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“marvellous sagacity.” Thus, a leading critical journal, not however, strong in its natural history, lately told its readers how a favourite cat, belonging to a literary lady, used to take particular interest in her work. One day he jumped on the table in front of her, and watched her keenly for some time with so preternaturally knowing a look in his eye, with his head slightly on one side, that she was fain to lay down her pen and look at him. To her intense surprise and delight, he deliberately walked to the inkstand, took the pen in his mouth, and, leaping on the floor, began tracing characters on the carpet, in imitation, we may suppose, of his mistress ! On another occasion, the lady apostrophized the cat in this fashion: “Oh, Timothy, I have lost a button off my dress; I do so wish you could find it for me!” Thereupon the creature looked at her knowingly, trotted out of the room, and in a few moments returned with the missing button in his mouth. No sane person will, of course, believe this account to be anything more than a deliberate fabrication, or the outcome of a peculiar, but not uncommon, mental condition. While there are people who will gravely make statements of this sort, and others who will as fidingly believe them, we need feel no surprise at any extravagance of assertion or inference in cases of the exercise of the homing faculty, where an additional temptation to mental vagrancy is afforded by the supernatural element.
Well authenticated instances are on record of cats lifting the latch of a door, or depressing the lever with their paws, and admitting themselves to the house; and there are others, of doubtful credibility, related of their springing up and lifting a knocker to call attention to their desire to enter. I am glad to be able to bear testimony to one example of reflection on the part of a cat, which may not be much, but, in its way, indicates intelligence. I had established in this case great dread of a large straw hat by throwing it on to his back whenever he entered the room during my retriever's dinner time, and, by his presence, incited the dog to gobble his food. After two or three frights it was enough to place the hat on the floor,
when Tom would not cross the threshold. One day he jumped on the window-sill, within arm's length of my dinner-table, and mewed to be let in. I took up the hat by way of experiment, to ascertain whether he was conscious of the protection afforded by the glass, and struck at him with the dreaded object At the first blow he nearly fell off the window-sill with sudden fright, but recovering himself maintained his ground, while eyeing the hat suspiciously every time it touched the glass. There seems to be no doubt that the character of the glass had become established in his mind, and it at once occurred to him that its interposition was a sufficient protection.
This example appears quite insignificant beside one given by a correspondent of Nature, who described the action of a cat, which, if it were accurately observed, and recorded without the help of imagination, would constitute the most remarkable instance we can well conceive in the annals of animal psychology. It was the custom of the family to strew crumbs after breakfast before the dining room windows, for the benefit of the small birds, and it seems the house cat had once dashed out of a hiding place and caught one of them while feeding. Pussy, on a subsequent occasion, was seen to carry pieces of bread and strew them on the ground at a spot near a bush, where she concealed herself in the hope of inducing the birds to come within range of her spring, with what success was not related. In recording such a remarkable example of the exercise of reason, the “personal equation” of the narrator must be taken into account, and one would hesitate to put much faith in the observer unless the absence of all suspicion of an imaginative temperament could be clearly established. The cat may simply have carried the pieces of food out with a view to eating them, and not finding them to her taste, may have dropped them and retired to rest under the bush. If this had been a frequent habit, and if the lure had proved successful, we should be warranted in inferring intention, but it is scarcely justifiable to assume this from one occurrence, which leaves so wide an opening for accident.
Some observers have been more fortunate than myself in finding examples of a creditable moral character in cats. Thus, a correspondent of Nature, on the 19th of April, 1883, says : “I can add an instance of benevolence on the part of our household cat, who was observed to take out some fish bones from the house to the garden, and, being followed, was to have placed them in front of a miserably thin and evidently stranger cat, who was devouring them; not satisfied with that, our cat returned, procured a fresh supply, and repeated its charitable offer, which was apparently as gratefully accepted. This act of benevolence over, our cat returned to its customary dining place and ate the remainder of the bones, no doubt with additional zest.” Dr. George J. Romanes, one of the most cautious and critical of naturalists, gives an essentially similar instance, as related to him by Dr. Allen Thomson, of a cat in his family, which attracted the cook's attention, and led her out of the house to a famishing stranger cat; and when the latter was supplied with food, paraded round and round the starveling, expressing satisfaction by loud purring.
