The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

November 8, 2016

November 8, 1828

Thomas Bewick (c. August 11, 1753 to November 8, 1828) was a British illustrator and author of books which showed his love of animals. His A History of British Birds (2 volumes, 1797 and 1804) has been described as the first field guide. He was very popular: his A History of British Birds is mentioned in Jane Eyre.

Of the other books he wrote and/or illustrated we note A General History of Quadrupeds: The Figures Engraved on Wood, (1807). Therein we learn: "THE DOMESTIC CAT Differs from the Wild Cat, in being somewhat less; and instead of being uniformly the same, is distinguished by a great variety of shades and colouring."

To describe an animal so well known, might seem a superfluous task: we shall only, therefore, select such of its peculiarities as are least obvious, and may have escaped the notice of inattentive observers. It is generally remarked, that Cats can see in the dark; but though this is not absolutely the case, yet it is certain that they can see with much less light than most other animals, owing to the peculiar structure of their eyes, the pupils of which are capable of being contraćted or dilated in proportion to the degree of light by which they are affected. The pupil of the Cat, during the day, is perpetually contraćted; and it is with difficulty that it can see by a strong light: but in the twilight, the pupil resumes its natural roundness, the animal enjoys perfett vision, and takes advantage of this superiority to discover and surprize its prey. The cry of the Cat is loud, piercing, and clamorous; and whether expressive of anger or of love, is equally violent and hideous. Its call may be heard at a great distance, and is so well known to the whole fraternity, that on some occasions several hundred Cats have been brought together from different parts. Invited by the piercing cries of distress from a suffering fellow-creature, they assemble in crouds; and with loud squalls and yells, express their horrid sympathies. They frequently tear the miserable object to pieces; and with the most blind and furious rage, fall upon each other, killing and wounding indiscriminately, till there is scarcely one left. These terrible conflićts happen only in the night; and though rare, instances of very furious engagements are well authenticated. The Cat is particularly averse to water, cold, and bad smells. It is fond of certain perfumes, but is more particularly attracted by the smell of valerian, marum, and cat-mint: it rubs itself against them; and, if not prevented from coming at them in a garden where they are planted, would infallibly destroy them. The Cat brings forth twice, and sometimes thrice, a year. The period of her gestation is fifty-five or fifty-six days, and she generally produces five or six at one litter. She conceals her kittens from the male, lest he should devour them, as he is sometimes inclined; and if apprehensive of being disturbed, will take them up in her mouth, and remove them one by one to a more secure retreat: even the female herself, contrary to the established law of Nature, which binds the parent to its offspring by an almost indissoluble tie, is sometimes known to eat her own young the moment after she has produced them. Though extremely useful in destroying the vermin that infest our houses, the Cat seems little attached to the persons of those who afford it protećtion. It seems to be under no subječtion, and acts only for itself. All its views are confined to the place where it has been brought up ; if carried elsewhere, it seems lost and bewildered : neither caresses nor attention can reconcile it to its new situation, and it frequently takes the first opportunity of escaping to its former haunts. Frequent instances are in our recollection, of Cats having returned to the place from whence they had been carried, though at many miles distance, and even across rivers, when they could not possibly have any knowledge of the road or situation that would apparently lead them to it. This extraordinary faculty is, however, possessed in a much greater degree by Dogs; yet it is in both animals equally wonderful and unaccountable. In the time of Hoel the Good, King of Wales, who died in the year 948, laws were made as well to preserve, as to fix the different prices of animals; among which the cat was included, as being at that period of great importance, on account of its scarceness and utility. The price of a kitten, before it could see, was fixed at one penny; till proof could be given of its having caught a mouse, two-pence; after which it was rated at fourpence, which was a great sum in those days, when the value of specie was extremely high: it was likewise required, that it should be perfect in its senses of hearing

Above is Berwick's illustration of a domestic cat, possibly his own. It is heartening to see evidence it is an inside cat.

No comments: