Helen M. Winslow
Part 3 out of 3
Every cat-lover knows that a cat cannot be induced, either by reason or
by affection, to act in accordance with any wishes save its own. Also
that cats find malicious amusement in doing what they know they are not
wanted to do, and that with an affectation of innocence that materially
aggravates their deliberate offence.
But Madame Ronner, through her long experience, has evolved a way to get
them to pose as models. Her plan is the simple one of keeping her models
prisoners in a glass box, enclosed in a wire cage, while she is painting
them. Inside the prison she cannot always command their actions, but her
knowledge of cat character enables her to a certain extent to persuade
them to take the pose which she requires. By placing a comfortable
cushion in the cage she can tempt her model to lie down; some object of
great interest, like a live mouse, for instance, exhibited just outside
the cage is sure to create the eager look that she has shown so well on
cat faces; and to induce her kittens to indulge in the leaps and bounds
which she has succeeded so wonderfully in transferring to canvas, she
keeps hanging from the top of the cage a most seductive "bob."
Madame Ronner's favorite models are "Jem" and "Monmouth," cats of rare
sweetness of temper, whose conduct in all relations of life is above
reproach. The name of "Monmouth," as many will recall, was made famous
by the hero of Monsieur La Bedolierre's classic, "Mother Michel and her
Cat," [Footnote: Translated into English by Thomas Bailey Aldrich.] and
therefore has clustering about it traditions so glorious that its wearers
in modern times must be upheld always by lofty hopes and high resolves.
Doubtless Monmouth Ronner feels the responsibility entailed upon him by
In the European galleries are several noted paintings in which the cat
appears more or less unsuccessfully. Breughel and Teniers made their
grotesque "Cat Concerts" famous, but one can scarcely see why, since the
drawing is poor and there is no real insight into cat character evident.
The sleeping cat, in Breughel's "Paradise Lost" in the Louvre, is
better, being well drawn, but so small as to leave no chance for
expression. Lebrun's "Sleep of the Infant Jesus," in the Louvre, has a
slumbering cat under the stove, and in Barocci's "La Madonna del Gatto"
the cat is the centre of interest. Holman Hunt's "The Awakening
Conscience" and Murillo's Holy Family "del Pajarito" give the cat as a
type of cruelty, but have failed egregiously in accuracy of form or
expression. Paul Veronese's cat in "The Marriage at Cana" is fearfully
and wonderfully made, and even Rembrandt failed when he tried to
introduce a cat into his pictures.
Rosa Bonheur has been wise enough not to attempt cat pictures, knowing
that special study, for which she had not the time or the inclination,
is necessary to fit an artist to excel with the feline character.
Landseer, too, after trying twice, once in 1819 with "The Cat Disturbed"
and once in 1824 with "The Cat's Paw," gave up all attempts at dealing
with Grimalkin. Indeed, most artists who have attempted it, have found
that to be a wholly successful cat artist such whole-hearted devotion to
the subject as Madame Ronner's is the invariable price of distinction.
Of late, however, more artists are found who are willing to pay this
price, who are giving time and study not only to the subtle shadings of
the delicate fur, but to the varying facial expression and sinuous
movements of the cat. Margaret Stocks, of Munich, for example, is
rapidly coming to the front as a cat painter, and some predict for her
(she is still a young woman) a future equal to Madame Ronner's. Gambier
Bolton's "Day Dreams" shows admirably the quality and "tumbled-ness" of
an Angora kitten's fur, while the expression and drawing are equally
good. Miss Cecilia Beaux's "Brighton Cats" is famous, and every student
of cats recognizes its truthfulness at once.
Angora and Persian kittens find another loving and faithful student in
J. Adam, whose paintings have been photographed and reproduced in this
country times without number. "Puss in Boots" is another foreign picture
which has been photographed and sold extensively in this country.
"Little Milksop" by the same artist, Mr. Frank Paton, gives fairly
faithful drawing and expression of two kittens who have broken a milk
pitcher and are eagerly lapping up the contents.
In the Munich Gallery there is a painting by Claus Meyer, "Bose Zungen,"
which has become quite noted. His three old cats and three young cats
show three gossiping old crones by the side of whom are three small and
Of course, there are no artists whose painting of the cat is to be
compared with Madame Ronner's. Mr. J.L. Dolph, of New York City, has
painted hundreds of cat pieces which have found a ready sale, and Mr.
Sid L. Brackett, of Boston, is doing very creditable work. A successful
cat painter of the younger school is Mr. N.N. Bickford, of New York,
whose "Peek-a-Boo" hangs in a Chicago gallery side by side with cats of
Madame Ronner and Monsieur Lambert. "Miss Kitty's Birthday" shows that
he has genuine understanding of cat character, and is mastering the
subtleties of long white fur.
Mr. Bickford is a pupil of Jules Lefebvre Boulanger and Miralles. It was
by chance that he became a painter of cats. Mademoiselle Marie Engle,
the prima-donna, owned a beautiful white Angora cat which she prized
very highly, and as her engagements abroad compelled her to part with
the cat for a short time, she left Mizzi with the artist until her
return. One day Mr. Bickford thought he would try painting the white,
silken fur of Mizzi: the result not only surprised him but also his
artist friends, who said, "Lambert himself could not have done better."
Upon Miss Engle's return, seeing what an inspiration her cat had been,
she gave her to Mr. Bickford, and it is needless to add that he has
become deeply attached to his beautiful model. Mizzi is a pure white
Angora, with beautiful blue eyes, and silky fur. She won first prize at
the National Cat Show of 1895, but no longer attends cat shows, on
account of her engagements as professional model.
Ben Austrian, who has made a success in painting other animals, has done
a cat picture of considerable merit. The subject was Tix, a beautiful
tiger-gray, belonging to Mr. Mahlon W. Newton, of Philadelphia. The cat
is noted, not only in Philadelphia, but among travelling men, as he
resides at a hotel, and is quite a prominent member of the office force.
He weighs fifteen pounds and is of a very affectionate nature, following
his master to the park and about the establishment like a dog. During
the day he lives in the office, lying on the counter or the key-rack,
but at night he retires with his master at eleven or twelve o'clock,
sleeping in his own basket in the bathroom, and waking his master
promptly at seven every morning. Tix's picture hangs in the office of
his hotel, and is becoming as famous as the cat.
Elizabeth Bonsall is a young American artist who has exhibited some good
cat pictures, and whose work promises to make her famous some day, if
she does not "weary in well-doing"; and Mr. Jean Paul Selinger's
"Kittens" are quite well known.
The good cat illustrator is even more rare than the cat painters.
Thousands of readers recall those wonderfully lifelike cats and kittens
which were a feature of the _St. Nicholas_ a few years ago,
accompanied by "nonsense rhymes" or "jingles." They were the work of
Joseph G. Francis, of Brookline, Mass., and brought him no little fame.
