Untold millions of Americans love their pet cats. This is nothing new. Even nearly a century ago, cats were very much en vogue.
CAT, Domestic, The. The influence of the domestic cat upon American civilization has received less consideration than it deserves, for a great deal of the advance of agriculture as well as of the spreading out over the vast woodland and prairies has been made possible by this much abused and misunderstood animal. How much food cats have saved, how much property they have guarded from destruction, what plagues of vermin they have kept in check, from the time this country was first settled, it is impossible to compute. But for their sleepless vigilance the large cities would quickly be overrun with rats and mice.
The government appropriates money every year for the maintenance of cats in the post-offices and other public buildings of the larger cities, in order to keep down the vermin that would gnaw holes in mail-sacks and destroy public records and other property. It is recognized in the national printing office of France, where vast quantities of paper are stored, and where an army of cats is retained to keep the mice in check. In Vienna it is regarded as a part of good municipal government to take care of the cats. The United States government has systematized its cat service in public institutions, and in Pittsburgh a certain strain has been bred to live in cold storage houses, and is developing characteristics peculiar to this kind of life. In warehouses, corn-cribs, barns, mills and wherever grain or food is stored, cats must be kept. But to be effective, they must be taken care of, for well-fed cats are the best mousers.Origin and History of the House Cat.— Formerly it was carelessly thought that our house cats were simply the progeny of tamed pairs of the European wildcat; but anatomy denied the probability of this, and historical investigation showed that they came from another source. This source is the North-African “gloved” or “Caffre” cat (Felis libyca), which, as historical evidence, including innumerable mummies, shows, was domesticated by the Egyptians before the time of the oldest monuments of their civilization. Moreover, the characteristic specific markings of the caffre cat (still wild as well as tame in the Nile Valley) reappear unmistakably in our common house cats, in spite of the fact that interbreeding with other species, and various local races, has intervened. A well-marked variety of this cat was to be found anciently, and now, in Syria and eastward, known as the Mediterranean cat. It is established that many centuries before the Christian era the Egyptians, Cretans, Phœnicians and other men of the Levant were constantly voyaging all over the Mediterranean Sea, and founding trading-posts on both its shores, where finally arose and spread the extensive civilizations of Greece and of Rome on the north, and of Carthage on the south. With these colonists undoubtedly went their friendly and useful mousers. That they then were crossed somewhat with the native wildcat seems to be shown by the appearance of the peculiar form we call “tabby” cats. This, in brief, is the history of the common European house cat, whence have come, by emigration, those of America and most of the civilized world.
In the remote and isolated East, however, exist races of domesticated cats of more local origin. Prof. G. Martorelli, of Milan, Italy, has made a special study of this whole subject; and he has concluded that the ordinary domestic cat of India has descended from the Indian desert cat (Felis ornata). From it, he says, are derived their common spotted breed, while the fulvous breed seen in India has been produced by a cross with the native jungle cat (Felis chaus). Both these have interbred with the imported western cats in recent years. The Persian or “Angora” long-haired breeds may probably have come from Pallas' cat of central Asia; and the curious Siamese cat is regarded as derived from the golden cat. The intermingling accidentally, or by the design of breeders, of these various species and races has produced the bewildering variety of forms now seen. Consult on this subject Ingersoll, ‘Life of Mammals’ (New York 1909, with bibliography).
American Interest in Cats.— American interest in the cat is often said to have originated within the last 20 years, that is, since the advent of exhibitions and the taking up of the cat-cult by the public. This impression is not borne out by facts, for we have exhibitors who have intimately studied cats, have bred and raised them, and have cared for them for over 60 years, and cat-shows were held in Maine between 1860 and 1870, even before the great exhibition instituted in London by the well-known animal painter, Harrison Weir, in the year 1871. But cat shows in America were not known outside of Maine until one was held in the Madison Square Garden, New York, in 1895. The exhibitions in England have gone on from Mr. Weir's first show up to the present time, so that the marking epochs in modern cat history may be dated from the Crystal Palace show in 1871, and the New York show in April 1895. From these shows has arisen what may be described as a cult, or in some ways an industry. Numbers of individuals, principally women, have taken up the cat as a partial means of livelihood, selling those they rear by exhibiting them to the public, the outcome of which has been the production of different colors, strains and families. Clubs have arisen for the care and maintenance of exhibitions; registers and stud-books have been started; and the importance of cats of known pedigree is duly recognized by our government as one of the many things to be considered and provided for in a tariff schedule.
