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THE CA T.

CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTORY.

§ 1. WHETHER it is the Cat or the Dog which is the most domestic of all our domestic animals, is a question which may be disputed. The greater intelligence and affection of the dog, cause men generally to prefer it to its rival. As the eager partner of our sports, or the faithful guardian of house or homestead, it is of especial value. Yet the cat is so largely self-supporting and so useful an ally against unwelcome intruders, that it is the inmate of a multitude of humble homes wherein the dog has no place. The cat also is favoured by that half of the human race which is the more concerned with domestic cares; for it is a home-loving animal and one exceptionally clean and orderly in its habits, and thus naturally commends itself to the good will of the thrifty housewife.

Moreover, though it is generally much less demonstrative in its affection than is the dog, yet cats differ as men do, and some individuals manifest strong feelings of regard for one or other members of the family wherein they make their homes.

Cats are even sometimes made use of to obtain food for their owners, the latter availing themselves of the habit which cats have of bringing home prey.

The Domestic Cat is an animal so common and familiar that its utility is sometimes apt to be lost sight of. To realise its usefulness we must imagine ourselves in a land where no such an animal is known, but where the annoying creatures upon which it preys shall have multiplied with that rapidity natural to them. The familiar tale of Whittington may serve to illustrate what would be the effect of its introduction into such a land. It has been calculated that a single devour twenty mice in one day; but this of course is by

cat

may

Thus, several rabbits will sometimes be brought home by a cat in a single day.

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no means the limit of its powers of destruction. Its effect in putting to flight the creatures it pursues, is again far in excess of its destructive energy. Were every cat in England simultaneously destroyed, the loss through the entailed increase of vermin would

be enormous.

§ 2. But however much this animal may deserve our esteem, or win our admiration, by its shapely form and graceful movements, it certainly has very special claims on the attention of lovers of biological science. For in the first place its organization, considered absolutely in itself, is one of singular perfection, and the adaptation of means to ends which it displays is truly admirable. If, however, we compare its organization with that of other animals, we shall by so doing not only gain a better appreciation of its structural fections, but also become acquainted with a variety of relations conveying useful lessons in anatomy, psychology,* and zoology, and others referring to the past, the present, and even the future history of this planet.

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§ 3. The "Common" (domestic) Cat of our country, and indeed of the continent also, is not the "Common Cat" of zoology. The latter is of course the originally native cat-or wild cat. The domestic and the wild cat may, however, for our present purpose, be considered together, and, thus considered, the events of the last two thousand years have strangely altered the distribution of the cats of this country.

That men dwell in cities, instead of in woods, is one effect of civilization. A similar but greater change has been produced with English cats by the same cause. For when Julius Cæsar landed here our forests were plentifully supplied with cats, while probably not a single mouser existed in any British town or village. The word "cat" appears to be of Roman origin, being probably derived from the Latin word catus, which word also seems to have been at the same time the root of the Greek karrα, the old German name chazza, and of the softened French form of the word, chat. The original derivation of the name does not, however, appear to have been as yet ascertained. It occurs in Anglo-Saxon writings with the spelling Catt.

But

It might be supposed that our present domestic cat is simply our own ancient wild cat tamed; but had it been so and therefore been easily procurable, it would not have been so highly valued as it was even so late as a thousand years after the Roman invasion. though the domestic cat was thus rare, and therefore precious, the wild cat continued to be common in England during the Middle Ages. This is proved by the fact that its fur was then commonly used for trimming dresses.

A canon, enacted in the year 1127, forbad any abbess or nun to use more costly fur than that of lambs or cats, and the cat was an object of chase in royal forests, as is shown by a license to hunt it of

The word Psychology is here used in its wide and (as the author believes) in

its proper sense as embracing Physiology within its scope.

the date 1239, and by a similar charter given by Richard the Second to the Abbot of Peterborough.

