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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/579

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"SALAMANDERS" AND "SALAMANDER" CATS.

pened to be February this gave, of course, two more than a "salamander" a day.

One other curious observed feature of this new variety of cats is their want of fecundity. The mother tabby seldom has more than one kitten at a birth. The writer once owned a fine female of this breed that scrupulously adhered to the traditional habits of her race.

This particular pussy, like the rest of us, had her family troubles. Her one kitten—probably from its mixed parentage—was always inclined to rebel at the "salamander" diet. There was something amusing to a degree and suggestively human in the old cat's methods of discipline. When she had succeeded in catching a salamander she would always first bring it and lay it down before her mistress, to make sure of the praise and the petting. Then, with a motherly "meow," she would call her kitten. That frisky little youngster was always quite ready for his breakfast, but showed a decided preference for the "maternal font." Then the old cat would give him a "cuff" that would send him spinning. Then she would take up the "salamander" and put it down before her hopeful offspring with an air that said as plainly as words could do: "There, now! Eat that or go hungry!" Then her mother love would get the better of her and she would go to licking and petting her disobedient baby, and it would usually end in the kitten's having its own way and satisfying its hunger with milk from the "original package." By persistence and the force of example the old cat finally succeeded in accustoming her offspring to what she evidently thought the orthodox diet of her race.

The writer is quite well aware of the intrinsic difficulties involved in the spontaneous development of any new variety of cats. Still, such branching of types has occurred in the past, and of course is possible now. When his attention was first called to the matter he was inclined to consider it merely an instance of animal education. A fact that came under his personal observation seems, however, hard to reconcile with this or any theory that does not concede the hereditary transmission of acquired habits and tastes.

A kitten of the breed of cats in question was taken when very young and reared nearly a mile away from its mother. When grown it developed the same skill in hunting "salamanders," and the same love for the sport as that for which its mother was celebrated.

Dogs, of course, have long been noted for the readiness with which acquired knowledge, habits, and tastes manifest and perpetuate themselves in hereditary forms. The setter, pointer, col-