He was, and is still, a broker on State Street, Boston, and in his busy
life these inimitable cat sketches were but an incident. Mr. Francis is
a devoted admirer of all cats, and had for many years loved and studied
one cat in particular. It was by accident that he discovered his own
possibilities in the line of cat drawing, as he began making little
pen-and-ink sketches for his own amusement and then for that of his
friends. The latter persuaded him to send some of these drawings to the
_St. Nicholas_ and the _Wide-Awake_ magazines, and, rather to
his surprise, they were promptly accepted, and the "Francis cats" became
famous. Mr. Francis does but little artistic work, nowadays, more
important business keeping him well occupied; besides, he says, he "is
not in the mood for it."
Who does not know Louis Wain's cats?--that prince of English
illustrators. Mr. Wain's home, when not in London, is at Bendigo Lodge,
Westgate, Kent. He began his artistic career at nineteen, after a
training in the best London schools. He was not a hard worker over his
books, but his fondness for nature led him to an artist's career.
American Indian stories were his delight, and accounts of the wandering
outdoor life of our aborigines were instrumental in developing his
powers of observation regarding the details of nature. Always fond of
dumb animals, he began life by making sketches for sporting papers at
agricultural shows all over England. It was his own cat "Peter" who
first suggested to Louis Wain the fanciful cat creations which have made
his name famous. Watching Peter's antics one evening, he was tempted to
do a small study of kittens, which was promptly accepted by a magazine
editor in London. Then he trained Peter to become a model and the
starting-point of his success. Peter has done more to wipe out of
England the contempt in which the cat was formerly held there, than any
other feline in the world. He has done his race a service in raising
their status from neglected, forlorn creatures on the one hand, or the
pampered, overfed object of old maids' affections on the other, to a
dignified place in the English house.
The double-page picture of the "Cat's Christmas Dance" in the _London
Illustrated News_ of December 6, 1890, contains a hundred and fifty
cats, with as many varying facial expressions and attitudes. It occupied
eleven working days of Mr. Wain's time, but it caught the public fancy
and made a tremendous hit all over the world. Louis Wain's cats
immediately became famous, and he has had more orders than he can fill
ever since. He works eight hours a day, and then lays aside his brush to
study physical science, or write a humorous story. He has written and
illustrated a comic book, and spent a great deal of time over a more
Among the best known of his cat pictures, after the "Christmas Party,"
is his "Cats' Rights Meeting," which not even the most ardent suffragist
can study without laughter. From a desk an ardent tabby is expounding,
loud and long, on the rights of her kind. In front of her is a double
row of felines, sitting with folded arms, and listening with absorbed
attention. The expressions of these cats' faces, some ardent, some
indignant, some placid, but all interested, form a ridiculous contrast
to a row of "Toms" in the rear, who evidently disagree with the
lecturer, and are prepared to hiss at her more "advanced" ideas.
"Returning Thanks" is nearly as amusing, with its thirteen cats seated
at table over their wine, while one offers thanks, and the remainder
wear varying expressions of devotion, indifference, or irreverence.
"Bringing Home the Yule Log" gives twenty-one cats, and as many
individual expressions of joy or discomfort; and the "Snowball Match"
shows a scene almost as hilarious as the "Christmas Dance."
Mr. Wain believes there is a great future for black and white work if a
man is careful to keep abreast of the times. "A man should first of all
create his public and draw upon his own fund of originality to sustain
it," he says, "taking care not to pander to the degenerate tendencies
which would prevent his work from elevating the finer instincts of the
people." Says a recent visitor to the Wain household: "I wonder if Peter
realizes that he has done more good than most human beings, who are
endowed not only with sense but with brains? if in the firelight, he
sees the faces of many a suffering child whose hours of pain have been
shortened by the recital of his tricks, and the pictures of himself
arrayed in white cravat, or gayly disporting himself on a 'see-saw'? I
feel inclined to wake him up, and whisper how, one cold winter's night,
I met a party of five little children, hatless and bootless, hurrying
along an East-end slum, and saying encouragingly to the youngest, who
was crying with cold and hunger, 'Come along: we'll get there soon.' I
followed them down the lighted street till they paused in front of a
barber's shop, and I heard their voices change to a shout of merriment:
for in the window was a crumpled Christmas supplement, and Peter, in a
frolicsome mood, was represented entertaining at a large cats'
tea-party. Hunger, and cold, and misery were all dispelled. Who would
not be a cat of Louis Wain's, capable of creating ten minutes' sunshine
in a childish heart?"
Mr. Wain announces a discovery in relation to cats which corroborates a
theory of my own, adopted from long observation and experience.
"I have found," he says, "as a result of many years of inquiry and
study, that people who keep cats and are in the habit of petting them,
do not suffer from those petty ailments which all flesh is heir to.
Rheumatism and nervous complaints are uncommon with them, and Pussy's
lovers are of the sweetest temperament. I have often felt the benefit,
after a long spell of mental effort, of having my cats sitting across my
shoulders, or of half an hour's chat with Peter."
This is a frequent experience of my own. Nothing is more restful and
soothing after a busy day than sitting with my hands buried in the soft
sides of one of my cats.
"Do you know," said one of my neighbors, recently, "when I am troubled
with insomnia, lately, I get up and get Bingo from his bed, and take him
to mine. I can go to sleep with my hands on him."
There is a powerful magnetic influence which emanates from a sleepy or
even a quiet cat, that many an invalid has experienced without realizing
it. If physicians were to investigate this feature of the cat's
electrical and magnetic influence, in place of anatomical research after
death, or the horrible practice of vivisection, they might be doing a
real service to humanity.
Mr. Wain's success as an illustrator brought him great prominence in the
National Cat Club of England, and he has been for a number of years its
president, doing much to raise the condition and quality of cats and the
status of the club. He has a number of beautiful and high-bred cats at
With regard to the painting of cats Champfleury said, "The lines are so
delicate, the eyes are distinguished by such remarkable qualities, the
movements are due to such sudden impulses, that to succeed in the
portrayal of such a subject, one must be feline one's self." And Mr.
Spielman gives the following advice to those who would paint cats:--
"You must love them, as Mahomet and Chesterfield loved them: be as fond
of their company as Wolsley and Richelieu, Mazarin and Colbert, who
retained them even during their most impressive audiences: as Petrarch,
and Dr. Johnson, and Canon Liddon, and Ludovic Halevy, who wrote with
them at their elbow: and Tasso and Gray, who celebrated them in verse:
as sympathetic as Carlyle, whom Mrs. Allingham painted in the company of
his beloved 'Tib' in the garden at Chelsea, or as Whittington, the hero
of our milk-and-water days: think of El Daher Beybars, who fed all
feline comers, or 'La Belle Stewart,' Duchess of Richmond, who, in the
words of the poet, 'endowed a college' for her little friends: you must
be as approbative of their character, their amenableness to education,
their inconstancy, not to say indifference and their general lack of
principle, as Madame de Custine: and as appreciative of their daintiness
and grace as Alfred de Musset. Then, and not till then, can you consider
yourself sentimentally equipped for studying the art of cat painting."
CONCERNING CAT HOSPITALS AND REFUGES
At comparatively frequent intervals we read of some woman, historic or
modern, who has left an annuity (as the Duchess of Richmond, "La Belle
Stewart") for the care of her pet cats; now and then a man provides for
them in his will, as Lord Chesterfield, for instance, who left a
permanent pension for his cats and their descendants. But I find only
one who has endowed a home for them and given it sufficient means to
support the strays and waifs who reach its shelter.
