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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/389

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THE INTELLIGENCE OF CATS.

would go up the stairs, into every room, jump upon the bed and wake up each one; and, if it was early, would stay in the rooms a little while, but, if it was late, would hurry down-stairs. A cat at Poor's Mills, Maine, would hold up her right or left paw, or both, correctly, as she was directed, previous to receiving her food. Théophile Gautier's Eponine, a "delicate, lady-like cat," was allowed to sit at the table at dinner. Although she preferred fish, she would eat her soup first, when reminded, in polite language, that a person who had no appetite for soup ought to have none for fish.

Some of these acts may be only coincidences; but observation for ten years of my own cat, concerning whom it has often been remarked that she seemed to understand what we were talking about and was listening to it, has satisfied me that more of them were done with knowledge. The story of the adventure of Théophile Gautier's Madame Théophile with the parrot, on first being introduced to it, indicates a comprehension of the significance of language, and has its humorous side also. The cat, looking upon the bird as a "green chicken," stealthily approached it as with the intention of seizing it. The watchful bird, at the critical moment, asked her, in good French: "Have you breakfasted, Jockey; and on what—on the king's roast?" and broke out into song. The astonished cat retreated hastily, and hid for the rest of the day, but renewed her attack on the morrow, to be rebuffed in the same manner. From that time she treated the parrot with the respect due to a being having the power of speech.

Montaigne says: "When I play with my cat, how do I know whether she does not make a pastime of me, just as I do of her? We entertain ourselves with mutual antics; and if I have my own times of beginning or refusing, she, too, has hers." The sportiveness of kittens is exuberant, and makes them the most delightful of pets. Lindsay's remark is superfluous, except that it has to be made for the formal completeness of his treatise, that dogs and cats take part in the fun and frolic—sometimes rough or boisterous enough—of their child playfellows. They give every evidence, in fact, that such fun and frolic are the most enjoyed features of that period of their lives. As the animal matures it becomes more sedate, and even assumes a meditative air, but the taste for sport does not die out till infirmity begins to wear upon it. A cat mentioned in the Animal World would allow itself to be rolled up or swung about in a table: cloth, and seemed to enjoy the fun; and Wood's dignified Pusset would let his friends do anything they pleased with him—lift him up by any part of the body, toss him in the air from one to another, use him as a footstool, boa, or pillow, make him jump over their hands or leap on their shoulders, or walk along their extended arms, with perfect