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The Intelligence Of Cats

( Originally Published 1928 )



ST. GEORGE MIVART, Ph.D. F.R.S. has written altogether the most comprehensive and exhaustive scientific study of the cat ever published. His book " The Cat " is an excellent work for the earnest beginner in the study of biological science. He says that no more complete example of a perfectly organized living being can be found than that supplied by the highest mammalian family " Felidae."

The following is quoted from his book " The Cat."

The Domestic Cat is an animal so common and familiar that its utility is sometimes apt to be lost sight of. To realise its usefulness we must imagine ourselves in a land where no such animal is known, but where the annoying creatures upon which it preys shall have multiplied with that rapidity natural to them. Its effect in putting to flight the creatures it pursues, is again far in excess of its destructive energy. Were every cat in England simultaneously destroyed, the loss through the entailed increase of vermin would be enormous...

The cat also is favored by that half of the human race which is the more concerned with domestic cares; for it is a homeloving animal and one exceptionally clean and orderly in its habits, and thus naturally commends itself to the good will of the thrifty housewife.

Moreover, though it is generally much less demonstrative in its affection than is the dog, yet cats differ as men do, and some individuals manifest strong feelings of regard for one or other members of the family wherein they make their homes...

Indeed the cat seems to be a much more intelligent animal than is often supposed. That it has very distinct feelings of pleasure or pain, and keen special senses, will probably be disputed by no one. Its sense of touch is very delicate. Its eyes are highly organized, and can serve it in the dark, and its hearing is extremely acute...

The ease and grace of motion in the cat, and its neat dexterity, are a common subject of praise. Who has not observed how cleverly a cat will avoid objects in its path - walking, perhaps over a table set with glasses and ornaments in not very stable equilibrium, without over-setting any one of them. Every one knows also the great facility with which the cat so turns in falling as almost always to alight safely upon its feet. The animal's ordinary locomotion is a walk or a spring. It rarely runs, save when it is pursued or alarmed, and then it progresses by a series of bounds. When driven to it, it can swim, though it takes to the water, or even endures a mere wetting, with the greatest reluctance. Yet a cat has been seen voluntarily to enter a small stream several times in order to rescue its kittens which had fallen into it...

As to memory, everyone knows how cats attach themselves to their homes, and how generally they recognize at least one or two of the habitual inmates of their dwelling places...

Many cats will readily learn the signification of certain words and will answer to their names and come when called. Very strange is the power which cats may show of finding their way home by routes which they have never before traversed...

In addition to all these cognitions of objects, and of the relations between them, cats possess strong passions and, often at least, affectionate feelings of personal attachment...

Cats will sometimes (as before mentioned) show great regard to individuals, and will manifest it by expressive gestures and slight, affectionate bites. These animals, then, have emotions, and they are able to express their feelings by external signs. Some observers have professed to detect more than half a hundred different expressions in a cat's face, but however much exaggeration there may be in such a statement, it is impossible to mistake the gestures of rage and fear at the sight of a strange and threatening dog - gestures well understood by the dog, and sufficient in most cases to keep him at a safe distance.



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