Cat  (Felis domestica ) is known to everybody. Its nearest relation is the Wild Cat  (Felis catus ), but it is not a tamed descendant of this wild cat but seems, like other domestic animals, to have come from the East. It is usually, though not with absolute certainty, regarded as the descendant of the Egyptian cat which was domesticated in Egypt thirteen centuries B. C. From Egypt the domestic cat spread through Europe, and was confined to those who could afford a high price for the pet.


The varieties of domestic cat concern color and quality of fur, not differences of form, as in the case of dogs. Thus we have (1) black cats with clear yellow eyes, usually with a few white hairs, and with hints of markings in the kittens; (2) white cats, sometimes with blue eyes, and then generally deaf; (3) tabby cats, like the wild species, and perhaps the result of crossing with the same; (4) gray cats, which are rare, and differ from the tabby forms in having no black stripes, except the common ones over the forelegs; (5) tortoise-shell, fawn-colored, and mottled with black, usually females; and (6) sandy-colored, usually males. The royal Siamese cat is fawn-colored, with blue eyes and small head; the Carthusian or blue cat has long, dark, grayish-blue fur, with black lips and soles; the Angora, or Persian cat is large, fine furred, generally white, tending to yellow or gray, and possibly derived from an Asiatic species. The Malay cat, in Pegu, Siam, and Burma, has a tail only half the normal length; the Manx cat of the Isle of Man is tailless and has longer hind-legs. A fine all-blue cat comes from Russia and Iceland, and there are characteristic breeds from India, Abyssinia, and other parts of the world.





The domestic cat is too well known to require description. It has been known to attain a weight of twenty-three pounds and an age of eighteen years. Though thoroughly domesticated, it retains many characteristics of wildness, especially in its private hunting expeditions, nocturnal wanderings, unsocial habits, and generally self-centered, not entirely confident disposition. When turned out in the woods it usually adapts itself readily. Domestication has had a different influence on cat and on dog, and the former may be fairly said to have surrendered itself less. Its sense of smell has probably degenerated, but is still very sensitive to certain favorite odors. The great dilatability of the pupil enables it to make the most of feeble light. The dry fur, freed from any oily matter and readily injured by water, becomes highly electric by friction, especially in dry or frosty weather.


In cats the senses of sight, hearing, and touch are very highly developed, and the intelligence is proportionately great. That they exhibit great adroitness in catching their prey is well known, but the climax is reached in certain recorded cases where a young bird was used as a decoy for its parents, and where crumbs were scattered or scraped from beneath the snow to attract sparrows. A remarkable case is recorded of a cat which, being accidentally ignited by paraffin, ran one hundred yards and plunged into a trough of water.


Cats have been objects of superstition from the earliest ages. In Egypt they were held in the highest reverence; temples were erected in their honor; sacrifices and devotions were offered to them; and it was customary for the family in whose house a cat died to shave their eyebrows. The favorite shape of Satan was said to be that of a black cat, and the animal was an object of dread instead of veneration. Many people still prophesy rainy weather from a cat washing over its ears or simply its face; and a cat-call on the housetop was formerly held to signify death.

sb. catVariants: catt, kat
A common prostitute. An old cat; a cross old woman.
To cat: or SHOOT THE CAT. To vomit from drunkenness.
a lady's muff; “to free a cat ,” i.e., steal a muff.
cat o' nine tails , a whip with that number of lashes used to punish refractory sailors.—Sea. The “cat” is now a recognised term for the punishmental whip.
to vomit like a cat. Perhaps from cataract ; but see  shoot the cat.

n. A soft, indestructible automaton provided by nature to be kicked when things go wrong in the domestic circle.

  This is a dog,
      This is a cat.
  This is a frog,
      This is a rat.
  Run, dog, mew, cat.
  Jump, frog, gnaw, rat.



W HEN a child, my father took me to see some feats performed by some traveling cats. They were called “the bell-ringers,” and were respectively named Jet, Blanche, Tom, Mop, and Tib.

Five bells were hung at regular intervals on a round hoop erected on a sort of stage. A rope was attached to each bell after the manner of church bells. At a given signal from their master, they all sprang to their feet, and at a second signal, each advanced to the ropes, and standing on their hind feet, stuck their front claws firmly into the ropes, which were in that part covered with worsted, or something of the kind, so as to give the claws a firmer hold. There was a moment's pause—then No. 1 pulled his or her rope, and so sounded the largest bell; No. 2 followed, then No. 3, and so on, till a regular peal was rung with almost as much precision and spirit as though it were human hands instead of cats' claws that effected it.

Can the Cat See in the Dark?

No, in all probability, says the reader; but the opposite popular belief is supported by eminent naturalists.

Buffon says: “The eyes of the cat shine in the dark somewhat like diamonds, which throw out during the night the light with which they were in a manner impregnated during the day.”

Valmont de Bamare says: “The pupil of the cat is during the night still deeply imbued with the light of the day;” and again, “the eyes of the cat are during the night so imbued with light that they then appear very shining and luminous.”

