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The Character Of The Cat

[The Character of The Cat]  [Choosing A Kitten]  [Care And Grooming Of Cats]  [Keeping Your Cat Well]  [More Cat Articles] 

( Originally Published 1938 )



The cat is man's associate; never his unquestioning friend as the dog is.

Cat pets are true individuals in a household. It is a droll fact that throughout a lifetime of companionship a cat reserves the right to think and to act independently, and will be devoted only so long as its owner acts in a manner that creates mutual respect.

But cats do have a capacity for a particular type of service, and for a kind of friendship that fits a niche no other pet can fill. Cat-lovers are feryent partisans of their pets because they have given the cat a chance to perform within its own range, and the cat has covered itself with glory.

Cats have sophisticated, experienced natures. Long and honorable is their history, old as the history of Egypt and still older, because no man' knows when or where the first bright-eyed ancestors of 'i our modern cats were induced to come out of the forest, and live with man in a shelter.

In Kipling's Just So Stories "The Cat Who Walked by Himself" was introduced to domestic life about the same time as the cow, the horse, and the dog. While Mr. Kipling no doubt knew he was playing hob with history when he made the statement, it is true that all four were put to useful service by man at a date too early to be recorded.

There has always been a certain traditional dislike between cats and dogs. But unfortunately the feeling is magnified falsely in the minds of many people. The dislike is not between THE CAT and THE DOG, but between individual cats

and individual dogs. Cats and dogs which grow up together usually live in normal harmony, and often manifest affection for each other.

The chief point of difference between cats and dogs as pets is one of personality. As soon as you realize what that difference is you will have no difficulty in getting along with either, or both.

Complete devotion to his master is the dog's dominant trait. If well trained, he belongs body and spirit to his owner. The cat is equally devoted, but in another sense. Cats respect your likes and dislikes, but your conduct must be reciprocal. The cat is never your slave; it is your equal. Just as you will conform to the laws of society but still hold sacred the right to follow the dictates of your own free will, so the cat maintains its right to private thinking and independent action. Basically you are an individual. So is the cat.

Cat pets have one admirable feature which modern owners must consider. More than any other pet, the cat is completely adapted to live its entire life in an apartment. From the day you bring a kitten home to the hour when your faithful cat dies, there is no absolute necessity for once taking it outdoors if you don't want to do so. The cat gets sufficient exercise indoors, and, if you supply its food needs, the cat's welfare in the house is assured.

This statement is not intended to be a fast rule that cats should always be kept indoors, because this pet will derive some benefit from hours spent in the open air. A cat that sleeps in its own outside house is apt to have a more luxurious coat because Nature will provide it with needed warmth to withstand the cold weather.

The point is that a cat CAN stand to live a lifetime indoors if it is more convenient for its owner. In general, cats give less trouble than any other pet, because the cat is the most self-sufficient of all pets.

Except for fish, the cat is the most nearly soundless pet you can own. Walking about on velvet feet, the cat makes little noise except at those times when Nature thoroughly justifies the cat in doing so. The cat gives voice when it is hungry; when it wishes to warn a possible enemy; and when the mating season returns. The cat's mating song is probably the most jarring of any sound that reaches human ears, but despite hurled alarm clocks, ash trays, and shoes, the cat maintains its right to rend the night air in season, so the sound must be tolerated. Moral suasion, threats, and pleas will never cure a confirmed human bathtub yodeler. With cats it's much the same thing. Aside from this one complete violation of the sound ordinance, the cat is a quiet citizen indeed.

DIGNITY iS a quality in most cats that suits this pet to a particular kind of human temperament. While cats can be thoroughly amusing (you've watched a kitten play with a ball), there is a reserve about their antics that makes a cat's fun different from the boisterous, excited play most dogs enjoy. You rarely see a clown cat. So confirmed is the cat in its dignity that when it is taken off guard in an awkward situation its invariable tendency is to utter a few muted curses and then retire to a haven to sulk!

What passes for dignity in a cat would probably be classified as snobbishness in a dog, but the cat's near-snobbishness helps make it an agreeable pet. For example, its dignity forces it to be most careful of its appearance. The constant washing a cat believes necessary is well known. If possible, cats keep out of water, mud, and filth. If you have ever watched a pet cat pick her way across a wet street, you know her attitude toward uncleanness. Dignity demands that cats stay clean-and they make a sincere effort to obey dignity.

