Things I Learned from TEN THOUSAND CATS (Oct, 1934)
Things I Learned from TEN THOUSAND CATS
By A. J. Adamson
ONLY by dealing patiently and kindly with a cat, particularly during its early life, may you develop the sort of animal everyone wants as a companion and pet. Unlike dogs, cats will respond only to kindness. Punish them and they grow surly and spiteful. I speak from rich experience, having bred fully 10,000 cats during the last quarter of a century.
The old idea was that every animal should be punished when caught in a wrongful act, but cats do not understand the meaning of a whipping. They are weak-willed and easily tempted and must, therefore, be guided in paths of righteousness.
Once a mistake is made, a kitten is likely to continue repeating the error until death overtakes him. On the other hand, if you detect the offense early enough you not only can correct it, but guide him into developing lovely traits and teach him one or two tricks that delight the children and visitors.
To get him to jump over your hand or through a ring, for instance, first actually lift him over or through. Put him through the routine half a dozen times the first day and twelve times daily thereafter. After a week, try coaxing him through by holding a morsel of his favorite food on the far side. He may yet require help a few times, but after a while he will get the idea. Later he will jump without thought of reward, but this point is important: never promise a cat anything you do not intend to give him. Cats are unforgiving.
In teaching him to sit up, force him gently back on his haunches in a corner of the room. Do this for only a few seconds, several times daily if possible. Little by little, keep him longer in the corner until at last he will sit there alone for half a minute. Then move him away from the corner, bracing him with your hands, gradually withdrawing them as you repeat the instructions, “Sit up.” Whenever he is successful, “give him a bit of meat.
By constant coaxing, some cats will learn to play dead. First, lay the animal on a rug, on his back, and stroke his body until he falls asleep. After a few days of this, say the words, “Dead cat,” as you repeat the process. After a dozen tries, he should play dead on command.
Since some cats are inclined to timidity, get your pet while young, coax him to be friendly, and when other people are around permit him to spend some time in the room. This contact will tend to overcome timidity, as well as any tendencies that might otherwise develop toward spitting and striking. Once any of these habits gets set, it is virtually impossible to change it.
Cats sometimes become spitey and hold grudges. This is an additional reason for taking kittens only, especially where you have other pets in the house. I have known cats to permit birds to fly onto their back and ride around the room. By starting early, introducing the pets to each other, talking to them with a kindly voice, you can achieve a calm among your dumb pets that rivals that of a happy human family. If you study your cat, you soon will come to understand his reactions and learn to respect his wishes.
Cats may be bathed, but not more often than three times yearly, for bathing takes a large quantity of the natural oil from the coat. Use soapsuds. Never subject them to carbolic, tar, or other strong solutions. These things can kill a cat by being absorbed. I have known a cat’s pores to close, ending in death within five hours, after such unwise treatment.
Always wash the head before placing the cat in a tub. This will drive any fleas down on his body. When finished with the head, plunge the cat quickly into the water. If he will not permit this type of bathing, you can only sponge him to the best of your ability. After removing him from the bath, roll him in a blanket, but do not rub. In cool weather finish the drying with a second blanket, then keep him in a warm room until he is thoroughly dry. In warm weather, you may turn him out in the sunshine.
Before he is thoroughly dry, comb him with a coarse comb. This will make the hair stand out. Finally, wipe his eyes and dust a little dry boric acid into his ears. This helps avoid ear canker. Combing and brushing alone do not produce a good coat. This comes from a combination of causes, including good food, cleanliness of both the cat and the premises, and freedom from fleas. Brushing and combing daily will provide the finishing touches on an otherwise sound coat. Whether you use a soft- or stiff-bristle brush is of little consequence. Many people prefer combs.
No two cats can be held alike for combing. Some will sit and submit peacefully while others stand, back arched, as though in protest. I find it easier to place the cat on a table and brush him while standing. In this way I can control him.
For a heavy coat, a soft brush is best. During shedding time a combination comb and brush proves effective. The comb takes out the loose hair while the brush, follows along to smooth down the coat. In fact, it is always better to comb first if the cat is in full coat, following with the brush. Some people do not like brushes, and their attitude is rather supported by the fact that combs alone will produce a shinier coat. After each brushing, take a fine comb through for dirt and fleas.
I have found it good policy to deposit the hair collecting on combs and brushes in kerosene. This will destroy fleas. This method is usually adequate to meet the menace of fleas, excepting during a time of epidemic. Then a good powder should be rubbed daily into the coat. Good powders will not injure a one-day-old kitten, though care should be taken to keep them away from the nostrils. Place the powder back of the ears and over the entire body, especially under the front legs and on the stomach. In combing, either when dressing or de-fleaing, start on the head. With long and firm but gentle strokes comb the back and body. Then grasp the cat by the back of the neck to comb the stomach.
Males and females should be accorded the same kind of treatment, including food, except during breeding season, when the male should be fed more meat than he ordinarily would receive. At other times cats should be fed twice a day. Some people think a single feeding is sufficient, but I have found cats to be greedy. In many cases the one-meal-a-day schedule results in indigestion due to their over-eating. Some cats cannot take milk or raw eggs. If you find your animal does not thrive on either of these foods, do not force it on him, for biliousness usually results. Barley water mixed with canned milk in equal parts proves a good substitute, or in extreme cases barley water alone. I always prefer canned to fresh milk. I have found too, that some cats thrive on buttermilk.
Raw carrots, raw spinach and lettuce provide enough roughage and answer the need for green grass, which is denied many city-bred pets. During mating time, the male requires some milk and egg, while many of the prepared foods are good, especially the vitamin-containing meats and fish. It is best, if possible, to give them some grass. It is an excellent tonic. In cities this may be provided, even in apartments, by planting rape bird seed in dirt, contained in a box. Grass from these seed grows rapidly.
