Cats. As one of the first questions asked by every observant traveller landing at Yokohama refers to the tailless, or more properly short-tailed, Japanese cats, let it be known that the peculiarity is a natural one. The bones are all there, but not normally developed; hence the atrophied appearance of the tail. It is true, however, that the habit of seeing only tailless cats has engendered such a prejudice in their favour that, should a litter chance to be born with one long-tailed kitten, somebody will generally take upon himself to chop the tail off to a respectable shortness. The popular objection to long-tailed cats has doubtless been augmented by the snaky aspect of a normal cat's tail when waved from side to side, and by the superstition that there exist cats furnished with one or several long tails, and possessing the power of bewitching human beings after the manner of foxes and badgers (see Article on Demoniacal Possession). Note, however, that the objection to long-tailed cats does not prevail throughout the country. It is confined to certain provinces. Another superstition calling for notice is the lucky character attributed by seafaring men to tortoise-shell tom-cats. The master of a junk will pay almost any price to obtain one, and thus secure immunity from shipwreck. In this case, it is probably the rarity of the animal that has given it its fictitious value; for though tortoise-shell cats exist in considerable numbers, they are—for some unexplained reason—almost all tabbies.
Among Europeans an irreverent person may sometimes be heard to describe an ugly, cross old woman as a cat. In Japan, the land of topsy-turvydom, that nickname is colloquially applied to the youngest and most attractive,—the singing-girls. The reason is that singing girls bewitch men with their artful, sham coy ways, like the magic cats alluded to above. For a similar reason, fair women one degree lower still in the scale are called foxes, while the male buffoons or jesters, whose talents help to make the fun fast and furious at a spree, are termed badgers.