The belling of the cat

It’s springtime, and those of us with a moggy or two think of helping the young birds in our gardens. Our cats like a portion of fast food from time to time (it’s just in their nature), so we try to help out if we can. By putting a bell collar on our cat we can give a birds a fair warning that somethings moving nearby – in this case a moggie on a mission. The stalking and final attack can be thwarted by the noisy jingle long before the final pounce.

It is amazing to find a reference to the ‘belling of a cat’ in an early poem: ‘Piers Ploughman’ by William Langland. This poem was written in or around 1377! Thats 1377 – I didn’t know they had pets back then!

Now, just you keep away from those birds!

Photograph: © Tambako The Jaguar on Flickr

 

The poem is said to be a significant work and is allegorical (meaning it is fictional but contains hidden meaning). In it, the poet falls asleep and has dreams and visions leading him to understand how to live a good life. So, of course, a verse or two mentioning a cat would be in there!

With that there ran a rout of rats at once,
And small mice with them more than thousand,
And came to a council for their common profit;
For a cat from the Court came when he liked
And o’er leaped them lightly and caught them at will,

Played with them perilously and pushed them about.
‘For dread of divers dangers we dare not look about;
If we grumble at his game he will attack us all,
Scratch us or clutch us and in his claws hold us,
So that we loathe life ere he lets us go.
Could we with any wit his will withstand
We might be lords above him and live at our ease.’

A rat of renown most ready of tongue
Said, as a sovereign help to himself:
‘I have seen men,’ quoth he ‘in the city of London
Bearing bright necklaces about their necks,
Some with collars of skilful work uncoupled they wander
Both in warrens and wastes wherever they like;

And otherwhile they are elsewhere as I tell you.
Were there a bell on their collars by Jesus, I think
Men might know where they went and get out of their way!
And right so,’ quoth that rat ‘reason me showeth
To buy a brass bell or one of bright silver
Make it fast to a collar for our common profit,
And hang it on the cat’s neck then we may hear

When he romps or rests or runneth to play.
And if he wants play then we may look out
And appear in his presence the while he play liketh,
And if he gets angry, beware and shun all his paths.’
All this rout of rats to this plan assented.
But though the bell was bought and on the collar hanged,
There was not a rat in the rout for all the realm of France
That dare bind on the bell about the cat’s neck,

Nor hang it round her ears all England to win;
They held themselves not bold and their counsel feeble,
Esteemed their labour as lost and all their long plotting.

Harvard Translation

Good luck to all who are going to put a bell collar on your cats this spring.

Belling the cat by an unkknown artist. mmm, I dont know what the rat’s up to…

Photograph: © Unknown, c/o The Mary Evans picture gallery

Happy Lunar Year of the Water Tiger

2022 is the Lunar Year of the Tiger so we thought we would bring you some facts about these beautiful creatures to get the year off to a feline start.
Tiger near a cataract by Morikuni Tachibana [Japenese Woodblock Print -moku-hanga]

Photograph: © Public Domain

There are only a few Cats that love being near water, heres one — but the Tiger must be the biggest of them all

Cat of the Lunar Year ~ 2022

Tigers have been around for a good 2 million years. Around 3,000 of the world’s wild tigers are in India.

Tigers are a top predator and, as such, help to keep their environment healthy. They have soft toe pads to help them stalk their prey. A tiger can easily travel 6-12 miles a night when they are hunting. Their main prey is deer and a large deer will provide a week’s food for a tiger. They will drag their kill elsewhere to eat it rather than eat it at the kill site. If tigers need to leave their food they will cover it with leaves, grass or dirt before coming back to it later.

Tigers use many vocalisations to communicate e.g. grunting, growling, roaring, chuffing, snarling and hissing. It is not yet understood what all of their vocal repertoire might mean. Sadly in the last 100 years their numbers have dropped by about 95%. It is estimated that there are about 3,900 tigers left in the wild. There are estimated to be more tigers in captivity in the US than there are in the wild.

The WWF, from whom these facts were gathered, has more information and ways for us all to get involved in supporting these amazing and inspirational animals. Tiger | WWF

The name ‘Water Tiger’ comes from the Tiger’s five elements (Gold, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth) .2022 is the Year of the Water Tiger, which indicates a prosperous year due to the Tiger’s auspicious signs of strength and courage. We wish all wild cats, domestic cats and their humans a happy and courageous 2022.