The varieties or breeds recognized in shows are the Persian, Siamese, Abyssinian and ordinary domestic short-haired cats. The Persian and Angora may be said to be the same cat, though distinctions were drawn in old days; but these were very indefinite, and at the present time we draw up rules and regulations for two large groups, the long-haired cats and the short-haired cats, and these are judged by points and classified by color distinctions. Angora is a small place, and comparatively few cats could have come from there, but many have come from other parts of Asia. Taking the long-haired division first, because commercially it is the most prominent, the judge requires that the cat shall be short in body with a short tail and short legs, the latter shorter in front than behind. The chest should be wide, the loin square and firm, the bones of the legs well de
levoped and the frame sturdy. The head that corresponds with this formation and is required is a broad, round head with short, wide nose, eyes large and round and set well apart. The ears, a most important feature, should be as small as possible and placed on the side of the head, the base of the ear being narrow, not gaping wide opta, with a tuft of hair at the apex.
This standard is more or less based upon original imported specimens from Asia. The colors most valuable and most approved are the light silvers, smokes, blues (or slate color) white, black, orange, cream and tortoise-shells; and the tabbies of different colors are also favorites. The tabby cat is a cat that has a light ground-color and is spotted, barred or striped with darker color, and the word “tabby” has no reference to the sex of the animal. The name "tabby" is derived from Atab, a street in Bagdad celebrated for its manufacture of watered or moiré silks, which in England were called atabi or “taffety.” The most usual colors in tabby cats are yellow, marked with orange or red, making what are called orange tabbies; yellow brown, marked with black, making the brown tabbies; gray, marked with darker stripes, giving us the gray tabbies; and paler silver, marked with black or a sort of dark blue verging on black, from which we have the silver tabbies. The great feature required in tabby cats is that the ground-color should afford as distinct a contrast to the stripes, bars or spots as possible; the colors should be vivid and the marks very plain. There are spotted tabbies, and in these the spots must be round, clear and distinct; but we seldom see a good one of this variety unless it come from India, the home of the best spoted tabbies.
The solid-colored cats are the whites, blues, blacks and smokes; although recently the silvers, creams and oranges have in a few instances almost attained perfection in being without marks or foreign color. The tortoise-shell cats are black, red and yellow; when accompanied by white, the patches are clearer and distincter, and this feature is what is aimed at. Tortoise-shell males are almost unknown, and orange females are very scarce.
Points of Show Cats.— The eyes of a cat are an important feature, and should be large, round and pleasant in expression. Although color of eye is a great feature, many judges prefer large, well-placed, pleasant eyes to those that are more correct in color but badly placed, or are small and mean in expression, or give the cat a sour look. The color of eyes required may be briefly summed up as blue (as deep as possible) for a white cat; emerald-green for light silver or chinchillas, as they have been called; and yellow to orange, as deep as possible, for all other varieties. The color and beauty of the cat's eyes vary according to the state of health, the light and the time of day, and judges have to be careful in this matter. The body-colors can be defined as white, as pure as possible; black, deep and glossy; blue or slate, sound and pure from root to tip of hair, showing no light shadings or light under-color; smoke, a deep plum-color, silver undercoat, ruff and stomach; cream, light fawn or cream color; orange, whether marked or unmarked, should be as rich and strong as possible. The tortoise-shells marked with clear distinct patches, clean-cut and free from each other.
