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.
LET us see though, before we try our anecdotes, what is known of the Cat's peculiarities. I rather like this quaint description of the domestic Pussy, which occurs in an old heraldic book, John Bossewell's "Workes of Armorie" published in 1597:"The field is of the Saphire, on a chief Pearle, a Masion Cruieves. This beaste is called a 'Masion,' for that he is enimie to Myse and Rattes. He is slye and wittie, and seeth so sharpely that he over-commeth darkness of the nighte by the shyninge lyghte of his eyne. In shape of body he is like unto a Leoparde, and hathe a greate mouthe. He doth delighte that he enjoyeth his libertie; and in his youth he is swifte, plyante, and merye. He maketh a rufull noyse and a gastefulle when he pro-fereth to fighte with another. He is a cruell beaste when he is wilde, and falleth on his owne feete from moste highe places: and never is hurt therewith. When he hathe a fayre skinne, he is, as it were, proude thereof, and then he goethe muche aboute to be seene."
It is commonly supposed that a Cat's scratch is venomous, because a lacerated wound oftener festers than a smooth cut from a sharp knife.
It is erroneously said that Cats feel a cutaneous irritation at the approach of rain, and offer sensible evidence of uneasiness: allusion may be found to this in "Thomson's Seasons." Virgil has also made the subject a theme for poetic allusion.
The Chinese look into their Cat's eyes to know what o'clock it is; and the playfulness of Cats is said to indicate the coming of a storm. I have noticed this often myself, and have seen them rush about in a half wild state just before windy weather.
I think it is when the wind is rising that they are most affected.
It is stated in a Japanese book that the tip of a Cat's nose is always cold, except on the day corresponding with our Midsummer-day. This is a question I cannot say I have gone into deeply. I know, however, that Cats always have a warm nose when they first awaken from sleep. All Cats are fond of warmth. I knew one which used to open an oven door after the kitchen fire was out, and creep into the oven. One day the servant shut the door, not noticing the Cat was inside, and lighted the fire. For a long while she could not make out whence came the sounds of its crying and scratching, but fortunately made the discovery in time to save its life. A Cat's love of the sunshine is well known, and perhaps this story may not be unfamiliar to the reader:One broiling hot summer's day Charles James Fox and the Prince of Wales were lounging up St. James's street, and Fox laid the Prince a wager that he would see more Cats than his Royal Highness during their promenade, although the Prince might choose which side of the street he thought fit. On reaching Piccadilly, it turned out that Fox had seen thirteen Cats and the Prince none. The
Prince asked for an explanation of this apparent miracle.
"Your Royal Highness," said Fox, "chose, of course, the shady side of the way as most agreeable. I knew that the sunny side would be left for me, and that Cats prefer the sunshine."
Cats usually, but not always, fall on their feet, because of the facility with which they balance themselves when springing from a height, which power of balancing is in some degree produced by the flexibility of the heel, the bones of which have no fewer than four joints. Cats alight softly on their feet, because in the middle of the foot is a large ball or pad in five parts, formed of an elastic substance, and at the base of each toe is a similar pad. No mechanism better calculated to break the force of a fall could be imagined.
A Cat, when falling with its head downwards, curls its body, so that the back forms an arch, while the legs remain extended. This so changes the position of the centre of gravity, that the body makes a half turn in the air, and the feet become lowest.
In the inside of a Cat's head there is a sort of partition wall projecting from the sides, a good way inwards, towards the centre, so as to prevent the brain from suffering from concussion.
There is a breed of tail-less white Cats in the Isle of Man, and also in Devonshire. These are not the sort of animals with which, on shipboard, the "stow-aways" are made acquainted.
A great many Cats in the Isle of Man are said to be deaf. Thus, "As deaf as a Manx Cat." There is an idea that white Cats with blue eyes are always deaf, but a correspondent of Notes and 2ueries says, "I am myself possessed of a white Cat which, at the advanced age of upwards of seventeen years, still retains its hearing to great perfection, and is remarkably intelligent and devoted, more so than Cats are usually given credit for. Its affection for persons is, indeed, more like that of a dog than of a Cat. It is a half-bred Persian Cat, and its eyes are perfectly blue, with round pupils, not elongated, as those of Cats usually are. It occasionally suffers from irritation in the ears, but this has not at all resulted in deafness."
Do you know why Cats always wash themselves after a meal? A Cat caught a sparrow, and was about to devour it, but the sparrow said,
"No gentleman eats till he has first washed his face."
The Cat, struck with this remark, set the sparrow down, and began to wash his face with his paw, but the sparrow flew away. This vexed Pussy extremely, and he said,
"As long as I live I will eat first and wash my face afterwards."
Which all Cats do, even to this day.
A French writer says, the three animals that waste most time over their toilet are cats, flies, and women.
The attitudes and motions of a Cat are very graceful, because she is furnished with collar-bones. She can, therefore, carry food to her mouth like a monkey, can clasp, can climb, and can strike sideways, and seat herself at a height upon a very narrow space.