HELEN M. WINSLOW
Editor of "The Club Woman"
WHO NEVER BETRAYED A SECRET BROKE A PROMISE OR
PROVED AN UNFAITHFUL FRIEND; WHO HAD
ALL THE VIRTUES AND NONE OF
THE FAILINGS OF HER SEX
I Dedicate this Volume
I. CONCERNING THE PRETTY LADY.
II. CONCERNING MY OTHER CATS.
III. CONCERNING OTHER PEOPLE'S CATS.
IV. CONCERNING STILL OTHER PEOPLE'S CATS.
V. CONCERNING SOME HISTORIC CATS.
VI. CONCERNING CATS IN ENGLAND.
VII. CONCERNING CAT CLUBS AND CAT SHOWS.
VIII. CONCERNING HIGH-BRED CATS IN AMERICA.
IX. CONCERNING CATS IN POETRY.
X. CONCERNING CAT ARTISTS.
XI. CONCERNING CAT HOSPITALS AND REFUGES.
XII. CONCERNING THE ORIGIN OF CATS.
XIII. CONCERNING VARIETIES OF CATS.
XIV. CONCERNING CAT LANGUAGE.
CONCERNING THE "PRETTY LADY"
She was such a Pretty Lady and gentle withal; so quiet and eminently
ladylike in her behavior and yet dignified and haughtily reserved as a
duchess. Still it is better under certain circumstances to be a cat
than to be a duchess. And no duchess of the realm ever had more faithful
retainers or half so abject subjects.
Do not tell me that cats never love people; that only places have real
hold upon their affections. The Pretty Lady was contented wherever I
her most humble slave went with her. She migrated with me from
boarding-house to sea-shore cottage; then to regular housekeeping; up to
the mountains for a summer and back home a long day's journey on the
railway; and her attitude was always "Wheresoever thou goest I will go
and thy people shall be my people."
I have known and loved and studied many cats but my knowledge of her
alone would convince me that cats love people--in their dignified
reserved way and when they feel that their love is not wasted; that
they reason and that they seldom act from impulse.
I do not remember that I was born with an inordinate fondness for cats;
or that I cried for them as an infant. I do not know even that my
childhood was marked by an overweening pride in them; this perhaps was
because my cruel parents established a decree rigid and unbending as
the laws of the Medes and Persians that we must never have more than
one cat at a time. Although this very law may argue that predilection
at an early age for harboring everything feline which came in my way
which has since become at once a source of comfort and distraction.
After a succession of feline dynasties the kings and queens of which
were handsome ugly sleek forlorn black white deaf spotted and
otherwise marked I remember fastening my affections securely upon one
kitten who grew up to be the ugliest gauntest and dingiest specimen I
ever have seen. In the days of his kittenhood I christened him "Tassie"
after his mother; but as time sped on and the name hardly comported
with masculine dignity this was changed to Tacitus as more befitting
his sex. He had a habit of dodging in and out of the front door which
was heavy and which sometimes swung together before he was well out of
it. As a consequence a caudal appendage with two broken joints was one
of his distinguishing features. Besides a broken tail he had ears which
bore the marks of many a hard-fought battle and an expression which for
general "lone and lorn"-ness would have discouraged even Mrs. Gummidge.
But I loved him and judging from the disconsolate and long-continued
wailing with which he rilled the house whenever I was away my affection
was not unrequited.
But my real thraldom did not begin until I took the Pretty Lady's
mother. We had not been a week in our first house before a handsomely
striped tabby with eyes like beautiful emeralds who had been the pet
and pride of the next-door neighbor for five years came over and
domiciled herself. In due course of time she proudly presented us with
five kittens. Educated in the belief that one cat was all that was
compatible with respectability I had four immediately disposed of
keeping the prettiest one which grew up into the beautiful
fascinating and seductive maltese "Pretty Lady" with white trimmings
to her coat. The mother of Pretty Lady used to catch two mice at a time
and bringing them in together lay one at my feet and say as plainly as
cat language can say "There you eat that one and I'll eat this" and
then seem much surprised and disgusted that I had not devoured mine when
she had finished her meal.
We were occupying a furnished house for the summer however and as we
were to board through the winter I took only the kitten back to town
thinking the mother would return to her former home just over the
fence. But no. For two weeks she refused all food and would not once
enter the other house. Then I went out for her and hearing my voice she
came in and sat down before me literally scolding me for a quarter of
an hour. I shall be laughed at but actual tears stood in her lovely
green eyes and ran down her aristocratic nose attesting her grief and
accusing me louder than her wailing of perfidy.