Early in the eighties, Captain Nathan Appleton, of Boston (a brother of
the poet Longfellow's wife, and of Thomas Appleton, the celebrated wit),
returned from a stay in London with a new idea, that of founding some
sort of a refuge, or hospital, for sick or stray cats and dogs. He had
visited Battersea, and been deeply impressed with the need of a shelter
for small and friendless domestic animals.
At Battersea there is an institution similar to the one the Society for
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York have at East 120th Street,
where stray animals may be sent and kept for a few days awaiting the
possible appearance of a claimant or owner; at the end of which time the
animals are placed in the "lethal chamber," where they die instantly and
painlessly by asphyxiation. In Boston, the Society of Prevention of
Cruelty to Animals have no such refuge or pound, but in place of it keep
one or two men whose business it is to go wherever sent and "mercifully
put to death" the superfluous, maimed, or sick animals that shall be
Captain Appleton's idea, however, was something entirely different from
this. These creatures, he argued, have a right to their lives and the
pursuit of happiness after their own fashion, and he proposed to help
them to enjoy that right. He appealed to a few sympathetic friends and
gave two or three acres of land from his own estate, near "Nonantum
Hill," where the Apostle Eliot preached to the Indians, and where his
iodine springs are located. He had raised a thousand or two dollars and
planned a structure of some kind to shelter stray dogs and cats, when
the good angel that attends our household pets guided him to the lawyer
who had charge of the estates of Miss Ellen M. Gifford, of New Haven,
Ct. "I think I can help you," said the lawyer. But he would say nothing
more at that time. A few weeks later, Captain Appleton was sent for.
Miss Gifford had become deeply interested in the project, and after
making more inquiries, gave the proposed home some twenty-five thousand
dollars, adding to this amount afterward and providing for the
institution in her will. It has already had over one hundred thousand
dollars from Miss Gifford's estates, and it is so well endowed and well
managed that it is self-supporting.
The Ellen M. Gifford Sheltering Home for Animals is situated near the
Brookline edge of the Brighton district in Boston. In fact, the
residential portion of aristocratic Brookline is so fast creeping up to
it that the whole six acres of the institution will doubtless soon be
disposed of at a very handsome profit, while the dogs and cats will
retire to a more remote district to "live on the interest of their
The main building is a small but handsome brick affair, facing on Lake
Street. This is the home of the superintendent, and contains, besides,
the offices of the establishment. Over the office is a tablet with this
inscription, taken from a letter of Miss Gifford's about the time the
home was opened:--
"If only the waifs, the strays, the sick, the abused, would be sure to
get entrance to the home, and anybody could feel at liberty to bring in
a starved or ill-treated animal and have it cared for without pay, my
object would be obtained. March 27, 1884."
The superintendent is a lover of animals as well as a good business
manager, and his work is in line with the sentence just quoted. Any one
wanting a cat or a dog, and who can promise it a good home, may apply
there. But Mr. Perkins does not take the word of a stranger at random.
He investigates their circumstances and character, and never gives away
an animal unless he can be reasonably sure of its going to a good home.
For instance, he once received an application from one man for six cats.
The wholesale element in the order made him slightly suspicious, and he
immediately drove to Boston, where he found that his would-be customer
owned a big granary overrun with mice. He sent the six cats, and two
weeks later went to see how they were getting on, when he found them
living happily in a big grain-loft, fat and contented as the most
devoted Sultan of Egypt could have asked. None but street cats and stray
dogs, homeless waifs, ill-treated and half starved, are received at this
home. Occasionally, some family desiring to get rid of the animal they
have petted for months, perhaps years, will send it over to the
Sheltering Home. But if Mr. Perkins can find where it came from he
promptly returns it, for even this place, capable of comfortably housing
a hundred cats and as many dogs, cannot accommodate all the unfortunates
that are picked up in the streets of Boston. The accommodations, too,
while they are comfortable and even luxurious for the poor creatures
that have hitherto slept on ash-barrels and stone flaggings, are unfit
for household pets that have slept on cushions, soft rugs, and milady's
There is a dog-house and a cat-house, sufficiently far apart that the
occupants of one need not be disturbed by those of the other. In the
dog-house there are rows of pens on each side of the middle aisle, in
which from one to four or five dogs, according to size, are kept when
indoors. These are of all sorts, colors, dispositions, and sizes,
ranging from pugs to St. Bernards, terriers to mastiffs. There are few
purely bred dogs, although there are many intelligent and really
handsome ones. The dogs are allowed to run in the big yard that opens
out from their house at certain hours of the day; but the cats' yards
are open to them all day and night. All yards and runs are enclosed with
wire netting, and the cat-house has partitions of the same. All around
the sides of the cat-house are shelves or bunks, which are kept supplied
with clean hay, for their beds. Here one may see cats of every color and
assorted sizes, contentedly curled up in their nests, while their
companions sit blinking in the sun, or run out in the yards. Cooked
meat, crackers and milk, and dishes of fresh water are kept where they
can get at them. The cats all look plump and well fed, and, indeed, the
ordinary street cat must feel that his lines have fallen in pleasant
Not so, however, with pet cats who may be housed there. They miss the
companionship of people, and the household belongings to which they have
been accustomed. Sometimes it is really pathetic to see one of these
cast-off pets climb up the wire netting and plainly beg the visitor to
take him away from that strange place, and give him such a home as he
has been used to. In the superintendent's house there is usually a good
cat or two of this sort, as he is apt to test a well-bred cat before
giving him away.
Somewhat similar, and even older than the Ellen Gifford Sheltering Home,
is the Morris Refuge of Philadelphia. This institution, whose motto is
"The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his
works," was first established in May, 1874, by Miss Elizabeth Morris and
other ladies who took an interest in the protection of suffering
animals. It does not limit its tender mercies to cats and dogs, but
cares for every suffering animal. It differs from the Ellen Gifford Home
chiefly in the fact that, while the latter is a _home_ for stray
cats and dogs, the Morris Refuge has for its object the care for and
disposal of suffering animals of all sorts. In a word, it brings relief
to most of these unfortunate creatures by means of a swift and painless
It was first known as the City Refuge, although it was never maintained
by the city. In January, 1889, it was reorganized and incorporated as
the "Morris Refuge for Homeless and Suffering Animals." It is supported
by private contributions, and is under the supervision of Miss Morris
and a corps of kind-hearted ladies of Philadelphia. A wagon is kept at
the home to respond to calls, and visits any residence where suffering
animals may need attention. The agent of the society lives at the refuge
with his family, and receives animals at any time. When notice is
received of an animal hurt or suffering, he sends after it. Chloroform
is invariably taken along, in order that, if expedient, the creature may
be put out of its agony at once. This refuge is at 1242 Lombard Street,
and there is a temporary home where dogs are boarded at 923 South 11th
In 1895, out of 23,067 animals coming under the care of the association,
19,672 were cats. In 1896, there were 24,037 animals relieved and
disposed of, while the superintendent answered 230 police calls. Good
homes are found for both dogs and cats, but not until the agent is sure
that they will be kindly treated.
