The Book of Cats: A Chit-chat Chronicle of Feline Facts and Fancies … (Google Books)

A number of the tabby tribe were put into a wicker basket, and thrown alive into the midst of an immense fire, kindled in the public square by the bishop and his clergy. Hymns and anthems were sung, and processions were made by the priest and people in honour of the sacrifice. In the reign of Howel the Good, who died in 948, a law was made in Wales, fixing the price of the Cat, which was then of great scarcity. A kitten before it got its sight was to cost one penny; until a warranty was given of its having caught a mouse, twopence; after this important event, fourpence, and a very high price, too, the times considered. The Cat, however, was required to be perfect in its senses of seeing and hearing, should be a good mouser, have its claws uninjured, and, if a lady pussy, be a good mamma. If after it was sold, it was found wanting in any of these particulars, the seller was to forfeit a third of the purchasemoney. If any one stole or killed the Cat that was guarding the prince’s granary, the criminal forfeited a milch ewe with her fleece and lamb, or as much wheat as when poured upon a Cat suspended by its tail, would bury the animal up to the top of its tail. In Abyssinia, Cats are so valuable, that a marriageable girl who is likely to come in for a Cat, is looked upon as quite an heiress. . The resemblance between the Tiger and the Cat is so striking, that little children first taken to the Zoological Gardens almost always call the Tigers great Cats; and, in their native woods, Tigers purr. The domestic species require no description, but one or two of the varieties may be mentioned : The Cat of Angora, is a very beautiful variety, with silvery hair of fine silken texture, generally longest on the neck, but also long on the tail. Some are yellowish, and others olive, approaching to the colour of the Lion; but they are all delicate creatures, and of gentle dispositions. Mr. Wood, while staying in Paris, made the acquaintance of an Angora, which ate two plates of almond biscuits at a sitting. This breed of Cats has singular tastes; I knew one that took very kindly to gin and water, and was rather partial to curry. He also ate peas, greens, and broad beans (in moderation). Most Cats are fond of asparagus. The Persian Cat is a variety with hair very long, and very silky, perhaps more so than the Cat of Angora; it is however differently coloured, being of a fine uniform grey on the upper part, with the texture of the fur as soft as silk, and the lustre glossy; the colour fades off on the lower parts of the sides, and passes into white, or nearly so, on the belly. This is, probably, one of the most beautiful varieties, and it is said to be exceedingly gentle in its manners. The Chinese Cat has the fur beautifully glossed, but it is very different from either of those which have been mentioned. It is variegated with black and yellow, and, unlike most of the race, has the ears pendulous. Bosman, writing about the ears, says: “It is worthy of observation, that there is in animals evident signs of ancestry of their slavery. Long ears are produced by time and civilization, and all wild animals have straight round ears.” The Tortoise-shell or Spanish Cat is one of the prettiest varieties of those which have the fur of moderate length, and without any particular silvery gloss. The colours are very pure, black, white, and reddish orange; and, in this country, at least, males

thus marked are said to be rare, though they are quite common in Egypt and the south of Europe. This variety has other qualities to recommend it, besides the beauty of its colours. Tortoise-shell Cats are very elegant, though delicate in their form, and are, at the same time, very active, and among the most attached and grateful of the whole 1 alCe. Bluish grey is not a common colour; this species are styled “Chartreux Cats,” and are esteemed rarities. The Manx Cat is perhaps the most singular; its limbs are gaunt, its fur close set, its eyes staring and restless, and it has no tail; that is to say, there is only a sort of knob as though its tail had been amputated. “A black Manx Cat,” says a modern writer, “with its staring eyes and its stump of a tail, is a most measly looking beast, which would find a more appropriate resting place at Kirk Alloway or the Black Bay, than at the fireside of a respectable household. So it might fitly be the quadrupedal form in which the ancient sorcerers were wont to clothe themselves on their nocturnal excursions.” I read in an article by Mr. Lord that there is a variety of tailless Cats found in various parts of the world, and he suggests that this deficiency may be due to an accident originally, but perpetuated by interbreeding. I am not quite of the same opinion. It reminds one of the old saying, “It runs in the blood, like wooden legs.” I recollect the case of a young gentleman who devoted his leisure evenings to cutting off Cats’ tails in the neighbourhood in which he lived. He hung them up in bunches to dry, and had rare sport, while it lasted, in making the collection, only some one, who was a Cat-owner, did not see the fun of it, and put an end to the joke. Some young men think it a manly sport to kill or hunt down Cats; and, by the way, do you remember Sir Robert Peel’s memorable speech about the Volunteers, thus reported in Hansard 2– “At Hythe the first prize was carried off by a genuine Cockney. Upon being asked how he had acquired his extraordinary skill and precision— “‘Oh,’ said he, as reported in the columns of the Court journal, ‘I live in London, and have had considerable practice in shooting at the Cats of my Brompton neighbours.’

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