The fur of the long-haired cats should be fine, long, silky and glossy; wooliness is deprecated, but is more inclined to appear in certain colors, such as orange and cream; and blades may have a rather coarser texture of coat if they make it up in color. But in whites, silvers, blues, smokes and in brown tabbies there can be no excuse found for anything but exquisite quality.
in the short-haired division we must consider our old fireside friend first, and coloration in this variety is much the same as in the long-hairs, though we do not often find smokes or so many silvers, and the blue-eyed whites have probably been bred from the long-haired cats. But as to color, color of eyes and classification, the rules specified for long-hairs fit the short-hairs except that the tabby cats are more distinctly marked and more brilliant, as the colors are not clouded or mixed by the length of the hair. White cats with blue eyes are generally deaf, but not always. The short-haired cat is rather different in formation to the long-haired cat, the face is more angular, or rather the nose may come to a finer point, though its cheeks should be well developed. The eyes are differently placed yet should be full and large, the ears larger, closer together, more toward the top of the head, wider at the base and more pointed at the apex. The body should be moderately long, slender and elegant. The great thing to avoid in all cats is coarseness, and size alone is not a recommendation.
Foreign Cats Exhibited.— The Siamese is a distinct variety which comes from the palace of the King of Siam or from a few families of nobles. These cats are conceded to be the most intelligent and companionable of all cats, but having been much inbred are not easily reared and do not increase very fast. The climate of California suits the Siamese cat, and the variety is found there in fair numbers and doing well. The points valued in this cat are a rather small and flat head, a small and elegant body of a light fawn or biscuit color, with chocolate-colored legs, mask and tail. The more decided the contrast — that is, the lighter the body-color and the darker the points — the better. The Siamese are much appreciated as show-cats. Chocolate-colored cats of this variety are found and are valuable. The fur most approved is very fine and flossy, resembling beaver. The eyes are blue, the color as rich as possible.
The Manx cat makes a distinct species in our exhibitions, and is classed by itself. Besides the absence of tail, which is the distinguishing feature of this cat, a different formation of body is required; namely, that the fore legs should be short and the rump rise as abruptly as possible, making the hind legs longer than the fore legs, so that the cat seems to jump forward like a rabbit, and is sometimes called a rabbit cat. The head should be neat, round and rather small, and the cat itself small, short and compact. The Manx cat may be of any of the recognized colors. There is a distinction between this variety and our other domestic cats. Gambier Bolton who studied the question and traveled to collect specimens for the British Zoological Society coincides with the naturalist Kempfer, and recognizes a strong likeness in these cats to those of the islands in the East, the Malay Peninsula, Japan, China and lands contiguous. All the cats in those parts, even the Siamese, seem to have peculiar formations of the tail, whether cut short, forked, kinked or otherwise. These cats are smaller; there are differences in the call or language, ways and character, that have been observed by these students.
The origin of the Manx cat is now attributed to the arrival of these cats on the Isle of Man from ships belonging to the Spanish Armada that were wrecked there. These cats were most probably previously brought from Japan or other parts of eastern Asia, for cats now brought from Japan are exactly like our Manx. A cat with his tail cut off, showing a stump, does not constitute a Manx cat for the student.
Other cats found in show-rooms are the Abyssinians, but they do not make much headway and have not yet arrived in America. The males are generally darker than the females, and the color of these cats should be a deep brown ticked with black, somewhat resembling the back of a wild rabbit, with a distinct black band running down the back to the tip of the tail. The inner sides of the legs and belly are more of an orange tint than the body, and are marked in some cases with a few dark patches. The eyes are deep yellow, tinged with green; nose dark-red, edged with black; ears rather small, dark-brown, with black edges and tips; and the pads of the feet are black. Attempts have been made to copy this cat, and it has been attempted to exhibit, as such, slightly marked, ordinary short-haired cats, but they are not the genuine breed. The absence of tabby-markings is the point most sought and prized, and if kept pure the characteristics of these cats are peculiar. The Abyssinian cat has never been very numerous at exhibitions, perhaps because it is a short-haired cat, though short-haired cats, when good exhibition specimens, bring large prices.
Cats marked with white have not found much favor in British exhibitions, but have always been popular at American shows, and Madame Ronner, the great French painter of cats, usually depicts her cats — that is, the dark ones — with some white patches. If cats are marked with white, they are preferred with four white paws and a white face; that is, the white starting in a sharp point between the eyes, spreading out onto the lips, making a triangle with the apex on the forehead, and continuing thence down the chest, but not spreading to the shoulders or going round the neck or over the back. Any marking, in an “any other class,” that is regular and even, and forms anything like a regular pattern, should be recognized and encouraged by a judge; besides which, any effort made to bring out a new variety or color must be taken note of and encouraged. There is now a tendency to encourage Dutch marked cats, which means black patches on the cheeks, a white blaze up the face, joining a broad, white belt which goes completely round the cat half-way between the ears and tail.