In Miss Morris's eighth annual report she says: "Looking back to the
formation of the first society for the prevention of cruelty to animals,
we find since that time a gradual awakening to the duties man owes to
those below him in the scale of animal creation. The titles of those
societies and their objects, as defined by their charters, show that at
first it was considered sufficient to protect animals from cruel
treatment: very few people gave thought to the care of those that were
without homes. Now many are beginning to think of the evil of being
overrun with numbers of homeless creatures, whose sufferings appeal to
the sympathies of the humane, and whose noise and depredations provoke
the cruelty of the hard-hearted: hence the efforts that are being made
in different cities to establish refuges. A request has lately been
received from Montreal asking for our reports, as it is proposed to
found a home for animals in that city, and information is being
collected in relation to such institutions."
Lady Marcus Beresford has succeeded in establishing and endowing a home
for cats in Englefield Green, Windsor Park. She has made a specialty of
Angoras, and her collection is famous. Queen Victoria and her daughters
take a deep interest, not alone in finely bred cats, but in poor and
homeless waifs as well. Her Royal Highness, in fact, took pains to write
the London S.P.C.A. some years ago, saying she would be very glad to
have them do something for the safety and protection of cats, "_which
are so generally misunderstood and grossly ill-treated_." She herself
sets a good example in this respect, and when her courts remove from one
royal residence to another, her cats are taken with her.
There is a movement in Paris, too, to provide for sick and homeless cats
as well as dogs. Two English ladies have founded a hospital near
Asnieres, where ailing pets can be tended in illness, or boarded for
about ten cents a day; and very well cared for their pensioners are.
There is also a charity ward where pauper patients are received and
tended carefully, and afterward sold or given away to reliable people.
Oddly, this sort of charity was begun by Mademoiselle Claude Bernard,
the daughter of the great scientist who, it is said, tortured more
living creatures to death than any other. Vivisection became a passion
with him, but Mademoiselle Bernard is atoning for her father's cruelty
by a singular devotion to animals, and none are turned from her gates.
This is the way they do it in Cairo even now, according to Monsieur
Prisse d'Avennes, the distinguished Egyptologist:--
"The Sultan, El Daher Beybars, who reigned in Egypt and Syria toward 658
of the Hegira (1260 A.D.) and is compared by William of Tripoli to Nero
in wickedness, and to Caesar in bravery, had a peculiar affection for
cats. At his death, he left a garden, 'Gheyt-el-Quoltah' (the cats'
orchard), situated near his mosque outside Cairo, for the support of
homeless cats. Subsequently the field was sold and resold several times
by the administrator and purchasers. In consequence of a series of
dilapidations it now produces a nominal rent of fifteen piastres a year,
which with certain other legacies is appropriated to the maintenance of
cats. The Kadi, who is the official administrator of all pious and
charitable bequests, ordains that at the hour of afternoon prayer,
between noon and sunset, a daily distribution of animals' entrails and
refuse meat from the butchers' stalls, chopped up together, shall be
made to the cats of the neighborhood. This takes place in the outer
court of the 'Mehkemeh,' or tribunal, and a curious spectacle may then
be seen. At this hour all the terraces near the Mehkemeh are crowded
with cats: they come jumping from house to house across the narrow Cairo
streets, hurrying for their share: they slide down walls and glide into
the court, where they dispute, with great tenacity and much growling,
the scanty meal so sadly out of proportion to the number of guests. The
old ones clear the food in a moment: the young ones and the newcomers,
too timid to fight for their chance, must content themselves with
licking the ground. Those wanting to get rid of cats take them there and
deposit them. I have seen whole baskets of kittens deposited in the
court, greatly to the annoyance of the neighbors."
There are similar customs in Italy and Switzerland. In Geneva cats prowl
about the streets like dogs at Constantinople. The people charge
themselves with their maintenance, and feed the cats who come to their
doors at the same hour every day for their meals.
In Florence, a cloister near St. Lorenzo's Church serves as a refuge for
cats. It is an ancient and curious institution, but I am unable to find
whether it is maintained by the city or by private charities. There are
specimens of all colors, sizes, and kinds, and any one who wants a cat
has but to go there and ask for it. On the other hand, the owner of a
cat who is unable or unwilling to keep it may take it there, where it is
fed and well treated.
In Rome, they have a commendable system of caring for their cats. At a
certain hour butchers' men drive through the city, with carts well
stocked with cat's meat. They utter a peculiar cry which the cats
recognize, and come hurrying out of the houses for their allowances,
which are paid for by the owners at a certain rate per month.
In Boston, during the summer of 1895, a firm of butchers took
subscriptions from philanthropic citizens, and raised enough to defray
the expenses of feeding the cats on the Back Bay,--where, in spite of
the fact that the citizens are all wealthy and supposedly humane, there
are more starving cats than elsewhere in the city. But the experiment
has not been repeated.
Hospitals for sick animals are no new thing, but a really comfortable
home for cats is an enterprise in which many a woman who now asks
despondently what she can do in this overcrowded world to earn a living,
might find pleasant and profitable.
A most worthy charity is that of the Animal Rescue League in Boston,
which was started by Mrs. Anna Harris Smith in 1899. She put a call in
the newspapers, asking those who were interested in the subject to
attend a meeting and form a league for the protection and care of lost
or deserted pets. The response was immediate and generous. The Animal
Rescue League was formed with several hundred members, and in a short
time the house at 68 Carver Street was rented, and a man and his wife
put in charge. Here are brought both cats and dogs from all parts of
Boston and the suburbs, where they are sure of kind treatment and care.
If they are diseased they are immediately put out of existence by means
of the lethal chamber; otherwise they are kept for a few days in order
that they may be claimed by their owners if lost, or have homes found
for them whenever it is possible. During the first year over two
thousand cats were cared for, and several hundred dogs. This home is
maintained by voluntary contributions and by the annual dues of
subscribers. These are one dollar a year for associate members and five
dollars for active members. It is an excellent charity, and one that may
well be emulated in other cities.
There are several cat asylums and refuges in the Far West, and certainly
a few more such institutions as the Sheltering Home at Brighton, Mass.,
or the Morris Refuge would be a credit to a country. How better than by
applying it to our cats can we demonstrate the truth of Solomon's maxim,
"A merciful man is merciful to his beast"?
CONCERNING THE ORIGIN OF CATS
If any of my readers hunger and thirst for information concerning the
descent of the cat through marsupial ancestors and mesozoic mammals to
the generalized placental or monodelphous carnivora of to-day, let them
consult St. George Mivart, who gives altogether the most comprehensive
and exhaustive scientific study to the cat ever published, and whose
book on the cat is an excellent work for the earnest beginner in the
study of biological science. He says no more complete example can be
found of a perfectly organized living being than that supplied by the
highest mammalian family--_Felidae_.
"On the whole," he sums up, "it seems probable that the mammalia, and
therefore the cat, descends from some highly developed, somewhat
reptile-like batrachian of which no trace has been found."
Away back in the eighth century of the Hegira, an Arab naturalist gives
this account of the creation of the cat: "When, as the Arab relates,
Noah made a couple of each animal to enter the ark, his companions and
family asked, 'What security can you give us and the other animals, so
long as the lion dwells with us on this narrow vessel?' Then Noah betook
himself to prayer, and entreated the Lord God. Immediately fever came
down from heaven and seized upon the king of beasts." This was the
origin of fever. But constituents in Noah's time, as now, were
ungrateful; and no sooner was the lion disposed of, than the mouse was
discovered to be an object of suspicion. They complained that there
would be no safety for provisions or clothing. "And so Noah renewed his
supplication to the Most High, the lion sneezed, and a cat ran out of
his nostrils. From that time the mouse has been timid and has hidden in
In the Egyptian gallery of the British Museum there is an excellent
painting of a tabby cat assisting a man to capture birds. Hieroglyphic
inscriptions as far back as 1684 B.C. mention the cat, and there is at
Leyden a tablet of the eighteenth or nineteenth dynasty with a cat
seated under a chair. A temple at Beni-Hassan is dedicated to Pasht or
Bubastis, the goddess of cats, which is as old as Thothmes IV of the
eighteenth dynasty, 1500 B.C.; and the cat appears in written rituals of
that dynasty. Herodotus tells of the almost superstitious reverence
which dwellers along the Nile felt for the cat, and gravely states that
when one died a natural death in any house, the inmates shaved their
eyebrows as a token of grief; also, that in case of a fire the first
thing they saved was the household cat. Fortunate pussies!
It is thought that cats were introduced into Greece from Egypt, although
Professor Rolleston, of Cambridge University, believes the Grecian pet
cat to have been the white-breasted marten. Yet why should he? Is not a
soft, white-breasted maltese or tabby as attractive? The idea that cats
were domesticated in Western Europe by the Crusaders is thought to be
erroneous; but pet cats were often found in nunneries in the Middle
Ages, and Pope Gregory the Great, toward the end of the sixth century,
had a pet cat of which he was very fond.
An old writer says, "A favorite cat sometimes accompanied the Egyptians
on these occasions [of sport], and the artist of that day intends to
show us by the exactness with which he represents her seizing her prey,
that cats were trained to hunt and carry water-fowl." There are old
Egyptian paintings representing sporting scenes along the Nile, where
the cats plunge into the water of the marshes to retrieve and carry
game; while plenty of mural paintings show them sitting under the
arm-chair of the mistress of the house. Modern naturalists, however,
claim a radical difference between those old Egyptian retrieving cats
and our water-hating pussies. There are no records of cats between that
period in Egypt, about 1630 B.C., and 260 B.C., when they seem to have
become acclimated in Greece and Rome. There is in the Bordeaux Museum an
ancient picture of a young girl holding a cat, on a tomb of the
Gallo-Roman Epoch, and cats appeared in the heraldry of that date; but
writers of those ages speak rather slightingly of them. Then for
centuries the cat was looked upon as a diabolic creature, fit company
"Why," says Balthazar Bekker in the seventeenth century, "is a cat
always found among the belongings of witches, when according to the
Sacred Book, and Apocalypse in particular, it is the dog, not a feline
animal, that consorts with the sorcerers?"
In Russia even yet the common people believe that black cats become
devils at the end of seven years, and in many parts of Southern Europe
they are still supposed to be serving apprenticeship as witches. In
Sicily the peasants are sure that if a black cat lives with seven
masters, the soul of the seventh will surely accompany him back to the
dominion of Hades. In Brittany there is a dreadful tale of cats that
dance with unholy glee around the crucifix while their King is being put
to death. Cats figure in Norwegian folk-lore, too, as witches and
picturesque incumbents of ghost-haunted houses and nocturnal revels. And
even to-day there is a legend in Westminster to the effect that the
dissipated cats of that region indulge in a most disreputable revel in
some country house, and that is why they look so forlorn and altogether
undone by daylight.
A canon enacted in England in 1127 forbade any abbess or nun to use more
costly fur than that of lambs or cats, and it is proved that cat-fur was
at that time commonly used for trimming dresses. The cat was, probably
for that reason, an object of chase in royal forests, and a license is
still in existence from Richard II to the Abbot of Peterborough, and
dated 1239, granting liberty to hunt cats. This was probably the wild
cat, however, which was not the same as the domestic.
These are among the laws supposedly enacted by Hoel Dha (Howell the
Good) sometime between 915 and 948 A.D.
The Vendotian Code XI.
The worth of a cat and her teithi (qualities) this is:--
1st. The worth of a kitten from the night it is kittened until it shall
open its eyes, is one penny.
2d. And from that time until it shall kill mice, two pence.
3d. And after it shall kill mice, four legal pence; and so it shall
4th. Her teithe are to see, to hear, to kill mice, and to have her claws.
This is the "Dimentian Code." XXXII. Of Cats.
1st. The worth of a cat that is killed or stolen. Its head to be put
downward upon a clean, even floor, with its tail lifted upward and thus
suspended, whilst wheat is poured about it until the top of its tail be
covered and that is to be its worth. If the corn cannot be had, then a
milch sheep with a lamb and its wool is its value, if it be a cat that
guards the king's barn.
2d. The worth of a common cat is four legal pence.
3d. The teithi of a cat, and of every animal upon the milk of which
people do not feed, is the third part of its worth or the worth of its
4th. Whosoever shall sell a cat (cath) is to answer that she devour not
her kittens, and that she have ears, teeth, eyes, and nails, and be a
The "Gwentian Code" begins in the same way, but says:--
3d. That it be perfect of ear, perfect of eye, perfect of teeth, perfect
of tail, perfect of claw, and without marks of fire. And if the cat fall
short in any of these particulars, a third of her price had to be
refunded. As to the fire, in case her fur had been singed the rats could
detect her by the odor, and her qualities as a mouser were thus injured.
And then it goes on to say:--
4th. That the teithi and the legal worth of a cat are coequal.
5th. A pound is the worth of a pet animal of the king.
6th. The pet animal of a breyer (brewer) is six score pence in value.
7th. The pet animal of a taoog is a curt penny in value.
In the 39th chapter, 53d section, we find that "there are three animals
whose tails, eyes, and lives are of the same value--a calf, a filly for
common work, and a cat, except the cat which shall watch the king's
barn," in which case she was more valuable.
Another old Welsh law says: "Three animals reach their worth in a year:
a sheep, a cat, and a cur. This is a complement of the legal hamlet;
nine buildings, one plough, one kiln, one churn, and one cat, one cock,
one bull, and one herdsman."
In order that there might be no mistake in regard to the cat, a rough
sketch of Puss is given in the Mss. of the laws.]
That cats, even in the Middle Ages, were thought much more highly of in
Great Britain than on the Continent is proved by the fact that the laws
there imposed a heavy fine on cat-killers, the fine being as much wheat
as would serve to bury the cat when he was held up by the tip of the
tail with his nose on the ground. So that pet cats stood a fairly good
chance in those days.
One of the good things remembered of Louis XIII is that he interceded as
Dauphin with Henri IV for the lives of the cats about to be burned at
the festival on St. John's Day.
Nowadays, there is a current superstition that a black cat brings good
luck to a house; but in the Middle Ages they believed that the devil
borrowed the form of a black cat when he wanted to torment or get
control of his victims. There are plenty of old traditions about cats
having spoken to human beings, and been kicked, or struck, or burned by
them in return; and invariably, these tales tell us, those who are so
bespoken meet some one the next day with plain marks of the injury they
had inflicted on the froward cat,--which was sure evidence of witchery
and sorcery. Doubtless full many a human being has been put to death, in
times past, on no stronger evidence of being a witch. Humanity did not
come to the rescue of the cat and bring her out from the shadow of
ignominy that hung over her in mediaeval times until 1618, when an
interdict was issued in Flanders prohibiting the festive ceremony of
throwing cats from the high tower of Ypres on Wednesdays of the second
week in Lent. And from that time Pussy's fortunes began to look up.
To-day, travellers on the edge of the Pyrenees know a little old man,
Martre Tolosan, who makes and sells replicas of the original models of
cats found among the Roman remains at a small town near Toulouse. These
are made in blue and white earthenware and each one is numbered. Mine,
bought by a friend in 1895, is marked 5000. They are not exact models of
our cats of to-day, to be sure, but they express all the snug content
and inscrutable calm of our modern pets.
The Chinese reproduce cats in their ceramics in white, turquoise blue,
and old violet. One that once belonged to Madame de Mazarin sold for
eight hundred livres. In Japan, cats are reproduced in common ware,
daubed with paint, but the Chinese make them of finer ware, enamelling
the commoner kinds of porcelain and using the cat in conventional forms
as flower-vases and lamps.
CONCERNING VARIETIES OF CATS
Few people realize how many kinds of cats there are. The fashionable
world begins to discuss cats technically and understand their various
points of excellence. The "lord mayor's chain," the "Dutch rabbit
markings," and similar features are understood by more cat fanciers than
a few years ago; but, until within that time, it is doubtful if the
number of people who knew the difference between the Angora and the
Persian in this country amounted to a hundred. It is but a few years
since the craze for the Angora cat started. These cats have been
fashionable pets in England for some years back, and now America begins
to understand their value and the principles of breeding them. Today,
there are as handsome, well-bred animals in the United States as can be
found abroad. The demand for high-bred animals with a pedigree is
greatly increasing, and society people are beginning to understand the
fine points of the thoroughbred.
The Angora cat, as its name indicates, comes from Angora in Western
Asia, the province that is celebrated for its goats with long hair of
fine quality. In fact, the hair under the Angora cat's body often
resembles the finest of the Angora goatskins. Angora cats are favorites
with the Turks and Armenians, and exist in many colors, especially since
they have been more carefully bred. They vary in form, color, and
disposition, and also in the quality of their hair. The standard calls
for a small head, with not too long a nose, large eyes that should
harmonize in color with the fur, small, pointed ears with a tuft of hair
at the apex, and a very full, fluffy mane around the neck. This mane is
known as the "lord mayor's chain." The body is longer than that of the
ordinary cat in proportion to its size, and is extremely graceful, and
covered with long, silky hair, which is crinkly like that of the Angora
goat. This hair should be as fine as possible, and not woolly. The legs
are of a moderate length, but look short on account of the length of
hair on the body. Little tufts of hair growing between the toes indicate
high breeding. The Angora cat, in good condition, is one of the most
beautiful and elegant creatures in the world, and few can resist its
charm. The tail is long and like an ostrich plume. It is usually
carried, when the cat is in good spirits, straight up, with the end
waving over toward one side. The tail of the Angora serves as a
barometer of its bodily and mental condition. If the cat is ill or
frightened, the tail droops, and sometimes trails on the ground; but
when she is in good spirits, playing about the house or grounds, it
waves like a great plume, and is exceedingly handsome. The suppleness of
the Angora's tail is also a mark of fine breeding. A highbred Angora
will allow its tail to be doubled or twisted without apparent notice of
The Angora does not reach its prime until about two years. Before that
time its head and body are not sufficiently developed to give the full
beauty and grace of the animal. As a rule, the Angora is of good
disposition, although the females are apt to be exceedingly nervous.
They are sociable and docile, although fond of roaming about, especially
if allowed to run loose. As a rule, they do not possess the keen
intelligence of the ordinary short-haired family cat, but their great
beauty and their cleanly and affectionate habits make them favorites
with fashionable people. The proper breeding of the Angora cat is a
regular science. Of the colors of the Angoras, the blue or maltese is a
favorite, and rather common, especially when mixed with white.
The white Angora is extraordinarily beautiful, and brings a high price
when it has blue eyes and all its points are equally good. The orange,
or yellow, and the black with amber eyes are also prize winners. There
are the tigers also, the brown tabby, and the orange and white. Mixed
colors are more common than solid ones; the tortoise-shell cat of three
colors and well mottled being considered particularly desirable.
The Persian cat differs from the Angora in the quality of its fur,
although the ordinary observer sees little difference between them. All
the long-haired cats originated from the Indian Bengalese, Thibetan,
and other wild cats of Asia and Russia. The Persian cat of very great
value is all black, with a very fluffy frill, or lord mayor's chain, and
orange eyes. Next to him comes a light slate or blue Persian, with
yellow eyes. The fur of the Persian cat is much more woolly than that of
the Angora, and sometimes in hot weather mats badly. The difference
between a Persian and an Angora can usually be told by an amateur, by
drawing the tail between the thumb and first finger. The Angora's tail
comes out thin, silky, and narrow, although it immediately "fluffs" up.
The Persian's tail does not compress itself readily into a small space.
The Persian cat's head is larger, its ears are less pointed, although it
should have the tuft at the end and the long hair inside. It is usually
larger in body and apparently stronger made, although slender and
elegant in appearance, with small bones and graceful in movement. The
colors vary, as with the Angora, except that the tortoise-shell and the
dark-marked tabby do not so frequently appear. The temper is usually
less reliable and the intelligence less keen than the Angora.
The Russian long-haired pet is much less common even than the Persian
and Angora. It is fond of cold weather, and its fur is denser,
indicating that it has been used to colder regions. Many of the cats
that we see are crosses of Angora and Persian, or Angora and Russian, so
that it is extremely difficult for the amateur to know a thoroughbred
cat which has not been mixed with other varieties.
There is also a fine short-haired cat coming from Russia, usually
self-colored. Mrs. Frederick Monroe, of Chicago, owns a very handsome
blue and white one.
In Pegu, Siam, and Burmah, there is a race of cats known as the Malay
cat, with tails only half the ordinary length and often contorted into a
sort of a knot that cannot be straightened, after the fashion of the pug
dog or ordinary pig.
There is another cat known as the Mombas, a native of the west coast of
Africa and covered with stiff, bristling hair. Paraguay cats are only
one-quarter as big as our ordinary cat, and are found along the western
coast of South America, even as far north as Mexico.
