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CAT

granaries for catching mice. This usage, coupled with the existence of a distinct term in Gaelic for the wild species, leaves little doubt that the word “cat” properly denotes only the domesticated species. This is confirmed by the employment in Byzantine Greek of the term κάττος or κάττα to designate domesticated cats brought from Egypt. It should be added that the αἴλουρος of the Greeks, frequently translated by the older writers as “cat,” really refers to the marten-cat, which appears to have been partially domesticated by the ancients and employed for mousing.

As regards the origin of the domesticated cats of western Europe, it is well known that the ancient Egyptians were in the habit of domesticating (at least in some degree) the Egyptian race of the African wild cat (Felis ocreata maniculata), and also of embalming its remains, of which vast numbers have been found in tombs at Beni Hasan and elsewhere in Egypt. These Egyptian cats are generally believed by naturalists to have had a large share in the parentage of the European breeds, which have, however, in many cases been crossed to a greater or less extent with the European wild cat (F. catus).

One of the features by which the Egyptian differs from the European wild cat is the longer and less bushy tail; and it has been very generally considered that the same feature is characteristic of European domesticated cats. According, however, to Dr E. Hamilton, “the measurement of a number of tails of the [European] wild cat and of the domestic cat gives a range between 11 in. and 141/2 in., the longer length being quite as often found in the wild cats as in the domestic. The bushy appearance depends entirely on the length of the fur, and accords with the thick fur of the rest of the body of the wild cat, while in the domestic race the fur both on the body and tail is thinner and softer.”

Possibly those domesticated cats with unusually short and bushy tails may have a larger share of European wild-cat blood; while, conversely, such wild cats as show long tails may have a cross of domesticated blood.

More importance was attached by Dr A. Nehring of Berlin (SB. Ges. Naturfor., Berlin, 1887) to the colour of the soles of the hind-feet as a means of determining the relationship of the domesticated cat of Europe. According to his observations, in the Egyptian wild cat the pads of the toes are wholly black, while the black extends back either continuously or in long stripes as far as the calcaneum or heel-bone. In the European wild cat, on the other hand, the black is limited to a small round spot on the pads, while the colour of the hair as far back as the heel-bone is yellowish or yellowish-grey. Since in all domesticated cats retaining the colouring of the wild species the soles of the hind-feet correspond in this particular with the Egyptian rather than with the European wild cat, the presumption is in favour of their descent from the former rather than from the latter.

Later, Dr Nehring (op. cit. 1889) came to the conclusion that the domesticated cat has a dual parentage, one stock coming from south-eastern Asia and the other from north-eastern Africa; in other words, from a domesticated Chinese cat (itself derived from a wild Chinese species) on the one hand, and from the Egyptian cat on the other. The ordinary domesticated cats of Europe are, however, mainly of African origin, although they have largely crossed, especially in Germany (and probably also in Great Britain), with the wild cat. The same author was likewise of opinion that the domestication or taming of various species of wild cats took place chiefly among nationalities of stationary or non-nomadic habits who occupied themselves with agricultural pursuits, since it would be of vital importance that their stores of grain should be adequately protected from the depredations of rats and mice.

The foregoing opinion as to the dual parentage of our domesticated cats receives support from observations made many years ago by E. Blyth, which have recently been endorsed and amplified by R. I. Pocock (Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 1907). According to these observations, two distinct types of so-called tabby cats are recognizable. In the one the pattern consists of narrow vertical stripes, and in the other of longitudinal or obliquely longitudinal stripes, which, on the sides of the body, tend to assume a spiral or sub-circular arrangement characteristic of the blotched tabby. This latter type appears to be the true “tabby”; since that word denotes a pattern like that of watered silk. One or other of these types is to be found in cats of almost all breeds, whether Persian, short-haired or Manx; and there appear to be no intermediate stages between them. Cats of the striped type are no doubt descended from the European and North African wild cats; but the origin of cats exhibiting the blotched pattern appears to be unknown. As it was to a cat of the latter kind that Linnaeus gave the name of Felis catus, Pocock urges that this title is not available for the European wild cat, which he would call Felis sylvestris. Without accepting this proposed change in nomenclature, which is liable to lead to confusion without any compensating advantage, it may be suggested that the blotched tabby type represents Dr Nehring’s presumed Chinese element in the cat’s parentage, and that the missing wild stock may be one of the numerous phases of the leopard-cat (F. bengalensis), in some of which an incipient spiral arrangement of the markings may be noticed on the shoulder.

As to the introduction of domesticated cats into Europe, the opinion is very generally held that tame cats from Egypt were imported at a relatively early date into Etruria by Phoenician traders; and there is decisive evidence that these animals were established in Italy long before the Christian era. The progeny of these cats, more or less crossed with the indigenous species, thence gradually spread over Europe, to become mingled at some period, according to Dr Nehring’s hypothesis, with an Asiatic stock. The earliest written record of the introduction of domesticated cats into Great Britain dates from about A.D. 936, when Hywel Dda, prince of South Wales, enacted a law for their protection. “The Romans,” writes Dr Hamilton, “were probably the original introducers of this cat, and as the final evacuation of Britain by that nation took place under the emperor Valentinian about A.D. 436, the period of its introduction may certainly be dated some 500 years previous to the Welsh chronicle and even much earlier.” It is added that the remains of cats from Roman villas at Silchester and Dursley are probably referable to the domesticated breed.

Before proceeding to notice some of the different types of domesticated cats, a few lines may be devoted to the wild European species, F. catus. Beyond stating that in colour it conforms very closely to the striped phase of domesticated tabby, it will be unnecessary to describe the species. Its geographical range was formerly very extensive, and included Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, Poland, Transylvania, Galicia, the Caucasus as far as the Caspian, southern Russia, Italy, Spain, Greece, Rumania, Bulgaria, Servia, and portions of central and northern Asia. “At the present time,” observes Dr Hamilton, “the wild cat has become almost extinct in many of the above districts. Examples may perhaps occasionally still be found in the uninhabited forests of Hungary and Transylvania, and occasionally in Spain and Greece, as well as in the Caucasus and in some of the Swiss cantons, but the original race has in most countries interbred with the domestic cat wherever the latter has penetrated.” In Great Britain wild cats survive only in some of the Scottish forests, and even there it is difficult to decide whether pure-bred specimens are extant. Remains of the wild cat occur in English caverns; while from those of Ireland (where the wild species has apparently been unknown during the historic period) have been obtained jaws and teeth which it has been suggested are referable to the Egyptian rather than to the European wild cat. Such a determination is, however, extremely hazardous, even if it be admitted that the remains of cats from the rock-fissures of Gibraltar pertain to Felis ocreata.

The favourite haunts of the wild cat are mountain forests where masses or rocks or cliffs are interspersed with trees, the crevices in these rocks or the hollow trunks of trees affording sites for the wild cat’s lair, where its young are produced and reared. In the Spanish plains, however, the young are often produced in nests built in trees, or among tall bamboos in