Possibilities in Native American Species.— Of the cats indigenous to the American continent, which might be suitable for domestication, few have been tried in a domestic way, and the species that inhabit this country are not many. I have seen the wildcat or gray lynx, at shows, behaving in the most exemplary manner. Having been brought up from infancy by children, and perfectly tame, it was more at ease in a large show-room, and not nearly as nervous as the ordinary feline. So that if it were not for the size of the creature, its possibilities as a domestic animal would be good; but unfortunately our time does not seem to be destined to take in hand or give us any fresh species of domesticated animals; what we have are handed down through the ages. In this particular we are not original, for we destroy more often than we create, and we seem to have no time for trying to subdue or lead into bondage any new varieties of mammals.
The puma, cougar or mountain lion ranges over the whole of North and South America, but is too large for domestic purposes; yet it has never been aggressive against man, and, if history is to be thoroughly credited, was quite the reverse with early settlers till driven to exile and filled with fear by man himself. The ocelot is one of our most beautiful varieties, and varies somewhat in color, with sometimes a gray body-color, but more often yellow. It is clearly marked with dark color in spots, bars and splotches; and is very handsome, but larger and more powerful than the domestic cat. These cats have been taken when young and reared; and although comparatively tame and sociable till about a year old, they then become savage and impossible and have to be caged or killed.
A very pretty cat that has been exhibited in America is the margay from Central and South America, where it inhabits the woods. This cat has been handled at an exhibition and found tame and with a passion for being caressed. The margay is light red or orange, beautifully and regularly spotted with small black spots, the ears small, round and pointing forward, whitish-gray at the backs, edged with black. It is a small cat, very handsome and refined, and if the effort could be made to obtain some more of the species these cats would be a very valuable addition to our varieties and to our home circles. Geoffroy's cat is another small spotted cat, of which a few have been introduced into England, but it is too early to state what the future increase may be. The pampas cat is another feline not amenable to domestic life.
Asiatic Races.— As a rule our best white cats with blue eyes come from India and some of the best are brought from Tibet. In crossing the Himalaya Mountains with these cats carriers slit their noses to enable them to breathe with greater ease the rarified atmosphere of the high altitudes. Cats with slit noses are much valued. As to cats coming from this place or that, such as Persia, Angora, etc., a good deal of proof is required before any particular claim can be accepted. The writer has failed to find any long-haired cats at Teheran and Angora, as has been said, is but a small place. We probably obtained many of our long-haired cats from around the Persian Gulf, and more from India, many of which come down from the interior of Asia with the Arab horse-traders. Cats vary in their adaptability to changes of climate, and no doubt to this factor we owe what we have and what breeds we can retain and perpetuate. The Siamese soon succumbs to dampness, but the long-haired cats, in some cases, took to the climate of Maine early in the century, when brought from the East.
They bred extensively, and increased and became an article of commerce to the large cities, long before these cities held shows. These cats went by the name of Angoras, and in fact the ordinary nomenclature of the country defines all long-haired cats as Angoras. The Maine cats were often carelessly bred, and when shows commenced and competition came they had to give way to the more finely bred English cats, but in other cases they held their own and the blood has been perpetuated. The Maine cats are found in all colors, and some are very big and strong, but these have been probably crossed with short-haired cats, and a great deal of hybridizing has been done even in England. There is a Russian long-haired cat, but it has not gained much favor, being solitary in its habits, unsociable in character, coarse in body and fur and dingy in color. A few have been brought from Persia, but they had the faculty of attaching themselves more to other cats than to their owners. They are originally the same cat as the Asiatic, — that is, the Persian or Angora; and the first long-haired cats must have been brought over by sailors and travelers from the East. All long-haired cats seem to have a common origin in Pallas' cat (Felis manul).
