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Cats

Page history last edited by Elspeth Strike 7 years, 11 months ago

 

Cats


"Education, shelter, care, and the hand of man, have great influence over the natural disposition, manners, and even the form of animals." 

(The Natural History of the Cat Continued, 242)


Fig.1:

Cat with a Piece of Salmon, Two Mackerels, Mortar and Pestle.

        Jean-Siméon Chardin

  1728 

 

Introduction 


The cat, a well-known carnivorous quadruped (Felis domesticus), has long been domesticated, being kept to destroy mice, and more recently as a house pet (OED Online, entry first published 1889). Domestic cats, a prevalent member of eighteenth-century households, still today take many characteristics from their wild ancestors. Between the eighteenth century and now, any alterations to the physiology and appearance of the domestic cat have been minimal. The striking eyes, body shape, grooming and feeding habits remain similar, if not the same, along with the ability to stalk and catch small birds and mammals at any given moment. What has evolved is a human’s relationship with our feline friends. Attitudes towards domestic cats which pertained in the eighteenth century were ambivalent: whilst some are surprising, some also remain applicable today. It was believed the cat, being at best but half tame, stood in a medium between domestic and wild animals (Natural History Continued 242). Their unpredictable nature and aloof, delicate poise led to polarised opinions of domestic cats, thoughts which often surface in debates today. 

 

Some Familiar Traits

 

Eighteenth-century knowledge of feline behaviour and habits was surprisingly detailed. Research published in periodicals - though not particularly scientific or necessarily accurate by today's standards - can nevertheless reveal the depth of growing popular knowledge. The common 'loves' and 'hates' of cats in the eighteenth century were almost indistinguishable from those we are aware of today. Eating, sleeping and hygiene habits had been observed by eighteenth-century naturalists in great depth and were published in encyclopedias such as Buffon's Natural History, see Fig.3 and Fig.4, and many periodicals. 

 

   

Fig.2: An extract taken from p.187 of The Natural History of the Cat (1769).

It provides basic observations of the domestic cat's eating, sleeping and hygiene habits. 

 

It was believed that, more often than not, domestic cats pretended to sleep for the majority of their resting time. Their sleep, being light, was observed to be silent. Cats were widely accepted to be dignified, aloof and cleanly animals: for example, covering their "occasions" (187) with soil. Eighteenth-century paintings, such as Fig.1 and Fig.3, present cats, whether painted alone or with their owners, looking sleek and elegant which can be linked with the observation, see Fig.3, that cats were highly self-maintained in the eighteenth century. They were neat, and their coats were always dry, sleek and glossy even when street, and even home, hygiene was significantly lacking in eighteenth-century Britain. Character traits were also known: cats dread water, the cold, and "ill smells" (Natural History 187): "the smell of the pant called cat's-herb, or valerian, affects them so powerfully and deliciously, that they appear quite transported with pleasure" (Natural History 187). It was reported that people with the plant in their gardens had to fence it off to stop cats rubbing up against it and consequently destroying it (187). The humorous anecdote works to suggest that these traits, we are so familiar with today, were common knowledge in the eighteenth century; especially once publications such as The Natural History were released into the public domain. 

 

Fig.3: The Ray (La Raie) 

Jean-Siméon Chardin

1725-1726

 

Eighteenth-century common knowledge also included - cats do not tend to live over ten years, they eat the tenderest meats, love fish and eat it dressed or raw, see Fig.1 and Fig.3. Chardin paints cats mischievously preying on their owners' evening meals of salmon and mackerel, and more exotic seafood. Likewise, the notions that cats possess a natural propensity for destroying the furniture and other ambiguous "sports" (Natural History 186), and that cats love to bask in the sun or lie in the "snuggest warm places", i.e. by the fire, were present in many eighteenth-century texts written about cats.

 

Mating behaviours and habits were also fairly well known. It was reported that the domestic cat's mating period lasts usually nine to ten days, usually twice a year in Spring and Autumn, though sometimes even three or four times a year (The Natural History 186). During the mating period, cats were reported to be very amorous when copulating. The female was noted to seek out the male passionately, "she pursues, bites, and forces him into compliance" (The Natural History 186) approaching the male with a "lively" sense of pain: a display of female dominance humorously at odds with eighteenth-century human societal norms. Cats endure fifty-five to fifty-six days of pregnancy and produce less offspring than dogs in one litter, never more than six (186). Males, though we do not see this today in domestic males due to the neutering procedure, were always subject to devour young. Females would hide their kittens in holes for some weeks and teach them to eat mice, birds. Yet, if food was sparse, females sometimes had a tendency to also devour their young (186).                

 

Scientific Research?

                                                                                                                                    

An example of the 'scientific' research into cats, published in the eighteenth century, is An Account of a Cat, that lived 25 months without Drinking - from the History of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, for the Year 1753. It was published in the Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure in 1759. In the eighteenth century, cats often habituated themselves in dry warrens, where they could seldom find drink. This sleeping arrangement seems dissimilar to the domestic cat, living in eighteenth-century households. Though the account does not specify whether the 'cat' of the experiment was indeed wild or domestic; it is interesting nonetheless. L'Abbé de Fontenu, of the Royal Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres, "fancied that these animals could do for a very long time without drinking" (62). His experiment was conducted on "a very large and fat castrated cat he had at his disposal" (62), which suggests he had no intimate connection with this cat. Beginning by reducing the cat's drink gradually, de Fontenu eventually deprived him of it entirely. Yet, he continued to feed the cat "as usual with boiled meat" (62). This fact, coupled with the cat's size and castration, works to suggest the cat was probably tame. After not drinking for nineteen months, the cat showed no decline in health, or weight; "it only seemed that it eat less than before, probably because digestion was somewhat slower (63). 

 

     The cat appeared to have an ardent desire to drink, and used his best endeavours to testify the same to M. Fontenu, especially when he saw a pot of water in his hand (63). 

 

Clearly to go without drink is not natural for a cat. The account is adamant that it did "not appear in the least that his health suffered any alteration by so severe and so long a want of all sorts of drink" (63), though the empiricism of this experiment and its report is somewhat dubious. It was concluded that "cats may support thirst for a considerable time, without risque of madness, or other fatal accident" (63), though of course, exactly how long this could be sustained for is unclear, as are the long term damages to the cat's health. Nevertheless, it is important to note that in the eighteenth century such experiments were being carried out as a result of curiosity surrounding the species and its behavioural capacities. 

 

A Natural History of the Cat


 Physiology and Markings

 

The familiar form of the domestic cat, we all know and love, is elucidated in The Natural History of the Cat (1769) (shortened title), an anonymously published article in two parts. However, the text appears to have been taken from a translated version of Buffon's Natural History,Containing a Theory of the Earth, a General History of Man, of the Brute Creation, and of Vegetables, Minerals, &c. This encyclopedia written by Georges-Louis Leclerc Comte de Buffon, and published in French between 1749 and 1788 in 36 volumes. Buffon's Natural History of Domestic Animals (Volume 6), published in translation in 1792, contains a detailed history of the domestic cat and its origins from the wildcat. It brings to our attention to the developing extent of eighteenth-century knowledge of the specifics of the feline natural form we take for granted today. The fact Buffon's natural history was republished in a British periodical marks the increasingly widespread dissemination of such knowledge, due to changing attitudes towards nature in the eighteenth century. The informative, almost scientific, tone and depth of Buffon's observational history suggests such knowledge was not universally known, or perhaps not publicly acknowledged,  before its publication.

