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CATABOLISM—CATACLYSM

cane-brakes. “To fight like a wild cat” is proverbial, and wild cats are described as some of the most ferocious and untamable of all animals. How far this untamable character lends support to the view of the origin of our domesticated breeds has not yet been determined. Hares, rabbits, field-mice, water-rats, rats, squirrels, moles, game-birds, pigeons, and small birds, form the chief food of the wild cat.

Apart from the above-mentioned division of the striped members of both groups into two types according to the pattern of their markings, the domesticated cats of western Europe are divided into a short-haired and a long-haired group. Of these, the former is the one which bears the closest relationship to the wild cats of Africa and of Europe, the latter being an importation from the East. The striped (as distinct from the blotched) short-haired tabby is probably the one most nearly allied to the wild ancestors, the stripes being, however, to a great extent due to the European wild cat. In one direction the tabby shows a tendency to melanism which culminates in complete blackness, while in the other direction there is an equally marked tendency to albinism; grey cats, which may be regarded as tabbies whose stripes have disappeared, forming the connecting link between the tabby and the white cat. A mixture of the melanistic with the albinistic type will of course give rise to parti-coloured cats. A third colour-phase, the “erythristic” or red, is represented by the sandy cat, the female of which takes the form of the “tortoise-shell,” characterized, curiously enough, by the colour being a blend of black, white, and sandy. The so-called orange tabby is one phase of the erythristic type.

As to long-haired cats, there appear originally to have been two closely-allied strains, the Angora and the Persian, of which the former has been altogether replaced in western Europe by the latter. That these long-haired cats have an ancestry, to some extent at any rate distinct from the ordinary short-haired breeds, is practically certain, and it has been suggested that they are derived from the “manul” cat, or Pallas’s cat (Felis manul), of the deserts of central Asia, which is a long-haired and bushy-tailed species with comparatively slight striping. The fact that in tabby Persians the body-markings are never so strong as in the short-haired breeds is in some degree confirmatory of this, as suggesting descent from a nearly whole-coloured type. At the present day, however, Persians exhibit nearly all the colour and pattern types of the short-haired breeds, the “orange Persian” representing the erythristic phase.

Turning to the tailless or so-called Manx cats, in which the tail should be represented merely by a tuft of hair without any remnant of bone, it seems that the strain is to be met with in many parts of Russia, and there is a very general opinion that it originally came from Japan or some other far eastern country. Throughout Japan, China, Siam, and the Malay countries, normal long-tailed cats are indeed seldom seen. Instead of these are cats with more or less abbreviated tails, showing in greater or less degree a decided kink or bend near the tip. In other cases the tail is of the short curling type of that of a bulldog; sometimes it starts quite straight, but divides in a fork-like manner near the tip; and in yet other instances it is altogether wanting, as in the typical Manx cats. These kink-tailed or tailless cats are moreover smaller in size than the ordinary short-tailed breeds, with rather longer hair, whose texture approaches that of rabbit-fur, and a cry said to be like that of the jungle-cat (F. chaus) of India and Africa, and more dog-like habits. Unless the jungle-cat, which is a nearly whole-coloured species, can claim the position, the ancestry of these Manx-Malay cats is still unknown. Kink-tailed cats, it should be added, are also known from Madagascar.

Among the domesticated cats of India a spotted type of colouring, with a more or less decided tendency for the spots to coalesce into stripes, is very noticeable; and it is probable that these cats are derived from the spotted Indian desert-cat (F. ornata), with a certain amount of crossing from other species. The so-called F. torquata of India is probably based on cats of this type which have reverted to the wild state. Other Indian cats with a tawny or fulvous type of colouring are probably the more or less modified descendants of the jungle-cat. From the same stock may be derived the Abyssinian breed, in which the ears are relatively large and occasionally tipped with long hairs (thus recalling the tufted ears of the jungle-cat). The colour is typically reddish-brown, each individual hair being “ticked” like that of a wild rabbit, whence the popular name of “bunny cat.” Another African breed is the Mombasa cat, in which the hair is reported to be unusually short and stiff.

By far the most remarkable of all the Old World domesticated breeds is, however, the royal Siamese cat, which almost certainly has an origin quite distinct from that of the ordinary European breeds; this being rendered evident not only by the peculiar type of colouring, but likewise by the cry, which is quite unmistakable. Siamese cats may have the tail either straight or kinked, but whether the latter feature belongs of right to the breed, or has been acquired by crossing with the ordinary black and tabby kink-tailed cats of the country, is not known. In the royal Siamese breed the head is rather long and pointed, the body also elongated with relatively slender limbs, the coat glossy and close, the eyes blue, and the general colour some shade of cream or pink, with the face, ears, feet, under-parts, and tail chocolate or seal-brown. There is however a wholly chocolate-coloured strain in which the eyes are yellow. The most remarkable feature about the breed is that the young are white. “The kittens,” observes a lady writer, “are born absolutely white, and in about a week a faint pencilling comes round the ears, and gradually all the points come. At four or five months they are lovely, as generally they retain their baby whiteness, which contrasts well with their almost black ears, deep-brown markings, and blue eyes.” In constitution these cats are extremely delicate. The blue eyes and the white coat of the kitten indicate that the Siamese breed is a semi-albino, which when adult tends towards melanism, such a combination of characters being apparently unknown in any other animal. If the frequent presence of a kink in the tail be an inherent feature, the breed is evidently related to the other kink-tailed Malay cats which, as already stated, have a cry differing from that of European cats. Should this be so, then if the ordinary Malay cats are the descendants of the jungle-cat, we shall have to assign the same ancestry to the Siamese breed.

Although definite information on this point is required, it seems probable that the southern part of North America and South America possessed certain native domesticated breeds of cats previous to the European conquest of the country; and if this be so, it will be obvious that these breeds must be derived from indigenous wild species. One of these breeds is the Paraguay cat, which when adult weighs only about three pounds, and is not more than a quarter the size of an ordinary cat. The body is elongated, and the hair, especially on the tail, short, shiny and close. This small size and elongated form suggest origin from the jaguarondi (F. jaguarondi), a chestnut-coloured wild species; but information appears to be lacking with regard to the colouring of the domesticated breed. Another South American breed is said to be free from the hideous “caterwauling” of the ordinary cat. In old days New Mexico was the home of a breed of hairless cats, said to have been kept by the ancient Aztecs, but now well-nigh if not completely extinct. Although entirely naked in summer, these cats developed in winter a slight growth of hair on the back and the ridge of the tail.

Literature.—St George Mivart, The Cat (London, 1881); R. Lydekker, “Cats,” in Allen’s Naturalists’ Library (1888); F. Hamilton, The Wild Cat of Europe (London. 1896); Frances Simpson, The Book of the Cat (London, 1903). (R. L.*) 


CATABOLISM, or Katabolism (Gr. κατἀ, down, βολή, a throw), the biological term for the reverse of anabolism, namely the breaking down of complex into simpler substances, destructive metabolism (see Physiology).


CATACLYSM (Gr. κατακλυσμός, a deluge), a great flood or deluge (q.v.). The term is used in geology to denote an