The royal cat of Siam is a short-haired cat, yet widely different from
other short-haired varieties. They are extremely pretty, with blue or
amber-colored eyes by day which grow brilliant at night. These cats also
frequently have the kink in the tail, and sometimes a strong animal
odor, although this is not disagreeable. The head is rather longer than
the ordinary cat's, tapering off sharply toward the muzzle, the forehead
flat and receding, and the eyes more slanting toward the nose than the
American cat's. The form should be slender, graceful, and delicately
made; the body long; the tail very thin and rather short; the legs short
and slender, and the feet oval. The body is of a bright, uniform color,
and the legs, feet, and tail are usually black.
The Manx cat is considered by many people as a natural curiosity. It
differs from the ordinary domestic cat but little, except in the absence
of a tail, or even an apology for one. The hind legs are thicker and
rather longer than the ordinary cat's, and it runs more like a hare. It
is not a graceful object when seen from behind, but it is an
affectionate, home-loving creature with considerable intelligence. The
Manx cat came from the Isle of Man originally, and is a distinct breed.
So-called Manx cats have tails from one to a few inches long, but these
are crosses of the Manx and the ordinary cat. In the Crimea is found
another kind of cat which has no tail. The cats known as the "celebrated
orange cats of Venice," are probably descendants of the old Egyptian
cat, and are of varying shades of yellow, sometimes deepening into a
sandy color which is almost red. There are obscure stripes on the body,
which become more distinct on the limbs. The tail is more or less ringed
toward its termination.
There has been a newspaper paragraph floating about stating that a prize
of several thousand dollars had been offered in England for a male
tortoise-shell cat. This is probably not true, as a Mr. Smith exhibited
a tortoise-shell he-cat at the Crystal Palace Show of 1871. Several
tortoise-shell and white toms have been exhibited since, and one of
these has taken nine first prizes at the Crystal Palace Show; but the
tortoise-shell he-cat is extremely rare. The real tortoise-shell is not
a striped tiger nor a tabby. It has three colors usually, black, yellow,
and red or brown; but these appear in patches rather than stripes. It is
said that the tortoise-shell cat is common in Egypt and the south of
Europe. It comes from a different stock than the ordinary short-haired
cat, the texture of the hair being different, as well as the color. The
tortoise-shell and white cat is much more common, and is the product of
a cross between a tortoise shell and a solid color cat. In this case the
hair is usually coarser and the tail thicker than in the ordinary cat.
Among cat fanciers there is a distinctive variety known as the
tortoise-shell tabby. As the tabby cat is one of the varieties of
striped or spotted cats having markings, broad or narrow, of bands of
black on a dark tan or gray ground, the tortoise-shell cat would have
both stripes and patches of color.
Of the tabbies, there are brown tabbies, silver tabbies, and red
tabbies. It is said that the red tabby she-cat is as scarce as the
tortoise-shell he-cat. The ordinary observer considers the brown tabby
with white markings as much the handsomest of the tabbies. But fanciers
and judges do not agree with him, the cats having narrow bands and spots
being the ones to take prizes. The word "tabby," according to Harrison
Weir, was derived from a kind of taffeta or ribbed silk which used to be
called tabby silk. Other authorities state that tabby cats got their
name from Atab, a street in Bagdad; but as this street was famous for
its watered silks perhaps the same reason holds. The tortoise-shell used
to be called, in England, the Calimanco. In America, it is sometimes
called the calico cat.
The red tabby is of a deep reddish or yellow brown, with a well-ringed
tail, orange or yellow eyes, and pink cushions to the feet. The brown
tabby is orange brown, with black lips, brown whiskers, black feet,
black pads, long tail, greenish orange eyes, and red nose bordered with
black. The spotted tabby must have no bands at all. It must be brown,
red, or yellow, with black spots. In the brown tabby the feet and pads
are black; in the yellow and red, the feet and pads are pink. The
spotted cat sometimes resembles a leopard, while the banded tabby
resembles more the tiger. Some of the spotted tabbies are extremely
handsome, and came originally from a cross between the ordinary cat and
the wild cat.
"Self-colored cats" are entirely of one color, which may vary in
different cats, but must never be mixed in the same cat, nor even shaded
into a lighter tone on the animal; and whether this color be black,
blue, red, or yellow, the self-colored cat should have a rich deep tint.
Of course the short-haired white cat is the handsomest of all. One of
the peculiarities of this white cat is that it is apt to be deaf. The
most valuable white cats, whether long or short haired, have blue eyes.
Sometimes they have one blue eye and one green or yellow, which gives a
comical effect, and detracts from their value. By the way, cross-eyed
cats are not unknown. The best white cats have a yellowish white tint
instead of grayish white, as the latter have a coarser quality of fur.
The jet-black cat is thought by many to be the most desirable. The true
black cat should have a uniform, intensely black coat, velvety and
extremely glossy; the eyes should be round and full, and of a brilliant
amber; the nose and pads of the feet should be jet-black, and the tail
long and tapering. It is difficult to find a black cat without a white
hair, as usually there are a few under the chin or on the belly.
The blue cat is the one ordinarily known in this country as the dark
maltese. There is a tradition that it came from the Island of Malta.
Many people do not consider it a distinct breed, but think it a
light-colored variety of the black cat. It is known sometimes as the
Archangel, sometimes as the Russian blue, the Spanish blue, the
Chartreuse blue, but more commonly in this country as the maltese. When
it is of a deep bluish color, or of the soft silver-gray maltese without
stripes, it is extremely handsome. The most desirable are the bluish
lilac-colored ones, with soft fur like sealskin. The nose and pads of
the feet are dark, and the eyes are orange yellow. The maltese and white
cat when well marked is extremely handsome, and there is no prettier
kitten than the maltese and white.
The black and white, yellow and white, blue and white, and in fact, any
self-colored and white cat is a mixture of the other breeds. If well
marked they are extremely handsome and are usually bright and
The solid gray cat is very rare. It is, in fact, a tabby without the
black stripes or spots.
In Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea there used to be no cat of any
kind. The Siamese cat has been imported to Australia, and some
authorities claim that the cats known in this country as Australian cats
are of Siamese origin. Madagascar is a catless region.
There is in this country a variety known as the "coon cat," which is
handsome, especially in the solid black. Its native home is in Maine,
and it is thought by many to have originated with the ordinary cat and
the raccoon. It grows somewhat larger than the ordinary cat, with thick,
woolly fur and an extremely bushy tail. It is fond of outdoor life, and
when kept as a pet must be allowed to run out of doors or it is apt to
become so savage and disagreeable that nothing can be done with it. When
it is allowed its freedom, however, it becomes affectionate,
intelligent, and is usually a handsome cat.
The term "Dutch rabbit markings" refers to the white markings on the cat
of two or three colors. Evidently, the cats themselves understand the
value of Dutch rabbit markings, as one which has them is invariably
proud of them. A cat that has white mittens, for instance, is often
inordinately vain, and keeps them in the most immaculate state of
CONCERNING CAT LANGUAGE
Montaigne it was who said: "We have some intelligence of their senses:
so have also the beasts of ours in much the same measure. They flatter
us, menace us, need us, and we them. It is manifestly evident that there
is among them a full and entire communication, and that they understand
That this applies to cats is certainly true. Did you ever notice how a
mother cat talks to her children, and simply by the utterances of her
voice induces them to abandon their play and go with her, sometimes with
the greatest reluctance, to some place that suited her whim--or her
Dupont de Nemours, a naturalist of the eighteenth century, made himself
ridiculous in the eyes of his compatriots by seeking to penetrate the
mysteries of animal language. "Those who utter sounds," he affirmed,
"attach significance to them; their fellows do the same, and those
sounds originally inspired by passion and repeated under similar
recurrent circumstances, become the abiding expressions of the passions
that gave rise to them."