 

 

      

 

Fig.4: The title pages of Buffon's Natrual History of Domestic Animalsin Volume VI of Buffon's Natural History,: Containing a Theory of the Earth, a General History of Man, of the Brute Creation, and of Vegetables, Minerals, &c.

Part of his 36 volume encyclopedia, published between 1749 and 1788. Printed in London.

 

The representation of cats in eighteenth-century art mostly pertains to the tabby cat with grey striped markings, and the tortoiseshell with a portion of white fur in contrast to patches of grey, brown and ginger (see Fig.1). The contemporary Smithsonian Magazine, points to a recent study published in Science, which suggests “all domestic cats… [are] descended from a Middle Eastern wildcat, Felis sylvestris, which literally means ‘cat of the woods’” (online). The wild cat is suggested to have played a part in the domestic cat’s evolution by interbreeding with domestic cats brought into Europe. This knowledge was published and therefore readily available in the eighteenth century, in The Natural History of the Cat. It states the wild cat “produces” with the tame, and consequently both constitute the same species (187).

 

“It is no rare thing to see male and female cats quit houses in the time of heat to go into the woods in quest of wild cats, and afterwards return to their respective habitations” (Natural History 187).

 

These wild cats were thought to have introduced the genes for a darker tabby pattern. Some eighteenth century cats entirely “resemble[d] the wild” (Natural History 187): "These have black bands or stripes on the body, and rings of the same colour on the tail and legs, as wild cats, but they have less of the sallow colour, and grey seems to be the predominant colour of their hair" (Natural History Continued 241), see Fig.6Eighteenth century researchers found reason to believe these cats had less “degenerated” (Natural History Continued 242) from the original race than others “because they have black lips and the sole of the feel black” (242). These tabby cats were distinguished from other domestic cats in the eighteenth century; but were still believed to be degenerate from wild cats because of shorter hair and a smaller tail, common in all domestic cats, see Fig.5. Variations of this classic tabby pattern and the dilution of colour tones to create different breeds, such as the introduction of white, ginger and long hair, occurred due to mutation over generations of breeding and interbreeding, along with environmental adaptation (Wastlhuber 4-5), see Fig.5. The widespread appreciation of the different markings and colours of cats did not become vastly popular until the nineteenth century which saw the introduction of the ‘Cat-Show’ in 1871 (Wastlhuber 5). It was believed that the domestic cats of the eighteenth century did not form distinct and separate breeds, though they differed from one another in colour. This assumption is one at odds with the hundreds of different breeds of domestic cat we house today. Further evidence is provided to suggest today’s remarkable range of breeds of cat was in its early development during the eighteenth century. The interbreeding of domestic cats with other species of wild cats would gather momentum after century.

 

Cats with red lips… are of one colour, white or black, or of a colour mixed with white, grey, brown, black, and fallow. There are often several of those colours on each hair, and they are also distributed by spots, waves, stripes, and so various that there are not two cats on which the mixture is alike (Natural History Continued 242).

 

             

 

 

 

Fig.5: (LEFT) An engraved plate of a domestic cat. Fig.6: (RIGHT) An engraved plate of a wild cat.

Both plates were provided as illustrations in Buffon's original Natural History of the Domestic cat. 

 

In Fig.5 and Fig.6, Buffon illustrates the difference between the domestic and the wild cat. The wild cat appears larger and has a darker tabby pattern; whereas the pictured domestic cat, though not representative of all markings, is of a colour, presumably grey or fallow by the tonality of the engraving, mixed with white or black. The hind-legs of the wild cat appear powerful and its stance denotes movement and freedom in a forest setting, whereas the domestic cat is pictured sat in the sun in a fenced in garden. The differences between markings and lifestyle can be compared in these two engravings. The wild cat has black lips and stiffer ears than the tame, the tail thicker, and the colours constant (Natural History 187). However, it was thought that the most real difference between domestic and wild cats was an internal difference, rather than aesthetic (187). “The tame cat’s intestines are usually longer than those of the wild; yet the wild cat is stronger and larger than the tame” (Natural History 187). . 

 

There were cats on the continent of the New World before it was discovered; a hunter brought one he had taken in the woods to Christopher Columbus; this cat was of common size, his hair was of grey-brown, the tail very long and strong (Natural History 187).

 

From the “testimony of travellers” (187) in the eighteenth century, it appears only one species of wild cat was known in European climates, and this species was found in almost all other climates without much variety. The author outlines there were also wild cats in Peru, though none tame; in Canada; and in several parts of Africa, where the natives likewise kept tame cats. Pietro della Valle, in an account of his travels in Asia, found “blue cats, or rather of a slate colour” (187) lived in Persia: "a similar size to the common cat, their beauty consists in their colour and hair” (187) and their very long tails. It the eighteenth century, it was believed that cats were not, as dogs, “subject to alter and degenerate when transported into warm climates” (Natural History 188). Bosman’s evidence for this claim is that European cats, retained the same figure when transported to Guinea, so were not subject to change as dogs (in Natural History 188); he suggests they were “more consistent in their nature” (188). Moreover, it was believed this difference between cats and dogs was due to their domesticity being neither so entire, nor so universal, “nor perhaps so ancient” as that of dogs, “it is not surprising they have less varied ” (Natural History 188). 

 

Domestication; or Slavery?


It was widely accepted, in the eighteenth century, that domestic cats were subject to their owners' intentions. Buffer believed that the environment, care and human influence had a great effect on the "disposition, manners, and even the form of animals" (The Natural History of the Cat Continued 242). Eighteenth-century naturalists recognised both the power of humans over animals and the potentially negative implications of such power. The cat was thought of as a liminal creature between the domestic and the wild; however, naturalists were aware of the influences or “causes” (242) of man, coupled with climate, which modify the species “so as to be different from what they were originally, and rend also the individuals among themselves, at the same time and in the same species, that we might have reason to regard them as different animals” (242). 

 

The different races of domestic animals follow in different climates the same order nearly of the human race: As mankind, they are stronger, larger and more courageous in cold countries; more civilized, more gentle in the temperate climates; more timid, more feeble, and more ugly in too hot climates (242).

 

Physiological variations of cats’ ears present evidence for the author of the long existence of their domestication. A correlation was found, in the eighteenth century, between an animal’s “hanging ears” and a “long duration” domesticity. Those animals, which were free and wild, had erect ears, “the wild boar has them erect and stiff, the tame hog inclined and half hanging” (242). With regard to cats, this correlation was also recorded:

 

Domestic cats have not such stiff ears as the wild, and at China, which is an empire very anciently policed, and where the climate is very mild, domestic cats may be seen with hanging ears” (242).

 

Eighteenth-century naturalists believed in the influence of both man and climate on the evolution of the physiology of the domestic cat up to the eighteenth century. From a retrospective position, we can see evolution continued to create further diversity, and new breeds of domestic cats today. It is important to note that eighteenth-century researchers were consciously engaging with the perceived causes of this evolution at the time, no matter how accurate the assumptions might be.