The maternal instinct in cats is usually very strong, and occasionally expressed in a singular manner. In my volume of “Zoological Notes,” page 73, I have described the adoption of a young Koala, or Australian “native bear," by a cat whose kittens had been drowned, with the exception of one. Although it did not live long on this unsuitable milk, the feline fostermother paid it most scrupulous attention, and indicated no suspicion that the little creature belonged to an alien race.
A most striking instance of this kind of adoption was given recently by a correspondent of Nature. A cat, having had three out of her five kittens taken from her, was found the next morning to have replaced them by three young rats, which she suckled together with her own progeny. A few days afterwards she was deprived of the remaining two kittens, and on the following day had installed in their place two more young rats, which she continued to rear with the others. This interesting spectacle of a cat suckling the young of its natural prey
the foster-mother being, besides, a notoriously keen ratterwas witnessed by several persons whose credibility is beyond all question. It is not at all certain how far conscious“ benevolence” prompted the cat, or to what ex she was impelled by the physiological necessity of relieving herself of her milk. Those who are charitably disposed will certainly give her the benefit of the doubt.
I have lately become acquainted with a tom cat whose gentleness goes some way towards redeeming the character of his species for savagery, and it would be unfair to omit mention of his exceptional temperament. He is the property-so far as a cat can be considered the property of any one-of a medical friend. By no means devoid of the power and will to use his claws and teeth upon a boisterous bull terrier, his behaviour towards a pet dove belonging to the children is certainly astonishing to all who have witnessed it. The bird, a common African dove, with the black ring round the neck, usually particularly timid, was introduced into the house when the cat was about two years old, and might be supposed to have its predatory instincts fully developed. In consequence of constant handling the dove became exceedingly tame, ranging the house at will, following the cook everywhere, and sleeping among the cinders under the grate, where its plumage became blackened until one could hardly tell what manner of bird it was. successfully disputes possession of the kitchen with the cat. Tom dares make no movement without the consent of the dove who will frequently drive him from the fire with furious assault and battery of its wings.
When in more gracious moods, however, the dove will allow the cat to eat off the same plate with it, and, in default of a more suitable object of amatory attentions, will march round and round the cat, pirouetting and cooing as though it thought its natural enemy capable of appreciating the proffered homage. These two may frequently be seen on the supper table, drinking milk together out of a saucer, in amicable companionship. Domestication brings about some singular modifications of
instinct; but when one sees a dove now buffeting a cat and driving it from its food, and anon squatted down before the fire in close contact with the cat, and apparently enjoying the warmth of his fur, it is difficult to understand how this suppression of hereditary antagonism on both sides was brought aboutfor human agency had nothing to do with it. Night after night these two strange associates pass together shut up in the kitchen, and the cat, who has more than once brought in a large rat, has never exhibited any sign of a desire to molest the dove.
The behaviour of animals when suddenly brought into the presence of a picture, or their own reflection in a mirror, is always interesting, and would repay more attention than it has received. On entering a friend's house one day recently, I was struck by the natural appearance of a tabby cat, in the sitting position, painted on a fireplace ornament. On asking my friend whether his black tom had taken any notice of it, he replied, “Oh, yes, the first time he saw it, he stood perfectly still, then crouched and moved slowly to the side of the fireplace, keeping his eyes fixed on it, then retreated a little, and after gazing steadfastly some seconds, walked under the table and took no further notice of it then; though for a day or two he would just pause and look at it in passing, as if he had forgotten it until that moment.” So far as was known tabby did not attempt to verify his conclusions by smelling or touching the picture.
That the cat has, however, sufficient intelligence to supplement the evidence of one sense by that of another, appears from a letter to Nature, 24th July, 1879, in which a correspondent says: “Many years ago, at Carne farmhouse, where relations of mine were then living, the household cat was observed to enter a bedroom in course of being spring cleaned. The looking-glass being on the floor, the cat on entering was confronted with its own reflection, and naturally concluded that he saw before him a real intruder on his domain. Hostile demonstrations were the result, followed by a rush to the mirror, and then, meeting an obstacle to his vengeance, a fruitless cut round to the rear. This maneuvre was more than once repeated with, of course,