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.
Mind did not look upon Cats merely as subjects for art; his liking for them was very great. Once when hydrophobia was raging in Berne, and eight hundred were destroyed in consequence of an order issued by the civic authorities, Mind was in great distress on account of their death. He had, however, successfully hidden his own favourite, and she escaped the slaughter. This Cat was always with him when he worked, and he used to carry on a sort of conversation with her by gesture and signs. It is said that Minette sometimes occupied his lap, while two or three kittens perched on his shoulders; and he was often known to remain for an hour together in almost the same attitude for fear of disturbing them; yet he was generally thought to be a passionate, sour-tempered man, It is said that Cardinal Wolsey used to accommodate his favourite Cat with part of his regal seat when he gave an audience or received princely company.
There is a funny story told of Barrett, the painter, another lover of Cats. He had for pets a Cat and a kitten, its progeny. A friend seeing two holes in the bottom of his door, asked him for what purpose he made them there. Barrett said it was for the Cats to go in and out.
"Why," replied his friend, "would not one do for both?"
"You silly man," answered the painter, "how could the big Cat get into the little hole?"
"But," said his friend, "could not the little one go through the big hole?"
"Dear me," cried Barrett, "so she could; well, I never thought of that."
M. Sonnini had an Angora Cat, of which he writes: "This animal was my principal amusement for several years. How many times have her tender caresses made me forget my troubles, and consoled me in my misfortunes. My beautiful companion at length perished. After several days of suffering, during which I never forsook her, her eyes constantly fixed on me, were at length extinguished; and her loss rent my heart with sorrow."
The Doctor's Pet.
You have heard, of course, of Doctor Johnson's feline favourite, and how it fell ill, and how he, thinking the servants might neglect it, himself turned Cat-nurse, and having found out that the invalid had a fancy for oysters, daily administered them to poor Pussy until she had quite recovered. I like to picture to myself that good old grumpy doctor nursing Pussy on his knee, and wasting who shall say how many precious moments which otherwise might have been devoted to his literary avocations. I dare say now, in that tavern parlour where the lexicographer held forth so ably after sun-set, he made but scant allusion to his nursing feats, lest some mad wit might have twitted him upon the subject, for you may be sure that the wits of those days, as of ours, could have been mighty satirical on such a theme.
Madame Helvetius had a Cat that used to lie at its mistress's feet, scarcely ever leaving her for five minutes together. It would never take food from any other hand, and it would allow no one but its mistress to caress it; but it would obey her commands in everything, fetching objects she wanted in its mouth, like a dog. During Madame Helvetius's last illness, the poor animal never quitted her chamber, and though it was removed after her death, it returned again next morning, and slowly and mournfully paced to and fro in the room, crying piteously all the time. Some days after its mistress's funeral, it was found stretched dead upon her grave, having, it would seem, died of grief.
There is a well-authenticated story of a Cat which having had a thorn taken out of her foot by a man servant, remembered him, and welcomed him with delight when she saw him again after an absence of two years.
As a strong instance of attachment, I can quote the case of a she Cat of my own, which always waited for me in the passage when I returned home of an evening, and mounted upon my shoulder to ride upstairs. Returning home once after an absence of six weeks, this Cat sat on the corner of the mantel-piece, close by the bed, all night, and as it would appear wide awake, keeping a sort of guard over me, for being very restless I lay awake a long while, and then awoke again, several times, after dozing off, to find upon each occasion Miss Puss, with wide open eyes, purring loudly. I may add, that although, when we have gone away from home, the Cats have taken their meals and spent most of their time with the servants, yet upon our return they have immediately resumed their old ways, and cut the kitchen dead.
By the report of a police case at Marlborough Street, on the 28th of June last, it appeared that a husband, brutally ill-using his wife, flung her on the ground, and seizing her by the throat, endeavoured to strangle her. While, however, she lay thus, a favourite Cat, named "Topsy," suddenly sprang upon the man, and fastened her claws and teeth in his face. He could not tear the Cat away, and was obliged to implore the woman he had been ill-using to take the Cat from him to save his life.
The Cat is reproached with treachery and cruelty, but Bigland argues that the artifices which it uses are the particular instincts which the all-wise Creator has given it, in conformity with the purposes for which it was designed. Being destined to prey upon a lively and active animal like the mouse, which possesses so many means of escape, it is requisite that it should be artful; and, indeed, the Cat, when well observed, exhibits the most evident proofs of a particular adaptation to a particular purpose, and the most striking example of a peculiar instinct suited to its destiny.
Every animal has its own way of killing and eating its prey. The fox leaves the legs and hinder parts of a hare or rabbit; the weasel and stoat eat the brains, and nibble about the head, and suck the blood; crows and magpies peck at the eyes; the dog tears his prey to pieces indiscriminately; the Cat always turns the skin inside out like a glove.