 

Cruelty to animals was an increasing concern in the eighteenth century. The discourse gained momentum throughout the period. There was a longstanding tradition of using comparisons between animals and slaves to consider power relations in human society (Companions 112). Notably, Buffon's Natural History refers to domestication as “slavery” (242), which suggests connotations of inhibited liberty, employment and inferiority. Likewise, the it-narrative The Adventures of a Cat (1774) contains undertones of the developing discourse. The narrating cat is an "unhappy spectator of the cruelty and inhumanity of those two legged monsters" (393), of humans. In the text, humans had previously drowned the cat's four brothers and sisters. The cries of the dying cats were sport to the "barbarous author of their misery" (393). In the eighteenth century, the unequal relationship of dominance between humans and cats gave way to a rise in animal abuse for the amusement of the abusers; which begs the question, was domestication in the eighteenth century a good thing for the cats themselves?  

 

Attitudes to Cats


Common Prejudices: An Age-Old Debate

 

Domestic cats remain mysterious animals, though in some cultures they have been revered, at times they have been considered with fear and superstition. Polarised, though less extreme, attitudes towards cats were carried through to the eighteenth century. Cats remained slightly beyond total understanding; they lived somewhat apart from people, despite a history of association and acceptance. “Cats have been able to maintain their wild ancestral characteristics and dignity” (Wastlhuber 1) even though they comfortably adapt to the households and conditions of human life. Ambiguities surrounding human attitudes to cats still exist today: the common debate as to whether dogs or cats make better house pets is an opposition at least as old as the eighteenth century.

 

The Natural History of the Cat introduces the cat, from an opinionated stance, as “a faithless domestic” (185). The eighteenth century-notion of cats being “faithless” to their human owners is one which sets them up against “that faithful animal”, the dog (186). The dog’s “sensations are all directed to the person of his master” whereas the cat “seems to have no feeling but for himself, to love only upon condition” (186) as opposed to the unconditional love of a dog “in whom every particular is sincere” (186). The ambiguity of a cat’s sincerity and affection - The Natural History suggests cats keep up a “correspondence only for abusing it” (186) – arises from the liminal nature of the domestic cat. Somewhere between wild and tame, a cat’s dignity was clearly a prevalent trait recognised in the eighteenth century. However, it is human interpretation of animal characteristics which created these ambiguities in the first place. “They easily contract the habits of society, but never the manners” (186); The Natural History representing those who upheld this opinion of cats, appears to forget that a cat is an independent creature and unrealistically expects a cat to uphold human “manners” (186). For example, in the text, cats are frequently attributed and compared to human traits and characteristics, yet are then criticized for lacking sincerity when their manners do not live up to human expectations of these traits.

 

Fig.7: An extract taken from p.186 of The Natural History of the Cat.

It provides an account of the domestic cat's mischievous cunning.

 

In the eighteenth century it was believed that the natural form of the cat’s body reflected the proposed natural disposition. “The cat is pretty, light, nimble, dexterous, cleanly and voluptuous” (Natural History 186). It was widely accepted that all felines were treacherous, cruel, and cunning (Companions 114). By attributing cunningness, perversity, mischief, malice and disguise as characteristic traits, cats are compared to human thieves, see Fig.7. Attributes used to support this interpretation include: cats have the same propensity for petty larceny, they know how to disguise their intents, "dissemble their design" (Natural History 185) and seize an opportunity of "doing business" (186) whilst avoiding punishment by running away. Comparing animal and human dispositions, emotions and behaviours can lead to misinterpretation, which in turn presents a cause for the polarized attitudes to cats in the eighteenth century.

 

They retain only the appearance of attachment: This maybe observable from their oblique motions, their equivocal eyes; they never look the beloved in the face; whether through diffidence or a false heart, they go a round-about way in their approaches, to seek caresses, of which they are no otherwise sensible, than by the pleasure they receive from them (186).

 

What has been misinterpreted in this eighteenth-century text, due to lack of research, is that eye contact is very important for cats. Recent research has shown that cats find eye contact to be a challenge of dominance, rather than a mark of respect as in eighteenth-century society. Again, human customs have been imposed upon, and therefore contradicted by, cats. Moreover, the insincere attachment type attributed to cats in this text, is at odds with texts written by cat owners who describe a companionship, rather than a working relationship. Whilst attitudes were not concrete, or unified, in the eighteenth century; it is clear the relationship is as ambivalent and opinion-driven as it is today.

 

A Defence of Cats

 

Serio-Jocosus wrote A Defence of Cats in 1796 to “vindicate the innocent from the sneers of calumny and the attacks of malice” and to “rescue the worthy from misinterpretation” (172). In other words, the text serves as a rebuttal to the common prejudices against cats of the eighteenth century, outlined in such texts as The Natural History of the Cat (1769). When outlining his aims – to get “rid, and I hope with conviction, of the main objections to cats” - Jocosus states he will defend the cat, “who has solaced the house of langeur by her playful fascinations, and has guarded the necessities of life from midnight depredation” (Defence 172). The cat, by some, was seen as a useful animal, see Fig.8, protecting grain from the raids of rats and mice.

 

Fig.8: An extract from A Defence of Cats, p.172. It highlights the text's sentiment. 

 

It was frequently reported, by “interested persons, by servants” (174) – those who were naturally opposed to cats – that any breaking of china or destruction of property is the fault of a cat, to absolve themselves of blame. Rat-catchers, whose jealous “enmity” for cats was no secret (174), were reported to behave in “unneighbourly” (174) ways and with “ill will” (174) because of cat’s success at catching mice, which negates a household’s need for their services. 

 

There was also a common conception that cats were objects of terror and aversion, which Jocosus dismisses as “absurd” and “unaccountable” (172). Whilst The Natural History of the Cat presents domestic cats as cunning creatures of malice and perversion; A Defence emphasises them as “Harmless to all above her… a foe to the vermin under her” (172). Jocosus argues cats are harmless to those who ought to be preserved – humans – and kill those who ought to be destroyed – vermin. Yet, it is recorded that in the eighteenth century, some people held even more extreme aversions to the cat than are presented in The Natural History:

 

…some persons are so delicate that they cannot touch a cat, some cannot bear them in a house, and some… are mad, if they behold a cat! (Defence 172).

 

It is because of these extreme views that Jocosus explores and defends the “character” (172) of the cat for his eighteenth century audience. The most common views saw the cat as insincere and faithless (Natural History 185), it was reported at the time that cats were “deficient in gratitude” (Defence 172). Jocosus states:

 

It amounts only to this, that a cat, an animal whose education is very shamefully neglected, falls into a vice which some of the most enlightened and best scholars in the kingdom are not free from at all times, and which some of the most wealthy and dignified of our species are notoriously guilty of (172).

 

Whilst The Natural History compares cats to human thieves due to their supposed cunning; A Defence compares cats to scholars and aristocrats for selfishness and independence, a trait which can be even be attributed to the superfluous well-respected members of eighteenth century society. There was a tendency to interpret animal behaviour and character through a societal lense. Jocosus insinuates his awareness that such prejudices result from human misinterpretations of animal behaviour. He maintains that  “A cat is certainly a grateful animal” (172) in an almost direct response to The Natural History which condemns cats for not making eye contact with humans and loving an owner upon the condition that they are satisfied by food or caresses.

 

…when stroked and red, she sings the song of satisfactions and complacency; her features brighten, and her language, if we could understand it, would convey an expression of thankfulness. What proof, then, have we of the ingratitude of this animal?” (172-173).