Another cat that has created a great deal of interest is the Maltese. This cat is hard to account for, but should be blue or slate in color and greatly resembles what in Great Britain is called the Russian or Archangel cat, specimens of which have often been brought from Russia; but lately quite an influx of blue cats has come from Iceland. Whether cold winters are calculated to develop blue cats I do not know, but it is sufficiently evident that northern climates have produced most cats of that color. Blue cats are not numerous in Great Britain, although they are becoming more so by introduction. Here in America we have plenty scattered all over the United States, but how they gained their name of Maltese the writer has been unable to discover, for there is no blue cat indigenous to the island of Malta. Probably the cats were brought there in early times from the same source whence the English now obtain theirs, and, the color being peculiar, these cats were selected or by superior hardiness they may have selected themselves. However many people who are not cat exhibitors or who do not know much about cats scientifically keep their short-haired blue “Maltese” and are proud of them. The Chartreuse monks had blue long-haired cats many years ago.
Temperament and Intelligence.— Some writers have told us that long-haired cats are less affectionate than short-haired cats. This is a mistake, although long-haired cats, on the average, are more intense, more nervous, more highly strung, more pugilistic and have more pluck and daring than the short-haired cats. The cat has great intelligence; in fact, is one of the most intelligent if not the most intelligent, of the domestic animals, and it is this fact that precludes the possibility of teaching the average cat tricks. For the cat sees through the manœuvre, and refuses to be made a fool of. In respect to memory they are phenomenal and far exceed the average dog in this quality.
Their powers of conversation are well developed, accompanied by delicate inflections of the voice that need to be known to be understood. Dupont de Nemours says: “The cat has also the advantage of a language in which the same vowels as those pronounced by the dog exist, with six consonants in addition, m, n, g, h, v, and f.” It requires study to get to know cats, and Rouvière, the actor, said that no one could really understand a cat unless he himself became one. A cat, of all the domestic animals, has retained the greatest part of its wild nature and traits, and the easiest way to get at a cat is by kindness and by trying to learn cat ways. A cat never gives in to coercion. Liberty is the last thing it will resign; and often it will not resign that except in exchange for death. The cat should be used as the emblem of liberty.
It is a mistake to suppose that a cat cares only for places, for it is only the innate conservation of the animal that gives this impression. Regularity is the keynote of its existence and what it does one day it likes to do the next; and certainly to places where it has been reared and has lived it shows great attachment. But on the contrary there are cats that would settle down anywhere, that have crossed and recrossed the Atlantic Ocean, and have lived quietly in any locality their owners chose. A cat is one of the finest mothers on earth.
Cat-fanciers' Associations.— The fortunes of the cat are now more or less regulated by clubs and associations, and there are homes, hospitals and refuges in many places and in many lands. The principal clubs are the National Cat Club founded in 1887, with headquarters in London; the Scottish Cat Club, founded in 1894; the Cat Club, London, founded in 1898; the Northern Counties Cat Club, the Silver and Smoke Persian Cat Society, the Siamese Club and the Orange, Cream, Fawn and Tortoise-shell, founded in 1900; the Black and White Club, the Blue Persian Society, the Chinchilla Cat Club, the Short-haired Cat Club, the Midland Counties Cat Club, the British Cat Club and the Manx Cat Club, founded in 1901. All the above are in Great Britain, but many have members in America. In the United States there are the Beresford Cat Club, founded in 1899, with headquarters in Chicago; the Atlantic Cat Club, with headquarters in New York; the Chicago Cat Club, the Louisville Cat Club, the Pacific Cat Club, the Orange and Cream Society, with headquarters in Chicago, the Washington, D. C., Cat Club, the Detroit Club, etc.
All these have been founded since 1899; so we can see that the advances made of late years have been sudden and rapid; and they will continue to grow; for shows are held in many of the principal cities and are yearly fixtures. Prices for cats increase; and whereas $25 was considered a good price a few years ago, some of the best have been recently sold for $250 each, and many at $75 and $100.