(Artist) Isoda Koryusai

Photograph: © Smithsonian

Twas the night before Christmas

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below, When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN! On, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my hand, and was turning around, Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; He had a broad face and a little round belly, That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself; A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!

Clement Clarke Moore

Clement Clarke Moore wrote Twas the night before Christmas in 1822. It is also known as ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’

The Visitor Cats

Maybe we all have one (or maybe more?) of these … mystery cats that grace our gardens and yards with their beautiful but sometimes threatening presence. Oscar himself has a few of these visitors straying into his garden from time to time. Some of these moggies he likes more than others, obvs!

There is one that treats the fence like it is a minor B road – and it gets him from the back garden here right the way over to the front of the house via the one story out-building. From here its a quick step down to the road beyond. He is always just fleeting, and his demeanour seems as if he always has ‘places to be, things to see and do.’ He barely gives us a glance. We’ve named him ‘White Body Black Tail’, which just about covers his appearance.

Another visitor we have named ‘Tuxedo Ted’, again I’m sure you can guess how this one looks. When you see his black fur and bright white bib, they make him look as if he is always dressed for a night at a dinner dance or an opera in the West End. He is a shy and elusive creature, hanging around the bottom of the garden, always just out of sight winding our Oscar up no end. In any standoff it’s Oscar who hightails it out of there.

Tuxedo Ted making friends with a stone lion

Now, the favourite of these almost ‘welcome’ guests is a beautiful female feline who (sort of) gets on with Oscar – well, they sniff noses together often, and that is as close as cats can get, short of ‘claws drawn and engaged’… ouch. They’ve been known to sit on opposite sides of the lawn having an ‘stare us out if you can’, ‘eye dance’ moment, until one concedes and the other is King of the patch, (well for an hour anyway….)

Kiera the cat
Friendly Kiera sitting on Oscars patch

This thin but strong, young upstart likes to come and settle in the borders or under the tree. Often sunning herself in the morning rays … oh but wait a minute ….. there she goes again…., we can just make out her rear end and grass-snake tail as it turns right at the corner beneath the pine tree…., but, panic over, it’s our old faithful visitor (You can breathe easily again Osc, no marauding tiger this, just) little Kiera your neighbourhood friend of many a year.

We never feed Kiera or let her in the house. She is already well fed and looked after but has taken a shine to sleeping in our back garden for some reason. When the weather takes a turn for the worse though, she’ll stay home, so and we hardly see her in the Autumn and Winter.

We have called the beautiful cat ‘Kiera’ as she has the eyes of a famous beautiful, English actress. You may quite easily guess who. 

“Good Afternoon Ted”, And the same to you “Oscar”.

Louis Wain, Cats in Dogland

Louis Wain was an English artist best known for his drawings, which often featured anthropomorphised large-eyed cats and kittens. However the scope of work was far wider than this. He was a true artist but combined this with an approach to the rendering of his art in a unique and unprecedented style.

Wain was born on the 5th August 1860, so lived to the good age of 79, passing away on 4th July 1939. His father was a textile trader and embroiderer; his mother was French. He was the first of six children, and the only male child. None of his five sisters ever married.

Annuals By Lois Wain
A selection of Wains Annuals, issued from 1905 to 1914 © Louis Wain

Wain was born with a cleft lip and the doctor gave his parents the orders that he should not be sent to school or taught until he was ten years old. In his later years he may have suffered from schizophrenia (although this claim is widely disputed among many specialists if this is true or not), which, according to some psychiatrists, can be seen in his works.

Shortears Began And Sung A Solo. Then All The Cats Joined And Sung The Chorus To Madame’s Satisfaction (1886) © Louis Wain/Chris Beetles Gallery London

As a youth, he was often truant from school, and spent much of his childhood wandering around London. Following this period, Louis studied at the West London School of Art and eventually became a teacher there for a short period.

Two Jugs Of Milk

At the age of 20, Wain was left to support his mother and his five sisters after his father’s death.

The Naughty Puss, and of course ….
… The Good Puss

Wain soon resigned from his teaching position to become a freelance artist, and in this role he achieved substantial success. He specialized in drawing animals and country scenes, and worked for several journals including the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, where he stayed for four years. He also worked for the Illustrated London News from 1886.

I am very happy because everbody loves me

Through the 1880s, Wain’s work included detailed illustrations of English country houses and estates, along with livestock he was commissioned to draw at agricultural shows. His work at this time includes a wide variety of animals, and he maintained his ability to draw creatures of all kinds throughout his lifetime. At one point, he hoped to make a living by drawing dog portraits, but he didnt need to …

Dogs In Catland © Louis Wain

Wain became one of the most popular commercial illustrators in the history of England. His cats, dogs and other animals captured the imagination of the Edwardian era and his work helped to promote domestic cats to unprecedented heights. Before Wain, cats in England were often thought of with contempt, but his work humanised them and helped to show them as something to be liked, admired and even loved.

Peter the Cat, Emilys friend sat in thegarden
Peter the Cat, Emilys friend sat in the garden

His illustrations were so popular that throughout the beginning of the twentieth-century most homes had at least one of his famous cat annuals and many nurseries had Wain posters hanging on their walls. “He made the cat his own” H.G. Wells once remarked. “…he invented a cat style, a cat society, a whole cat world.” At the age of 23, Wain married his sisters’ governess, Emily Richardson, who was ten years his senior (which was considered quite scandalous at the time), and moved with her to Hampstead in north London. Emily soon began to suffer from breast cancer, and died three years into their marriage. Prior to Emily’s death, Wain discovered the subject that would define his career. During her illness, Emily was comforted by their pet cat Peter, a stray black and white kitten they had rescued after hearing him mewing in the rain one night.

Apple Tree Cats

Emily’s spirits were greatly lifted by Peter, and Louis began to draw extensive sketches of him, which Emily strongly encouraged him to have published. She died before this happened, but he continued to make cat sketches. He later wrote of Peter, “To him, properly, belongs the foundation of my career, the developments of my initial efforts, and the establishing of my work.” Peter can be recognized in many of Wain’s early published works.

See more of Wains Work here

If you wish to buy an original of Wains work then try the Chris Beetles Gallery

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Wain & other sources./p>

Other Illustrations by Wain using Pencil and Pen & Ink

The door of the Annual
A Cats Nightmare
A selection of Wains ‘Fractal Cat’ Illustrations
The Man Himself. Bringing Joy to so many, us included eh Osc.

Jacobo the Andean cat

Andean cats are rare and rarely seen. At last count it was reported that only 1,378 adults exist and those are scattered over more than 150,000 square kilometers (roughly 580,000 square miles) of highlands from northeastern Peru to Patagonia. So when Jacobo showed up there were a few puzzled faces in town.

Cat of the Month ~ December 2020
Jacobo, the beautiful Andean cat

Photograph: © https://news.mongabay.com/

 

Jacobo was spotted in the middle of a artificial grass football field in Bolivia, and he was far from anywhere that should have been home. Not knowing what else to do, local people put the Endangered cat in a birdcage to hand it over to authorities.

At first glance no bigger than a housecat, this feline had ended up such a distance from its usual haunts, high-up in the mountains of Chile, Argentina and Peru, that it was and still is, a mystery. However, this extraordinary circumstance gave conservationists a chance to learn about an animal they are dedicated to saving, but had rarely seen.

The Andean cat ranges from remote areas of central Peru to the Patagonian steppe. Perfectly adapted to extreme environments, this small feline is though threatened by habitat degradation and hunting.

Jacobo was lucky in that he was given to the Andean Cat Alliance, and instead of being kept captive, the members agreed there and then to forego the extraordinary opportunity to study the animal it had been gifted, and instead, try to return “Jacobo” to the wild.

Cordinators Rocío Palacios and Lilian Villalba orchestrated the multinational volunteer release effort. Jacobo was first examined to reveal no health problems. The conservationists then equipped Jacobo with a GPS collar in the hope that tracking his travels will reveal new data about this particular secretive cat, and others of his kind.

Andean cats are said to be a symbol of the Andes Mountains

Photograph: © https://news.mongabay.com/

Jacobo was released safe and sound in the Sajama National Park, in Bolivia. After the first few days of tracking his radio signal, he began venturing farther away from the release site.

Read the full story of Jacobo and the Andean Cat Alliance (AGA) on the Mongobay website.

The elusive Andean cat caught on camera trap. A stunning feline in a stunning location

Photograph: © Wildlife Conservation Network (link).