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Habits








Before attempting to describe the different varieties, I should like to
make a few remarks as to the habits and ways of "the domestic cat."

When judging, I have frequently found some of the exhibits of anything
but a mild and placid disposition. Some have displayed a downright
ferocity; others, on the contrary, have been excessively gentle, and
very few but seemed to recognise their position, and submitted quietly
to their confinement. This is easily accounted for when persons are
accustomed to cats; they know what wonderful powers of observation the
cat possesses, and how quickly they recognise the "why and the
wherefore" of many things. Take for instance, how very many cats will
open a latched door by springing up and holding on with one fore-leg
while with the other they press down the latch catch, and so open the
door; and yet even more observant are they than that, as I have shown by
a case in my "Animal Stories, Old and New," in which a cat opened a
door by pulling it towards him, when he found pushing it of no
avail. The cat is more critical in noticing than the dog. I never knew
but one dog that would open a door by moving the fastening without being
shown or taught how to do it. Cats that have done so are numberless. I
noticed one at the last Crystal Palace Show, a white cat: it looked up,
it looked down, then to the right and then a little to the left, paused,
seemed lost in thought, when, not seeing any one about, it crept up to
the door, and with its paw tried to pull back the bolt or catch. On
getting sight of me, it retired to a corner of the cage, shut its eyes,
and pretended to sleep. I stood further away, and soon saw the paw
coming through the bars again. This cat had noticed how the cage-door
was fastened, and so knew how to open it.

Many cats that are said to be spiteful are made so by ill-treatment,
for, as a rule, I have found them to be most affectionate and gentle,
and that to the last degree, attaching themselves to individuals,
although such is stated not to be the case, yet of this I am certain.
Having had several in my house at one time, I found that no two were the
"followers" of the same member of my family. But it may be argued, and I
think with some degree of justice, Why was this? Was it only that each
cat had a separate liking? If so, why? Why should not three or four cats
take a liking to the same individual? But they seldom or never do, and
for that matter there seems somewhat the same feeling with dogs. This
required some consideration, but that not of long duration. For I am
sorry to say I rapidly came to the conclusion that it was jealousy. Yes,
jealousy! There was no doubt of it. Zeno would be very cossetty, loving,
lovable, and gentle, but when Lulu came in and was nursed he retired to
a corner and seized the first opportunity of vanishing through the door.
As soon as Zillah jumped on my knee and put her paws about my neck, Lulu
looked at me, then at her, then at me, walked to the fire, sat down,
looked round, got up, went to the door, cried to go out, the door was
opened, and----she fled. I thought that Zillah seemed then more than
ever--happy.

Though jealousy is one of if not the ruling attributes of the cat, there
are exceptions to such a rule. Sometimes it may be that two or more will
take to the same person. As an instance of this I had two cats, one a
red tabby, a great beauty; Lillah, a short-haired red-and-white cat; the
latter and a white long-haired one, named "The Colonel," were great
friends, and these associated with a tortoiseshell-and-white, Lizzie.
None of these were absolutely house cats, but attended more to the
poultry yards and runs, looking after the chicken, seeing that no rats
were about or other "vermin," near the coops. Useful cats, very!

Mine was then a very large garden, and generally of an evening, when at
home, I used to walk about the numerous paths to admire the beauties of
the different herbaceous plants, of which I had an interesting
collection. Five was my time of starting on my ambulation, when, on
going out of the door, I was sure to find the two first-named cats, and
often the third, waiting for me, ready to go wherever I went, following
like faithful dogs. These apparently never had any jealous feeling.

Of all the cats Lillah was the most loving. If I stood still, she would
look up, and watch the expression of my face. If she thought it was
favourable to her, she would jump, and, clinging to my chest, put her
fore-paws around my neck, and rub her head softly against my face,
purring melodiously all the time, then move on to my shoulder, while
"The Colonel" and his tortoiseshell friend Lizzie would press about my
legs, uttering the same musical self-complacent sound. Here, there, and
everywhere, even out into the road or into the wood, the pretty things
would accompany me, seeming intensely happy. When I returned to the
house, they would scamper off, bounding in the air, and playing with and
tumbling over each other in the fullest and most frolicsome manner
imaginable. No! I do not think that Lillah, The Colonel, or Lizzie ever
knew the feeling of jealousy. But these, as I said before, were
exceptions. They all had a sad ending, coming to an untimely death
through being caught in wires set by poachers for rabbits. I have ever
regretted the loss of the gentle Lillah. She was as beautiful as she was
good, gentle, and loving, without a fault.