Spallanzani says: “The eyes of cats, polecats, and several other animals, shine in the dark like two small tapers;” and he adds that this light is phosphoric.

Treviranus says: “The eyes of the cat shine where no rays of light penetrate ; and the light must in many, if not in all, cases proceed from the eye itself.”

Now, that the eyes of the cat do shine in the dark is to a certain extent true: but we have to inquire whether by dark  is meant the entire absence of light; and it will be found that the solution of this question will dispose of several assertions and theories which have for centuries perplexed the subject.

Dr. Karl Ludwig Esser has published in Karsten's Archives the results of an experimental inquiry on the luminous appearance of the eyes of the cat and other animals, carefully distinguishing such as evolve light from those which only reflect it. Having brought a cat into a half-darkened room, he observed from a certain direction that the cat's eyes, when opposite the 52  window, sparkled brilliantly; but in other positions the light suddenly vanished. On causing the cat to be held so as to exhibit the light, and then gradually darkening the room, the light disappeared by the time the room was made quite dark.

In another experiment, a cat was placed opposite the window in a darkened room. A few rays were permitted to enter, and by adjusting the light, one or both of the cat's eyes were made to shine. In proportion as the pupil was dilated, the eyes were brilliant. By suddenly admitting a strong glare of light into the room, the pupil contracted; and then suddenly darkening the room, the eye exhibited a small round luminous point, which enlarged as the pupil dilated.

The eyes of the cat sparkle most when the animal is in a lurking position, or in a state of irritation. Indeed, the eyes of all animals, as well as of man, appear brighter when in rage than in a quiescent state, which Collins has commemorated in his Ode on the Passions:

“Next Anger rushed, his eyes on fire.”

This brilliancy is said to arise from an increased secretion of the lachrymal fluid on the surface of the eye, by which the reflection of the light is increased. Dr. Esser, in places absolutely dark, never discovered the slightest trace of light in the eye of the cat; and he has no doubt that in all cases where cats' eyes have been seen to shine in dark places, such as a cellar, light penetrated through some window or aperture, and fell upon the eyes of the animal as it turned towards the opening, while the observer was favourably situated to obtain a view of the reflection.

To prove more clearly that this light does not depend upon the will of the animal, nor upon its angry passions, experiments were made upon the head of a dead cat. The sun's rays were admitted through a small aperture; and falling immediately upon the eyes, caused them to glow with a beautiful green light more vivid even than in the case of a living animal, on account of the increased dilatation of the pupil. It was also remarked that black and fox-coloured cats gave a brighter light than gray and white cats.

To ascertain the cause of this luminous appearance Dr. Esser dissected the eyes of cats, and exposed them to a small regulated amount of light after having removed different portions. The light was not diminished by the removal of the cornea, but only changed in colour. The light still continued after the iris was displaced; but on taking away the crystalline lens it greatly diminished both in intensity and colour. Dr. Esser then conjectured that the tapetum in the hinder part of the eye must form a spot which caused the reflection of the 53 incident rays of light, and thus produce the shining; and this appeared more probable as the light of the eye now seemed to emanate from a single spot. Having taken away the vitreous humour, Dr. Esser observed that the entire want of the pigment in the hinder part of the choroid coat, where the optic nerve enters, formed a greenish, silver-coloured, changeable oblong spot, which was not symmetrical, but surrounded the optic nerve so that the greater part was above and only the smaller part below it; wherefore the greater part lay beyond the axis of vision. It is this spot, therefore, that produces the reflection of the incident rays of light, and beyond all doubt, according to its tint, contributes to the different colouring of the light.

It may be as well to explain that the interior of the eye is coated with a black pigment, which has the same effect as the black colour given to the inner surface of optical instruments: it absorbs any rays of light that may be reflected within the eye, and prevents them from being thrown again upon the retina so as to interfere with the distinctness of the images formed upon it. The retina is very transparent; and if the surface behind it, instead of being of a dark colour, were capable of reflecting light, the luminous rays which had already acted on the retina would be reflected back again through it, and not only dazzle from excess of light, but also confuse and render indistinct the images formed on the retina. Now in the case of the cat this black pigment, or a portion of it, is wanting; and those parts of the eye from which it is absent, having either a white or a metallic lustre, are called the tapetum. The smallest portion of light entering from it is reflected as by a concave mirror; and hence it is that the eyes of animals provided with this structure are luminous in a very faint light.

These experiments and observations show that the shining of the eyes of the cat does not arise from a phosphoric light, but only from a reflected light; that consequently it is not an effect of the will of the animal, or of violent passions; that their shining does not appear in absolute darkness; and that it cannot enable the animal to move securely in the dark.

It has been proved by experiment that there exists a set of rays of light of far higher refrangibility than those seen in the ordinary Newtonian spectrum. Mr. Hunt considers it probable that these highly refrangible rays, although under ordinary circumstances invisible to the human eye, may be adapted to produce the necessary degree of excitement upon which vision depends in the optic nerves of the night-roaming animals. The bat, the owl, and the cat may see in the gloom of the night by the aid of rays which are invisible to, or inactive on, the eyes of man or those animals which require the light of day for perfect vision.