Particular attention should be paid to the diet during the breeding season. After breeding, permit the expectant mother to live as before, except that she should have plenty of raw meat, which is nourishing but not fattening. During the last two weeks before the young arrive, give her plenty of milk if you find it agrees with her. This for the benefit of the young.
If you have no male at home and desire to breed your female, it will be perfectly safe to take her to a cattery for breeding.
She may be bred easily with a male of her acquaintance, or if a strange male is brought in for the purpose place them in separate cages separated only by a wire mesh. Usually they will become acquainted in two hours. When it becomes apparent that they will not fight, open a door permitting them to meet at their own free will and convenience. Never force them together.
A CAT of good breed should always be color-bred. If you have a blue female Persian, breed her only to a blue Persian. I know of few cases where colors were satisfactorily crossed. One color, the rare and exquisite tortoise shell, is confined to the female Persians. This color is best bred to red, from which union you may expect tortoise, black, red, and sometimes cream kittens. Bred to any other color, the tortoise-shell likely will produce an unlovely offspring. Black, for instance, generally gives a rusty black, as common in appearance as any alley cat.
Kittens may be expected from sixty to sixty-six days after mating. During that period keep the prospective mother quiet and do not permit strangers to excite her. It is better, in fact, if she is kept quite alone. Give her, not a soft pillow, but a few layers of newspapers covered by a section of blanket. About a week before the litter is expected, decide for yourself where you desire the event to take place, then make the bed there. This may be in a clothes closet, on the back porch, or during warm weather, in the garage or barn.
If you select some place exposed to the sun, it is important to curtain off the direct light during the first two or three weeks of the kittens’ lives to protect their eyes.
If more than five kittens arrive, the mother will need help in feeding them. If you cannot find a foster mother, you can hand feed them either through a medicine dropper or a doll bottle and nipple. You will find they will take food in this manner as easily as will a human baby. For food dilute any good brand of canned milk with an equal amount of water. Give it warm three or four times daily. Although litters will average not more than five, I have had as many as ten arrive; it pays to anticipate a large family.
After the kittens arrive the mother requires, to keep up her strength, two solid meals every day, including two generous helpings of milk. I always prefer canned milk, diluted one-half. The solid portion of the meal may consist of raw beef, cooked liver occasionally, or tripe well done. If the mother appears run down, give her ten drops of good codliver oil twice daily. Be careful not to increase the dose, for it will upset her digestion.
YOU may start feeding the kittens when they are four weeks old, or earlier if they fail to thrive on their natural food. Start with milk. Since it is difficult for them to unlearn habits once fixed, it is better to start right. Place a bowl of milk before them. Dip your finger in the milk, rub it on their noses and immediately nature tells them to lick it off. They discover they have encountered the taste somewhere before and begin to explore â€”in the bowl directly before their eyes. Beyond giving them this little start, leave
the kittens strictly alone. They open their eyes from seven to twelve days after arrival. Most of them thrive without personal attention. If one appears to be weaker than his brothers, give him one drop of codliver oil twice a day.
ALTHOUGH cats are subject to many ailments, those kept under sanitary conditions will require little attention. Their troubles may be narrowed to these five: hairballs, gastritis, ringworm, eye trouble, and ear trouble. Fortunately, all may be cured.
If you think your cat has accumulated hairballs in the stomach, which usually occurs during the spring and summer, when he is shedding, give him a teaspoonful of white vaseline, placed against the roof of the mouth. Do not melt the vaseline. He will lick away the solid vaseline and as it reaches the stomach it softens the hair and enables him to eliminate it. Hairballs may produce dire results since they clog the digestive tract.
Gastritis is very dangerous and should be attacked immediately. It usually develops during hot weather, possibly a combination of heat and over, or wrong, feeding. I have found it effective to give milk of magnesia. Dosage may vary from one half to a tea-spoonful, given only once, followed by one fourth of a teaspoonful of milk of bismuth every two hours as long as needed, for five-weeks-old kittens, to four times as much for full-grown cats.
Ringworm or eczema, oddly, is highly contagious. The cause? A debatable question. Some think it comes from wrong feeding. I am convinced that people who keep their cats away from contact with other diseased animals will save them trouble of this kind. I know from experience it occurs largely from contact. Troublesome as it is, the cure may be effected rather simply by applying iodine, full strength, to the affected part; three treatments, given every other day, usually suffice.
EAR MITES, which are contagious, are a principal cause of illness. In a severe case remove the bulk of the dirt with a hairpin. Wipe out the remainder with a cotton-wrapped toothpick or match. Sprinkle with dry boric acid once daily for five days if necessary.
If any tartar appears on the cat’s teeth, take him to a veterinarian for cleaning. Otherwise, you may clean his teeth by rubbing with a baby’s tooth brush dipped in salt water. When nearly through, dip the brush in magnesia. This is good for gums and digestion.
These animals, fortunately, are naturally clean. If you have a sand box with sides low-enough to permit the kitten to climb over, you will find he will go to it as soon as he leaves his bed. It is important to make the box easily accessible because the mother refuses to care for her young as soon as they begin to eat.
Exercise and sunshine are important. If you live in a city, build a miniature balcony with two or three short boards outside a window, screening it to keep the animal safe. With the window open he can range around the room and sun himself on the balcony whenever he desires. By suspending the balcony from the casement, you can shut the window with the cat outside.
If your cat is kept indoors, place a scratching board upright on the back porch. These may be purchased at pet shops. But do not think that this solves the scratching problem. Always keep the points of the toe nails cut off to save the furniture. Hold the cat facing away from your body, grasp the paw firmly in one hand to spread the toes and clip with small scissors or pincers.