CAT INTELLIGENCE iS high, and its manifestations are surprising to watch. Nearly 100 per cent of the time no cat will make a snap judgment about anything. Very obviously a methodical thinker, your cat can be depended upon to weigh the values of any situation before going into action. Depend upon it that for even the slightest act, your cat has mentally balanced cause and effect. A cat often accepts friendship in a spirit of toleration, but will withhold complete acceptance of a person until there are ample assurances that the friendship is not merely superficial. This is one of the ways a cat shows its good judgment.

CAT COMPANIONSHIP iS satisfying because it bears no burdensome tags of dependence. So long as you wish to frolic, your cat will frolic with you. When you want to take up a serious occupation, your cat is entirely willing to go about its own business without bothering you to play more. This quality of quiet, reasonable comradeship has made the cat the favorite pet of many great writers.

Cats are the chosen cronies of people who watch and wait, such as firemen, policemen, shopkeepers, and seamen. Of course, the cat has a practical sideline that makes it welcome throughout the world-it's a specialist at settling the constant mouse problem.

All cats that are popularly kept as pets fall into two groups, short-haired cats and long-haired. The domestic cats of the United States-the common cats of our homes and high- cats ways-are short haired. Two distinctive varieties, the Manxand the Siamese, are also short haired. The long-haired type includes the Persians.

There are fourteen recognized colors, or combinations of colors, for long-haired cats, and the same number for shorthaired cats. Among the domestic short-hairs, and among the Persians, a particular color will often give a name to a cat, such as: tortoise-shell cats, chinchilla cats, calico cats, silver tabbies, smokes, Maltese (often called "blues"), etc. So a difference in name may not mean a difference in race; the same breed of cats has several names. Only the Siamese has its own individual color standard.

DOMESTIC CAT: Despite the fact that this cat's breeding may be a complete mystery, the common domestic cat must meet as many standards as the Persians when entering the cat shows. This speaks rather well for domestic pussies, since large numbers of them reach fame by the show route. But more important than possible show rating is the domestic cat's value as a friend and workman. Adversity has given this cat much strength and endurance, and a tough constitution. Probably originating in stock descended from the nearly deified cats of Egypt, the domestic cat today is often a fellow who works for a living. Whether on farm or shipboard, in the United States Treasury or in your own home, this is the cat that plagues the rats and mice the world over. Well cared for in your home it will be as courteous and presentable as any cat with an impressive pedigree.

MANX: This is the short-haired cat without a tail that has become almost as well known in porcelain and bronze as it is in its own lush fur. Good resident of the Isle of Man for many years, the Manx cat has now become so rare it cannot be exported from the Isle. The Manx is an amiable, intelligent cat, one much sought as a companion. However, it is unusual to see one in a home, even in Europe. The Manx never had a tail. Writers have prepared many tales to explain this fact, but it continues to be a mystery. When it runs, the Manx has a gait more like a rabbit than a cat.

The Manx is an ideal pet for persons who want a decidedly individual cat.

SIAMESE: Picturesque, formal, this handsome cat is an all weather aristocrat. It is the chosen temple and palace cat of the ruling Siamese class, and takes its name from Siam. The face, ears, feet, and tail are usually a warm seal brown, while the body is a pale fawn color shading off to cream on the chest. There are blue Siamese, but you won't see one in a blue moon. Perhaps it has been the cat's association with royalty that has inspired in the Siamese a tendency to be demanding and to require more personal attention than other breeds. Basically the Siamese is a competent cat. Sometimes it is a bit vocal, but it has a warm temperament and is as capable of bestowing affection on a human being as any other good variety of cat. Until a few years ago the Siamese was rare in this country; now it has a large following and is seen regularly at cat shows.

PERSIANS: The Persian is the most widely owned variety of "show cat" in the United States. In its present form the Persian represents a cross between the Angora and the Persian of an earlier day. However, since most of the Angora characteristics were dropped in favor of what the Persian had to contribute to the cross in the first place, the name Persian can be honestly continued for this variety.

Properly kept, a Persian is a gorgeous pet. Any thought that these luxurious cats are lazy or difficult to keep healthy may be disregarded. The Persian has a sturdy constitution. His one hazard is his long coat of hair which, combined with his habit of self-grooming, may bring about the formation of hair balls in his stomach. Regular care of the Persian's coat will eliminate this danger. Individual Persians Proud may not make good mousers because this cat takes such Persian pride in its appearance that it will not risk getting dirty in the pursuit of a mouse.

Select your cat to satisfy your tastes. Some people grow carnations. Others grow orchids. Both are hardy blooms, but the orchid is showy and takes more care. So it is with cats.



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