The largest price of which we have record as having actually been paid in cash for a cat is $300, which was the price Lady Decies paid Mrs. Greenwood for Lord Southampton; although I expect to see this exceeded in time to come, for competition enhances values, and the best specimens and most perfect will bring high prices from those who want them. All this will tend to draw attention to the cat and better the race and its general conditions.Cats have had their artists: the Egyptians, the Japanese, the Chinese, Salvator Rosa, Gottfried Mind (“The Raphael of Cats”), Burbank (a master little known), Cornelius Wisscher, the Dutch artist, whose “Tom” cat has become typical, J. J. Grandville, Harrison Weir, Louis Wain, Madame Ronner and Adam.
Members of the English royal family breed and exhibit cats at the regular exhibits of the present day. The Duchess of Connaught, the sister-in-law of the late King, was the organizer of the National Cat Club, one of the associations which maintains a thoroughly reliable studbook for cats; the Queen mother Alexandra herself is one of the active members of the Ladies' Kennel Club, and both Princess Christian and her daughter. Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, have taken many first prizes with their valuable feline pets.
A Few Hints to Breeders.— Do not try to keep too many; a good cat well reared will bring more money than 8 or 10 badly nurtured, undersized kittens. Cats are not gregarious, and when crowded together become diseased and mangy, and prematurely die. One litter of really good cats will give more pleasure and profit to the owner than five or six litters of poor ones.
Liberty is necessary to the health alike of the present and of the coming generations, and these latter should never be out of our minds when mating.
Meat is the main diet of all the carnivora to which order domestic cats belong. The best diet for cats is composed largely of meat, for which their teeth are adapted. Without meat they will not long remain healthy. They vary in their tastes, and what is fancied by one is not always preferred by another. Fish they are fond of, but as a rule house cats should not be given much raw fish. Cats kept in confinement should have grass, vegetables and changes of diet provided for them. Grass is a necessity.
Epidemics that sweep through different countries and continents at stated periods decimate the cat family, and it is well to be prepared for such occasions by having none but the healthiest and best of animals. Distemper, the greatest of cat scourges, is best treated by nursing, care and cleanliness. Fleas convey embryonic worms which infest cats, and should be rigorously kept down. They breed in cracks in the floor, in bedding and in the ground, and war waged upon their haunts will be work well laid out.
Do not use nauseating drugs for ailing cats, but choose the mildest remedies that will effect a cure. Do not be prejudiced against a course of treatment till you have tried it well; and remember that supposed cures suddenly made are not always effectual. Cats, when ill, require sympathy as much as human beings, and more so than any other animal, in order to battle successfully with disease, for they have a tendency to be very pessimistic and sorry for themselves, and to recover or fail quickly. They suffer mostly from distemper, worms, eczema, bronchitis, pneumonia and liver diseases, and occasionally from catarrhal fever. If you are acquainted with a good homœopathic physician, and have any idea of what ails your cat, consult him and abide by his advice.
Do not breed from your queens too young, although many good kittens have been raised from queens not a year old, if strong and healthy. Male cats will not mate as early in life as the queens, and are seldom of much use till a year old. Do not cross long-haired cats with short-haired cats, for you spoil the type of both. Siamese cats will breed with other cats, but the progeny are never good for the showroom; and the Siamese being a distinct breed, does not amalgamate with any of the other varieties. The Manx cat is better kept pure, or the type degenerates and the result is not satisfactory.
Remember, when trying to rear good cats, that what goes in at the mouth and the care bestowed upon the young and growing animals cover 50 or even 75 per cent of essential requirements. The best blood in the world will not bring prize-winners or nice pets if they are badly reared. The crucial period takes in the first six months; when the young cat is well grown, and at seven months of age is through teething, you will have an animal that may live 20 years or more. Healthy cats are more long-lived than dogs, and authentic records tell of not a few over 20 years of age, and of some even 30.
Kittens should not be taken away from their mothers before they are at least eight weeks old; and if three months old, it will be still better. Care should be exercised in the diet of kittens at an early age. Sudden changes or sudden chills will bring on gastritis. Milk, unless pure, is more dangerous than meat, which in a raw state may be given scraped or minced at a very early age. Milk is' better when mixed with Robinson's prepared barley according to the directions on the box, unless you can obtain warm milk from a cow that has not been too long in milk. The most dangerous diet for highly bred kittens is cold skimmed milk of an uncertain age.
Encyclopedia Americana, 1920