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 wild Cat of Ireland would seem to be quite as savage a fellow as his Scotch cousin. In Maxwell's "Wild Sports of the West" is a story of one of these animals, which was killed after a severe battle: it was of a dirty grey colour, double the size of the common house Cat, and with formidable teeth and claws. It was a female, and was tracked to its burrow under a rock, and caught with a rabbit-net. So flimsy an affair, however, was scorned by the fierce brute, which speedily rent a hole with its teeth and claws, and was about to run off, when the lad who had set the snare seized it by the neck. It was finally dispatched by a blow of an iron spade. The lad, however, was so terribly wounded as to necessitate his removal to an hospital, where he for some time remained, in peril of lock-jaw.
The following narrative is furnished by Mr. St. John: "Once, when grouse shooting, I came suddenly, in the rough and rocky part of the ground, upon a family of two old and three half-grown wild Cats. In the hanging birch-woods that bordered some of the highland streams and rocks, the wild Cat is still not uncommon; and I have heard their wild and unearthly cries echo afar in the quiet night as they answer and call to each other. I do not know a more harsh and unpleasant cry than the cry of the wild Cat, or one more likely to be the origin of superstitious fears in the mind of an ignorant Highlander. These animals have great skill in finding their prey; and the damage they do to the game must be very great, owing to the quantity of food which they require. When caught in a trap, they fly, without hesitation, at any person who approaches them, not waiting to be assailed. I have heard many stories of their attacking and severely wounding a man, when their retreat has been cut off. Indeed, a wild Cat once flew at me in a most determined manner. I was fishing in a river in
Sutherlandshire, and in passing from one pool to another, had to climb over some rocky and broken ground. In doing so, I sank through some rotten moss and heather up to my knees, almost upon a wild Cat, who was concealed under it. I was quite as much startled as the animal herself could be when I saw the wild looking beast rush out so unexpectedly from between my legs, with every hair on her body standing on end, making her look twice as large as she really was. I had three small sky-terriers with me, who immediately gave chase, and pursued her till she took refuge in a corner of a rock, where, perched in a kind of recess, out of reach of her enemies, she stood with her hair bristled out, and spitting and growling like a common Cat. Having no weapon with me, I laid down my rod, cut a good sized stick, and proceeded to dislodge her. As soon as I came within six or seven feet of the place, she sprang right at my face, over the dogs' heads. Had I not struck her in mid-air, as she leapt at me, I should probably have got some severe wound. As it was, she fell, with her back half broken, among the dogs, who, with my assistance, dispatched her. I never saw an animal fight so desperately, or one so difficult to kill. If a tame Cat has nine lives, a wild Cat must have a dozen."
That a long course of domestic drill is insufficient to win a Cat from its native savagery, is proved by the following scrap, lately culled from the Swansea Herald: "A fight of more than ordinary interest took place on the bank of the canal, near Kidwelly Quay, a few days ago. A domestic Cat, making her usual walk in search of prey along the embankment, was attacked by an otter of no small dimensions, and was in an instant tossed into the middle of the canal, and there had to fight, not for the 'belt,' but for her life, in an uncongenial element. But very soon they were observed by some sailors and shippers, employed not far from the scene of contest, who hastened to witness the strange occurrence. Either from fear of the men, or of its formidable antagonist, the otter relinquished its hold, and poor Puss safely landed, amidst hearty cheers and congratulations. But Puss, not being content with the laurels she had won in the first contest, went out again on the following day, and, strange to say, the old combatants met again, and the otter, with undiminished pluck, attacked the Cat on land. The contest became very severe, but ultimately the otter was glad to regain its watery refuge, and leave Puss the victor the second time, without suffering very considerably from an encounter with such a formidable foe." A writer on the subject of wild cats says - "When a domesticated creature is no longer found in the wild state anywhere, like the camel and the lama, or when a reasonable scepticism may be entertained respecting the species assumed to be its savage ancestor, as is the case with the dog and the fowl, the steps of all our reasonings march straight into a blind alley, from which there is no issue, except by turning back. I believe that there never was such an animal as a really wild Pussy. The supposition involves an absurdity. Whose legs could she rub in a state of nature? On whose arrival could she set up her back, and arch her tail, and daintily tread on the same little spot? From what carpet, Kidderminster or Brussels, could she gently pull the threads with her claws? In what dairy could she skim the cream? From what larder could she steal cold roast pheasant? And if she did not do these things, or some of them, would she be a genuine Puss? No, no! I believe that Adam and Eve had a nice little tortoiseshell to purr between them, as they sat chatting on a sunny bank, and that a choice pair of tabbies slumbered, with half-shut eyes, and their feet turned under them, before the fire, which was the centre of Noah's family circle on board the Ark!"
Apropos of Cat-charming or Cat-taming, here are two anecdotes from Mr. Beeton's book: "I have," says the writer, "a vivid recollection of once charming a Cat to within an inch of getting myself thoroughly well thrashed. There lived in our neighbourhood a kind-hearted old gentleman, who was good enough to take a fancy to my ungrateful self, and would frequently invite me (he was a bachelor) to dine with him. The dining part of the business I had not the least objection to; but after dinner, when we had chatted till he fell into a doze, it became, to a boy nine years old, rather tedious. It was on one such occasion that I behaved so disgracefully. The old gentleman was nodding, with his slippered feet crossed lazily before the fire, and a fat tortoiseshell Cat, his property, lay along the rug, placidly asleep, too. Had I been a good boy, I should have sat still, and turned the leaves of Fox's Book of Martyrs till my friend awoke; but I was not a good boy: I felt myself like a martyr, doomed to the dreadful torture of sitting still. I felt in my pocket for a top-string I had there, and for a minute or so amused myself by bobbing the button at the end of the string on to the nose of the tortoiseshell