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Kittens

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( Originally Published 1928 )



See the kitten on the wall
Sporting with the leaves that fall....
But the kitten, how she starts,
Crouches, stretches, paws and darts
First at one and then its fellow,
just as light and just as yellow:
There are many now - now one,
Now they stop, and there are none.
What intenseness of desire
In her upward eye of fire.
With a tiger-leap halfway Now she meets the coming prey,
Lets it go as fast, and then
Has it in her power again:
Now she works with three or four.
Like an Indian conjurer:
Quick as he in feats of art,
Far beyond in joy of heart.
Were her antics played in the eye
Of a thousand standers-by,
Clapping hands with shout and stare, What would little Tabby care
For the plaudits of the crowd?
Over happy to be proud,
Over wealthy in the treasure
Of her own exceeding pleasure.

Wordsworth

Goldsmith also wrote of the kitten:

"Around in sympathetic mirth
Its tricks the kitten tries:
The cricket chirrups in the hearth,
The crackling fagot flies."

MISS AGNES REPPLIER WRITES THIS DELIGHTFUL DESCRIPTION OF A KITTEN

"IT Is the most irresistible comedian in the world. Its wideopen eyes gleam with wonder and mirth. It darts madly at nothing at all, and then, as though suddenly checked in the pursuit, prances sideways on its hind legs with ridiculous agility and zeal. It makes a vast pretence of climbing the rounds of a chair, and swings by the curtains like an acrobat. It scrambles up a table leg, and is seized with comic horror at finding itself full two feet from the floor. If you hasten to its rescue, it clutches you nervously, its little heart thumping against its furry sides, while its soft paws expand and contract with agitation and relief.

Yet the instant it is back on the carpet, it feigns to be suspicious of your interference, peers at you out of `the tail o' its e'e,' and scampers for protection under the sofa, from which asylum it presently emerges with cautious, trailing steps as though encompassed by fearful dangers and alarms.

KITTENS

EVERYTHING THAT moves serves to amuse them. They are convinced that Nature is occupied solely with their diversion; they do not conceive of any other cause for motion; and when by our movements we incite them to graceful tumbling, may it not be that they take us merely for pantomimists, all of whose actions are jokes?

Moncriff

PLAYFULNESS NOT CRUELTY

NO ONE calls a kitten cruel that plays with a string. An old cat will play with a string and the instinct of play accounts for their treatment of mice. It would be cruelty in a man, but one should not call an animal cruel when carrying out the instincts of nature.

LITTLE CHILDREN AND KITTENS

MISS WINSLOW SAYS "Do not let little children handle very young kittens; but a grown person, who knows haw to do it properly, may teach a kitten to know her hand even before its eyes are opened. There is much difference in kittens even at that age, however; some of the tiny things showing an affectionate even disposition, and others seeming to be but tiny bundles of nerves, that start and cry when they feel a strange presence near. Even these can be taught in a few weeks, if extreme gentleness is used, and persistent, careful stroking and handling is kept up regularly; so that the most nervous kitten becomes gentle, and affectionate, and trustful, by the time it is two months old. Great care should be taken in this respect, if a nice cat is wanted: because exceedingly nervous kittens, if left to themselves for six months or so, are extremely difficult to tame, and will never submit to being handled like those who have been trained from earliest infancy:'

KITTY AND HIS BOTTLE

WHEN THE little gray kitten was three weeks old, the old mother cat died. What was to be done? It seemed very hard to drown the poor little thing; but it would not do to let it starve; and it cried so loud, " Mee-ow, mee-ow," that Aunt Lizzie, who has a very soft spot in her heart for dumb creatures, could not bear to hear it.

She tried feeding him with a spoon; but kitty did not like that at all: he choked and squirmed, and most of the milk ran down on his neck and breast and made him very wet and uncomfortable.

At last she said to herself, " Babies suck milk out of bottles, and why should not kittens? " She got a small bottle, filled it with warm milk and water, and put a little piece of sponge in the top, like a cork. Then she put it in kitty's mouth. Oh, how pleased he was! He held the bottle fast in his little fore paws, and sucked away until all the milk was gone.

Then Aunt Lizzie wrapped him up in a warm cloth, laid him in a deep box; and he went to sleep as cosily as could be. In a few days he learned to know the bottle, and would seize it and draw it up close as soon as he caught sight of it.

Everybody who saw this funny sight laughed heartily; and kitty and his bottle had to be brought up to the parlor to be admired almost every day. He was fed in this way for more than two weeks, until he could lap milk out of a saucer.

From "The Nursery"

KITTENS AT PLAY

"WHAT Is prettier or more fascinating than a kitten, or better still, two kittens, at play? It calls a smile of amusement and admiration to the gravest countenance, to watch the grotesque movements, the marvelous activity, the exquisite gracefulness, of these sportive little creatures.

A child with a kitten is one of the prettiest sights in nature. But little children are apt to squeeze pussy too hard, and then out come sharp little claws, a cry ensues, and perhaps a foolish mother or nurse is angry with the kitten, and so gives a direct lesson in cruelty and injustice to the infant mind. All intercourse between young children and animals should be guarded by judicious elders, or suffering on both sides may ensue:'

Mrs. Mary F. Lovell says: "Thoughtless and unfeeling conduct which rapidly develops into downright cruelty, is exercised first and most largely toward the brute creation, because of its helplessness and the larger opportunity. It may begin very easily. An innocent baby will, in its exuberant happiness, squeeze a poor kitten nearly to death, and try to put his fingers into its eyes; but the baby's innocence is no reason for allowing him a pastime that gives pain to a living creature. The kitten has rights that even a baby can be taught to respect; and the baby has the right to an early training which will make him, by and by, a benevolent and humane member of society, and not a selfish and thoughtless one."

It is better to teach the baby not to touch the cat at all until he is old enough to understand how to be gentle.

DISCIPLINE

WE REMEMBER being much amused with seeing a kitten manifestly making a series of experiments upon the patience of its mother, trying how far the latter would put up with positive bites and thumps. The kitten ran at her every moment, gave her a knock or a bite of the tail; and then ran back again, to recommence the assault. The mother sat looking at her, as if betwixt tolerance and admiration to see how far the spirit of the family was inherited or improved by her sprightly offspring. At length, however, the " little Pickle " presumed too far, and the mother, lifting her paw, and meeting her at the very nick of the moment, gave her one of the most unsophisticated boxes of the ear we ever beheld. It sent the kitten rolling half over the room, and made her come to a most ludicrous pause, with the oddest little look of premature and wincing meditation.

Leigh Hunt

TEACHING KITTENS

BY ALLOWING kittens to play with their fingers many persons teach kittens to bite and scratch. It may be amusing for little kittens to do this but when they become older and bite harder, cats are likely to be punished for what may only be intended for play. In that way the cat's disposition may be injured as cats resent any rough treatment.

It is better to take a string or paper in playing with kittens and to teach them that hands are used only in stroking them gently. Then they will rub their heads against your hands and purr to show their pleasure.

S. J. E.



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