Our Cats and All About Them


This of all, as it depends entirely on its comeliness, should be graceful and elegant in the outline of its form and also action, the head small, not too round nor thick, for this gives a clumsy, heavy appearance, but broad on the forehead, and gently tapering towards the muzzle, the nose small, tip even and pink, the ears rather small than large, and not too pointed, the neck slender, shoulders narrow and sloping backwards, loin full and long, legs of moderate length, tail well set on, long, broad at the base, and gradually tapering towards the end; the white should be the yellow-white, that is, the white of the colours, such as tortoiseshell, red tabby or blues, not the gray-white bred from the black, as these are coarser in the quality of the furs. The eye should be large, round, full, and blue. I noted this peculiarity of white when breeding white Cochins many years ago; those chickens that were black when hatched were a colder and harder white than those which were hatched buff. This colouring of white should be fully borne in mind when crossing colours in breeding, as the results are widely different from the two varieties. The whole colour yellow-white will not do to match with blue or gray, as it will assuredly give the wrong tinge or colour.

The eyes should be blue; green is a great defect; bright yellow is allowable, or what in horses is called "wall eyes." Orange gives a heavy appearance; but yellow will harmonise and look well with a gray-white.

White cats with blue eyes are hardy. Mr. Timbs, in "Things Not Generally Known," relates that even they are not so likely to be deaf as is supposed, and mentions one of seventeen years old which retained its hearing faculties perfectly. Some specimens I have seen with one yellow eye and one blue; this is a most singular freak of nature, and to the best of my knowledge is not to be found among any of the other colours.

It is stated that one of the white horses recently presented by the Shah of Persia to the Emperor of Russia has blue eyes. I can scarcely credit this, but think it must be a true albino, with the gray-pink coloured eyes they generally have, or possibly the blue eye is that peculiar to the albino cat and horse, as I have never seen an albino horse or cat with pink eyes but a kind of opalesque colour, or what is termed "wall eye." No doubt many of my readers have observed the differences in the white of our horses, they mostly being the gray-white, with dark skin; but the purer white has a pink skin, and is much softer and elegant in appearance. It is the same with our white cats.


It is often said "What's in a name?" the object, whatever it is, by any other would be the same, and yet there is much in a name; but this is not the question at issue, which is that of colour. Why should a black cat be thought so widely different from all others by the foolish, unthinking, and ignorant? Why, simply on account of its colour being black, should it have ascribed to it a numberless variety of bad omens, besides having certain necromantic power? In Germany, for instance, black cats are kept away from children as omens of evil, and if a black cat appeared in the room of one lying ill it was said to portend death. To meet a black cat in the twilight was held unlucky. In the "good old times" a black cat was generally the only colour that was favoured by men reported to be wizards, and also were said to be the constant companions of reputed witches, and in such horror and detestation were they then held that when the unfortunate creatures were ill-treated, drowned, or even burned, very frequently we are told that their cats suffered martyrdom at the same time. It is possible that one of the reasons for such wild, savage superstition may have arisen from the fact of the larger amount of electricity to be found by friction in the coat of the black cat to any other; experiments prove there is but very little either in that of the white or the red tabby cat. Be this as it may, still the fact remains that, for some reason or other, the black cat is held by the prejudiced ignorant as an animal most foul and detestable, and wonderful stories are related of their actions in the dead of the night during thunder-storms and windy nights. Yet, as far as I can discover, there appears little difference either of temper or habit in the black cat distinct from that of any other colour, though it is maintained by many even to this day that black cats are far more vicious and spiteful and of higher courage, and this last I admit. Still, when a black cat is enraged and its coat and tail are well "set up," its form swollen, its round, bright, orange-yellow eye distended and all aglow with anger, it certainly presents to even the most impartial observer, to say the least of it, a most "uncanny" appearance. But, for all this, their admirers are by no means few; and, to my thinking, a jet-black cat, fine and glossy in fur and elegantly formed, certainly has its attractions; but I will refer to the superstitions connected with the black cat further on.

A black cat for show purposes should be of a uniform, intense black; a brown-black is richer than a blue-black. I mean by this that when the hair is parted it should show in the division a dark brown-black in preference to any tint of blue whatever. The coat or fur should be short, velvety, and very glossy. The eyes round and full, and of a deep orange colour; nose black, and also the pads of the feet; tail long, wide at the base, and tapering gradually towards the end. A long thin tail is a great fault, and detracts much from the merits it may otherwise possess. A good, deep, rich-coloured black cat is not so common as many may at first suppose, as often those that are said to be black show tabby markings under certain conditions of light; and, again, others want depth and richness of colour, some being only a very dark gray. In form it is the same as other short-haired cats, such as I have described in the white, and this brings me to the variety called "blue."



This is shown often under a number of names. It was at first shown as the Archangel cat, then Russian blue, Spanish blue, Chartreuse blue, and, lastly, and I know not why, the American blue. It is not, in my belief, a distinct breed, but merely a light-coloured form of the black cat. In fact, I have ascertained that one shown at the Crystal Palace, and which won many prizes on account of its beautiful blue colour slightly tinged with purple, was the offspring of a tabby and white she-cat and a black-and-white he-cat, and I have seen the same colour occur when bred from the cats usually kept about a farmhouse as a protection from rats and mice, though none of the parents had any blue colour.

Being so beautiful, and as it is possible in some places abroad it may be bred in numbers, I deemed it advisable, when making out the prize schedule, to give special prizes for this colour; the fur being used for various purposes on account of its hue. A fine specimen should be even in colour, of a bluish-lilac tint, with no sootiness or black, and though light be firm and rich in tone, the nose and pads dark, and the eyes orange-yellow. If of a very light blue-gray, the nose and pads may be of a deep chocolate colour and the eyes deep yellow, not green. If it is a foreign variety, I can only say that I see no distinction in form, temper, or habit; and, as I have before mentioned, it is sometimes bred here in England from cats bearing no resemblance to the bluish-lilac colour, nor of foreign extraction or pedigree. I feel bound, however, to admit that those that came from Archangel were of a deeper, purer tint than the English cross-breeds; and on reference to my notes, I find they had larger ears and eyes, and were larger and longer in the head and legs, also the coat or fur was excessively short, rather inclined to woolliness, but bright and glossy, the hair inside the ears being shorter than is usual in the English cat.

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