The Wild Cat is now (thanks to the destruction of our forests, the introduction of fire-arms, and the over-zeal of game-keepers,) extinct in England, and perhaps in Wales also, though it lived here till within fifty, and in Wales till within twenty years ago. In Ireland it seems never to have existed, and the stories we read of Irish wild cats probably refer to the progeny of domestic cats run wild. This is the opinion of Dr Hamilton, F.Z.S., who has paid great attention to this subject, and carefully collected and investigated the evidence as to the existence of the wild cat in Ireland. In Scotland it is still far from uncommon, and is especially frequent in Inverness, Ross-shire, Sutherland, and on the west coast of the Highlands, where the recent increase of rabbits (animals so useful to it as good food,) seems to have occasioned some increase in the number of wild cats. These animals exist also in Skye, but not in the Western Isles.

On the continent the wild cat is found in Southern Russia, and the adjacent parts of Asia, Turkey, Greece, Hungary, Germany, Dalmatia, Spain, Switzerland, and, though now very rare, France." It does not appear to exist in Norway or Sweden.

§ 4. Our Domestic Cat seems to have come to us (like our other domestic animals) from the East, and is probably a descendant of the old domestic cat of Egypt, which, as the granary of the ancient world, might well have been the country in which the animal was originally tamed. In the Egyptian Gallery of the British Museum is an excellent painting of a tabby cat, which seems to be aiding a man who is capturing birds. It is mentioned in inscriptions as early as 1684 B.C., and it was certainly domesticated in Egypt thirteen hundred years before Christ. The earliest known representation of the cat as a domestic animal and pet, is at Leyden in a tablet of the 18th or 19th dynasty, wherein it appears seated under a chair. In Egypt, it was an object of religious worship and the venerated inmate of certain temples. The goddess Pasht or Bubastis, the Goddess of Cats, was, under the Roman Empire, represented with a cat's head. A temple at Beni-Hassan, dedicated to her, is as old as Thothmes IV. of the 18th dynasty, 1500 B.c.+ Behind that temple

One wild cat at the least has been killed in France between 1815 and 1830. † Dr. Birch has kindly informed me that the earliest representation of the cat, with which he is acquainted, the date of which is certain, is on tomb No. 170 of the Berlin Museum, apparently of about 1600 B.C.; but that it also figures on a tablet which from its style appears to be two hundred years older--as part of the name of a woman, "Main" or cat. It also appears in hunting scenes of the 18th dynasty, and in rituals written under that dynasty, but pro

bably repetitions of a much earlier text. It is mentioned in the 17th chapter of the Ritual, and the coffins of the 11th dynasty are inscribed with that chapter, which, according to Lepsius, would carry us back to about 2400 B. C. In a copy of the Ritual of B. C. 1500, its 33rd chapter has the text, "thou hast eaten the rats hateful to Ra (the Sun), and thou feedest on the bones of the impure cat." In Egypt an animal, though sacred in one city, might be regarded as impure in another city.

are pits containing a multitude of cat mummies. The cat was an emblem of the sun to the Egyptians. Its eyes were supposed to vary in appearance with the course of that luminary, and likewise to undergo a change each lunar month, on which account the animal was also sacred to the moon. Herodotus (ii. 66) recounts instances of the strangely exaggerated regard felt for it by the dwellers on the Nile. He tells us that when a cat dies a natural death in a house, the Egyptians shave off their eyebrows, and that when a fire occurs they are more anxious to save their cats than to extinguish the conflagration.

From Egypt it must have been introduced into Greece, and the intimate knowledge of Egyptian customs which became common in Rome from the time of Julius and Augustus must have brought into it amongst many other animals a knowledge of the domestic cat. A fresco painting of such a cat was discovered in Pompeii + It was not a domestic animal amongst the Hebrews, though it was known in India two thousand years ago.

It has been suggested by Professor Rolleston, that the domestic animal of the Greeks (used by them for the purposes for which we now use the cat) was the white-breasted marten. But however this may be, there can be no question as to the cat having been domesticated in Europe before the Christian era. There are signs that it was domesticated amongst the people of the Bronze period, and the supposition that it was first introduced into Western Europe by the Crusaders, is of course an altogether erroneous one. They may however have introduced a distinct race, for if it be true that our domestic cats have mainly descended from the Egyptian cat, it does not follow but that blood from other sources may have mingled with that of the Egyptian breed.

