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.
Just before the earthquake at Messina, a merchant of that town noticed that his Cats were scratching at the door of his room, in a state of great excitement. He opened the door for them, and they flew down-stairs and began to scratch more violently still at the street-door. Filled with wonder, the master let them out and followed them through the town out of the gates, and into the fields beyond, but, even then, they seemed half mad with fright, and scratched and tore at the grass. Very shortly the first shock of the earthquake was felt, and many houses (the merchant's among them) came thundering in ruins to the ground.
A family in Callander had in their possession a favourite Tom Cat, which had, upon several occasions, exhibited more than ordinary sagacity. One day, Tom made off with a piece of beef, and the servant followed him cautiously, with the intention of catching, and administering to him a little wholesome correction. To her amazement, she saw the Cat go to a corner of the yard where she knew a rat-hole existed, and lay the beef down by the side of it. Leaving the beef there, he hid himself a short distance off, and watched until a rat made its appearance. Tom's tail then began to wag, and just as the rat was moving away with the bait, he sprang upon, and killed it.
It one day occurred to M. de la Croix that he ought to try an experiment upon a Cat with an air pump. The necessity for her torture was not, however, so apparent to the intended victim of science as to the scientific experimenter. Therefore, when she found the air growing scarce, and discovered how it was being exhausted, she stopped up the valve with her paw. Then M. de la Croix let the air run back, and Pussy took away her paw, but as soon as he began to pump, she again stopped up the hole. This baffled the man of science, and there is no knowing what valuable discovery might have been made, had not his feline friend been so very unaccommodating.
Dr. Careri, in his Voyage round the World in 1695, says, that a person, in order to punish a mischievous monkey, placed upon the fire a cocoa nut, and then hid himself, to see how the monkey would take it from the fire without burning his paws. The cunning creature looked about, and seeing a Cat by the fireside, held her head in his mouth, and with her paws took off the nut, which he then threw into water to cool, and ate it.
Cats have always been famous for the wonderful manner in which they have found their way back to their old home, when they have been taken from it, and for this reason alone, have often been accused of loving only the house and not its inmates. It is more probable though, I should think, that the animal returns to the place because its associations there have been happy, and, in the confusion and strangeness of the new house, it cannot comprehend that its old friends have come with it. For instance, I have known a Cat when taken away from a house, return to it, and going from room to room, mew pitifully, in search of the former inmates. When taken away a second time, the new place having in the meantime been set straight, it found nothing to frighten it there, and returned no more to its old house.
I knew a person who was in the habit of moving about a great deal, and hiring furnished houses, who had a Cat called Sandy, on account of his colour, which he found in the first instance, in a sort of half-wild state, on Hampstead Heath, mostly living up a tree. It had been left behind by the people who had last occupied the house, and locked out by the landlady. It was about nine or ten years old, and goodness knows how many dwelling places it may have had; with its new friends, I know of five or six changes, and am told that it always made itself perfectly at home in half an hour after entering a new house. It was taken from place to place in a hamper, and the lid being raised would put out its head and sniff the air in the drollest manner. Getting out very cautiously, it would then make a tour of the premises, and inspect the furniture; at the end of about half an hour it washed its face and seemed settled.
A lady residing in Glasgow had a handsome Cat sent to her from Edinburgh: it was conveyed to her in a close basket in a carriage. The animal was carefully watched for two months; but having produced a pair of young ones at the end of that time, she was left to her own discretion, which she very soon employed in disappearing with both her kittens. The lady at Glasgow wrote to her friend at Edinburgh, deploring her loss, and the Cat was supposed to have formed some new attachment. About a fortnight, however, after her disappearance from Glasgow, her well-known mew was heard at the street-door of her Edinburgh mistress; and there she was with both her kittens, they in the best state, but she, herself, very thin. It is clear that she could carry only one kitten at a time. The distance from Glasgow to Edinburgh is forty-four miles, so that if she brought one kitten part of the way, and then went back for the other, and thus conveyed them alternately, she must have travelled 120 miles at least. She, also, must have journeyed only during the night, and must have resorted to many other precautions for the safety of her young.
Mr. Lord relates a story of a Cat living with some friends of his in a house on an island. The family changed residence, and the Cat was sewn up in a hamper and taken round to the other side of the island in a boat. The island was sparsely inhabited, timbered, and there were but few paths cut to traverse it by, and yet the Cat found its way during the night back again to its old residence. There could have been no scent of foot-prints, neither was there any road or path to guide it.
Another Cat was conveyed from its home in Jamaica to a place five miles distant, and during the time of its transport was sown up closely in a bag. Between the two places were two rivers, one of them about eighty feet broad, deep, and running strong; the other wider and more rapid. The Cat must have swum these rivers, as there were no bridges; but in spite of all obstacles, she made her way back to the house from which she had been taken.