Those who have seen the wild cat of Britain, especially in confinement, will doubtless be ready to endorse this description as being "true to the life," even to the "rufull noyse," or his industry in the way of fighting. Yet even this old chronicler mentions the fact of his being "wilde," clearly indicating a similar animal in a state of domestication. Later on we find Maister Salmon giving an account of the cat in his strangely-curious book, "Salmon's Compleat English Physician; or, the Druggist's Shop Opened," a.d. 1693, in which he relates that marvellous properties exist in the brain, bones, etc., of the cat, giving recipes mostly cruel and incredible. He describes "Catus the Cat" in such terms as these:
"The Cat of Mountain, all which are of one nature, and agree much in one shape, save as to their magnitude, the wild Cat being larger than the Tame and the Cat of Mountain much larger than the wild Cat. It has a broad Face, almost like a Lyon, short Ears, large Whiskers, shining Eyes, short, smooth Hair, long Tail, rough Tongue, and armed on its Feet, with Claws, being a crafty, subtle, watchful Creature, very loving and familiar with Man-kind, the mortal enemy to the Rat, Mouse, and all sorts of Birds, which it seizes on as its prey. As to its Eyes, Authors say that they shine in the Night, and see better at the full, and more dimly at the change of the moon; as also that the Cat doth vary his Eyes with the Sun, the Apple of its Eye being long at Sun rise, round towards Noon, and not to be seen at all at night, but the whole Eye shining in the night. These appearances of the Cats' Eyes I am sure are true, but whether they answer to the times of the day, I never observed." "Its flesh is not usually eaten, yet in some countries it is accounted an excellent dish."
Mr. Blaine, in his excellent and useful work, the "Encyclopaedia of Rural Sports" - a book no sportsman should be without - thus discusses the origin of the domestic cat compared with the British wild cat:
"We have yet, however, to satisfy ourselves with regard to the origin of the true wild cat (Felis catus, Linn.), which, following the analogies of the Felinoe generally, are almost exclusively native to countries warmer than our own. It is true that occasionally varieties of the Felinoe do breed in our caravans and menageries, where artificial warmth is kept up to represent something like a tropical temperature; but the circumstance is too rare to ground any opinion on of their ever having been indigenous here - at least, since our part of the globe has cooled down to its present temperature. It is, therefore, more than probable that both the wild and the tame cat have been derived from some other extra-European source or sources. We say source or sources, for such admission begets another difficulty not easily got over, which is this, that if both of these grimalkins own one common root, in which variety was it that the very marked differences between them have taken place? Most sportsmen, we believe, suspect that they own one common origin, and some naturalists also do the same, contending that the differences observable between them are attributable solely to the long-continued action of external agencies, which had modified the various organs to meet the varied necessities of the animals.
The wild cat, according to this theory, having to contend with powerful enemies, expanded in general dimensions; its limbs, particularly, became massive; and its long and strong claws, with the powerful muscular mechanism which operated on them, fitted it for a life of predacity. Thus its increased size enabled it to stand some time before any other dogs than high-bred foxhounds, and even before them also, in any place but the direct open ground. There exist, however, in direct contradiction to this opinion, certain specialities proper to the wild, and certain other to the domestic cat, besides the simple expansion of bulk, which sufficiently disprove their identity. It will be seen that a remarkable difference exists between the tails of the two animals; that of the domestic being, as is well known, long, and tapering elegantly to a point, whereas that of the wild cat is seen to be broad, and to terminate abruptly in a blunt or rounded extremity. Linnaeus and Buffon having both of them confounded these two species into one, have contributed much to propagate this error, which affords us another opportunity of adding to the many we have taken of remarking on the vast importance of comparative anatomy, which enables us to draw just distinctions between animals that might otherwise erroneously be adjudged to be dependent on external agencies, etc.
Nor need we rest here, for what doubt can be entertained on the subject when we point at the remarkable difference between the intestines of the two? Those of the domestic are nine times the length of its body, whereas, in the wild cat, they are little more than three times as long as the body"
The food of the wild cat is said to consist of animals, and in the opinion of some, fish should be added. Why not also birds' eggs? Cats are particularly fond of the latter. In the event of their finding and destroying a nest, they invariably eat the eggs, and generally the shells.