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.
The colour of the wild Cat is more uniform than that of the domestic species. On a ground colour of pale reddish-yellow are dark streaks extending over the body and limbs, forming pretty much the sort of pattern exhibited on the tiger's robe. From the back of the neck to the spine, a line of very dark spots extends to the tail, which is short and bushy, and has a black tip. The feet and insides of the legs are yellowish grey. In the female, which is smaller that the male, the colours are not as distinct. The medium size of a full-grown male wild Cat is as follows: - Length of head and body,
1 foot 10 inches; length of head, 3½ inches; length of ears, 2½ inches; length of tail, 11 inches. The wild Cat affects rocky and densely-wooded districts, living in holes or in hollow trees. According to Mr. St. John, a wild Cat will sometimes take up its residence at no great distance from a house, and, entering the hen-houses and outbuildings, carry off fowls or even lambs, in the most audacious manner. Like other vermin, the wild Cat haunts the shores of lakes and rivers, and it is, therefore, easy to know where to lay a trap for it. Having caught and killed one of the colony, the rest of them are sure to be taken, if the body of their slain relative be left in some place not far from their usual hunting-ground, and surrounded with traps, as every wild Cat which passes within a considerable distance of the place will to a certainty come to it.
America has several Tiger-Cats, foremost amongst which may be mentioned the Ocelot. Two of these animals were kept at the Tower of London, at the time when that ancient fortress counted a menagerie among its other attractions; and of one of these Mr. Bennett gives the following description: "Body when full grown nearly 3 feet in length; tail rather more than 1 foot; medium height about
18 inches. Ground colour of fur grey, mingled with a slight tinge of fawn, elegantly marked with numerous longitudinal bands, the dorsal one continuous and entirely black, the lateral (six or seven on each side) consisting for the most part of a series of elongated spots, with black margins, sometimes completely distinct, sometimes running together. The centre of each spot is of a deeper fawn than the ground colour external to it; this deeper tinge is also conspicuous on the head and neck, and on the outside of the limbs, all of which parts are irregularly marked with full black lines and spots of various sizes. From the top of the head, between the ears, there pass backwards towards the shoulders, two or more, frequently four, uninterrupted diverging bands, which enclose a narrow fawn-colour space, with a black margin; between these there is a single longitudinal, somewhat interrupted, narrow black line, occupying the centre of the neck above. Ears short and rounded, externally margined with black, surrounding a large central whitish spot: under parts of the body whitish, spotted with black, and the tail, which is of the same ground colour with the body, also covered with black spots. This animal is a native of Mexico and Paraguay: its home is the gloomiest depths of the forest, where all day long it lies quiet, but, as night advances, comes out to prey-on birds and small quadrupeds. It is said to be a particularly cunning creature, and sometimes, when other stratagems to replenish his larder have failed, to stretch himself all along the bough of a tree and sham death. The monkeys of the neighbourhood have no greater enemy than the Ocelot, therefore it is only natural that, when they find him dead, they would be much rejoiced, and call together their friends and relations to see the pretty sight. The treacherous ocelot is, however, meanwhile keeping sharp watch through a tiny chink of his eyelids, and when the rejoicing is at its highest, up he jumps, and, before the monkey-revellers can recover from their fright, at least a couple will feel the fatal weight of his paw. There are several ocelots, the painted, the grey, and the common, among others. In captivity, few animals are more surly and spiteful, until they grow thoroughly well acquainted with their keepers or others who court their notice. There is, however, one weapon keener than the sharpest sword, more potent than the Armstrong gun, more powerful than all the gunpowder and bullets ever made, and yet so simple, that the boy yet in pinafores may direct it: to this weapon the suspicious tiger-cat succumbs, and the name of this weapon is - Kindness! So armed, the Rev. J. G. Wood conquered a body of Ocelots exhibited at the menagerie. He says: "Several of these animals, when I first made their acquaintance, were rather crabbed in disposition, snarled at the sound of a strange step, growled angrily at my approach, and behaved altogether in a very unusual manner, in spite of many amicable overtures. After a while, I discovered that these creatures were continually and vainly attempting the capture of certain flies, which buzzed about the cage; so I captured a few large bluebottle flies, and poked them through a small aperture in the cage, so that the Ocelot's paw might not be able to reach my hand. At first the ocelots declined to make any advance in return for the gift, but they soon became bolder, and at last freely took the flies as fast as they were caught. The ice was now broken, and in a very short time we were excellent friends, the angry snarl being exchanged for a complacent composed demeanour. The climax to their change of character was reached by giving them a few leaves of grass, for which they were, as I thought they would be, more anxious than for the flies. They tore the green blades out of my hand, and enjoyed the unaccustomed dainty undisturbed. After this, they were quite at their ease, and came to the front of the cage whenever I passed."
The Colocolo is another tiger-cat: it is an inhabitant of Guiana, and though not more than a third the size of the Rimau-Dahan, is a most formidable enemy to the smaller animals of the forests which it inhabits. It is related by Mr. Wood that a specimen of this creature was shot on the banks of a river, in Guiana, by an officer of rifles, who stuffed it, and placed the skin to dry on the awning of his boat. As the vessel dropped down the river, it passed under overhanging boughs of large trees, on which rested numerous monkeys. Generally when a boat passed along a river, the monkeys, which inhabit the trees that border its banks, displayed great curiosity, and ran along the boughs, so as to obtain a close view of the strange visitant. Before the Colocolo had been killed, the passage of the boat had been attended, as usual, by the inquisitive monkeys, but when the stuffed skin was exhibited on the awning, the monkeys were horribly alarmed, and instead of approaching the vessel, as they had before done, trooped off with prodigious yells of terror and rage. From this universal fear which the sight of the animal occasioned to the monkeys, it may be conjectured that the Colocolo is in the habit of procuring its food at the expense of the monkey tribes. Of the tiger-cat in Africa, the Serval may be taken as the type: it is about two feet long, exclusive of the tail, which measures nine inches, and is a foot in height at the shoulders. Its upper parts are clear yellow, and its under parts white, and its entire body is spotted with black. Among the Dutch settlers it is known as "Bosch-katte," or "Bush-cat." It is an inoffensive creature, not easily irritated, and behaving generally like our own familiar grimalkin.