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 1819 a favourite Tabby belonging to a shipmaster was left on shore, by accident, while his vessel sailed from the harbour of Aberdour, Fife-shire, which is about half a mile from the village. The vessel was a month absent, and on her return, to the astonishment of the shipmaster, Puss came on board with a fine stout kitten in her mouth, apparently about three weeks old, and went directly down into the cabin. Two others of her young ones were afterwards caught, quite wild, in a neighbouring wood, where she must have remained with them until the return of the ship. The shipmaster did not allow her, again, to go on shore, otherwise it is probable she would have brought all her family on board. It was very remarkable, because vessels were daily going in and out of the harbour, none of which she ever thought of visiting till the one she had left returned.
In a parish in Norfolk, not six miles from the town of Bungay, lived a clergyman, who, having a Cat, sentenced it to transportation for life because it had committed certain depredations on his larder. But the worthy gentleman found it far easier to pronounce the sentence than to carry it into execution. Poor Puss was first taken to Bungay, but had hardly got there when she escaped, and was soon at home again. Her morals, however, had in no way improved, and a felonious abstraction of butcher's meat immediately occurred. This time the master determined to send the hardened culprit away to a distance, which, as he expressed it, "she would not walk in a hurry." He accordingly gave her (generous man) to a person living at Fakenham, distant at least forty miles. The man called for her in the morning, and carried her off in a bag, that she might not know by what road he went. Vain hope! She knew well enough the way home, as he found to his cost, for directly the house-door was opened the next morning, she rushed out and he saw no more of her. The night after a faint mewing was heard outside the minister's dwelling, but not being so rare an occurrence no attention was paid to it. However, on opening the door next morning, there lay the very Cat which he thought was forty miles away, her feet all cut and blistered, from the hardness of the road, and her silky fur all clotted and matted together with dust and dirt. She had her reward; however her thievish propensities might annoy him, the worthy vicar resolved never again to send her away from the house she loved so well, and exerted herself so nobly to regain.
The Rev. Mr. Wood furnishes some curious particulars of two commercial Cats of his acquaintance, which he very comically describes: "I will tell you," says he, "something about our Mincing Lane Cats. Their home was in the cellar, and their habits and surroundings, as you may imagine, from the locality, were decidedly commercial. We had one cunning old black fellow, whose wisdom was acquired by sad experience. In early youth, he must have been very careless; he then was always getting in the way of the men and the wine cases, and frequent were the disasters he suffered through coming into collision with moving bodies. His ribs had often been fractured, and when nature repaired them, she must have handed them over to the care of her 'prentice hand,' for the work was done in rather a rough and knotty manner. This battered and suffering Pussy was at last assisted by a younger hero, which, profiting by the teachings of his senior, managed to avoid the scrapes which had tortured the one who was self-educated. These two Cats, Junior and Senior, appeared to swear (Cats will swear) eternal friendship at first sight. An interchange of good offices was at once established. Senior taught Junior to avoid men's feet and wine cases in motion, and pointed out the favourite hunting grounds, while Junior offered to his Mentor the aid of his activity and physical prowess.
Senior had a cultivated and epicurean taste for mice, though he was too old to catch them; he therefore entered into a solemn league and covenant with the junior to this effect:- It was agreed between the two contracting powers, that Junior should devote his energies to catching mice for the benefit of Senior, who, in consideration of such service, was to relinquish his claim to a certain daily allowance of Cat's meat in favour of Junior. This courteous compact was actually and seriously carried out. It was an amusing and touching spectacle, to behold young Pussy gravely laying at the feet of his elder the contents of his game bag; on the other hand, Senior, true to his bargain, licking his jaws and watching Junior steadily consuming a double allowance of Cat's meat.
Senior had the rare talent of being able to carry a bottle of champagne from one end of the cellar to the other, perhaps a distance of a hundred and fifty feet. The performance was managed in this wise. You gently and lovingly approached the Cat as if you did not mean to perpetrate anything wicked; having gained his confidence by fondly stroking his back, you suddenly seized his tail, and by that member raised the animal bodily from the ground - his fore feet sprawling in the air ready to catch hold of any object within reach. You then quickly brought the bottle of wine to the seizing point; Pussy clutched the object with a kind of despairing grip. By means of the aforesaid tail, you carefully carried pussy, bottle and all, from one part of the cellar to the other. Pussy, however, soon became disgusted with this manoeuvre, and whenever he saw a friend with a bottle of champagne looming, he used to beat a precipitate retreat.
The reverend gentleman before quoted, had at one time in his possession a marvellously clever little Cat, which he called "Pret," and concerning which he relates a host of anecdotes; from them are culled the following: Pret knew but one fear, and had but few hates. The booming sound of thunder smote her with terror, and she most cordially hated grinding organs and singular costumes. At the sound of a thunderclap poor Pret would fly to her mistress for succour, trembling in every limb. If the dreaded sound occurred in the night or early morning, Pret would leap on the bed and crawl under the clothes as far as the very foot. If the thunder came on by day, Pret would climb on her mistress's knees, put her paws round her neck and hide her face between them with deliberation.