This section is from the book "The Book Of Cats", by Charles Henry Ross. Also available from Amazon: The Book Of Cats: A Chit-Chat Chronicle Of Feline Facts And Fancies, Legendary, Lyrical, Medical, Mirthful And Miscellaneous.
The latter case, however, is rather rare I should think. When Pussy's good master and mistress die, the wide world is often enough left for it to roam in at its will, seeking its living as it can - a wide world full of cruel kicks and cuffs. Justin's Cat was lucky to die of old age in a good home, and have such a fine epitaph written over his remains: Worn out with age and dire disease, a Cat,
Friendly to all save wicked mouse and rat,
I'm sent at last to ford the Stygian lake,
And to the infernal coast a voyage make.
Me Proserpine received, and smiling said,
"Be bless'd within these mansions of the dead;
Enjoy among thy velvet-footed loves,
Elysium's sunny banks and shady groves."
"But if I 've well deserved (O gracious Queen) If patient under suffering I have been,
Grant me at least one night to visit home again,
Once more to see my home and mistress dear, And purr these grateful accents in her ear. 'Thy faithful Cat, thy poor departed slave, Still loves her mistress e'en beyond the grave.'"
Stray Cats, I am afraid, have a bad time of it before they find a new home. Cats were recently said to be in great demand at Lucerne, in Switzerland, and to be selling at a high price, in consequence of a malady which had greatly thinned their numbers. According to the account in the newspaper, the head of the animal swelled rapidly; the Cat refused all nourishment, and very soon dropped down dead.
It is true, that in some quarters of the globe, the feline race is still held of some value. Vide Lady Duff Gordon's Article in Macmillan's Magazine, which gives us a glimpse of a strange superstition in Thebes. She says: "Do you remember the German story of the lad who travelled 'um das gruseln zu lernen' (to learn how to tremble)? Well, I who never 'gruselte' (quaked) before, had a touch of it a few mornings ago. I was sitting here quietly drinking tea, and four or five men were present, when a Cat came to the door. I called 'bis!bis!' and offered milk; but puss, after looking at us, ran away.
"'Well, dost thou, Lady,' said a quiet sensible man, a merchant here, 'to be kind to the Cat, for I daresay he gets little enough at home; his father, poor man, cannot cook for his children every day;' and then in an explanatory tone to the company: 'That's Alee Nasseeree's boy, Yussuf; it must be Yussuf, because his fellow-twin, Ismaeen, is with his uncle at Negadeh.'
"'Mir gruselte' (I shuddered), I confess; not but what I have heard things almost as absurd from gentlemen and ladies in Europe, but an 'extravagance' in a kuftan has quite a different effect from one in a tail-coat.
"'What! My butcher-boy who brings the meat - a Cat?' I gasped.
"'To be sure, and he knows well where to look for a bit of good cookery, you see. All twins go out as Cats at night, if they go to sleep hungry; and their own bodies lie at home like dead, meanwhile, but no one must touch them or they would die. When they grow up to ten or twelve they leave it off. Why, your own boy, Achmet, does it. Ho, Achmet!'
"'Boy, don't you go out as a Cat at night?'
"'No,' said Achmet tranquilly, 'I am not a twin. My sister's sons do.'
"I enquired if people were not afraid of such Cats.
"'No, there is no fear; they only eat a little of the cookery; but if you beat them, they tell their parents next day. 'So and so beat me in his house last night,' and show their bruises. No, they are not afreets; they are beni-Adam. Only twins do it, and if you give them a sort of onion broth and some milk, the first thing when they are born, they do not do it at all.'
"Omar professed never to have heard it, but I am sure he had, only he dreads being laughed at. One of the American missionaries told me something like it, as belonging to the Copts; but it is entirely Egyptian, and common to both religions. I asked several Copts, who assured me it was true, and told it just the same. Is it a remnant of the doctrine of transmigration? However, the notion fully accounts for the horror the people feel at the idea of killing a Cat."
Ah, heaven help those whom we love and cherish when we are dead and gone! The soft, delicate hands that never were made to work - the gentle hearts untried - the pretty, thoughtless heads, pillowed so softly, slumbering so placidly, all unconscious that there is a rough, unsympathising crowd surging round the castle gates, whose hoarse murmur has never yet reached our darlings' ears. And our dumb pets, where shall they find a home, and kind hands to wait upon them? It is a thousand times better when we die that they should die too; and you, whose roof has sheltered a Cat, should you change your home, and be unable to take the creature with you, would act a more humane part by having it killed at once than leave it to the questionable mercy of the new comer. The too often carelessly uttered words of "Oh, the Cat will get on well enough," have sealed the poor dependant's fate, and it has been left to shift for itself, with what fate its late owners have but rarely troubled themselves to enquire. What fate would many of us meet with were not a helping hand stretched forth in time of need? To how many of our poor brothers and sisters is the help never tendered!
There is a hospital for dogs, which is, I am told, in a flourishing condition; and a lady of the name of Deen established a sort of asylum for lost Cats at Rottingdean, in consequence of the large number which she saw lying dead upon the beach, and, indeed, offered premiums to anyone who would bring animals of the feline species to her city of refuge. But such kind friends are scarce, and Pussy, going upon her travels, will find many dangers upon the road, and but few doors opened to receive her. Therefore, in conclusion, I would advise all Cats to stay at home when they have a good home to stay at. One word, too, I would fain say to those who do not like Cats, because they do not know them. Having long observed these animals carefully, and, I sincerely believe, without prejudice, I am sure that when kindly treated they will be found gentle and attached, and little, if at all, inferior in intelligence to their much-vaunted rival, the dog. One last word to those who have followed me thus far. I hope I have not been very prosy, and I hope, in the somewhat large collection of Cat anecdotes here brought together, "the only one worth the trouble of relating" has not been omitted. If this has been the case, allow me to assure you it has not been because I have spared any trouble in gathering together my materials.