Fortified by this theory he devoted a couple of years to the study of
crow language, and made himself ridiculous in the eyes of his
adversaries by attempting to translate a nightingale's song.
Chateaubriand was much interested in Dupont de Nemours's researches into
the language of cats. "Its claws," says the latter, "and the power of
climbing trees which its claws give it, furnish the cat with resources
of experience and ideas denied the dog. The cat, also, has the advantage
of a language which has the same vowels as pronounced by the dog,
and with six consonants in addition, _m, n, g, h, v_, and _f_.
Consequently the cat has a greater number of words. These two causes,
the finer structure of its paws, and the larger scope of oral language,
endow the solitary cat with greater cunning and skill as a hunter than
Abbe Galiani also says: "For centuries cats have been reared, but I do
not find they have ever been really studied. I have a male and a female
cat. I have cut them off from all communication with cats outside the
house, and closely observe their proceedings. During their courtship
they never once miowed: the miow, therefore, is not the language of
love, but rather the call of the absent. Another positive discovery I
have made is that the voice of the male is entirely different from that
of the female, as it should be. I am sure there are more than twenty
different inflections in the language of cats, and there is really a
'tongue' for they always employ the same sound to express the same
I heartily concur with him, and in addition have often noticed the wide
difference between the voice and manner of expression of the gelded cat
and the ordinary tom. The former has a thin, high voice with much
smaller vocabulary. As a rule, the gelded cat does not "mew" to make
known his wants, but employs his voice for conversational purposes. A
mother cat "talks" much more than any other, and more when she has small
kittens than at other times.
Cat language has been reduced to etymology in several tongues. In Arabia
their speech is called naoua; in Chinese, ming; in Greek, larungizein;
in Sanscrit, madj, vid, bid; in German, miauen; in French miauler; and
in English, mew or "miaouw."
Perhaps, if Professor Garner had turned his attention to cat language
instead of monkeys we would know more about it. But a French professor,
Alphonse Leon Grimaldi, of Paris, claims that cats can talk as readily
as human beings, and that he has learned their language so as to be able
to converse with them to some extent. Grimaldi goes even further: he not
only says that he knows such a language, but he states definitely that
there are about six hundred words in it, that it is more like modern
Chinese than anything else, and to prove this contention, gives a small
Most of us would prefer to accept St. George Mivart's conclusions, that
the difference between all animals and human beings is that while they
have some means of communication, or language, we only have the gift of
speech. Among the eighteen distinct active powers which he attributes to
the cat, he quotes: "16th, powers of pleasurable or painful excitement
on the occurrence of sense-perceptions with imaginations,
_emotions_;" and "17th, a power of expressing feelings by sounds or
gestures which may affect other individuals,--_emotional
Again he says: "The cat has a language of sounds and gestures to express
its feelings and emotions. So have we. But we have further--which
neither the cat, nor the bird, nor the beast has--a language and
gestures to express our thoughts." The sum of his conclusions seems to
be that while the cat has a most highly developed nervous system, and
much of what is known as "animal intelligence," it is not a human
intelligence--not consciousness, but "con-sentience."
Elsewhere St. George Mivart doubts if a cat distinguishes odors as such.
Perhaps a cat starts for the kitchen the instant he smells meat because
of the mental association of the scent with the gratification of hunger;
but why, pray tell, do some cats evince such delight in delicate
perfumes? Our own Pomp the First, for instance, had a most demonstrative
fondness for violets, and liked the scent of all flowers. One winter I
used to bring home a bunch of Parma or Russian violets every day or two,
and put them in a small glass bowl of water. It soon became necessary to
put them on the highest shelf in the room, and even then Pompey would
find them. Often have I placed them on the piano, and a few minutes
later seen him enter the room, lift his nose, give a few sniffs, and
then go straight to the piano, bury his nose in the violets, and hold it
there in perfect ecstacy. And usually, wherever they were placed, the
bunch was found the next morning on the floor, where Pompey had carried
the violets, and holding them between his paws for a time, had surfeited
himself with their delicious fragrance.
Still, I am not prepared to say that Pompey had any word for violets, or
for anything else that ministered to his delight. It was enough for him
to be happy; and he had better ways of expressing it.
Cats do have the power of making people understand what they want done,
but so far as my knowledge of them goes, some of the most intelligent
ones "talk" the least. Thomas Erastus, whose intelligence sometimes
amounts to a knowledge that seems almost uncanny, seldom utters a sound.
There is--or was--a black cat belonging to the city jail of a
Californian town, named "Inspector Byrnes," because of his remarkable
assistance to the police force. When, one night, a prisoner in the jail
had stuffed the cracks to his cell with straw, and turned on the gas in
an attempt to commit suicide, "Inspector Byrnes" hurried off and
notified the night keeper that something was wrong, and induced him to
go to the cell in time to save the prisoner's life. He once notified the
police when a fire broke out on the premises, and at another time made
such a fuss that they followed him--to discover a woman trying to hang
herself. Again, some of the prisoners plotted to escape, and the cat
crawled through the hole they had filed and called the warden's
attention to it. In fact, there was no doubt that "Inspector Byrnes"
considered himself assistant warden at the jail, and he did not waste
much time in talk either.
The Pretty Lady had ways of her own to make us know when things were
wrong in the household, although she used to utter a great many sounds,
either of pleasure or perturbation, which we came to understand. I
remember one morning, when my sister was ill upstairs, that I had
breakfasted and sat down to read my morning's mail, when the Pretty Lady
came, uttering sounds that denoted dissatisfaction with matters
somewhere. I was busy, and at first paid no attention to her; but she
grew more persistent, so that I finally laid down my letters and asked:
"What is it, Puss? Haven't you had breakfast enough?" I went out to the
kitchen, and she followed, all the time protesting articulately. She
would not touch the meat I offered, but evidently wanted something
entirely different. Just then my sister came down and said:--
"I wish you would go up and see H. She is suffering terribly, and I
don't know what to do for her."
At that the Pretty Lady led the way into the hall and up the stairs,
pausing at every third step to make sure I was following, and leading me
straight to my sister. Then she settled herself calmly on the foot-board
and closed her eyes, as though the whole affair was no concern of hers.
Afterward, my sister said that when the pain became almost unendurable,
so that she tossed about and groaned, the Pretty Lady came close to her
face and talked to her, just as she did to her kittens when they were in
distress, showing plainly that she sympathized with and would help her.
When she found it impossible to do this, she hurried down to me. And
then having got me actually up to my sister's bedside, she threw off her
own burden of anxiety and settled into her usual calm content.
"My Goliath is at the helm now," she expressed by her attitude, "and the
world is sure to go right a little longer while I take a nap."
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