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.
She disliked music of all kinds, but bore a special antipathy to barrel organs; probably because the costume of the organ-grinder was as unpleasing to her eyes, as his doleful sounds were to her ears. But her indignation reached the highest bounds at the sight of a Greenwich pensioner accoutred in those grotesque habiliments with which the crippled defenders of their country are forced to invest their battered frames. It was the first time that so uncouth an apparition had presented itself to her eyes, and her anger seemed only equalled by her astonishment. She got on the window sill, and there chafed and growled with a sound resembling the miniature roar of a lion. When thus excited she used to present a strange appearance, owing to a crest or ridge of hair which then erected itself on her back, and extended from the top of her head to the root of her tail, which latter member was marvellously expanded. Gentle as she was in her ordinary-demeanour, Pret was a terrible Cat when she saw cause, and was undaunted by size or numbers.
She had a curious habit of catching mice by the very tips of their tails, and of carrying the poor little animals about the house, dangling miserably from her jaws. Apparently her object in so doing was to present her prey uninjured to her mistress, who she evidently supposed would enjoy a game with a mouse as well as herself, for like human beings she judged the characters of others by her own. This strange custom of tail-bearing was carried into the privacy of her own family, and caused rather ludicrous results. When Pret became a mother, and desired to transport her kittens from one place to another, she followed her acquired habit of porterage, and tried to carry her kittens about by the tips of their tails. As might be supposed, they objected to this mode of conveyance, and sticking their claws in the carpet, held firmly to the ground, mewing piteously, while their mother was tugging at their tails. It was absolutely necessary to release the kittens from their painful position, and to teach Pret how a kitten ought to be carried. After a while, she seemed to comprehend the state of things, and ever afterwards carried her offspring by the nape of the neck. At one time, when she was yet in her kittenhood, another kitten lived in the same house, and very much annoyed Pret, by coming into the room and eating the meat that had been laid out for herself. However, Pret soon got over the difficulty, by going to the plate as soon as it was placed at her accustomed spot, picking out all the large pieces of meat and hiding them under the table. She then sat down quietly, placing herself sentry over her hidden treasure, while the intruding Cat entered the room, walked up to the plate, and finished the little scraps of meat that Pret had thought fit to leave. After the obnoxious individual had left the room, Pret brought her concealed treasures from their hiding-place and consumed them with deliberation.
Clever as Pret was, she sometimes displayed a most unexpected simplicity of character. After the fashion of the Cat tribe, she delighted in covering up the remainder of her food with any substance that seemed most convenient. She was accustomed, after taking her meals, to fetch a piece of paper and lay it over the saucer, or to put her paw in her mistress's pocket and extract her handkerchief for the same purpose. This little performance showed some depth of reasoning in the creature, but she would sometimes act in a manner totally opposed to rational actions. Paper or handkerchief failing, she has been often seen, after partly finishing her meal, to fetch one of her kittens and to lay it over the plate for the purpose of covering up the remaining food. When kitten, paper, and handkerchief were all wanting, she did her best to scratch up the carpet and lay the fragments over the plate. She has been known, in her anxiety to find a covering for the superabundant food, to drag a tablecloth from its proper locality, and to cause a sad demolition of the superincumbent fragile ware. Please to remember that I have the above upon Mr. Wood's authority, not my own.
Regarding the attachment of Cats to places, the following remarks of the late Rev. Caesar Otway, in his lecture on the Intellectuality of Domestic Animals before the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland, some years ago, deserve attention. "Of Cats," he says, "time does not allow me to say much, but this I must affirm, that they are misrepresented, and often the victims of prejudice. It is strictly maintained that they have little or no affection for persons; and that their partialities are confined to places. I have known many instances of the reverse. When leaving, about fifteen years ago, a glebe-house to remove into Dublin, the Cat that was a favourite with me, and with my children, was left behind, in our hurry. On seeing strange faces come into the house, she instantly left it, and took up her abode in the top of a large cabbage stalk, whose head had been cut off, but which retained a sufficient number of leaves to protect poor Puss from the weather. In this position she remained, and nothing could induce her to leave it, until I sent a special messenger to bring her to my house in town. At present I have a Cat that follows my housekeeper up and down like a Dog; every morning she comes up at daybreak in winter to the door of the room in which the maid servants sleep, and there she mews until they get up."
I think I ought to conclude my chapter of Clever Cats with this story, which, though old, is funny:-There was a lady of Potsdam, living with her little children, one of whom, while at play, ran a splinter into her foot, causing her to scream violently. The elder sister was asleep at the time, but awakened by the child's cries, and while just in the act of getting up to quiet it, observed a favourite Cat, with whom the children were wont to play, and which was of a remarkably gentle disposition, leave its seat by the fire, go to the crying baby, and give her a smart blow on the cheek with one of her paws; after which, Puss walked back with the greatest composure and gravity to her place, as if satisfied with her own conduct, and with the hope of being able to go on with her nap undisturbed.