I could not keep her. She would not return to her old home. I finally
compromised by carrying her in a covered basket a mile and a half and
bestowing her upon a friend who loves cats nearly as well as I. But
although she was petted and praised and fed on the choicest of
delicacies she would not be resigned. After six weeks of mourning she
disappeared and never was heard of more. Whether she sought a new and
more constant mistress or whether in her grief at my shameless
abandonment of her she went to some lonely pier and threw herself off
the dock will never be known. But her reproachful gaze and tearful
emerald eyes haunted me all winter. Many a restless night did I have to
reproach myself for abandoning a creature who so truly loved me; and in
many a dream did she return to heap shame and ignominy upon my repentant
This experience determined me to cherish her daughter whom rather I
cherished as her son until there were three little new-born kittens
which in a moment of ignorance I "disposed of" at once. Naturally the
young mother fell exceedingly ill. In the most pathetic way she dragged
herself after me moaning and beseeching for help. Finally I succumbed
went to a neighbor's where several superfluous kittens had arrived the
night before and begged one. It was a little black fellow cold and
half dead; but the Pretty Lady was beside herself with joy when I
bestowed it upon her. For two days she would not leave the box where I
established their headquarters and for months she refused to wean it
or to look upon it as less than absolutely perfect. I may say that the
Pretty Lady lived to be nine years old and had during that brief
period no less than ninety-three kittens besides two adopted ones; but
never did she bestow upon any of her own offspring that wealth of pride
and affection which was showered upon black Bobbie.
When the first child of her adoption was two weeks old I was ill one
morning and did not appear at breakfast. It had always been her custom
to wait for my coming down in the morning evidently considering it a
not unimportant part of her duty to see me well launched for the day.
Usually she sat at the head of the stairs and waited patiently until she
heard me moving about. Sometimes she came in and sat on a chair at the
head of my bed or gently touched my face with her nose or paw. Although
she knew she was at liberty to sleep in my room she seldom did so
except when she had an infant on her hands. At first she invariably kept
him in a lower drawer of my bureau. When he was large enough she
removed him to the foot of the bed where for a week or two her maternal
solicitude and sociable habits of nocturnal conversation with her
progeny interfered seriously with my night's rest. If my friends used to
notice a wild and haggard appearance of unrest about me at certain
periods of the year the reason stands here confessed.
I was ill when black Bobbie was two weeks old. The Pretty Lady waited
until breakfast was over and as I did not appear came up and jumped on
the bed where she manifested some curiosity as to my lack of active
interest in the world's affairs.
"Now pussy" I said putting out my hand and stroking her back "I'm
sick this morning. When you were sick I went and got you a kitten.
Can't you get me one?"
This was all. My sister came in then and spoke to me and the Pretty
Lady left us at once; but in less than two minutes she came back with
her cherished kitten in her mouth. Depositing him in my neck she stood
and looked at me as much as to say:--
"There you can take him awhile. He cured me and I won't be selfish; I
will share him with you."
I was ill for three days and all that time the kitten was kept with me.
When his mother wanted him she kept him on the foot of the bed where
she nursed and lapped and scrubbed him until it seemed as if she must
wear even his stolid nerves completely out. But whenever she felt like
going out she brought him up and tucked him away in the hollow of my
neck with a little guttural noise that interpreted meant:--
"There now you take care of him awhile. I'm all tired out. Don't wake
But when the infant had dropped soundly asleep she invariably came back
and demanded him; and not only demanded but dragged him forth from his
lair by the nape of the neck shrieking and protesting to the foot of
the bed again where he was obliged to go through another course of
scrubbing and vigorous maternal attentions that actually kept his fur
from growing as fast as the coats of less devotedly cared-for kittens
When I was well enough to leave my room she transferred him to my lower
bureau drawer and then to a vantage-point behind an old lounge. But she
never doubted apparently that it was the loan of that kitten that
rescued me from an untimely grave.
I have lost many an hour of much-needed sleep from my cat's habit of
coming upstairs at four A.M. and jumping suddenly upon the bed; perhaps
landing on the pit of my stomach. Waking in that fashion unsympathetic
persons would have pardoned me if I had indulged in injudicious
language or had even thrown the cat violently from my otherwise
peaceful couch. But conscience has not to upbraid me with any of these
things. I flatter myself that I bear even this patiently; I remember to
have often made sleepy but pleasant remarks to the faithful little
friend whose affection for me and whose desire to behold my countenance
was too great to permit her to wait till breakfast time.
If I lay awake for hours afterward perhaps getting nothing more than
literal "cat-naps" I consoled myself with remembering how Richelieu
and Wellington and Mohammed and otherwise great as well as
discriminating persons loved cats; I remembered with some stirrings of
secret pride that it is only the artistic nature the truly aesthetic
soul that appreciates poetry and grace and all refined beauty who
truly loves cats; and thus meditating with closed eyes I courted
slumber again throughout the breaking dawn while the cat purred in
delight close at hand.
