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.
There is a disease resembling the chicken-pox, which appears in the shape of eruptions upon a Cat's head and throat. It is, in these cases, advisable to rub the bad places with flour of brimstone mixed with fresh hog's lard, without salt. The Cat will lick some of this ointment off, and swallow it, which operation will assist the cure. Much of the necessity for physic is, however, avoided when the Cat is able to get some grass to eat, without which, I believe, it can never be in good health. I have a Tom Cat, which seems to be particularly partial to ribbon grass, but this, I should say, is quite an epicurean taste of his. According to Lady Cust, who is the greatest, indeed, the only authority on such matters, the hair swallowed by the Cat in licking itself, and conveyed into the stomach and intestines, where it remains in balls or long rolls, causing dulness and loss of appetite, is digested easily by adhering to the long grass; or if the mass is too large, as is often the case in the moulting season, especially with Angora Cats, it will be seen thrown up: long rolls of hair with grass; perfectly exclusive of any other substance. But, again, the Cat itself seems to know that grass is very needful for the preservation of its health. The food and prey it eats often disorder the stomach. On such occasions, it eats a little grass, which, however, goes no further than the commencement of the oesophagus; this is irritated by the jagged and sawlike margins of the blades of grass, and this irritation is, by a reflex action, communicated to the stomach, which, by a spasmodic action, rejects its vitiated secretion.
It is very cruel and injurious to the mother to destroy the whole litter of kittens at once, unless it has some feline friend or relation to relieve it of its milk: one of its grown-up children, or its husband, will generally do so, without much persuasion. If deprived of this resource, however, the frequent destruction of the kittens will, in all probability, cause cancers, and in the end kill the Cat. If the mother die, and the kittens be left orphans, they may be easily reared by hand. Feed them with new milk, sweetened with brown sugar - plain milk is too astringent. To imitate the Cat's lick, wipe the kittens with a nearly dry sponge, and soap and water, A good way to feed them is to use a well-saturated fine sponge, which the kittens will suck. The most common way, however, is to pour the milk gently down the throat from a pointed spoon.
I knew a lady who fed a pet kitten from her mouth, and it grew up extraordinarily affectionate and sagacious. But I have seen many cases where a Cat has conceived a strong affection towards a person who has never fed it, and scarcely ever noticed it.
I lately heard, on good authority, of a case of a lady, one of whose Cats came every morning to her bed-room door, at six o'clock precisely, making so much noise mewing, that it would awaken every one in the house, if she did not hasten to get up, open the door, and shake hands with it, after which ceremony it went quietly away. But, as a rule, these animals do not tax their masters' good nature to such an extent: a pat on the head now and then, a kind word now and again, nothing more is required.
Mr. Kingston says: - "I was calling on a delightful and most clever kind old lady, who showed me a very beautiful Tabby Cat, coiled up on a chair before the fire.
"'Seventeen years ago,' said she, 'that Cat's mother had a litter: they were all ordered to be drowned, with the exception of one; the servant brought me that one; it was a tortoiseshell. 'No,' I said, 'that will always be looking dirty; I will choose another;' so I put my hand into the basket, and drew forth this tabby. The tabby has stuck by me ever since. When she came to have a family, she disappeared, but the rain did not, for it came pouring down through the ceiling, and it was discovered that Dame Tabby had made a lying-in hospital for herself in the thatched roof of our house. The damage she did cost us several pounds; so we asked a bachelor friend, who had a good cook, fond of Cats, to take care of tabby the next time she gave signs of having a family, as we knew that she would be well fed. We sent her in a basket, well covered up, and she was carefully shut into a room, where she soon was able to exhibit a progeny of young mewlings. More than the usual number were allowed to survive; and it was thought that she would remain quietly where she was; but, at the first opportunity, she made her escape, and down she came all the length of the village; and I heard her mewing at my bed-room door, early in the morning, to be let in. When I had stroked her back, and spoken kindly to her, off she went to look after her nurselings. From that day, every morning down she came regularly to see me, and would not go away till she had been spoken to and caressed. Having satisfied herself that I was alive and well, back she would go again. She never failed to pay me that one visit in the morning, and never came twice in the day, till she had weaned her kittens, and then every day she came back, and nothing would induce her to go away again: I had not the heart to force her back. From that day to this she has always slept at the door of my room.' Never was there more evident affection exhibited in the feline race."
With respect to a Cat's food, I think it should not have too much meat; and I should prefer feeding it on scraps that have come from the table, to buying Cats' meat. If their taste be consulted upon the subject, almost all Cats are passionately fond of lights, particularly as they grow old; and one elderly red-haired gentleman in particular, with whom I had once the honour of being acquainted, was in the habit of watching the pot whilst the lights boiled, with lively interest, sniffing the steam when the saucepan-lid was raised, and licking his lips in anticipation of joys to come, when he could gorge himself to his heart's content. As he was a very old gentleman, and enjoyed the privileges of age, he had unlimited lights supplied to him; and it was his habit to eat as much as he could possibly swallow, and then lie down within sight of the plate, and catch uneasy snatches of sleep, waiting until he could go on again with his orgie, but racked meanwhile by horrid fears lest anyone else should get at his food, and only dozing off, as the saying is, one eye at a time. This same red Cat one day, when the servants were out, and I was alone in the garden, came to me mewing in a strange sort of way, looking, as I thought, very anxious, and running backwards and forwards between me and the house. At last, following him as he seemed to wish me to do, I accompanied him to the street-door, where I found the butcher's boy waiting with the lights.