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.
An anonymous writer says: "We may learn some useful lessons from Cats, as indeed, from all animals. Agur, in the book of Proverbs, refers to some; and all through Scripture we find animals used as types of human character. Cats may teach us patience, and perseverance, and earnest concentration of mind on a desired object, as they watch for hours together by a mouse-hole, or in ambush for a bird. In their nicely calculated springs, we are taught neither to come short through want of mercy, or go beyond the mark in its excess. In their delicate walking amidst the fragile articles on a table or mantelpiece, is illustrated the tact and discrimination by which we should thread rather than force our way; and, in pursuit of our own ends, avoid the injuring of others. In their noiseless tread and stealthy movements, we are reminded of the frequent importance of secresy and caution prior to action, while their promptitude at the right moment, warns us, on the other hand, against the evils of irresolution and delay. The curiosity with which they spy into all places, and the thorough smelling which any new object invariably receives from them, commends to us the pursuit of knowledge, even under difficulties. Cats, however, will never smell the same thing twice over, thereby showing a retentive as well as an acquiring faculty. Then to speak of what may be learned from their mere form and ordinary motions, so full of beauty and gracefulness. What Cat was ever awkward or clumsy? Whether in play or in earnest, Cats are the very embodiment of elegance. As your Cat rubs her head against something you offer her, which she either does not fancy or does not want, she instructs you that there is a gracious mode of refusing a thing; and as she sits up like a bear, on her hind legs, to ask for something (which Cats will often do for a long time together), you may see the advantage of a winning and engaging way, as well when you are seeking a favour as when you think fit to decline one. If true courtesy and considerateness should prevent you not merely from positively hurting another, but also from purposely clashing, say, with another's fancies, peculiarities, or predilections, this too, may be learned from the Cat, who does not like to be rubbed the wrong way (who does like to be rubbed the wrong way?), and who objects to your treading on her tail. Nor is the soft foot, with its skilfully sheathed and ever sharp claws, without a moral too; for whilst there is nothing commendable in anything approaching to spite, passion, or revenge, a character that is all softness is certainly defective. The velvety paw is very well, but it will be the better appreciated when it is known that it carries within it something that is not soft, and which can make itself felt, and sharply felt, on occasion. A cat rolled up into a ball, or crouched with its paws folded underneath it, seems an emblem of repose and contentment. There is something soothing in the mere sight of it. It may remind one of the placid countenance and calm repose with which the sphynx seems to look forth from the shadow of the Pyramids, on the changes and troubles of the world. This leads to the remark, that Cats, after all, are very enigmatical creatures. You never get to the bottom of Cats. You will never find any two, well known to you, that do not' offer marked diversities in ways and dispositions; and, in general, the combination they exhibit of activity and repose, and the rapidity with which they pass from the one to the other, their gentle aspects and fragile form, united with strength and pliancy, their sudden appearances and disappearances, their tenacity of life, and many escapes from dangers ("as many lives as a Cat"), their silent and rapid movements, their sometimes unaccountable gatherings, and strange noises at night - all contribute to invest them with a mysterious fascination, which reaches its culminating point in the (not very frequent) case of a completely black cat."
Instances are frequent, I am happy to tell Cat-haters, of illustrious persons who have been attached to the feline race, and of Cats who have merited such attachment.
Mahomet would seem to have been very fond of Cats, for it is said that he once cut off the sleeve of his robe rather than disturb his favourite while sleeping on it. Petrarch was so fond of his Cat that when it died he had it embalmed, and placed in a niche in his apartment; and you ought to read what Rousseau has to say in favour of the feline race. M. Baumgarten tells us that he saw a hospital for Cats at Damascus: it was a large house, walled round very carefully, and said to be full of patients. It was at Damascus that the incident above related occurred to Mahomet. His followers in this place ever afterwards paid a great respect to Cats, and supported the hospital in question by public subscriptions with much liberality.
When the Duke of Norfolk was committed to the Tower, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a favourite Cat made her way into the prison room by getting down the chimney.
"The first day," says Lady Morgan, in her delightful book, "we had the honour of dining at the palace of the Archbishop of Toronto, at Naples, he said to me, 'You must pardon my passion for Cats, but I never exclude them from my dining-room, and you will find they make excellent company.' Between the first and second course, the door opened, and several enormously large and beautiful Angora Cats were introduced by the names of Pantalone, Desdemona, Otello, etc.: they took their places on chairs near the table, and were as silent, as quiet, as motionless, and as well behaved as the most bon ton table in London could require. On the bishop requesting one of the chaplains to help the Signora Desdemona, the butler stepped up to his lordship, and observed, 'My lord, La Signora Desdemona will prefer waiting for the roasts.'"
Gottfried Mind, the celebrated Swiss painter, was called the "Cat Raphael," from the excellence with which he painted that animal. This peculiar talent was discovered and awakened by chance. At the time when Frendenberger painted his picture of the "Peasant Clearing Wood," before his cottage, with his wife sitting by, and feeding her child out of a basin, round which a Cat is prowling, Mind, his new pupil, stared very hard at the sketch of this last figure, and Frendenberger asked with a smile whether he thought he could draw a better. Mind offered to show what he could do, and did draw a Cat, which Frendenberger liked so much that he asked his pupil to elaborate the sketch, and the master copied the scholar's work, for it is Mind's Cat that is engraved in Frenden-berger's plate. Prints of Mind's Cats are now common.