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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/390

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376
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

complacency. At the same time he was keenly sensitive to ridicule, and, if laughed at, would walk off with every manifestation of offended dignity.

Lindsay names the cat as one of the animals that perpetrate practical jokes on each other or on man; that enter thoroughly into the spirit of the joke or fun, and enjoy and exult in its success; and cites in illustration of his principle an instance of a cat teasing a frog, seemingly to hear it cry. Tad, of Burnham, Maine, seems to have had the humorous sense in a more refined degree. He would sit in the yard, and, calling the neighboring cats together, would manœuvre as though giving them orders, till he got them to fighting; then would withdraw to one side, or to his seat upon the window-sill, and look on in evident amusement, swinging his large, bushy tail forcibly against the window-pane; but, when called into the house by his mistress, he always obeyed.

Knowledge of the ways in which certain common things are done and the capacity to apply it are so frequently shown by domestic cats that it is almost superfluous to mention particular instances of its exhibition. Most cats know how doors are opened, and can open them for themselves if the method of handling the latch comes within the compass of their powers of manipulation. Romanes asserts that, in the understanding of mechanical appliances of this character, they reach a higher level of intelligence than any other animals, except monkeys, and perhaps elephants. He thinks that the skill of these animals may be due to their having, in their flexible limbs and trunks, instruments adapted to manipulation, which they learn to use. This may be so, but it should be remembered that horses can open doors and gates with their teeth and noses, and cows with their horns. The behavior of cats before a looking-glass, when, failing to find the image palpable in the face of the mirror, they look or feel around behind it, is familiar. Having once satisfied themselves that there is nothing there, they recognize the fact, and cease to take any further interest in the phenomenon. So they and other animals know that they can go round a wall and reach a point on the other side of it; or can go round after the mouse which they have heard rustling behind the door. A noteworthy feat of door-opening is recorded by Mr. Romanes of his coachman's cat, which, having an old-fashioned thumb-latch to deal with, sprang at the half-hoop handle below the thumb-piece, hanging to it with one paw, depressed the thumb-piece with the other paw, and with her hind legs pushed at the door-posts till the door flew open. Mr. Romanes interprets this and another similar action which he records as involving a deliberate purpose, combined with a mental process which he treats as complex and very near akin to reasoning, and as involving definite ideas respecting the mechanical prop-