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.
THIS domestic animal, as Dr. Johnson puts it, "that catches mice, "can do many other things when it has a fair opportunity of distinguishing itself. It is difficult, but by no means impossible, to teach a Cat tricks. I myself had a favourite Cat, lately dead, which performed a variety of amusing feats, though I must own that it was extremely coquettish, and nine times out of ten refused to exhibit before a visitor, invited specially to witness the little comedy. Many Cats, without teaching, learn droll tricks.
Doctor Smellie tells of a Cat that had learned to lift the latch of a door; and other tales have been related of Cats that have been taught to ring a bell by hanging to the bell rope; and this anecdote is related by the illustrious Sam Slick, of Slick-ville. It occurred, several times, that his servant entered the library without having been summoned by his master, and in all cases the domestic was quite sure he had heard the bell. Great wonderment was caused by this, and the servant began to suspect that the house was haunted. It was, at length, noticed that on all these mysterious occasions the Cat entered with the servant. She was, therefore, watched, and it was soon perceived that whenever she found the library door closed against her, she jumped on to the window-sill, and thence sprang at the bell. This feat was exhibited to several of the clockmaker's friends, for the Cat when shut out of the room, would at once resort to this mode of obtaining admission.
My third story is a time-honoured one that almost every person who has written about Cats has related. There was once upon a time, a monastery, a Cat, and a dinner-bell. Every day at a certain hour the bell was rung, and the monks and the Cat had their meal together. There however came a time when, during the bell ringing, the Cat happened to be locked in a room at the other end of the building. Some hours afterwards she was released, and ran straight to the refectory, to find, alas! nothing but bare tables to welcome her. Presently the monks were astonished by a loud summons from the dinner-bell. Had the cook, in his absence of mind, prepared another dinner? Some of them hurried to the spot, where they found the Cat swinging on the bell-rope. She had learnt from experience that there never was any dinner without a bell ringing; and by force of reasoning, no doubt, had come to the conclusion that the dinner would be sure to come if she only rang loud enough.
The Cunning Cat .
But that story is not half so wonderful as another, about an Angora Cat belonging to a Carthusian monastery at Paris. This ingenious animal discovered that, when a certain bell rang, the cook left the kitchen to answer it, leaving the monks' dinners, portioned out in plates, unprotected. The plan the Cat adopted was to ring the bell, the handle of which hung outside the kitchen by the side of a window, to leap through the window, and back again when she had secured one of the portions. This little manoeuvre she carried on for some weeks before the perpetrator of the robbery was discovered; and there is no saying, during this lapse of time, how many innocent persons were unjustly suspected. Who shall say, indeed, but that the head of the establishment did not, as in the great Jackdaw case, call for his candle, his bell, and his book, and in holy anger, in pious grief, solemnly curse that rascally thief, as, you remember, the Cardinal cursed the Jackdaw:"He cursed him at board, he cursed him in bed, From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head; He cursed him in eating, he cursed him in drinking, He cursed him in coughing, in sneezing, in winking; He cursed him in sitting, in standing, in lying; He cursed him in walking, in riding, in flying; He cursed him in living, he cursed him in dying; - Never was heard such a terrible curse! But what gave rise To no little surprise, Nobody seemed one penny the worse!"
When, however, they found out that Pussy was the wrong-doer, and, unlike the Jackdaw, had grown fat upon her misdeeds, they did not hang her, as you might suppose, though I have no doubt that course was suggested; on the contrary, they allowed her to pursue her nefarious career, and charged visitors a small fee to be allowed to see her do it. Out of evil sometimes may come good; but one would hardly think that the best way of making a person's fortune was to rob him.
Cats have been frequently known to do their best to protect the property of their masters, as well as dogs. A man who was imprisoned for a burglary, in America, stated after his conviction, that he. and two others broke into the house of a gentleman, near Harlem. While they were in the act of plundering it, a large black Cat flew at one of the robbers, and fixed her claws on each side of his face. He added, that he never saw a man so frightened in his life; and that in his alarm, he made such an outcry, that they had to beat a precipitate retreat, to avoid detection.
A lady in Liverpool had a favourite Cat. She never returned home, after a short absence, without being joyfully received by it. One Sunday, however, on returning from church, she was surprised to find that Pussy did not receive her as usual, and its continued absence made her a little uneasy. The servantss were all appealed to, but none could account for the circumstance. The lady, therefore, made a strict search for her feline friend, and descending to the lower storey, was surprised to hear her cries of "Puss" answered by the mewing of a Cat, the sounds proceeding from the wine cellar, which had been properly locked and the key placed in safe custody. As the Cat was in the parlour when the lady left for church, it was unnecessary to consult a "wise man" to ascertain that the servants had clandestine means of getting into the wine-cellar, and that they had forgotten, when they themselves returned, to request pussy, also, to withdraw. The contents of the cellar, from that time forward, did not disappear as quickly as they had been doing for some time previously.