THE cat as we now have it has altered very little in most respects from its ancestor the African wild cat, a shabby-looking tabby which could often be matched among the denizens of a London square; this is because it has remained a semi-wild animal choosing its own mate, and not usually developed by man into various breeds by selection.
When the pedigree of ones cats is considered of any importance, they must, of course, be enclosed in runs, and only let out under supervision. A cat-house must consist of a dry, sunny shed and a wired-in run attached, with plenty of dry earth in the shed for sanitary purposes. Great care should be observed in keeping the place clean.
All cats should have access to water as well as milk if they should want it, and the diet should be mostly animal – cats meat, fish, and a little well-boiled rice cooked along with some sort of meat, or some bread and milk for a change. Rabbit is a good and natural food, and if the cat is at all delicate it may benefit by having some raw rations.
Care must be taken not to over-feed a cat, for which a couple of meals a day should be sufficient, and one which is kept for mousing should have just so much that it will be still keen on hunting, but not so hungry that it will lose interest after catching and eating a mouse or two. The ordinary household pet, of course, takes pot-luck with the family, and as long as the food given is mostly animal, will thrive all right.
Some cats display a liking for raw vegetables, such as cucumbor, and as this is not artificial food their taste in this respect may be indulged. Notice should also be taken of the particular kind of grass which they eat a3 medicine, and this should be brought to them if living where they cannot procure it for themselves.
Long-haired cats when shedding their coats are apt to got into difficulties by swallowing their loose hair when cleaning themselves, and such cats should therefore be kept regularly brushed to get rid of this hair as much as possible.
In country places it is best to get a cat to remain indoors at night, or it may take to poaching and come to an untimely end in consequence. In towns night life does not matter so much in the case of cats of no special value, but the resulting concerts may at times lead to unpleasantness with neighbours.
Cats are, as everyone knows, apt to leave a new place, and hence should be put in a large cage or tied up for a time when a move is made, being well petted and fed on tit-bits, and allowed to explore their surroundings gradually and under supervision. They are very nervous and highly-strung, but quite capable of personal attachment and of accompanying family movings if judiciously handled.
The period of the female cats gestation is nine weeks, and the kittens, like puppies, are born blind, but open their eyes on the tenth day. At a little over a month old weaning them can begin.
It is seldom, in the oa3e of an ordinary cat of no breed or value, that more than one kitten can be kept, and any remarkable or attractive peculiarity should be looked out for in selecting it. A tortoise-shell torn is a treasure if one should turn up, since for some unknown reason this colour in the male oat is of extreme rarity. Half-Persians are of course more worth keeping than common short-hairs, and often make very handsome cats, but the crossing institutes a reversal to the wild type, and such cats are particularly adventurous and apt to poach.
The beautiful blue-eyed, cream-coloured Siamese short-hairs are also great hunters, and in connection with this breed it is to be noted that the kittens are white, with no trace of the deep chocolate of the ears and feet that will come later on.
A motherly cat will often consent to rear the young of some other animal along with her kittens, and breeders of the blue or Arctic fox for fur have found that the foster-cat will display even more fondness for a fox-cub than for a kitten of her own.
A cat belonging to a member of the Zoological Society fostered some young common red squirrels along with her kittens, and a peculiar fact was that their coats gradually became less red till they were only creamy fawn-colour.