It may have been noted in the foregoing I have said that my cats were
always awaiting my coming. Just so. The cat seems to take note of time
as well as place. At my town house I had a cat named Guadalquiver, which
was fed on horseflesh brought to the door. Every day during the week he
would go and sit ready for the coming of "the cat's-meat man," but he
never did so on the Sunday. How it was he knew on that day that the man
did not come I never could discover; still, the fact remains. How he, or
whether he, counted the days until the sixth, and then rested the
seventh from his watching, is a mystery. A similar case is related of an
animal belonging to Mr. Truebner, the London publisher. The cat, a
gigantic one, and a pet of his, used to go every evening to the end of
the terrace, on which was the house where he resided, to escort Mr.
Truebner back to dinner on his arrival from the City, but was never once
known to make the mistake of going to meet him on Sundays. And again,
how well a cat knows when it is luncheon-time! He or she may be
apparently asleep on the tiles, or snugly lying under a bush basking in
the sun's warm rays, when it will look up, yawn, stretch itself, get up,
and move leisurely towards the house, and as the luncheon-bell rings, in
walks the cat, as ready for food as any there.

Most cats are of a gentle disposition, but resent ill-treatment in a
most determined way, generally making use of their claws, at the same
time giving vent to their feelings by a low growl and spitting
furiously. Under such conditions it is best to leave off that which has
appeared to irritate them. Dogs generally bite when they lose their
temper, but a cat seldom. Should a cat dig her claws into your hand,
never draw it backward, but push forward; you thus close the foot and
render the claws harmless. If otherwise, you generally lose three to
four pieces of skin from your hand; the cat knows he has done it, and
feels revenged. Some cats do not like their ears touched, others their
backs, others their tails. I have one now (Fritz); he has such a great
dislike to having his tail touched that if we only point to it and say
"Tail!" he growls, and if repeated he will get up and go out of the
room, even though he was enjoying the comfort of his basket before a
good fire. By avoiding anything that is known to tease an animal, no
matter what, it will be found that is the true way, combined with gentle
treatment and oft caressing, to tame and to make them love you, even
those whose temper is none of the best. This is equally applicable to
horses, cows, and dogs as to cats. Gentleness and kindness will work
wonders with animals, and, I take it, is not lost on human beings.

The distance cats will travel to find and regain the home they have been
taken from is surprising. One my groom begged of me, as he said he had
no cat at home, and he was fond of "the dear thing," but he really
wanted to be rid of it, as I found afterwards. He took the poor animal
away in a hamper, and after carrying it some three miles through London
streets, threw it into the Surrey Canal. That cat was sitting wet and
dirty outside the stable when he came in the morning, and went in
joyfully on his opening the door, ran up to and climbed on to the back
of its favourite, the horse, who neighed a "welcome home." The man left
that week.

Another instance, and I could give many more, but this will suffice. It
is said that if you wish an old cat to stay you should have the mother
with the kitten or kittens, but this sometimes fails to keep her. Having
a fancy for a beautiful brown tabby, I purchased her and kitten from a
cottager living two miles and a half away. The next day I let her out,
keeping the kitten in a basket before the fire. In half an hour mother
and child were gone, and though she had to carry her little one through
woods, hedgerows, across grass and arable fields, she arrived home with
her young charge quite safely the following day, though evidently very
tired, wet, and hungry. After two days she was brought back, and being
well fed and carefully tended, she roamed no more.

The cat, like many other animals, will often form singular attachments.
One would sit in my horse's manger and purr and rub against his nose,
which undoubtedly the horse enjoyed, for he would frequently turn his
head purposely to be so treated. One went as consort with a Dorking
cock; another took a great liking to my collie, Rover; another loved
Lina, the cow; while another would cosset up close to a sitting hen, and
allowed the fresh-hatched chickens to seek warmth by creeping under her.
Again, they will rear other animals such as rats, rabbits, squirrels,
puppies, hedgehogs; and, when motherly inclined, will take to almost
anything, even to a young pigeon.

At the Brighton Show of 1886 there were two cats, both reared by dogs,
the foster-mother and her bantling showing evident signs of sincere
affection.

There are both men and women who have a decided antipathy to
cats--"Won't have one in the house on any account." They are called
"deceitful," and some go as far as to say "treacherous," but how and in
what way I cannot discover. Others, on the contrary, love cats beyond
all other "things domestic." Of course cats, like other animals, or even
human beings, are very dissimilar, no two being precisely alike in
disposition, any more than are to be found two forms so closely
resembling as not to be distinguished one from the other. To some a cat
is a cat, and if all were black all would be alike. But this would not
be so in reality, as those well know who are close observers of animal
and bird life. Of course the gamekeeper has a dislike to cats, more
especially when they "take to the woods," but so long as they are fed,
and keep within bounds, they are "useful" in scaring away rats from the
young broods of pheasants. What are termed "poaching cats" are clearly
"outlaws," and must be treated as such.





Next: Trained Cats

Previous: The First Cat Show



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