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The Domestic Cat   By: (1840-1910)

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The Domestic Cat By Gordon Stables Published by George Routledge and Sons, Ludgate, London. This edition dated 1876.

The Domestic Cat, by Gordon Stables.

THE DOMESTIC CAT, BY GORDON STABLES.

CHAPTER ONE.

CLASSIFICATION: ITS BASIS.

In the feline world you find no such diversity, of form, shape, disposition, coat, size, etc, as you do in the canine. Dogs differ from each other in both the size and conformation of the skeleton, and in many other important points, almost as much as if they belonged to entirely different species. Mark, for instance, how unlike the bulldog is to the greyhound, or the Scotch toy terrier to the English mastiff; yet, from the toy terrier upwards to the giant Saint Bernard, they are all dogs , every one of them. So is the jackal, so is the fox and the wolf. The domesticated dog himself, indeed, is the best judge as to whether any given animal belongs to his own species or not. I have taken dogs to different zoological gardens, and have always found that they were ready enough to hob nob with either jackal or fox, if the latter were only decently civil; but they will turn away with indifference, or even abhorrence, from a wild goat or sloth. But among the various breeds of cats there exists no such characteristic differences, so that in proposing a classification one almost hesitates to use the word "breed" at all, and feels inclined to search about for another and better term. If I were not under a vow not to let my imagination run riot in these papers, but to glide gently over the surface of things, rather than be erudite, philosophical, theoretical, or speculative, I should feel sorely tempted to pause here for a moment, and ask myself the question Why are there so many distinct breeds of the domesticated dog, and, properly speaking, only one of the more humble cat? Did the former all spring from the same original stock, or are certain breeds, such as the staghound, etc, more directly descended from the wolf, the collie, Pomeranian, etc, from the fox after his kind, and other breeds from animals now entirely extinct in the wild state? And once upon a time, as the fairy books say, did flocks of wolves, foxes, wild mastiffs, and all dogs run at large in these islands, clubbing together in warlike and predatory bands, each after his kind, much in the same way that the Scottish Highlanders used to do two or three hundred years ago? Animals of the dog kind are a step or two more advanced in civilisation, if I may be allowed to use the term, than cats; and hence, as intelligence can appreciate intelligence, and always seeks to rise to a higher level, more breeds, or a larger number of species, of the former than of the latter have forsaken their wild or natural condition to attach themselves to man. May not the time come, in the distant future, when a larger variety of feline animals shall become fashionable when domesticated tigers, tame lions, or pet ocelots shall be the rage? If so, that will indeed be the millennium for cats. Just fancy how becoming it would be to meet the lovely and accomplished Miss De Dear out walking, and leading a beautiful leopard by a slight silver chain, or Lady Bluesock in her phaeton, with a tame ocelot beside John on the dickey! A lady beside a lion on the lawn would, I think, make a prettier picture than one by the side of a peacock, and a tame Bengalese tiger would be a pet worthy to crouch at the foot of a throne. To be sure, little bits of mistakes would occur at times; instead of the pussy of the period bolting away with the canary, nothing less would satisfy the pet than a nice fat baby, and then those extraordinary people the cat exterminators would be louder in their denunciations than ever.

If we dissect the cat, we will find that the skeleton of one breed of pussy would pretty nearly pass for that of another; we find the same shape and almost the same size of bones, the same arrangement of teeth as regards their levelness, the same number of teeth, and the same formation of jawbone... Continue reading book >>




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