 

Instead of construing insincerity from a cat’s behaviour, Jocosus highlights how the behaviour can also be interpreted positively. Human responses to cats in the eighteenth century were subjective, meaning that attitudes to cats differed extensively.

 

               Fig.9: An extract from A Defence of Cats p.173. It attacks affection shown towards cats by humans. 

 

In Fig.9, cats are placed as conscious and independent creatures, yet their position is not matched with rights or an ability to exercise their autonomy. Such a progressive view of the position of animals in eighteenth-century society suggests cats should be treated as free independent animals. Yet at the time, and perhaps in some ways still today, cats were constrained by their relationships with humans and human-defined behaviour expectations. There remained an awareness of a cat's value to human society (see Fig.10), however, though many people who were opposed to cats appeared to ignore this. 

 

 

Fig.10: An extract from p.175 of A Defence of Cats. It is the final sentiment of the text. 

 

'The Master Cat; or, Puss in Boots' 

 

Notable cats, well-known in the eighteenth century and today, appear in several texts as symbols of ‘the model cat’. However, the extent to which these cats were in any way exceptional is subject to folklore and, in the case of Puss in Boots, fictionalization. Nevertheless, the traits of these cats and the stories surrounding them, including their relationships with their owners, provide us with a useful insight into the feline qualities valued by humans as desirable and fulfilling. 

 

The Master Cat, named so in the eighteenth-century literature, belonged to Sir Richard Whittington in the mid-1300s. Many ballads, histories and legends have been composed surrounding this famous partnership of cat and human, even a modern pantomime. The real Richard Whittington became Lord Mayor of London in the 1340s: he was nominated Sheriff of London in the year 1340, while Sir John Hadley was Lord Mayor and then was chosen for Lord Mayor himself in the following four years. “He behaved with such justice and prudence, that he was chose twice afterwards” (The History of Richard Whittington 21?). The exact reason for his being chosen, and then re-chosen for another two years, is unknown. However, folklore dictates the importance and influence of his remarkable cat.

 

BELOW: Fig.11An Old Ballad of Whittington and his CAT (1750?) 

London, Printed and sold at the printing-office in Aldermary church-yard, London.

 

 

Though of course many different version exist, the ballad's simplified story tells of Whittington's rise to importance from poverty, on account of his cat's outstanding ability as a mouser. The king, who lived in fear of mice and rats devouring his meats and grain, was in dire need of a cat. He paid Whittington "heaps of gold" for his cat's exceptional mouse-catching skills. With this wealth Whittington left his life as a scullion, became Sheriff and then rose to become Lord-Mayor of London three times in a row. He then went on to become famous for his charitable work and aid of the King. However, a version adapted for children and entertainment purposes tells the story of Whittington's cat, The Master Cat: or Puss in Boots. 

 

BELOW: Fig.12: A comparison of the Front Pages of two versions of the story of Whittington and his Cat. The left shows a history of Whittington, in which his cat, though unnamed, plays a part; the right shows a fantasy story of Whittington's cat, 'Puss in Boots. A Tale', in which the cat famously asks for a bag and boots to wear. 

 

The History of Sir Richard Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of LONDON. 

 1780?

Printed at Sympson's in Stonecutter-Street, Fleet-Market, London.  

 

     

The Master Cat; or, Puss in Boots: Whereunto is added, The story of a man with a blue beard. 

Between ca. 1740 and 1770?

Printed and sold in Aldermary Church-Yard, London 

 

 

 

Puss in Boots remains a popular figure today - in pantomime, films and books - though Richard Whittington's history is less well known. The story of 'Puss in Boots', fictionalised and focused on Puss rather than Whittington, was widely popular in the eighteenth century, along with other fairytales, as children's literature; it appeared in anthologies of fairytales compiled and rewritten in the mid-eighteenth century, see Fig.12.

 

Whittington's cat is referenced in many eighteenth century texts dealing with cats. The master cat is presented as a model cat of noble birth and intentions, and as a representation of good hereditary. In satirical texts, a cat's value as a mouser is often predicated on the claim of having the Master Cat as an ancestor. 

 

The Adventures of a Cat (1774)

 

In the it-narrative, written from the perspective of Mopsey, the cat stresses its noble ancestry to convey respectability. The introductory statements mimic those of a wealthy man of eighteenth century society. 

 

"... I have the honour to descend by my father's side in a right line from the famous mouse-catching cat of Whittington's..." (393). 

 

The Most Humble Petition of the Cats of this Kingdom to the Legislative Body (1770) 

 

Whittington's cat's mouse-catching abilities are used to provide evidence of the services provided by cats to humans:

 

"... witness Whittington's most famous and most memorable Cat, whose eminent services will be handed down with a veneration to the latest posterity" (275).  

A Defence of Cats (1796)

 

Jocosus uses Whittington's cat as an argument against those "ignorant and malicious persons" who look upon cats "with contempt" (174). 

 

"I need but mention that one of the species was the primary cause of a gentleman's being chosen lord-mayor of London, Whittington by name, and many houses of entertainment are still called by the name of Whittington's Cat" (174). 

 

 

Fig.13: A table showing a small proportion of the numerous references to Whittington's cat in eighteenth century literary texts dealing with animals.

 

 

Predatory Nature 


     The cat, being at best but half tame, forms a shadowing, or rather stands in a medium between domestic and wild animals; for we should not place in the number or rank of domestic any of our troublesome neighbours such as mice, rats, moles, which though inhabitants of our houses or gardens are not therefore less free and wild, because, instead of being attached and subject to man, they fly from him, and in their obscure retreats, retain their manners, habits, and liberty quite intire (Natural History Continued 242).

 

The predatory nature of domestic cats, still characteristic today, was a trait which led to more cats being reared than dogs in the eighteenth century (Natural History 187), though the population was not as discernible. Eighteenth century attitudes towards cats placed emphasis on the notion that domestic cats are “half-wild” (Natural History 187). It was widely accepted that cats “thus resisted domestication and, most naturalists agreed, could never truly be servants or friends to humans” (Companions 114). Cats were known by inhabitants of many households,to be not entirely domestic animals (Natural History 187); their roaming nature meant they were able to “do what they please” only sometimes frequenting the “kitchen and the pantry, when pressed by hunger” (Natural History 187). The Natural History of the Cat (1769) appears only to be describing those cats kept for the purpose of ridding the household of rodent infestations. The knowledge of the cat’s natural propensity for destroying is extensive, and provides explanations for eighteenth-century readers of the physical adaptations which facilitate the cat’s predatory nature, enabling them to be successful mousers.

 

Fig.14: The Graham Children

  William Hogarth

 1742

 

The predatory image of the stalking cat is one we are all familiar with: “they lie on the catch near a cage; [and] they watch birds, mice, rats” (Natural History 186). In the corner of Hogath’s painting of ‘The Graham Children’ (see Fig.14), a cat can be seen watching a bird intently. The domestic cat’s predatory nature was widely known in the eighteenth century as one of its most characteristic traits. Cats were thought to become, without being specifically trained, better at hunting than the best trained dogs; a notion which highlights a belief in the cat’s natural and biological adeptness for hunting (The Natural History 186). A detailed knowledge of the cat’s physical adaptations which best facilitate their success as hunters is shown in The Natural History, which suggests eighteenth-century naturalists employed close observation of the natural behaviours and physiology of cats. The hunting process, apparently for a cat’s humour, was as follows: spy out, watch, attack and destroy (Natural History 186). Cats were able to take their pick from weak animals such as birds, young rabbits, leverets, rats, mice, shrews, bats moles, toads, frogs, lizards, and serpents (186). The domestic cats’ eyes were thought to be the most advantageous adaptation for hunting. The considerable contraction and dilation of a cat’s pupils means that in the day the pupil is round and large, whereas at night the pupil is long and narrow. This pupil shape was regarded to be the natural state meaning that cats see perfectly in the dark and, as other animals cannot, giving the advantage of surprise (186).