The Pretty Lady was evidently of Angora or coon descent as her fur was
always longer and silkier than that of ordinary cats. She was fond of
all the family. When we boarded in Boston we kept her in a front room
two flights from the ground. Whenever any of us came in the front door
she knew it. No human being could have told sitting in a closed room in
winter two flights up the identity of a person coming up the steps and
opening the door. But the Pretty Lady then only six months old used to
rouse from her nap in a big chair or from the top of a folding bed
jump down and be at the hall door ready to greet the incomer before
she was halfway up the stairs. The cat never got down for the wrong
person and she never neglected to meet any and every member of our
family who might be entering. The irreverent scoffer may call it
"instinct" or talk about the "sense of smell." I call it sagacity.
One summer we all went up to the farm in northern Vermont and decided
to take her and her son "Mr. McGinty" with us. We put them both in a
large market-basket and tied the cover securely. On the train Mr.
McGinty manifested a desire to get out and was allowed to do so a
stout cord having been secured to his collar first and the other end
tied to the car seat. He had a delightful journey once used to the
noise and motion of the train. He sat on our laps curled up on the seat
and took naps or looked out of the windows with evident puzzlement at
the way things had suddenly taken to flying; he even made friends with
the passengers and in general amused himself as any other traveller
would on an all-day's journey by rail except that he did not risk his
eyesight by reading newspapers. But the Pretty Lady had not travelled
for some years and did not enjoy the trip as well as formerly; on the
contrary she curled herself into a round tight ball in one corner of the
basket till the journey's end was reached.
Once at the farm she seemed contented as long as I remained with her.
There was plenty of milk and cream and she caught a great many mice.
She was far too dainty to eat them but she had an inherent pleasure in
catching mice just like her more plebeian sisters; and she enjoyed
presenting them to Mr. McGinty or me or some other worthy object of her
She was at first afraid of "the big outdoors." The wide wind-blown
spaces the broad sunshiny sky the silence and the roominess of it
all were quite different from her suburban experiences; and the farm
animals too were in her opinion curiously dangerous objects. Big Dan
the horse was truly a horrible creature; the rooster was a new and
suspicious species of biped and the bleating calves objects of her
The pig in his pen possessed for her the most horrid fascination. Again
and again would she steal out and place herself where she could see that
dreadful strange pink fat creature inside his own quarters. She would
fix her round eyes widely upon him in blended fear and admiration. If
the pig uttered the characteristic grunt of his race the Pretty Lady at
first ran swiftly away; but afterward she used to turn and gaze
anxiously at us as if to say:--
"Do you hear that? Isn't this a truly horrible creature?" and in other
ways evince the same sort of surprise that a professor in the Peabody
Museum might were the skeleton of the megatherium suddenly to accost
him after the manner peculiar to its kind.
It was funnier even to see Mr. McGinty on the morning after his
arrival at the farm as he sallied forth and made acquaintance with
other of God's creatures than humans and cats and the natural enemy of
his kind the dog. In his suburban home he had caught rats and captured
on the sly many an English sparrow. When he first investigated his new
quarters on the farm he discovered a beautiful flock of very large
birds led by one of truly gorgeous plumage.
"Ah!" thought Mr. McGinty "this is a great and glorious country where
I can have such birds as these for the catching. Tame too. I'll have
one for breakfast."
So he crouched down tiger-like and crept carefully along to a
convenient distance and was preparing to spring when the large and
gorgeous bird looked up from his worm and remarked:--
"Cut-cut-cut ca-dah-cut!" and taking his wives withdrew toward the
Mr. McGinty drew back amazed. "This is a queer bird" he seemed to say;
"saucy too. However I'll soon have him" and he crept more carefully
than before up to springing distance when again this most gorgeous bird
drew up and exclaimed with a note of annoyance:--
"Cut-cut-cut ca-dah-cut! What ails that old cat anyway?" And again he
led his various wives barn-ward.
Mr. McGinty drew up with a surprised air and apparently made a cursory
study of the leading anatomical features of this strange bird; but he
did not like to give up and soon crouched and prepared for another
onslaught. This time Mr. Chanticleer allowed the cat to come up close to
his flock when he turned and remarked in the most amicable manner
"Cut-cut-cut-cut!" which interpreted seemed to mean: "Come now; that's
all right. You're evidently new here; but you'd better take my advice
and not fool with me."
Anyhow with this down went McGinty's hope of a bird breakfast "to the
bottom of the sea" and he gave up the hunt. He soon made friends
however with every animal on the place and so endeared himself to the
owners that he lived out his days there with a hundred acres and more as
his own happy hunting-ground.
