This section is from the book "Our Cats And All About Them", by Harrison Weir. Also available from Amazon: Our Cats And All About Them.
Before attempting to describe the different varieties, I should like to make a few remarks as to the habits and ways of "the domestic cat."
When judging, I have frequently found some of the exhibits of anything but a mild and placid disposition. Some have displayed a downright ferocity; others, on the contrary, have been excessively gentle, and very few but seemed to recognise their position, and submitted quietly to their confinement. This is easily accounted for when persons are accustomed to cats; they know what wonderful powers of observation the cat possesses, and how quickly they recognise the "why and the wherefore " of many things. Take for instance, how very many cats will open a latched door by springing up and holding on with one fore-leg while with the other they press down the latch catch, and so open the door; and yet even more observant are they than that, as I have shown by a case in my "Animal Stories, Old and
New," in which a cat opened a door by pulling it towards him, when he found pushing it of no avail. The cat is more critical in noticing than the dog. I never knew but one dog that would open a door by moving the fastening without being shown or taught how to do it. Cats that have done so are numberless. I noticed one at the last Crystal Palace Show, a white cat: it looked up, it looked down, then to the right and then a little to the left, paused, seemed lost in thought, when, not seeing any one about, it crept up to the door, and with its paw tried to pull back the bolt or catch. On getting sight of me, it retired to a corner of the cage, shut its eyes, and pretended to sleep. I stood further away, and soon saw the paw coming through the bars again. This cat had noticed how the cage-door was fastened, and so knew how to open it.
Many cats that are said to be spiteful are made so by ill-treatment, for, as a rule, I have found them to be most affectionate and gentle, and that to the last degree, attaching themselves to individuals, although such is stated not to be the case, yet of this I am certain. Having had several in my house at one time, I found that no two were the "followers" of the same member of my family. But it may be argued, and I think with some degree of justice, Why was this? Was it only that each cat had a separate liking? If so, why? Why should not three or four cats take a liking to the same individual? But they seldom or never do, and for that matter there seems somewhat the same feeling with dogs. This required some consideration, but that not of long duration. For I am sorry to say I rapidly came to the conclusion that it was jealousy. Yes, jealousy! There was no doubt of it. Zeno would be very cossetty, loving, lovable, and gentle, but when Lulu came in and was nursed he retired to a corner and seized the first opportunity of vanishing through the door. As soon as Zillah jumped on my knee and put her paws about my neck, Lulu looked at me, then at her, then at me, walked to the fire, sat down, looked round, got up, went to the door, cried to go out, the door was opened, and - she fled.
I thought that Zillah seemed then more than ever - happy.
Though jealousy is one of if not the ruling attributes of the cat, there are exceptions to such a rule. Sometimes it may be that two or more will take to the same person. As an instance of this I had two cats, one a red tabby, a great beauty; Lillah, a short-haired red-and-white cat; the latter and a white long-haired one, named " The Colonel," were great friends, and these associated with a tortoiseshell-and-white, Lizzie. None of these were absolutely house cats, but attended more to the poultry yards and runs, looking after the chicken, seeing that no rats were about or other "vermin," near the coops. Useful cats, very!
Mine was then a very large garden, and generally of an evening, when at home, I used to walk about the numerous paths to admire the beauties of the different herbaceous plants, of which I had an interesting collection. Five was my time of starting on my ambulation, when, on going out of the door, I was sure to find the two first-named cats, and often the third, waiting for me, ready to go wherever I went, following like faithful dogs. These apparently never had any jealous feeling.
Of all the cats Lillah was the most loving. If I stood still, she would look up, and watch the expression of my face. If she thought it was favourable to her, she would jump, and, clinging to my chest, put her fore-paws around my neck, and rub her head softly against my face, purring melodiously all the time, then move on to my shoulder, while "The Colonel" and his tortoiseshell friend Lizzie would press about my legs, uttering the same musical self-complacent sound. Here, there, and everywhere, even out into the road or into the wood, the pretty things would accompany me, seeming intensely happy. When I returned to the house, they would scamper off, bounding in the air, and playing with and tumbling over each other in the fullest and most frolicsome manner imaginable. No! I do not think that Lillah, The Colonel, or Lizzie ever knew the feeling of jealousy. But these, as I said before, were exceptions.
They all had a sad ending, coming to an untimely death through being caught in wires set by poachers for rabbits. I have ever regretted the loss of the gentle Lillah. She was as beautiful as she was good, gentle, and loving, without a fault.
