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Trained Cats








That cats may be trained to respect the lives of other animals, and also
birds on which they habitually feed, is a well-known fact. In proof of
this I well recollect a story that my father used to tell of "a happy
family" that was shown many years ago on the Surrey side of Waterloo
Bridge. Their abode consisted of a large wire cage placed on wheels. In
windy weather the "breezy side" was protected by green baize, so
draughts were prevented, and a degree of comfort obtained. As there was
no charge for "the show," a box was placed in front with an opening for
the purpose of admitting any donations from those who felt inclined to
give. On it was written "The Happy Family--their money-box." The family
varied somewhat, as casualties occurred occasionally by death from
natural causes or sales. Usually, there was a Monkey, an Owl, some
Guinea-pigs, Squirrels, small birds, Starlings, a Magpie, Rats, Mice,
and a Cat or two. But the story? Well, the story is this. One day, when
my father was looking at "the happy family," a burly-looking man came
up, and, after a while, said to the man who owned the show: "Ah! I don't
see much in that. It is true the cat does not touch the small birds [one
of which was sitting on the head of the cat at the time], nor the other
things; but you could not manage to keep rats and mice in there as
well." "Think not?" said the showman. "I think I could very easily."
"Not you," said the burly one. "I will give you a month to do it in, if
you like, and a shilling in the bargain if you succeed. I shall be this
way again soon." "Thank you, sir," said the man. "Don't go yet," then,
putting a stick through the bars of the cage he lifted up the cat, when
from beneath her out ran a white rat and three white mice.
"Won--der--ful!" slowly ejaculated he of the burly form; "Wonder--ful!"
The money was paid.

Cats, properly trained, will not touch anything, alive or dead, on the
premises to which they are attached. I have known them to sport with
tame rabbits, to romp and jump in frolicsome mood this way, then that,
which both seemed greatly to enjoy, yet they would bring home wild
rabbits they had killed, and not touch my little chickens or ducklings.



When I built a house in the country, fond as I am of cats, I determined
not to keep any there, because they would destroy the birds' nests and
drive my feathered friends away, and I liked to watch and feed these
from the windows. Things went pleasantly for awhile. The birds were fed,
and paid for their keep with many and many a song. There were the old
ones and there the young, and oft by the hour I watched them from the
window; and they became so tame as scarcely caring to get out of my way
when I went outside with more food. But--there is always a but--but one
day, or rather evening, as I was "looking on," a rat came out from the
rocks, and then another. Soon they began their repast on the remains of
the birds' food. Then in the twilight came mice, the short-tailed and
the long, scampering hither and thither. This, too, was amusing. In the
autumn I bought some filberts, and put them into a closet upstairs, went
to London, returned, and thought I would sleep in the room adjoining the
closet. No such thing. As soon as the light was out there was a sound of
gnawing--curb--curb--sweek!--squeak--a rushing of tiny feet here, there,
and everywhere; thump, bump--scriggle, scraggle--squeak--overhead, above
the ceiling, behind the skirting boards, under the floor, and--in the
closet. I lighted a candle, opened the door, and looked into the
repository for my filberts. What a hustling, what a scuffling, what a
scrambling. There they were, mice in numbers; they "made for" some holes
in the corners of the cupboard, got jammed, squeaked, struggled,
squabbled, pushed, their tails making circles; push--push--squeak!--more
jostling, another effort or two--squeak--squeak--gurgle--squeak--more
struggling--and they were gone. Gone? Yes! but not for long. As soon as
the light was out back they came. No! oh, dear no! sleep! no more sleep.
Outside, I liked to watch the mice; but when they climbed the ivy and
got inside, the pleasure entirely ceased. Nor was this all; they got
into the vineries and spoilt the grapes, and the rats killed the young
ducks and chickens, and undermined the building also, besides storing
quantities of grain and other things under the floor. The result number
one was, three cats coming on a visit. Farmyard cats--cats that knew the
difference between chickens, ducklings, mice, and rats. Result number
two, that after being away a couple of weeks, I went again to my
cottage, and I slept undisturbed in the room late the play-ground of the
mice. My chickens and ducklings were safe, and soon the cats allowed the
birds to be fed in front of the window, though I could not break them of
destroying many of the nests. I never NOTICED more fully the very great
use the domestic cat is to man than on that occasion. All day my cats
were indoors, dozy, sociable, and contented. At night they were on guard
outside, and doubtless saved me the lives of dozens of my "young
things." One afternoon I saw one of my cats coming towards me with
apparent difficulty in walking. On its near approach I found it was
carrying a large rat, which appeared dead. Coming nearer, the cat put
down the rat. Presently I saw it move, then it suddenly got up and ran
off. The cat caught it again. Again it feigned death, again got up and
ran off, and was once more caught. It laid quite still, when, perceiving
the cat had turned away, it got up, apparently quite uninjured, and ran
in another direction, and I and the cat--lost it! I was not sorry. This
rat deserved his liberty. Whether it was permanent I know not, as
"Little-john," the cat, remained, and I left.

The cat is not only a very useful animal about the house and premises,
but is also ornamental. It is lithe and beautiful in form, and graceful
in action. Of course there are cats that are ugly by comparison with
others, both in form, colour, and markings; and as there are now cat
shows, at which prizes are offered for varieties, I will endeavour to
give, in succeeding chapters, the points of excellence as regards form,
colour, and markings required and most esteemed for the different
classes. I am the more induced to define these as clearly as possible,
owing to the number of mistakes that often occur in the entries.





Next: Long-haired Cats

Previous: Habits



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