" What is aught, but as 'tis valued ? "
Troilus and Cressida, Act II.
The following notes and illustrations of and respecting the Cat are the outcome of over fifty years' careful, thoughtful, heedful observation, much research, and not unprofitable attention to the facts and fancies of others. From a tiny child to the present, the love of Nature has been my chief delight; animals and birds have not only been objects of study, but of deep and absorbing interest I have noted their habits, watched their ways, and found lasting pleasure in their companionship. This love of animal life and Nature, with all its moods and phases, has grown with me from childhood to manhood, and is not the least enjoyable part of my old age.
Among animals possibly the most perfect, and certainly the most domestic, is the Cat. I did not think so always, having had a bias against it, and was some time coming to this belief; nevertheless, such is the fact. It is a veritable part of our household, and is both useful, quiet, affectionate, and ornamental. The small or large dog may be regarded and petted, but is generally useless; the Cat, a pet or not, is of service. Were it not for our Cats, rats and mice would overrun our house, buildings, cultivated and other lands. If there were not millions of Cats, there would be billions of vermin.
Long ages of neglect, ill-treatment, and absolute cruelty, with little or no gentleness, kindness, or training, have made the Cat self-reliant; and from this emanates the marvellous powers of observation, the concentration of which has produced a state analogous to reasoning, not unmixed with timidity, caution, wildness, and a retaliative nature.
But should a new order of things arise, and it is nurtured, petted, cosseted, talked to, noticed, and trained, with mellowed firmness and tender gentleness, then in but a few generations much evil that bygone cruelty has stamped into its often wretched existence will disappear, and it will be more than ever not only a useful, serviceable helpmate, but an object of increasing interest, admiration, and cultured beauty, and, thus being of value, profitable.
Having said this much, I turn to the pleasurable duty of recording my deep sense of the kindness of those warmhearted friends who have assisted me in "my labour of love," not the least among these being those publishers, who, with a generous and prompt alacrity, gave me permission to make extracts, excerpts, notes, and quotations from the following high - class works, their property. My best thanks are due to Messrs. Longmans & Co., Blaine's "Encyclopaedia of British Sports;" Allen & Co., Rev. J. F. Thiselton Dyer's "English Folk-lore;" Cassell & Company (Limited), Dr. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable," and "Old and New London;" Messrs. Chatto & Windus, "History of Sign-boards;" Mr. J. Murray, Jamieson's "Scottish Dictionary," and others. I am also indebted to Messrs. Walker & Boutal, and The Phototype Company, for the able manner in which they have rendered my drawings; and for the careful printing, to my good friends Messrs. Charles Dickens & Evans.
Harrison Weir. "Iddesleigh," Sevenoaks, May 5th, 1889.