Friday, 6 September 2013

Kitten Overboard!

We have recently acquired a kitten called Lola. She is a tabby cat and, as kittens do, spends her life in a flurry of activity.

I am told on good authority that the Tabby is a descendent of the Wild African Cat. The long legs of the tabby are an indicator of its ancestors need to hunt in the  grasses of the Savannah. I gather that the  tabby cats were first introduced into England in the early 17th century when a number were given as a gift to William Laud ,Archbishop of Canterbury who according to the gossip John Aubrey was  "a great lover of Catts”  and "was presented with some Cyprus-catts, i.e. our Tabby-catts".
I do like cats although I do wish they would drag something useful through the cat flap other  than some poor bird or mouse. A bottle of wine, vintage immaterial, would do. The capacity for cats to embarrass is well-known.

 On one occasion when I lived in Lancashire the two cats I owned had dragged a magpie into the house. The local Council were called by a neighbour and the dog catcher came along although for what purpose I know not. By the time I got home the bird had  made something of a mess of the house before the gaze of two bemused cats who had realised it had bitten  off smore than they could chew.

Have we always been sentimental about animals? I would have thought the Georgian Age was a time of cruelty, both to man and beast. Cheering crowds gathered at Tyburn to see some poor criminal throttled on the gallows, the “quality” paid to mock the mad at Bedlam and all classes betted on the outcome of  cock fighting and bull baiting. And yet, the writer Henry Fielding in “Journal of a Voyage to Lisbon” written in the 1740s described the attempt to rescue the ship's captain's  kitten when it fell over board. The captain ordered all hands to try to deliver the young cat from its peril.

“ I was , I own, extremely surprised at all this; less, indeed at the Captain's extreme Tenderness, than any Possibility of Success; for, if Puss  had nine thousand , instead of nine Lives. I concluded they had all been lost”.

However a Boatswain saved the Cat by diving into the water returning to the ship “ bearing the motionless Animal in his Mouth..... the Kitten was now exposed to Air and Sun on the deck, where its Life, of which it retained no Symptoms, was despaired of by all”

However ,Fielding concluded happily

“I have too wantonly endeavoured to raise the tender Passions of my Readers in this Narrative.. the Kitten at last recovered, to the great Joy of the good Captain”

Perhaps compassion especially when Kittens are concerned transcends the ages?