 

Legal Mayhem

 

The effects of a cat’s “half-wild” (Natural History 187) nature within the human space of the domestic sphere were unavoidable. Eighteenth-century law cases dealing with these effects work to show the way people used think about the domestic cat’s place in the human world. In Curious Law Cases, published in 1790, the outraged neighbours, and the earnest with which they brought action upon one another, show a strong attachment to their pets.

 

TWO neighbours lived in friendship, they often drank tea, cut up bread and butter and reputations together. One kept a cat, the other a canary bird, which partook of the family food and friendship. The cat, in one of her neighbourly visits, caught the bird in an unguarded moment, and killed it (Curious Law Cases, abstract).

 

They paid for attorneys to use every legal manoeuvre against the other. Though the attorneys were of the same point of view, they adhered to the ridiculousness of the case to make all the profit they could. Yet, they were united in the hall at Warwick to withdraw actions and decide by arbitration. Their cases were supported only by a cat and a bird. The ‘curious’ nature of this case arises from a lack of understanding and acceptance of a cat’s instinctual nature as a predator; its murder perhaps suggests a dissatisfaction with the cat’s uncontrollable autonomy.

 

Danger!

 

The cat’s wild nature was known to go extend further. Cats, or rather ‘mad’ cats, had been known to bite humans. Published in 1750, A Safe and certain Cure for the bit of a mad Dog or Cat outlines a procedure for dealing with such cases for the general public. Its publication in a magazine, meant for popular perusal, and its beginning with “When you are bitten by a mad dog or cat” (452), suggests such bites were fairly frequent in the eighteenth century. Mad dogs or cats were believed to be, and most often were, diseased so it was important for eighteenth century citizens to know how to properly deal with such instances. It was advised to allow a surgeon to carry out the procedure.

 

… let a surgeon cut out the flesh the whole length of the bite, and if there is no vein in the way, let him cut it cross-wise in form of a star, that the blood may discharge itself freely; as soon as it is cut, let it be well washed with spirits of turpentine, or vinegar and salt mixed… be sure to squeeze the blood out as much as you can… let it be dressed twice a day, remembering to wash it thoroughly… (452)

 

All danger is removed after three days, and dressing only once a day will suffice. An acceptance of the seriousness of such a bite, by a domestic cat gone ‘mad’, is emphasised by the drastic and painful procedure.

 

The Opposition in Literature

 

The centrality of the domestic cat’s wild and predatory nature in eighteenth-century understandings equates with its prevalence in literary works dealing with cats. This is mostly portrayed through the age-old opposition between cats and rodents, still prevalent today in children’s stories and cartoons. The fable The Cat and Mouse, published in 1777, sets up the opposition as “The opposites in Nature made” (255). The poem alludes to the accepted innateness of the cat’s nature as a predator, despite domestication:

 

The wold what human art can tame?

Will he not still pursue the lamb?

The harmless dove the eagle views,

And with a nat’ral hate pursues.

 

Further, the poem supports The Natural History’s notion that cats pursue mice for their own amusement and sport – “Tis all for joy that Tabby sees / A mouse a-nibbling of the cheese”. However, whilst the poet questions this innate disparity through the mouse, “the captive said, / An enemy how have I made?"; the overarching power of nature and instinct prevails, “Cats prey on mice, and mice on cheese”, “Would you the threaten’d fate oppose…”. The opposition between predator and prey, cat and mouse, is attributed to the fate’s design.

 

 

 

A Working Relationship: Cats as Mousers


      "With [Rats], and the lesser invaders the Mice, proportionately calculated for destruction, we faithful Cats are engaged in perpetual war for the preservation of human property" (Humble Petition 275).

 

The Natural History (1769) states “The cat is a faithless domestic, kept only through necessity for the purpose of being opposed to another domestic enemy still more troublesome, which cannot otherwise be expelled” (185). It was widely accepted that the domestic cat was a useful animal.

 

Throughout the eighteenth century, even after the rise of pet-keeping, domestic cats were still kept in household kitchens to rid the property of rodent infestations. This use arose from their instinctual predatory nature. Protecting both food and grain from vermin, cats, though requiring money for care, worked to preserve household funds. A working relationship between cats and humans was established before one of companionship, meaning that many people believed this to be their fundamental purpose as a domestic animal; whilst others sought only pleasure from their company. For many people, a detached and depersonalised working relationship existed between them and their kitchen cat. In the poem Verses on a Cat, by a Lady (1778), the Lady, from a wealthy household, expresses her devotion to her pet cat, kept for pleasure, in opposition to the “vulgar kitchen cats” who are left the “toil of catching mice and rats”.

 

However, unlike most women who were devoted to their cats as companions, men valued kitchen cats for their mouse-catching abilities. For example, in A Defence of Cats (1796), the author’s most powerful line of defending argument is the usefulness of the domestic cat. The text makes a historical reference to outline the value of the cat as a mouser and protector of food: if anyone was to steal of kill the Prince’s cat that guarded the granary, he was to forfeit enough wheat to cover the cat if hung by the tail (948).

Fig.15: An extract from p.275 of The most humble Petition of the Cats of this Kingdom to the Legislative Body (1770).

It provides an example of the use of domestic cats to preserve food for more wealthy households

 

Cats were also used, in more wealthy households, to protect meats and other expensive imported foods from mice and rats; for those people “more pleased with eating than thinking” (Humble Petition 275). Eighteenth-century satirical writing dealing with cats plays on the opposition between cats and mice, to similarly prove their worth as mousers. Published in 1770, The most humble Petition of the Cats of this Kingdom to the Legislative Body - by the suspiciously catlike Norton Grimalkin - stresses the domestic cat’s service to humans as a mouser. It is satirically written from the perspective of a cat responding to a new law which meant that the killing of a dog was legally pronounced criminal. According to the text, this criminality was not extended to the killing of cats. The cats propose they should be put on the “present dogly footing” (275), given equal protection to dogs, under the protection of men in the commission of the peace. In the eighteenth century, people had also been known to eat cats; the cats respond to this by asking to rely on the protection of magistrates with confidence that their bodies are in no way applicable to food. For persuasion, the cats bring the legislative body’s attention to the “numerous, faithful, and important services” (275) of cats to humans, which greatly surpass those of dogs. These uses are listed in Fig.15. A cat’s protective services extended to most foods, and most necessities of life, including legal documents, letters and books: “the very title-deeds of your immense fortunes would with difficulty be preserved from the tattering vermin” (Humble Petition 275).

 

In short, cats were kept to defend the household from all damages due to the indiscriminate nature of a rodent’s destructive path. Nevertheless, in the eighteenth century, despite their value and uses, cats were not rewarded by rights to equal this value. Kitchen cats were valued as commodities for their abilities as mousers. It-narratives, such as The Adventures of a Cat (1774), show a cat’s journey through London as a commodity, bought and sold according to mouse-catching skills. 

