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.
In giving a Cat the scrapings of dirty plates, it is as well, if you value the animal's life, to remove the fish bones, should there be any among the leavings. Very frequently, as most Cats bolt their food, they get a bone sticking in their mouth or throat, of which they are unable to relieve themselves, and suffer much pain without their owner's guessing at the cause of their discomforture. A lady in a house I was staying at, had a Cat that got what was afterwards supposed to be a fish bone sticking in its mouth, far at the back, in such a way that it was unable to close its jaws. For two or three days it remained in this state, refusing all food, and looking in a woeful plight; indeed, we afterwards supposed that it could not even lap; but at the time, although we made several examinations of the sufferer, we could not discover what ailed it. At last, some one suggested seeking the aid of a veterinary surgeon, whose dignity seemed just a little bit ruffled by being called in for a Cat, and who, when he did come, did not bring his instruments with him. Nevertheless, he found out what was wrong, and forcing open the Cat's jaws, put in his finger to loosen what he called a fish-bone. Being rather fearful of getting a bite, he was somewhat hasty, and the bone jerked out, flew into the air, as he released his hold of the Cat's head, whereupon the Cat caught the bone as it fell, and instantly swallowed it, leaving us until this day in the dark as to the size and nature of the bone, and indeed, rather doubtful whether it was a bone at all.
In cases where the Cat is accidentally crippled, or should be so ill that it were better to put it out of its misery at once, the best plan is to send for a chemist, who for a small sum would administer the poison upon your own premises. I have known cases where men servants entrusted to take the animal to the chemist's shop, have thrown it down in the street, or killed it with unnecessary torture themselves, and pocketed the money they should have paid for the poisoning.
To administer the poison yourself is by no means a wise course, as probably you may give too much or too little, and in either case defeat your object. I know for a fact, that two medical students once barbarously practising experiments with poison on an unhappy Cat, twice poisoned the animal, as they supposed, and once actually buried it, of course not very deeply, after which it recovered again, and crawled into the house, rather to their alarm, as you may suppose, as on the second occasion it happened in the dead of night.
Those unable to procure the assistance of a doctor or chemist, can easily drown a Cat by putting it into a pail of water, and pressing another pail down upon it, care being taken of course to handle the Cat gently, so as not to alarm it before the last moment.
Concerning the Cats'-meat trade, Mr. Henry Mayhew gives many curious particulars, of which the following are some of the most amusing: "The Cats'-meat carriers frequently sell as much as ten pennyworth to one person, and there has been a customer to the extent of sixteen pennyworth. This person, a black woman, used to get out on the roof of the house, and throw it to the Cats on the tiles, by which conduct she brought so many stray Cats round about the neighbourhood, that the parties in the vicinity complained of the nuisance. The noise of about a hundred strange Cats, a little before feeding-time, about ten in the morning, was tremendous; and when the meat was thrown to them, the fighting and confusion was beyond description.
"There was also a woman in Islington who used to have fourteen pounds of meat a-day. The person who supplied her was often paid two and three pounds at a time. She had often as many as thirty Cats at a time. Every stray Cat that came she would take in and support.
"The carriers give a great deal of credit; indeed, they take but little ready money. On some days they do not come home with more than 2s. One with a middling walk, pays for his meat 7s. 6d. per day; for this he has half-a-hundred weight: this produces him as much as 11s. 6d., so that his profit is 45., which, I am assured, is about a fair average of the earnings of the trade. One carrier is said to have amassed £1,000 at the business: he usually sold from 1½ to 2 cwt. every morning, so that his profits were generally from 16s. to £1 per day. But the trade is much worse now: there are so many at it, they say, that there is barely a living for any."
A carrier assured Mr. Mayhew he seldom went less than thirty, and frequently forty miles, through the streets every day. The best districts are among the houses of tradesmen, mechanics, and labourers. The coachmen in the mews at the back of the squares are. very good customers.
"'The work lays thicker there,' said one carrier. 'Old maids are bad, though very plentiful customers: they cheapen the carriers down so that they can scarcely live at the business: they will pay one half-penny, and owe another, and forget that after a day or two.' The Cats'-meat dealers generally complain of their losses from bad debts: their customers require credit frequently to the extent of ₤1.
"'One party owes me 15 s. now,' said a carrier, 'and many 10 s.; in fact, very few people pay ready money for the meat.'
"The best days for the Cats'-meat business are Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays. A double quantity of meat is sold on the Saturday; and on that day and Monday and Tuesday, the weekly customers generally pay."
"The supply of food for Cats and Dogs is far greater than may be generally thought.
"'Why, sir,' said one of the dealers, 'can you tell me how many people's in London?' On Mr Mayhew's replying, upwards of two millions; 'I don't know nothing whatever,' said the man, 'about millions, but I think there's a Cat to every ten people, aye, and more than that; and so, sir, you can reckon.'"
Mr. Mayhew told him this gave a total of 200,000 Cats in London, but the number of inhabited houses in the Metropolis was 100,000 more than this, and though there was not a Cat to every house, still, as many lodgers as well as householders kept Cats, he added, "that he thought the total number of Cats in London might be taken at the same number as the inhabited houses, or 300,000 in all."