An "Articled Clerk," writing to The Standard with regard to the illegality of killing cats, states: "It is clearly laid down in 'Addison on Torts,' that a person is not justified in killing his neighbour's cat, or dog, which he finds on his land, unless the animal is in the act of doing some injurious act which can only be prevented by its slaughter.
"And it has been decided by the case of 'Townsend v. Watken' 9 last 277, that if a person sets on his lands a trap for foxes, and baits it with such strong-smelling meat as to attract his neighbour's dog or cat on to his land, to the trap, and such animal is thereby killed or injured, he is liable for the act, though he had no intention of doing it, and though the animal ought not to have been on his land."
Lifeless cats have been from time immemorial suggestive of foolish hoaxing, a parcel being made up, or a basket with the legs of a hare projecting, directed to some one at a distance, and on which the charge for carriage comes to a considerable sum, the fortunate recipient ultimately, to his great annoyance, finding "his present" was nothing else but "a dead cat." Dead cats, which not infrequently were cast into the streets, or accidentally killed there, were sometimes used as objects of sport by the silly, low-minded, and vulgar, and it was thought a "clever thing" if they could deposit such in a drawing-room through an open window, or pitch the unfortunate animal, often crushed and dirty, into a passing carriage; but "the time of times" when it was considered to be a legitimate object to use was that of either a borough or county election, cats and rotten eggs forming the material with which the assault was conducted in the event of an unpopular candidate for honours attempting to give his political views to a depreciatory mob surrounding the hustings. An anecdote is recorded in Grose's "Olio" of Mr. Fox, who, in 1784, was a candidate for Westminster, which goes far to show what dirty, degrading, disgusting indignities the would-be "people's representative" had to endure at that period, and with what good humour such favours of popular appreciation, or otherwise, were received:
"During the poll, a dead cat being thrown on the hustings, one of Sir Cecil Wray's party observed it stunk worse than a fox; to which Mr. Fox replied there was nothing extraordinary in that, considering it was a 'poll cat.'"
This is by no means the only ready and witty answer that has been
attributed to Mr. Fox, though not bearing on the present subject.
Shakespeare, in "Lucrece," says:
In an essay on "The Art of Ingeniously Tormenting" (1753), the cat is alluded to in the frontispiece—a cat at play with a mouse, below which is the couplet:
Giovanni Batista Casti, in his book, "Tre Giuli" (1762), likens the cat to one who lends money, and suddenly pounces on the debtor:
Again, John Philips, in the latter part of the seventeenth century, in his poem of "The Splendid Shilling," referring to debtors, writes:
A cat (hieroglyphically) represents false friendship, or a deceitful, flattering friend.
The cat (in heraldry) is an emblem of liberty, because it naturally dislikes to be shut up, and therefore the Burgundians, etc., bore a cat on their banners to intimate they could not endure servitude.
"It is a bold and daring creature and also cruel to its enemy, and never gives over till it has destroyed it, if possible. It is also watchful, dexterous, swift, pliable, and has good nerves—thus, if it falls from a place never so high, it still alights on its feet; and therefore may denote those who have much forethought, that whatsoever befalls them they are still on their guard."
"In coat armour they must always be represented as full-faced, and not showing one side of it, but both their eyes and both their ears. Argent three cats in pale sable is the coat of the family of Keat of Devonshire."
Many families have adopted the cat as their emblem. In "Cats, Past and Present," several are noted. In Scotland, the Clan Chattan bore as their chief cognizance the wild cat, and called their chief "Mohr au Chat," the great wild cat. Nor is the name uncommon as an English surname, frequently appearing as Cat, Catt, Catte; but the most strange association of the name with the calling was one I knew in my old sporting days of a gamekeeper whose name was Cat.