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.
With respect to Pussy's mouse-catching qualities, etc., a writer in a periodical says: "Most persons have heard of the beautiful contrivance by which the claws of these animals are preserved constantly sharp; being drawn, when not used, by certain tendons, within a sheath or integument, while only the soft parts of the foot come in contact with the ground, thus enabling the animal to tread noiselessly. The roughness of the Cat's tongue is due to a multitude of horny papillae (much stronger, of course, in lions and tigers), by which it is materially helped to keep itself clean, - a most important point, for cleanliness is a necessity to Cats, inasmuch, as if they had the slightest smell about them, their prey would detect their presence, and never come within their reach. As it is, the Cat is so free from smell that she may sit close to the holes of mice without their being aware of it, although they possess a fine sense of smell. A Cat never eats a morsel of anything, whatever it is, without afterwards sitting down to clean and wipe its face and lips. The caution for which it is so remarkable is likewise evinced in its choice of secluded spots for bringing up its offspring; very often some hole or corner little thought of by the inmates of the house. If the young be removed and placed elsewhere, the mother will frequently take them again and again to the place chosen by herself. Another characteristic of the domestic Cat is an instinctive knowledge of the presence of danger. Even a chimney on fire, or the presence of strange workmen in the house, will make it very restless and uneasy, and on such occasions it will sometimes not go to rest even during the night. Every animal is endowed with peculiar means of self-defence; and as the Cat cannot trust, like the hare, to speed, on the approach of danger, it watches its enemy, occasionally taking side glances, or looking round for a place of refuge. On these occasions, notwithstanding its natural nervousness, it maintains great coolness. If a hole or shelter be near, it waits for an opportunity, or until its enemy looks away, and then rushes under cover, or runs up a tree or a wall, and immediately sits down and watches its enemy. If driven to an actual encounter, the smallness of its mouth and jaws preclude the use of its teeth to any great extent, but it can inflict considerable injury and acute pain with its sharp claws, which, perhaps, no dog, except a bulldog, can bear; indeed, few dogs like to attack a Cat at bay, though they all run after them. It is curious, too, that once in a place of safety, it never seeks to leave it, or loses sight of its enemy. A Cat on the safe side of an area railing will sit down and coolly watch a dog barking furiously at it.
"Its care and solicitude for its offspring are excessive and touching. If attacked while rearing them, it will not run away, but stand and defend them against any odds; like the hare in similar circumstances, the Cat evinces immense power and courage, no matter how formidable the enemy may be. Of course the females of all animals possess more or less of this quality."
Cats have a much better time of it in France than here. A year or two since, the budget of the Imperial Printing Office in France, amongst other items, contained one for Cats, which caused some merriment in the Legislative Chamber during its discussion. According to the Pays, these Cats are kept for the purpose of destroying the numerous rats and mice which infest the premises, and cause considerable damage to the large stock of paper which is always kept there. This feline staff is fed twice a day, and a man is employed to look after them, so that for Cats' -meat and the keeper's salary no little expense is annually incurred, sufficient, in fact, to form a special item in the national expenditure. Of these animals a somewhat interesting anecdote is related. It appears that near to the Imperial Printing Office is situated the office of the Director of the Archives, and the gardens of the two establishments are adjacent. In that belonging to the latter gentleman, were kept a number of choice aquatic birds, for whose convenience a small artificial river had been constructed. Their owner suddenly discovered, one day, that his favourites were diminishing in a mysterious manner, and set a watch to ascertain the reason. Soon it was discovered who were the marauders - the Cats! The enraged director, acting in the spirit of the law, thought he had a perfect right to shoot and otherwise destroy these feline burglars, whenever he found them on his grounds, and accordingly did so. Traps were set, and soon half-a-dozen Cats paid the penalty of their crimes. The keeper of the Cats, also, by this time, found that the muster at meal-times was much scantier than usual, and reported to his superior, the director of the printing office. At first the workmen were suspected of killing them; but the appearance, one day, of a Cat with a broken snare round its neck, put the keeper on a fresh scent, and ultimately led to the discovery of the truth. The director thereupon complained to his brother official, who only replied by pointing to the thinly-tenanted pond, and saying that he would not have his birds destroyed if he could help it. The result was that a fierce hostility reigned between the two establishments, until an arrangement was made by their respective heads. By this treaty it was stipulated that the Director of the Imperial Printing Office should, on his part, cause every outlet by which the Cats gained access to the gardens of the Director of the Archives to be carefully closed, and every means taken to prevent such a contingency; while, on the other hand, Monsieur, the Director of the Archives, agreed never to molest any Cat belonging to the Imperial Printing Office, who should, by some unforeseen accident, obtain admittance into his garden. And thus, by this famous treaty, the horrors of civil war were averted!
Perhaps as curious an instance as any on record, where Puss's powers as a watchman have been called into requisition, may be found in a fact just communicated to me. There is, it appears, a family now residing near Richmond, who have a black Cat nicknamed Snow Ball, which, during sowing time, every morning, punctually and dutifully presents himself to his owners, for the purpose of being fastened up by a cord, near the spot where the peas or other seed may have been newly sown; and whilst thus keeping guard, woe betide any bird that might attempt to commit a depredation within Puss's reach.