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.

Tortoiseshells Usefulness Of Cats facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail