Caturday felid trifecta: A Victorian book of cats, foster mom for abandoned baby tiger, famous artists and their cats

A greeting from Larry the Cat, the British’s Government’s Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office:

 

The Atlas Obscura gives details about a little-known Victorian book of cats with nice illustrations:

In the 1800s, people were just as crazed about cats as we are today. But instead of memes, Instagram posts, and viral videos, the Victorians had satirical comics and chronicles.

English cartoonist, and evident cat fanatic, Charles Henry Ross wrote an epic encyclopedic book detailing the intricacies and culture of cats. In The Book of Cats. A Chit-Chat Chronicle of Feline Facts and Fancies, Legendary, Lyrical, Medical, Mirthful and MiscellaneousRoss makes an argument in support of the animal. Published in 1868, Ross read over 300 books, browsed newspapers, drew 20 illustrations, and gathered a mass of anecdotes about the fondness and repulsion towards cats.

Cats weren’t much beloved then; rather, they feared cats and harbored a host of misconceptions: their claws were venomous, they could suck the breath out of babies, killing them.  Ross tried to rehabilitate the reputation of moggies, and the article gives a lot of description. I’ll put up just a few pictures:

“Need I tell the reader who has thought it worth his while to learn anything of the Cat’s nature,” he writes, “that there are countless instances on record where Cats have shown the most devoted and enduring attachment to those who have kindly treated them.”

Beyond erratic fears, others believed cats had supernatural powers and psychic abilities. The Chinese reportedly used to peer into cats’ eyes to determine the time, while the playfulness of cats is said to indicate an approaching storm, Ross writes.

“I have noticed this often myself, and have seen them rush about in a half wild state just before windy weather.” People postulated that cats felt an irritation under the skin when it was about to rain, showing discomfort and unease.

He also details a method to feel shocks from a black cat, which were said to be highly charged with electricity. To produce the effect, he instructs the reader to place one hand on a black cat’s throat, while running the other down its back. One should then be able to feel the electric shocks on the hand on the cat’s throat.

Ross went to great lengths to clear up the cat’s reputation. Little is known about how many copies circulated of The Book of Cats or how receptive people of the 1800s were to Ross’s argumentWhile many of these superstitions and legends seem outlandish today, it reflects Victorians’ fascination with one of our most beloved domestic animals—in addition to their mystery.

*********

Zooborns reports the transferring of an Amur tiger cub (Panthera tigris altaica), rejected by its mother in the Philadelphia Zoo, was transferred to the Oklahoma City Zoo, where a mother Sumatran tiger (Pantheris tigris sumatrae: same species, different subspecies) had just given birth. The story at the site is long, but here’s a video summarizing the tale, with, of course, pictures of these adorable babies:

*********

Finally, the I Require Art site has a nice post called “Famous Artists and their Cats”, with lots of cool photos. How many of these artists can you identify?

 

Photo: John Candelario. Courtesy Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

© Robert Capa and the International Center of Photography / Magnum Photos

© 2014 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

I’ve noticed that artists and writers tend to favor Siamese cats.

h/t: jj, Hather, Arno, Charleen

10 Comments

  1. Hempenstein
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Nixon in the Cunning Cat illustration.

    Then Georgia O’Keeffe, ? ,John DosPassos(?), Warhol

  2. Randy schenck
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I suppose if our human habitat were reduced by 96 percent like the Tiger’s has been, we would not be so plentiful. Ah well, we are working on it but who will come to the zoo to look at us? Maybe the cockroaches.

  3. Forse
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Norman Lindsay’s Book of Cats

  4. Merilee
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    🐾

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    That’s Georgia on top, Drella on the bottom. Not sure about the middle two.

  6. Christopher Bonds
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I recognized Georgia O’Keeffe, John Cage, and Andy Warhol. Not sure about #3 but he looks a little like Oliver Sacks.

    • ratabago
      Posted August 26, 2017 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

      I’m pretty sure number 3 is Matisse.

      • Christopher Bonds
        Posted August 30, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        Yep. Looked it up.

  7. Christopher Bonds
    Posted August 26, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Take a look at “composers and their cats”: http://www.musicaltoronto.org/2014/04/19/composers-and-their-cats/#

    I especially like the photo of Philip Glass (with cat).

  8. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted August 27, 2017 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    The Chinese reportedly used to peer into cats’ eyes to determine the time,

    “lunchtime”


%d bloggers like this: