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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/387

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373
THE INTELLIGENCE OF CATS.

purr of tranquillity and pleasure, the mew of distress, the growl of anger, and the horrible wailing of pain." Besides these, the expressions of the countenance, as Mr. Owen teaches in his poem, are as lively and varied in the cat as in any other animal. The well-bred cat can put these diversified means of expression to uses commensurate with nearly all her wants; and the sagacious and sympathetic master can with no very great difficulty learn to translate them as accurately as he responds to the wishes of his child.

Romanes gives several instances illustrating the applications of this sign-language. A cat, observing that a terrier received food in answer to a certain gesture, imitated his begging. Another would make a peculiar noise when it wanted a door opened, and, if its wish was not attended to, would pull at one's dress with its claws; then, having secured notice, would walk to the door and stop with a vocal request. Another cat, having found its friend the parrot mired in the dough, ran up-stairs to inform the cook of the catastrophe, "mewing and making what signs she could for her to go down," till at last "she jumped up, seized her apron, and tried to drag her down," and finally succeeded in getting her to rescue the bird. Other cats are mentioned which would jump on chairs and look at bells, put their paws upon them, or even ring them, when they wanted anything done for which the ringing of a bell was a signal.

The extent of the cat's understanding of human language must depend considerably on the treatment and training it receives. An animal that is treated unkindly or is neglected can not be expected to learn much beyond the knowledge which its natural instinct confers upon it. Another animal, not necessarily brighter, but having better opportunities and more encouragement, may readily acquire knowledge of all the things that it is important one of its kind should know. Cats having appreciative masters and playmates will gain a really remarkable degree of knowledge of the tones, gestures, words, thoughts, and intentions of their human friends. Many of the well-authenticated stories on this point reveal faculties of perception that must seem astonishing even to persons well informed respecting the mental powers of animals. Careful observation of his own puss can hardly fail to convince any one that they understand more of ordinary conversation, as well as of what is said to them directly, than we are apt, at first thought, to suspect. Lindsay has shown that, in common with other tamed and domestic animals, they understand one or more of the modes in which man expresses his ideas, wishes, or commands, as well as those ideas, wishes, and commands themselves, however expressed, particularly the calls to receive food, and their own names. They also, in common