat is familiar should be tried in an effort to attract its attention and every possible clue as to its whereabouts should be investigated as quickly as possible."
On keeping cats in at night a 1970s CPL leaflets said: "Cat thieves are prevalent, and most of their unfortunate victims end up in experimental laboratories." Modern Cats Protection leaflets mention that "cat stealing, unfortunately, does go on and mostly at night" but no longer mention laboratories, maybe through lack of evidence or fear of libel. The CPL's poster advising owners to keep cats in at night also changed quite recently; dropping the mention of theft for fur or laboratory use. Although night-time traffic is unarguably a hazard, the mysterious disappearance of many cats, often ones of the same colour, points to ongoing cat theft and owners should be aware of this danger.
According to Katharine L Simms in "They Walked Beside Me" (1954): "If you buy a fur of that attractive fur called 'genet' you will be wearing thirty cats ... [cat] thieves prefer cats from good homes; the scruffy fur of the stray is not profitable." it isn't clear from her account whether domestic cat fur was being passed off as genet or whether the term "genet cat" (as the mongoose-like genet was then called) was a cause for confusion.
CATS AND COLLARS IN THE 1960s
In 1951 Soderberg had written that the indiscriminate use of collars was not to be recommended due to the risk of snagging and strangulation. He did not consider it a useful means of identification, saying "Of course, a collar or harness can carry a disc bearing the name of the owner, but few cats lose themselves, and if they disappear it is more likely than not that they have been stolen. The conscience of a cat thief is not touched at the sight of the name and address of the owner."
In fact many of the supposedly stolen cats had probably become lost through wandering rather than theft and Soderberg's well-meaning advice would have done cats and cat owners disservice.
At the time the CPL leaflet was written in the mid/late 1960s, there was still obviously opposition to putting collars on cats, more-so than now. For self-sufficient creatures, collars just weren't the done thing! The chief objections noted by the CPL are: collars of any description cause the cat discomfort, possibility of strangulation, the hair around the cat's neck being likely to become thin and spoil the appearance of the coat, especially in longhairs.
"In view of the adverse opinions that have been expressed in connection with "Collars for Cats", it would perhaps be opportune to state the views of the Catsí Protection League in this respect.
The chief objections appear to be that:
(I) Collars of any description cause discomfort to the cats.
(2) There is the possibility of strangling, should the cat become caught up by the collar.
(3) The hair round the catsí necks is likely to become thin, and so spoil the appearance of the coat; this of course, applies chiefly to the long-haired varieties.
Before dealing with these objections in order, the matter should be considered from another angle; assuming that it becomes possible to meet the demands of those who are constantly advocating "taxation", it is logical to expect that some method of identification will be enforced and that would undoubtedly be a collar and name-plate.
Apart from the possibility of compulsory wearing of collars, cat lovers will agree that some method of identification does assist in restoring lost cats to their owners. Remember that every day stray cats and kittens are taken to Shelters and destroyed. If they had collars, with their ownersí names and addresses, their lives would be spared. Efforts are made by both the owners and those in charge of the Shelters to minimise this appalling waste of life, but the percentage of success is not very high. Therefore, the discomfort of wearing a collar is but a small item in comparison with the suffering of the stray cat; starvation, disease, and finally the Lethal Chamber.
The discomfort will only be temporary, also the collar can be removed at night when the cat is in, as it should be. Secondly, the risk of strangulation, by getting caught up, is negligible; a collar made of elastic would stretch sufficiently to allow the cat to free itself.
The majority of the vast army of "strays" are from the towns and cities, where the chance of cats being killed crossing the roads are far greater than being caught up in trees by the collar, and there is positively no comparison between the numbers that would possibly meet their deaths and those whose lives would be saved by wearing collars.
Lastly, whilst it must be admitted that a long-haired eat would not be perfect with a gap in its ruff, where the collar is worn, this unsightliness could be minimised by removing the collar at night, and by proper adjustment when putting it on. Much better, from the catís point of view, to be a live cat with a ruffled ruff, than a stray, half-starved one with prospects of an early death."
An adjustable collar made of elastic and bearing a name tag was recommended and readers were referred to a work called "Contented Cat" by Mary Collier.
Interestingly the above noted that the collar was to be removed at night when the cat is in, as it should be - a subtle message to keep cats in at night! Apart from this, there was little said about keeping cats in at night and the majority were still being put out for the night. The message of overnight confinement was certainly not hammered home as it is today.
And to emphasise the condition of strays, an illustration showed a tatty stray beyond help to hammer home the twin messages of caring properly for cats and supporting the CPL. Nowadays, CPL literature uses similar photos in a totally different way - the "before and after" where the "befores" often appear to be in a far worse state than that depicted in the leaflet.