Pope Gregory the Great, who lived towards the end of the sixth century, is said to have had a pet cat, and cats were often inmates of nunneries in the Middle Ages. The great value set upon the cat at this period is shown by the laws which in Wales, Switzerland, and Saxony, and other European countries, imposed a heavy fine on cat-killers. As compensation, a payment was required of as much wheat as was needed to form a pile sufficient to cover over the body of the animal to the tip of its tail, the tail being held up vertically, with the cat's muzzle resting on the ground.

The WILD CAT (Felis catus) differs from our ordinary domestic cat in that it is more strongly built and larger, with a stouter head and shorter and thicker tail, which is not tapering but of about the same thickness throughout. Its whiskers also are more abundant, and the soles of its feet are, in the males, deep black. Its body is of a yellowish-grey colour, with a dark longitudinal mark along the

* Mr. J. Jenner Weir has found that the eyes of cats will really change colour.

† See Plate 81 of Raccolta de piu belli Dipinti, from the collections in the Royal Museum (Napoli, 1854). The cat is

represented as seizing a thrush, and is very well drawn.

See Cambridge Journal of Anatomy and Physiology, 1868, vol. ii. pp. 47 and 437.

back, and with numerous darkish stripes descending more or less vertically down the sides, and marking transversely the limbs. Its tail is ringed with black, and is black at the end. It is thus marked like the domestic variety called "tabby" One killed near Cawdor Castle measured 3 feet 9 inches from its nose to the end of its tail.* Its savage disposition is very early shown, even the young kittens spitting vigorously at anyone who approaches them. The female makes her nest in hollow trees and the clefts of rocks, and sometimes uses the deserted nest of some large bird.

§ 5. The EGYPTIAN CAT (Felis maniculata) is a native of northern Africa, and was the parent of the cat tamed by the Egyptians, and -if what has been here urged is correct-also of our own domestic cat. possibly with an admixture of other blood.

The Egyptian cat is said to be about one-third smaller than the European wild cat. It is of a yellowish colour, somewhat darker on the back and whitish on the belly. There are some obscure stripes on the body, which become more distinct on the limbs. The tail is more or less ringed towards its termination, which is black.

§ 6. Although the differences between the various breeds of the DOMESTIC CAT are small indeed compared with those between different races of dogs, still very distinct varieties exist, but their distinctions repose mainly on the colour and the length or quality of the fur, and not on differences of form, such as those we find existing between the Greyhound and the Pug, the Spaniel and the Mastiff.

The colours of cats may be divided into black, white, tabby, sandy tortoiseshell, dun, grey, and what is termed "blue." There are also cats in which these various colours are more or less mixed.

The grey cat is very rare. It is, in fact, a tabby, without the black stripes, except two large stripes over the fore-legs-marks present in most spotted or striped cat-like animals of whatever species.

Black cats are remarkable for the clear yellow colour of their eyes. Their coat is rarely entirely black, for there are generally a few white hairs on the throat at the least. When young they show more or less perceptible striped markings.

White cats may have blue eyes, or eyes of the ordinary colourthat is, an obscure yellow with a tinge of green.

Those with blue eyes are generally deaf, but they are not always so. It often happens that the eyes of a white cat are not alike in colour; thus one may be blue and the other yellow.

The late Mr. John Stuart Mill told my friend Mr. John Jenner Weir, F.L.S.,† that he had at Avignon a breed of cats the eyes of which distinctly changed colour when the animals were excited.

Mr. Harrison Weir tells me that the largest domestic cat he has seen weighed twenty-three pounds.

This gentleman has acted as judge

at numerous cat shows, and I am indebted to him for very kindly furnishing me with his notes respecting varieties of the domestic cat.

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