 

 

Companionship: Cats as Pets 


 

Fig.16: The Wool Winder

Jean-Baptiste Greuze

probably 1759

 

It was during the eighteenth century that pet keeping, for the purposes of pleasure alone, became a widespread phenomenon; although the term "pet" itself was not widely used until the nineteenth century. Cats kept for pleasure were marked out from kitchen cats, mostly by the females in the household, because of appealing aesthetics or virtuous nature; and were able to share the intimate domestic space with their human owners. They were often named human names. Pet keeping also required significant disposable income (Dead Pets 290). Those families living at a subsistence level were unable to afford the luxury of caring for a cat simply for pleasure, one which did not contribute as a mouser. However, for those households able to take advantage of the "financial and commercial revolutions" (Dead Pets 291) of the eighteenth century, it became possible to indulge in keeping a cat as a pet for pleasure alone. 

 

Cats and Women

 

Cats kept as companions were valued as members of eighteenth century families; they were most highly valued by women. Madame du Pais, a celebrated French lady, settled a pension in her will on her favourite cat. She ordered that a certain number of visits should be paid to her cat every week after her death. Understandably, in eighteenth-century society, a law suit was filed to set aside the pension’s feline recipient. Many famous lawyers defended it, and two plead against it. Serio-Jocosus states that similar instances occurred in Britain: “a situation peculiarly advantageous to cats who remain long enough in a family to be remembered at the most serious moment of their mistresses’ lives” (Defence 175). 

 

Cats, allowed into the domestic relaxation spaces of the home, shared an intimate relationship with their female owners. Elegy on a favourite Cat (1782), illustrates the connection between cats and their mistresses' within the domestic space. 

 

‘Twas thine, sweet animal, secure from fear,

Thy lady’s lap to press, her tea to sip,

To pur with gentle murmurs in her ear,

And steal ambrosial blessings from her lips (288).

 

Being seen as members of the family, cats were allowed to perch on their mistresses’ laps, were kissed, and fed from their mistresses’ own food or drink. The barrier between humans and animals was significantly less rigid between women and their cats, than men. In To a friend, on the death of a favourite cat (1799) the cat is even given its "own little room" in the house. Verses on a Cat, by a Lady (1778), elevates the Lady's pet cat, a cat of fashion, as superlative to other cats, such as those who were kept as mousers. She opens the poem telling her reader that her pen is not sufficiently able to do the description of her cat justice: "An abler pen her beauties claim, / Her merit more exalted fame, / Than this my humble lay." 

 

Fig.17: An extract from Verses on a Cat, by a Lady (1778).

It expresses her devotion to, and admiration of her pet cat.  

 

However, when England was emerging from bouts with poverty, anyone who chose to keep an animal merely as a companion could be viewed with suspicion for indulging in needless luxury. The suspicion arose from the gendered associations of pet keeping and fashion; "pets seemed to symbolise the worst sort of feminine weakness for all things useless, and the shallowness of female affections" (Dead Pets 302). Nevertheless, as the century progressed into the nineteenth, women were increasingly praised for their sensibility and their supposedly innate closeness to nature" (Dead Pets 302), so the association between women and their pets became less problematic. 

 

 

Fig.18: Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange, née de Parseval

Jean-Baptiste Perronneau

1747

 Cats and Children 

 

Young cats, were known to be great amusers of children, owing to their wanton and sprightly nature. However, the scratching of a kitten’s claws, though full of play, was perceived to be a danger of this interaction (Natural History 186). Nonetheless, a cat’s willingness to give attention to the children of households was often thought to be a virtue. In Elegy on a favourite Cat (1782), the cat is referred to as “sweet animal” and is praised for having interacted regularly with the speaker’s child rather than hunting mice like the kitchen cats.

 

How oft didst thou in wanton gambols sport,

While Chloe, with a smile applauding view’d?

The fair one’s favours you preferr’d to Court,

When vulgar cats their daily prey pursu’d (288).

 

Fig.21, shows a young girl with her kitten, affectionately held at her side. Her wealthy dress denotes class status, adhering to the association between pet cats as companions and the higher classes, rather than the working classes in the eighteenth century. The inclusion of the kitten in the portrait itself is telling of its value to the young girl, and the family as a whole. 

 

A Girl with a Kitten Probably by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau    1745

Fig.19A Girl with a Kitten

Probably by Jean-Baptiste Perronneau

   1745

 

 Literature: Epitaphs for Cats

 

As pet keeping increasingly became part of eighteenth century life, the period also saw the rapid growth of literary works dealing with pets (Dead Pets 291). More than a hundred epitaphs or elegies for pets were published in the British Isles during the century, including seventeen for cats. Reactions to the death of pet cats caused many different human responses in elegy or epitaph form. Some were satirical, some were mournful, and some expressed intense grief, memorialising the loss of a companion and friend. 

 

Fig.20: A table showing the different themes of epitaphs for cats in the eighteenth century. 

 

On the Death of a favourite Cat, drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes (1747) 

 

Whilst the tone of Thomas Gray's famous elegy is sympathetic towards the cat, Selima, the content is satirical with a focus on female weakness (Dead Pets 289). 

 

The poem comically describes the cat's attraction to the colour of the goldfish in the tub - "What female heart can gold despise?" - before ending with a moral warning:

 

From hence, ye beauties, undeciev'd, 

Know, one false step is ne'er retriev'd,

And be with caution bold. 

Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes

And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;

Nor all, that glisters, gold.

 

 

The Poet's Lamentation for the Loss of his Cat, which he used to call his Muse (1733) 

 

The poet elevates his cat to his muse, rather than simply a companionship, the cat "purr'd in metre". He highlights the cat's chaste and honest nature.

 

The loss of his cat equates to a loss of poetic inspiration - "No crowding thoughts my ready fancy fill". 

 

Oppress'd with grief, in heavy strains I mourn

The partner of my studies from me torn:

How shall I sing? what numbers shall I chuse?

For in my fav'rite cat I've lost my muse. 

To a friend, on the death of a favourite cat (1799) 

 

This epitaph is melodramatic, and displays female sensibility. 

 

The lady writing this poem is affected by intense grief at the loss of her companion and friend, after Charlotte's "short lived" life. She attempted to nurse Charlotte the cat who was "beautiful, gentle and kind". After her death she was given a proper burial. 

 

ABOVE: A short extract from the poem, illustrating the intense grief affecting Charlotte's owner at her death. 

 

 

 

Annotated Bibliography


Primary Sources.

 

A Lady. “Verses on a Cat.” Univeral magazine of knowledge and pleasure Jun. 1778: 378-378. Web. 21 Feb. 2016.

< http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5828245?accountid=14888>

A heart-warming poem illustrating a Lady's attachment to her cat, in which she voices her well wishes for its existence after death.

 

Anon. “An Account of a Cat, that lived 25 Months without Drinking – From the History of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, for the Year 1753.” Universal magazine of knowledge and pleasure Feb. 1759: 62-63. Web. 1 Feb. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/6193713?accountid=14888>

Though unscientific, and perhaps not entirely truthful, this account of an experiment of a cat is significant in showing us that eighteenth-century naturalists were interested in finding out more about the species.

