Below is some basic information about having a pet cat during the 19th Century.
It has not been satisfactorily ascertained at what period cats were first classed among domestic animals. Every country has its peculiar species. In Tobolsk the cat is red; at the Cape of Good Hope, blue; in China and Japan, they have pendent ears. In Russia, it is stated, the muzzle is small and pointed, and the tail six times as long as the body. Cats are mostly the favourites of ladies. In ancient Egypt they carried their veneration for this animal to a ridiculous excess; they not only lived in splendour, but were buried with great pomp. Iu China this animal is indulged with a bed of down and silk, where it lies in that indolence so dearly loved by the race, decorated with a silver collar, and rings of jasper or sapphire in its ears.
Buffon gives this animal a very indifferent character. He saip, "The cat may be considered as a faithless friend, brought uiroer human protection to oppose a still more insidious enemy."
The aversion cats have to anything like slavery or imprisonment is so great, that by means of it they may be subdued to obedience; but under restraint they are very ill at ease, deprived of liberty they will die of languor. Lemery, by way of experiment, put a cat into a cage, and then suffered two or three mice to run through it. Puss, instead of destroying them, merely looked at them with indifference. The mice became bold and provoked her, but she remained quite quiet till her liberty was restored; and then, had they been in her power, the mice would have been destroyed.
Cats are but little susceptible of teaching; there have been, however, famous exceptions. Valmont de Bomare states that he saw at the fair of St. Germain cats turned musicians, who mewed sad or lively strains; an ape conducted'this singular concert. Sometimes a cat can be taught to beg, to jump through the hands, or a hoop.
Active, cleanly, delicate, and voluptuous, the cat loves its ease, seeking the daintiest spots to he on. Birds and mice are its principal game, for all cats are not good ratters. The black species, which is a degenerate one, will seldom attack a rat; it is the grey tabby, whose fur is dark, with black rings, who is ferocious enough to attack and master rats. Black cats make affectionate pets, but are of little service in the family household. The disposition of cats, as of men, differs much in individuals. Four cats kept in a family known to the writer are remarkable for the absolute difference of their tempers. These are two black cats, one light tabby, and a dark grey. "Tootsy,"' a cat entirely black, of great age—for he is twelve years old—is of a sullen temper, seldom allowing himself to be coaxed, though sometimes seeking notice; petulant, and resenting freedoms by scratching, or giving a sharp blow with his paw; unsocial with his own kind, and very malicious towards his companions, biting them slyly when they are asleep; somewhat of a coward, too; yet, when this cat's mistress died, the poor creature took to moping and not eating, and seemed for many weeks as if he, too, would die; only great care and notice brought him round, with unlimited indulgence. '' Jem," his companion, a black and white cat, about four years old, has, on the contrary, an affectionate temper, with a great share of spirit, and a determination to be master; yet, if ever so much teased, never biting or scratching, only testifying his displeasure by growling. "Sille," the light tabby, is one of the sweetest tempered of the feline race ever known. Anything may be done to Sille, and he will only coax and purr. A little vixen terrier will teaze and play with him roughly, and he will put his paws round her neck and lick her all over; he seems perfectly incapable of resentment; while "Crab," the dark grey, shows not the least symptom of fear of dogs or anything human. Crab will fight with a large black dog called Jip, or else will sit still and regard his fury with the supremest contempt. This last cat is a fine ratter, which none of the other three are. All these cats are "toms."
Sometimes, indeed, cats testify strong attachments, and even to animals superior to themselves. A celebrated horse, the Godolphin Arabian, and a black cat were for years the warmest of friends. When the horse died in 1753, the cat sat on his carcass till it was buried, and then, crawling slowly and reluctantly away, was never seen again till her dead body was found in a hay-loft. It is customary for these animals, when they feel life about to depart, to seek some retired place to die in.
A cat was so strongly attached to a hunter in George III.'a stables, at Windsor, that whenever he was in the stable she never would leave her seat on the horse's back; and to accommodate his friend, he slept, as horses will sometimes do, standing. This, however, injured his health, and the cat was removed to a distant part of the country.
In the eyes of cats there is this peculiarity: the contraction and dilation of the pupil is so considerable, that the pupil, which by- daylight appears so narrow and small, by night expands over the whole surface of the eyeball, and their eyes seem on fire; by this peculiar conformation they see better in the dark than in the light.
Cats have a great antipathy to water, and dislike to wet their feet; yet such is their fondness for fish, that to obtain favourite prey cats have been known to seize them out of the water. Dr. Darwin tells a story of a cat who fished for trout in a mill-stream near Lichfield. They are ravenous after cooked fish, also, and their fondness for the herb valerian is a well-known fact. Cats, to be kept in health, should, moreover, have free access to grass, which is medicine to them.
It is stated in " Loudon's Gardener's Magazine" that white cats with blue eyes are always deaf. A cat of this kind—which comes from Persia originally—kept in a family, was deaf herself, and such of her kittens as were born white were deaf also, while others of her offspring who had the least trace of colour had their hearing.
The true Persian or Angora cat is a beautiful and docile creature, larger, considerably, than the common cat, with long hair, and thick, bushy, long tail; some are white, others of a dun colour. The fur of the cat has the property of emitting electric sparks, especially in frosty weather; if the fur be rubbed backwards the electric sparks come freely.
There is also a race of cats peculiar to the Isle of Man, which have no tails.
Cats are liable to maDy diseases, but especially to mange and to cold. When indisposed, a dose of castor-oil, or a spoonful of syrup of buckthorn, should be administered, and occasionally sulphur in their milk will keep them healthy.
Source: Hand-book About Our Domestic Pets ©1862