It may have been noted in the foregoing I have said that my cats were always awaiting my coming. Just so. The cat seems to take note of time as well as place. At my town house I had a cat named Guadalquiver, which was fed on horseflesh brought to the door. Every day during the week he would go and sit ready for the coming of "the cat's-meat man," but he never did so on the Sunday. How it was he knew on that day that the man did not come I never could discover; still, the fact remains. How he, or whether he, counted the days until the sixth, and then rested the seventh from his watching, is a mystery. A similar case is related of an animal belonging to Mr. Triibner, the London publisher. The cat, a gigantic one, and a pet of his, used to go every evening to the end of the terrace, on which was the house where he resided, to escort Mr. Triibner back to dinner on his arrival from the City, but was never once known to make the mistake of going to meet him on Sundays. And again, how well a cat knows when it is luncheon-time! He or she may be apparently asleep on the tiles, or snugly lying under a bush basking in the sun's warm rays, when it will look up, yawn, stretch itself, get up, and move leisurely towards the house, and as the luncheon-bell rings, in walks the cat, as ready for food as any there.
Most cats are of a gentle disposition, but resent ill-treatment in a most determined way, generally making use of their claws, at the same time giving vent to their feelings by a low growl and spitting furiously. Under such conditions it is best to leave off that which has appeared to irritate them. Dogs generally bite when they lose their temper, but a cat seldom. Should a cat dig her claws into your hand, never draw it backward, but push forward; you thus close the foot and render the claws harmless. If otherwise, you generally lose three to four pieces of skin from your hand; the cat knows he has done it, and feels revenged. Some cats do not like their ears touched, others their backs, others their tails. I have one now (Fritz); he has such a great dislike to having his tail touched that if we only point to it and say "Tail!" he growls, and if repeated he will get up and go out of the room, even though he was enjoying the comfort of his basket before a good fire. By avoiding anything that is known to tease an animal, no matter what, it will be found that is the true way, combined with gentle treatment and oft caressing, to tame and to make them love you, even those whose temper is none of the best. This is equally applicable to horses, cows, and dogs as to cats.
Gentleness and kindness will work wonders with animals, and, I take it, is not lost on human beings.
The distance cats will travel to find and regain the home they have been taken from is surprising. One my groom begged of me, as he said he had no cat at home, and he was fond of "the dear thing," but he really wanted to be rid of it, as I found afterwards. He took the poor animal away in a hamper, and after carrying it some three miles through London streets, threw it into the Surrey Canal. That cat was sitting wet and dirty outside the stable when he came in the morning, and went in joyfully on his opening the door, ran up to and climbed on to the back of its favourite, the horse, who neighed a "welcome home." The man left that week.
Another instance, and I could give many more, but this will suffice. It is said that if you wish an old cat to stay you should have the mother with the kitten or kittens, but this sometimes fails to keep her. Having a fancy for a beautiful brown tabby, I purchased her and kitten from a cottager living two miles and a half away. The next day I let her out, keeping the kitten in a basket before the fire. In half an hour mother and child were gone, and though she had to carry her little one through woods, hedgerows, across grass and arable fields, she arrived home with her young charge quite safely the following day, though evidently very tired, wet, and hungry. After two days she was brought back, and being well fed and carefully tended, she roamed no more.
The cat, like many other animals, will often form singular attachments. One would sit in my horse's manger and purr and rub against his nose, which undoubtedly the horse enjoyed, for he would frequently turn his head purposely to be so treated. One went as consort with a Dorking cock; another took a great liking to my collie, Rover; another loved Lina, the cow; while another would cosset up close to a sitting hen, and allowed the fresh-hatched chickens to seek warmth by creeping under her. Again, they will rear other animals such as rats, rabbits, squirrels, puppies, hedgehogs; and, when motherly inclined, will take to almost anything, even to a young pigeon.
At the Brighton Show of 1886 there were two cats, both reared by dogs, the foster-mother and her bantling showing evident signs of sincere affection.
There are both men and women who have a decided antipathy to cats - "Won't have one in the house on any account."They are called" deceitful," and some go as far as to say "treacherous," but how and in what way I cannot discover. Others, on the contrary, love cats beyond all other "things domestic."Of course cats, like other animals, or even human beings, are very dissimilar, no two being precisely alike in disposition, any more than are to be found two forms so closely resembling as not to be distinguished one from the other. To some a cat is a cat, and if all were black all would be alike. But this would not be so in reality, as those well know who are close observers of animal and bird life. Of course the gamekeeper has a dislike to cats, more especially when they "take to the woods," but so long as they are fed, and keep within bounds, they are "useful" in scaring away rats from the young broods of pheasants. What are termed "poaching cats" are clearly "outlaws," and must be treated as such.