 

Anon. An old ballad of Whittington and his Cat. Tune of, Come thou to me. London, 1750? Historical Texts. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

A beautifully illustrated ballad, which outlines the history of Richard Whittington and his cat. The song has been republished in historical documents and fairy-stories, and is telling of the popularity of the story itself in eighteenth-century culture. 

 

Anon. “A safe and certain Cure for the bite of a mad Dog or Cat.” The Magazine of magazines Nov. 1750: 452-452. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5984130?accountid=14888>

An informative little piece; this safe and certain cure provides evidence to suggest that cats, perhaps those less tame, or "mad", had been known to bite humans. 

 

Anon. “Curious Law Cases.” The Town and country magazine, or, Universal repository of knowledge, instruction, and entertainment Feb. 1790: 82-83. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/6370753?accountid=14888>

I found these cases very interesting and humorous. They expose people's tendency, even in the eighteenth century, to ignore reasonable thought when it comes to defending their pets. 

 

Anon. “Elegy on a favourite Cat.” Weekly Miscellany: or, Instructive entertainer Jun. 1782: 288-288. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/4240386?accountid=14888>

This elegy gives an insight into the relationship between children and cats, and shows the value of a pet cat within the household. 

 

Anon. “The Adventures of a Cat.” The Westminster magazine Aug. 1774: 393-397. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/6410531?accountid=14888>

This it-narrative, though irrelevant in some places, provided an insight into how cats were bought and sold within society, according to mousing ability or aesthetic beauty. 

 

Anon. “The Cat and Mouse. A Fable.” The weekly magazine, or, Edinburgh amusement Dec. 1777: 255-255. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5751447?accountid=14888>

A delightful piece, this fable expresses the traditional opposition between cats and mice. Though an explicit section on fables was omitted from my final page, I enjoyed reading the many fables published in the century. They were written to exemplify animal characteristics, or expose human fallibility. 

 

Anon. “The Cat in the Court of Chancery.” Walker’s Hibernian magazine, or Compendium of entertaining knowledge Apr. 1786: 189-190. Web. 4 March. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5989020?accountid=14888>

Though this text did not find a place in my final page, it enjoyed reading about the mischievous nature of cats, and their ability to outsmart humans in most aspects of life. 

 

Anon. The history of Sir Richard Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London. London, 1780? Historical Texts. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

An informative text, this historical work also resembles a fairy-tale or children's story. It is easy to read and understand and provides an interesting and entertaining history of Richard Whittington's life. 

 

Anon. The master cat; or Puss in boots. To which is added, the story of a man with a blue beard. London, 1750? Historical Texts. Web. 12 Feb. 2016.

It was fascinating to read a version of the story we are all familiar with, published as early as the eighteenth century. The story itself remains fairly unchanged, but the language and illustration renders this version entertaining to read.

 

Anon. “The Natural History of the Cat, finished from Page 188, of our last, with a beautifully engraved Figure of the Cat of Angora.” Universal magazine of knowledge and pleasure

Nov. 1769: 241-242. Web. 4 March. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/6238698?accountid=14888>

The continuation from the main publication, it was not particularly relevant to this page as it outlines the history and appearance of the wild cat rather than the domestic cat, but it was interesting to compare the two. 

 

Anon. “The Poet’s Lamentation for the Loss of his Cat, which he used to call his Muse.” London magazine, or, Gentleman’s monthly intelligencer Nov. 1733: 579-579. Web. 1 Mar. 2016

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5320422?accountid=14888>

This was a really interesting poem to read because it was written by a male poet, yet laments and expresses grief as though it was written by a female. It accentuates the intimacy and affection between a pet and and an owner. 

 

Anon. “We have hitherto given an Account of such Parts of Natural History, as seemed most curious or useful;

and, as our Readers seem desirous of our continuing such Subjects, which indeed are both instructive and amusing, we shall endeavour to gratify them in that Particular, and occasionally, illustrate with well-engraved Copper-plates whatever we give the History of. – Here we present them with the Natural History of the Cat, and a finely engraved Figure of that Animal in its wild State.” ­Universal magazine of knowledge and pleasure Oct. 1769: 185-188. Web. 1 Feb. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5826255?accountid=14888>

An invaluable text, this publication is either a copy or republication of Buffon's natural history, see below. Nevertheless, this provided the main framework for my earlier sections by giving an insight into eighteenth century knowledge of behaviour, natural form and history; along with the polarised attitudes towards cats. This text, being a reprint in a periodical, shows that such knowledge was becoming increasingly widespread. 

 

 

CB. “To a friend, on the Death of a favourite Cat.” The Monthly Visitor, and pocket companion Nov. 1799: 294-295. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/3904551?accountid=14888>

A profoundly emotional poem, lamenting the loss of a pet cat; it provides an example of the theme of sensibility which was common in elegies about animals.

 

Comte de Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc. “Buffon’s Natural History of Domestic Animals: The Cat.” Buffon’s Natural History,: Contraining a Theory of the Earth, a General History of Man, of the Brute Creation, and of Vegetables, Minerals, &c. From the French. With Notes by the Translator. In Ten Volumes. London: Printed by J. S. Barr, 1792. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

The original Natural History of the Cat, which marks an increasing concern for how nature works in the eighteenth century.

 

Gray, Thomas. “On the Death of a favourite Cat, drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes.” London magazine, or, Gentleman’s monthly intelligencer Apr. 1748: 183-183. Web. 19 Feb. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5190107?accountid=14888>

One of the most famous elegies of the eighteenth century, this poem mocks female weakness. It provides an example of the theme of satire which was prevalent in elegies written about animals. 

 

Grimalkin, Norton. “The most humble Petition of the Cats of this Kingdom.” The Oxford magazine, or, Universal Museum Jun. 1770: 274-276. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5890539?accountid=14888>

This piece is very entertaining, and sarcastically written from the point of view of cats meeting in a public house, it provides information about a cat's role as a mouser in an eighteenth-century household. However, the author's name is highly suspicious, as 'Grimalkin' is a word synonymous for the word 'cat'. The author's name therefore contributes to the satirical nature of the text. 

 

Serio-Jocosus. “A Defence of Cats.” Universal magazine of knowledge and pleasure Mar. 1796: 172-175. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/6297824?accountid=14888>

Another invaluable text, it provided a direct engagement with eighteenth-century attitudes towards cats, and works as a rebuttal of the common prejudices against cats. 

 

Secondary Sources

 

Tague, Ingrid. H. “Companions, Servants, or Slaves?: Considering Animals in Eighteenth Century Britain.” Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture. 39. (2010): 111-130. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

An informative text which highlights a growing concern in the eighteenth century about cruelty to animals. Though I could not go into much detail about this topic, it opens up further thoughts and debates surrounding animals in the eighteenth century, too rich to include fully in this page. 

 

Tague, Ingrid. H. “Dead Pets: Satire and Sentiment in British Elegies and Epitaphs for Animals.” Eighteenth-Century Studies. 41.3 (2008): 289-306. Web. 14 Mar. 2016.

This text provides an overview of elegies and epitaphs and the themes they convey across the eighteenth century. It was very useful for background information about pet rearing in the Companionship section of my page. 

 

Zax, David. “A Brief History of House Cats.” Smithsonian Magazine. n.p., 30 June. 2007. Web. 12 Feb. 2016. 

Though not entirely relevant, this online magazine article provided me with a starting point for thinking about the history of cats and whether is was known in the eighteenth century. This article lead to me searching for and finding The Natural History of the Cat, which was invaluable for my page. 

