Our Cats and All About Them


Having just come across a communication made to The Kelso Mail, in 1880, by a correspondent giving the signature of "March Brown," bearing on the subject to which I have already alluded ("Fishing Cats"), I deem it worthy of notice, corroborating, as it does, the statement so often made, and almost as often denied, that cats are adept fishers, not only for food, but likewise for the sport and pleasure they so derive. The writer says that "for several years it has been my happy fortune to fish the lovely Tweed for salmon and trout. From Tweed Well to Coldstream is a long stretch, but I have fished it all, and believe that though other rivers have their special advantages, there is not one in Britain which offers such varied and successful angling as the grand Border stream. Many have been the boatmen whom I have employed whilst fishing for salmon, and all were fairly honest, except in the matter of a little poaching. Some had the complaint more fiercely than others, and some so bad as to be incurable. One of the afflicted (Donald by name) was an excellent boatman by day; as to his nocturnal doings I deemed it best not to inquire, except on those occasions when he needed a holiday to attend a summons with which the police had favoured him. Now any one who has studied the proclivities of poachers, knows that they have wonderful powers over all animals who depend upon them, such as dogs, cats, ferrets, tame badgers, otters, etc., etc. Donald's special favourite was a lady-cat, which followed him in his frequent fishings, and took deep interest in the sport. Near to his cottage on the river-bank was a dam or weir, over which the water trickled here and there a few inches deep. In the evenings of spring and summer Donald was generally to be found fishing upon this favourite stretch with artificial fly for trout, and, being an adept in the art, he seldom fished in vain. Pretty puss always kept close behind him, watching the trail of the mimic flies till a fish was hooked, and then her eagerness and love of sport could not be controlled, and so soon as the captive was in shoal water, in sprang puss up to the shoulders, and, fixing her claws firmly in the fish, brought it to the bank, when, with a caress from Donald, she again took her place behind him till another trout was on the line, and the sport was repeated. In this way did puss and her master pass the evenings, each proud of the other's doings, and happy in their companionship. Such was the affection of the cat for her master, that she could not even bear to be separated from him by day. Donald had charge of a ferry across the river, and no sooner did a bell at the opposite side of the stream give notice that a passenger was ready to voyage across, than down scampered puss to the boat, and, leaping in, she journeyed with her master to the further side, and again returned, gravely watching each stroke of the oar. Many a voyage did she thus daily make, and I question, with these luxurious boatings and the exciting fishing in the evenings, if ever cat was more truly happy. The love of fishing once developed itself to the disturbance of my own sport. With careful prevision, my boatman had, in the floods of November and December, secured a plentiful supply of minnows, to be held in readiness till wanted in my fishings for salmon in the ensuing February and March. The minnows were placed in a well two or three feet deep, and the cold spring water rendered them as tough as angler could desire. All went well for the first few days of the salmon fishing; the minnows were deemed admirable for the purpose, and the supply ample for our needs; but this good fortune was not to last. One morning the boatman reported a serious diminution of stock in the well, and on the following day things were still worse. Suspicion fell on more than one honest person, and we determined to watch late and early till the real thief was discovered. When the guidwife and bairns were abed, the boatman kept watch from the cottage window, and by the aid of a bright moon the mystery was soon solved. At the well-side stood puss, the favourite of the household; with arched back and extended paw she took her prey. When an unfortunate minnow approached the surface, sharp was the dash made by puss, arm and shoulder were boldly immersed, and straightway the victim lay gasping on the bank. Fishing in this manner, she soon captured half-a-dozen, and was then driven away. From that evening the well was always covered with a net, which scared puss into enforced honesty. By nature cats love dry warmth and sunshine, whilst they hate water and cold. Who has not seen the misery of a cat when compelled to step into a shallow pool, and how she examines her wet paw with anxiety, holding it up as something to be pitied? And yet the passion of destructiveness is so strong within them as to overcome even their aversion to water."

The following still more extraordinary circumstance of a cat fishing in the sea, appeared in The Plymouth Journal, June, 1828: "There is now at the battery on the Devil's Point, a cat, which is an expert catcher of the finny tribe, being in the constant habit of diving into the sea, and bringing up the fish alive in her mouth, and depositing them in the guard-room for the use of the soldiers. She is now seven years old, and has long been a useful caterer. It is supposed that her pursuits of the water-rats first taught her to venture into the water, to which it is well known puss has a natural aversion. She is as fond of the water as a Newfoundland dog, and takes her regular peregrinations along the rocks at its edge, looking out for her prey, ready to dive for them at a moment's notice."—Ed.


From time immemorial cats have been kept in stables, and when this is the case there is generally a friendly feeling between one or other of the horses and the cat or cats. Such I have known with the heavy, ponderous cart-horse and his feline companion; such was the case in my stable, and so in many others. Cats are as a rule fond of horses, and the feeling is generally reciprocated. Several of our "race winners" have had their favourites at home, among others the well-known "Foxhall." "Many famous horses have had their stable cats, and the great, amiable Foxhall has adopted a couple of kittens, if it would not be more correct to say that they have adopted him. A pretty little white and a tabby, own brothers, live in Foxhall's box, and when Hatcher, his attendant, has rubbed him over, and put on his clothing, he takes up the kittens from the corner of the box where they have been waiting, and gently throws them on Foxhall's back. They are quite accustomed to the process, and, catching hold, soon settle down and curl themselves up into little fluffy balls, much to their own satisfaction and to the good horse's likewise, to judge from the way in which he turns and watches the operation."

In Lawrence's "History of the Horse," it is stated that the celebrated Arabian stallion, Godolphin, and a black cat were for many years the warmest friends. When the horse died, in 1753, the cat sat upon his carcase till it was put under ground, and then, crawling slowly and reluctantly away, was never seen again till her dead body was found in a hay-loft. Stubbs painted the portraits of the Arabian and the cat. There was a hunter in the King's stables at Windsor, to which a cat was so attached, that whenever he was in the stable the creature would never leave her usual seat on the horse's back, and the horse was so well pleased with the attention that, to accommodate his friend, he slept, as horses will sometimes do, standing.

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