Not so the Pretty Lady. I went away on a short visit after a few weeks
leaving her behind. From the moment of my disappearance she was uneasy
and unhappy. On the fifth day she disappeared. When I returned and found
her not I am not ashamed to say that I hunted and called her
everywhere nor even that I shed a few tears when days rolled into weeks
and she did not appear as I realized that she might be starving or
have suffered tortures from some larger animal.
There are many remarkable stories of cats who find their way home across
almost impossible roads and enormous distances. There is a saying
believed by many people "You can't lose a cat" which can be proved by
hundreds of remarkable returns. But the Pretty Lady had absolutely no
sense of locality. She had always lived indoors and had never been
allowed to roam the neighborhood. It was five weeks before we found
trace of her and then only by accident. My sister was passing a field
of grain and caught a glimpse of a small creature which she at first
thought to be a woodchuck. She turned and looked at it and called
"Pussy pussy" when with a heart-breaking little cry of utter delight
and surprise our beloved cat came toward her. From the first the wide
expanse of the country had confused her; she had evidently "lost her
bearings" and was probably all the time within fifteen minutes' walk of
When found she was only a shadow of herself and for the first and only
time in her life we could count her ribs. She was wild with delight and
clung to my sister's arms as though fearing to lose her; and in all the
fuss that was made over her return no human being could have showed
more affection or more satisfaction at finding her old friends again.
That she really was lost and had no sense of locality to guide her
home was proven by her conduct after she returned to her Boston home. I
had preceded my sister and was at the theatre on the evening when she
arrived with the Pretty Lady. The latter was carried into the kitchen
taken from her basket and fed. Then instead of going around the house
and settling herself in her old home she went into the front hall which
she had left four months before and seated herself on the spot where
she always watched and waited when I was out. When I came home at
eleven I saw through the screen door her "that was lost and is found."
She had been waiting to welcome me for three mortal hours.
I wish those people who believe cats have no affection for people could
have seen her then. She would not leave me for an instant and
manifested her love in every possible way; and when I retired for the
night she curled up on my pillow and purred herself contentedly to
sleep only rising when I did. After breakfast that first morning after
her return she asked to be let out of the back door and made me
understand that I must go with her. I did so and she explored every
part of the back yard entreating me in the same way she called her
kittens to keep close by her. She investigated our own premises
thoroughly and then crept carefully under the fences on either side into
the neighbor's precincts where she had formerly visited in friendly
fashion; then she came timidly back all the time keeping watch that she
did not lose me. Having finished her tour of inspection she went in and
led me on an investigating trip all through the house smelling of every
corner and base-board and insisting that every closet door should be
opened so that she might smell each closet through in the same way.
When this was done she settled herself in one of her old nooks for a
nap and allowed me to leave.
But never again did she go out of sight of the house. For more than a
year she would not go even into a neighbor's yard and when she finally
decided that it might be safe to crawl under the fences on to other
territory she invariably turned about to sit facing the house as
though living up to a firm determination never to lose sight of it
again. This practice she kept up until at the close of her last mortal
sickness when she crawled into a dark place under a neighboring barn
and said good-by to earthly fears and worries forever.
_Requiescat in pace_ my Pretty Lady. I wish all your sex had your
gentle dignity and grace and beauty to say nothing of your
faithfulness and affection. Like Mother Michel's "Monmouth" it may be
said of you:--
"She was merely a cat
But her Sublime Virtues place her on a level with
The Most Celebrated Mortals
In Ancient Egypt
Altars would have been Erected to her
CONCERNING MY OTHER CATS
"Oh what a lovely cat!" is a frequent expression from visitors or
passers-by at our house. And from the Pretty Lady down through her
various sons and daughters to the present family protector and head
"Thomas Erastus" and the Angora "Lady Betty" there have been some
Mr. McGinty was a solid-color maltese with fur like a seal for
closeness and softness and with the disposition of an angel. He used to
be seized with sudden spasms of affection and run from one to another of
the family rubbing his soft cheeks against ours and kissing us
repeatedly. This he did by taking gentle little affectionate nips with
his teeth. I used to give him a certain caress which he took as an
expression of affection. After leaving him at the farm I did not see him
again for two years. Then on a short visit I asked for Mr. McGinty and
was told that he was in a shed chamber. I found him asleep in a box of
grain and took him out; he looked at me through sleepy eyes turned
himself over and stretched up for the old caress. As nobody ever gave
him that but me I take this as conclusive proof that he not only knew
me but remembered my one peculiarity.
Then there was old Pomp called "old" to distinguish him from the young
Pomp of to-day or "Pompanita." He died of pneumonia at the age of three
years; but he was the handsomest black cat--and the blackest--I have