 

Wastlhuber, J. "History of Domestic Cats and Cat Breeds." n.d. Web. 11 Jan. 2016. <http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/CCAH/local-assets/pdfs/FelHusCh1.pdf>

 

Images

 

Figure.1 – Chardin, Jean-Siméon. Cat with a Piece of Salmon, Two Mackerels, Mortar and Pestle. 1728. Madrid. Accessed via Artstor: < http://0-library.artstor.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/library/iv2.html?parent=true>

 

Figure.2 - An extract from: Anon. “We have hitherto given an Account of such Parts of Natural History, as seemed most curious or useful; and, as our Readers seem desirous of our continuing such Subjects, which indeed are both instructive and amusing, we shall endeavour to gratify them in that Particular, and occasionally, illustrate with well-engraved Copper-plates whatever we give the History of. – Here we present them with the Natural History of the Cat, and a finely engraved Figure of that Animal in its wild State.” ­Universal magazine of knowledge and pleasure Oct. 1769: 185-188. Web. 1 Feb. 2016. Accessed via: <http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5826255?accountid=14888>

 

Figure.3 - Chardin, Jean-Siméon. The Ray (La Raie). 1725-1726. Musée du Louvre, Paris. Accessed via Artstor: < http://0-library.artstor.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/library/iv2.html?parent=true>

 

Figure.4 – Title pages from: Comte de Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc. “Buffon’s Natural History of Domestic Animals: The Cat.” Buffon’s Natural History: Contraining a Theory of the Earth, a General History of Man, of the Brute Creation, and of Vegetables, Minerals, &c. From the French. With Notes by the Translator. In Ten Volumes. London: Printed by J. S. Barr, 1792. Web. 10 Mar. 2016. Accessed via: <https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=8SUOAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=cat&f=false>

 

Figure.5 – An engraved plate from: Comte de Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc. “Buffon’s Natural History of Domestic Animals: The Cat.” Buffon’s Natural History,: Contraining a Theory of the Earth, a General History of Man, of the Brute Creation, and of Vegetables, Minerals, &c. From the French. With Notes by the Translator. In Ten Volumes. London: Printed by J. S. Barr, 1792. Web. 10 Mar. 2016. Accessed via: <https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=8SUOAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=cat&f=false>

 

Figure.6 – An engraved plate from: Comte de Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc. “Buffon’s Natural History of Domestic Animals: The Cat.” Buffon’s Natural History,: Contraining a Theory of the Earth, a General History of Man, of the Brute Creation, and of Vegetables, Minerals, &c. From the French. With Notes by the Translator. In Ten Volumes. London: Printed by J. S. Barr, 1792. Web. 10 Mar. 2016. Accessed via: <https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=8SUOAAAAQAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=cat&f=false>

 

Figure.7 – Extract from: Anon. “We have hitherto given an Account of such Parts of Natural History, as seemed most curious or useful; and, as our Readers seem desirous of our continuing such Subjects, which indeed are both instructive and amusing, we shall endeavour to gratify them in that Particular, and occasionally, illustrate with well-engraved Copper-plates whatever we give the History of. – Here we present them with the Natural History of the Cat, and a finely engraved Figure of that Animal in its wild State.” ­Universal magazine of knowledge and pleasure Oct. 1769: 185-188. Web. 1 Feb. 2016. Accessed via: <http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5826255?accountid=14888>

 

Figure.8 – Extract from: Serio-Jocosus. “A Defence of Cats.” Universal magazine of knowledge and pleasure Mar. 1796: 172-175. Web. 13 Feb. 2016. Accessed via: <http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/6297824?accountid=14888>

 

Figure.9 –Extract from: Serio-Jocosus. “A Defence of Cats.” Universal magazine of knowledge and pleasure Mar. 1796: 172-175. Web. 13 Feb. 2016. Accessed via: <http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/6297824?accountid=14888>

 

Figure.10 - Extract from: Serio-Jocosus. “A Defence of Cats.” Universal magazine of knowledge and pleasure Mar. 1796: 172-175. Web. 13 Feb. 2016. Accessed via: <http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/6297824?accountid=14888>

 

Figure.11 - Anon. An old ballad of Whittington and his Cat. Tune of, Come thou to me. London, 1750? Historical Texts. Web. 13 Feb. 2016. Accessed via Historical Texts: <https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=ecco-0149103900&terms=an%20old%20ballad%20of%20whittington%20and%20his%20cat&pageTerms=an%20old%20ballad%20of%20whittington%20and%20his%20cat&pageId=ecco-0149103900-10>

 

Figure.12 – A table comparing front covers taken from: (LEFT): Anon. The history of Sir Richard Whittington, thrice Lord Mayor of London. London, 1780? Historical Texts. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

Accessed via Historical Texts: <https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eccoii-1621400800&terms=the%20history%20of%20richard%20whittington%20thrice%20lord%20mayor%20of%20london&pageTerms=the%20history%20of%20richard%20whittington%20thrice%20lord%20mayor%20of%20london>

(RIGHT): Anon. The master cat; or Puss in boots. To which is added, the story of a man with a blue beard. London, 1750? Historical Texts. Web. 12 Feb. 2016. Accessed via Historical Texts: <https://data.historicaltexts.jisc.ac.uk/view?pubId=eccoii-1607902000&terms=puss%20in%20boots&pageTerms=puss%20in%20boots&pageId=eccoii-1607902000-10>

 

Figure.14 – Hogarth, William. The Graham Children. 1742. Oil on canvas. London. Accessed via Artstor: http://0-library.artstor.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/library/iv2.html?parent=true#

 

Figure.15 – Extract from: Grimalkin, Norton. “The most humble Petition of the Cats of this Kingdom.” The Oxford magazine, or, Universal Museum Jun. 1770: 274-276. Web. 20 Feb. 2016. Accessed via: <http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5890539?accountid=14888>

 

Figure.16 – Greuze, Jean-Baptiste. The Wool Winder. 1759. Oil on canvas. New York. Accessed via Artstor: <http://0-library.artstor.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/library/iv2.html?parent=true#>

 

Figure.17 – Extract from: A Lady. “Verses on a Cat.” Univeral magazine of knowledge and pleasure Jun. 1778: 378-378. Web. 21 Feb. 2016. Accessed via: < http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/5828245?accountid=14888>

 

Figure.18 – Perronneau, Jean-Baptiste. Magdaleine Pinceloup de la Grange, née de Parseval. 1747. Oil on canvas. Accessed via: <http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/747/jean-baptiste-perronneau-magdaleine-pinceloup-de-la-grange-nee-de-parseval-french-1747/>

 

Figure.19 – Perronneau, Jean-Baptiste. A Girl with a Kitten. 1745. Pastel on paper. National Gallery, London. Accessed via Artstor: <http://0-library.artstor.org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/library/iv2.html?parent=true#>

 

Figure 20 - Extract from: CB. “To a friend, on the Death of a favourite Cat.” The Monthly Visitor, and pocket companion Nov. 1799: 294-295. Web. 13 Feb. 2016. Accessed via:<http://0-search.proquest.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/docview/3904551?accountid=14888>

 

Oxford English Dictionary Definitions

 

Cat - <http://0-www.oed.com.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/view/Entry/28649?rskey=mThvgm&result=2&isAdvanced=false#eid>

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