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 Chinese, it seems," says another writer, "learn the hour of the day by looking into the eyes of their Cats; but I imagine that if Cats could speak Chinese, they would tell us, not only what o'clock it is, but also what is the day of the week. When a boy, I was a great pigeon-keeper: pigeon-keeping in a town leads to excursions on the roofs. Excursions over roofs lead sometimes to neckbreaking, sometimes to strange discoveries. Our neighbour at the back was a large coach-builder, and the nearest buildings were his forges. On week days, I beheld, during my airy rambles, nothing but the blacksmiths hammering away at bolt, and spring, and tire, and nail; but on Sundays, except in case of inclement weather, the warm tiles that covered the forges were tenanted by numerous parties of Cats. There they sat, all day long, admiring one another, holding silent deliberations, determining in their minds which partner they should select for the evening's concert and ball. While daylight lasted, it was a Quaker's meeting, silent and sober; but after dark - the darker the better - leaps and friskings were audible, with vocal effects of long-swelling notes, such as called forth Peter Pindar's Ode to the Jewish Cats of Israel Mendez, whose opening line is "Singers of Israel! O, ye singers sweet!"
From Monday morning till Saturday night not a Cat was to be seen: they knew when Sunday came round, as well as I did, from the low temperature of the tiles.
It is very common for Cats to select one member of a family on whom they lavish all their fondness, while towards the others they comport themselves with the utmost indifference. "I remember," says a lady, "there was a Cat with her Kittens found in a hole in the wall, in the garden of the house where my father-in-law lived. One of the kittens, being a very beautiful black one, was brought into the house, and almost immediately attached himself in a very extraordinary way to me. I was in mourning at the time, and, perhaps, the similarity of the hue of my dress to his sable fur, might first have attracted him; but, however this may have been, whenever he came into the room, he constantly jumped into my lap, and evinced his fondness by purring and rubbing his head against me in a very coaxing manner. He continued thus to distinguish me during the rest of his life; and though I went with my father-in-law's family every winter to Dublin, and every summer to the country, the change of abode (to which Cats are supposed to be averse) never troubled my favourite, provided he could be with me. Frequently, when we have been walking home, after spending the evening out, he has come running down half the street to meet us, testifying the greatest delight. On one occasion, when I had an illness, which confined me for upwards of two months to my room, poor Lee Boo deserted the parlour altogether, though he had been always patted and caressed by every one there. He would sit for hours mewing disconsolately at my door; and when he could, he would steal in, jump upon the bed, testifying his joy at seeing me by loud purring and coaxing, and sometimes licking my hand. The very day I went down, he resumed his regular attendance in the parlour."
Another lady describes how her Cat awoke her in the middle of the night. It sat down by the bed-side and mewed, while it rubbed itself backwards and forwards against the bedposts. The lady had no idea what was the matter, but felt sure there was something, and lighting the candle, found a dead mouse quite close to her. Satisfied that the lady had examined its capture, Puss took it off, and after playing with it for an hour, ate it up, leaving, as usual, the tail and paws. In the country or in farmhouses, the Cat will never fail to bring home birds and mice, and, in Southern climes, lizards and even snakes. She does this, however, very much in proportion to the amount of kindness bestowed upon her at home, and if this be altogether lacking, the prey is only shown to other Cats living in the same house, or to her own young, if she happens to have any; often indeed, she brings her trophy immediately and only to her young.
There was a gentleman who had a tortoiseshell Cat, which, though he never fed it, or paid much attention to it, formed an attachment for him equal to that of a dog. It knew his ring at the bells, and at whatever time he came home, it was rubbing against his legs long before the sen-ant came, saw him into the sitting-room, and then walked off. It was a very active animal, and usually went bird-catching during the night; but when its master rose, which was generally early in the morning, the Cat was always ready to receive him at the door of his room, and accompany him in his morning walk in the garden, alternately skipping to the tops of the trees, and descending and gambolling about him. When he was in his stud}*, it used to pay him several visits in the day, always short ones; but it never retired till he had recognized it. If rubbing against his legs had not the desired effect, it would mount the writing-table, nudge his shoulder, and if that would not do, pat him on the cheek; but the moment he had shaken it by the paw, and given it a pat or two on the head, it walked off. When he was indisposed, it paid him several visits every day, but continued in the room; and although it was fond of society generally, and also of its food; it never obtruded its company during meals. Its attachment was thus quite disinterested, and no pains whatever had been taken to train it."
Here is a curious anecdote, culled from another source: "I have at the present time about my house a Cat that came into my possession under rather singular circumstances. Before we knew her, we had a Cat that gave perfect satisfaction, was a good mouser, and an affectionate mother. In the rear of our house, there is a shed, commonly used as a wood store, and frequented, at least, once a day. It is by no means a secluded place, and the door, through a weakness in its hinges, is constantly ajar.