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!
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
They held themselves not bold and their counsel feeble,
Esteemed their labour as lost and all their long plotting.
Good luck to all who are going to put a bell collar on your cats this spring.
Photograph: © Unknown, c/o The Mary Evans picture gallery
27th October is ‘National Black Cat Day’ in the UK when Cats Protection highlight, in particular, all the beautiful black cats needing adoption. They have hundreds of them in their centres, so we can’t work out why anybody wouldn’t like to have a black cat as a companion…. they’re just like any other cat, and that’s straight from the horse’s mouth.
National Black Cat Day was created way back in 2011, as Cats Protection statistics showed that black cats were taking longer to rehome than other domestics. This situation has gotten a lot better since then, but of course, there is always room for improvement. This special day was thought up so as to highlight the fact that these black moggies are being forgotten by families taking on a new cat. At the same time lots of happy owners celebrate the beauty of their black cats on this special day. That, reader, includes me (little Oscar).
Anyway, what better day to celebrate the happy story of one black cat called Ruby who was reunited with her happy owner just this month, after being missing for two whole years!
Cat of the Month ~ October 2020
Photograph: © Cats Protection
Ruby went missing from her home near Brogborough, close to a major junction and lorry park on the M1 motorway, in April 2018.
About three weeks ago she was found by security guard Leighton Myers on an industrial estate where he works in Coventry. He was feeding Ruby and, with the help of Cat’s Protection, traced her ownership to Jordan Harvey in Bedfordshire, 60 miles away. Mr Harvey drove to Coventry to collect her and Ruby knew him immediately. Just where she was between April 2018 and October 2020 when Mr Myers started feeding her we will never know but she is healthy and happy. Both Ruby and Jordan were over the moon to be re united with each other once again.
If you think that you could give a loving home to a beautiful black cat ( or other) or support in any other way, please have a look at the Cats Protection website below.
Oh, and Happy Black Cat Day one and all.
Cat of the Month ~ December 2019
Photograph: © Mike Bridavsky
RIP Lil Bub
Cat(s) of the Month ~ November 2019
In December 1949, late on a late winter’s evening, Walter was trudging to his three-room apartment through the New York city snow, when he spotted a kitten huddled in an alley. He cradled the shivering feline, slipped him into his heavy army coat, and carried him home to Queens, with the one thought of giving the poor creature a decent meal and bed for the night. Later, he gave the kitten as a present to his wife Maria, who was pregnant with their first child at the time. Around 11 o’clock that night, the kitten started charging around each room in the apartment like a demon possessed, astonishing Walter and Maria. “That cat is loco!” Maria exclaimed…. and the name stuck!
When Walter began taking pictures of his new adopted pet, he was so inspired by the results that he started photographing more kittens at a local animal shelter. So began an extraordinary career that would span seven decades.
The photo above is one of Chandoha’s most celebrated photos. The story goes that at one time, quite a few cats called in at the Chandoha’s farm home. Because he often fed them, these cats developed the habit of following Chandoha (No surprise there!). One day, while walking down the road with his camera, a gang of cats began tailing him. He dropped on his stomach in the road and took an iconic image of five determined cats ambling toward the camera.
Additional subjects for which Walter is known are fruits, vegetables, flowers, and New York City street scenes. Over his long career, his archive grew to more than 225,000 photographs including approximately 90,000 photographs of cats.
RIP Walter George Chandoha (November 30, 1920 – January 11, 2019)
A book ‘Walter Chandoha. Cats. Photographs 1942–2018’ is published by Taschen, if you can afford it, that is!
Cat of the Month ~ August 2019
Photograph: © David Yarrow
After more than two hundred hours spent in the humid furnace that is the Ranthambore National Park, India, this image of the elusive tiger was finally captured.
Ranthambore Park is a wildlife sanctuary containing a huge variety of animals, birds and reptiles within it. These include Tigers, Leopards, Striped Hyenas, Sambar Deer, Hanuman Langurs, Macaques, Jackals, Jungle cats, Caracals, Common Palm Civets and Desert Cats.
The well known 4 year old ‘Singhsth’ had retreated out of the heat of the day into the cool, dark recess of a cave. Vipul Jain could just see the tiger in the cave mouth and he then passed the message on to his companion, photographer David Yarrow. Luckily the sunlight was just strong enough to light up the tigers face in the shadow of the cave…. “if it was a foot further back in the cave, there would have been no shot” recalled Mr Yarrow.
Photograph: © Amit Vyas
Image 1: David Yarrow
Image 2: Amit Vyas
The good news is that, after many years of decline, the Indian Tiger census is showing rapid population growth. This was reported on the BBC ‘Tigers in India’ News Webpage
Reader, sadly we have to report the passing away of a famous and wonderful writer & Illustrator, Judith Kerr, who has died at the age of 95.
Judith created the popular children’s character Mog, the foolish and forgetful but well-meaning mottled and striped tabby cat.
Judith was also the author of the bestselling The Tiger Who Came to Tea in 1968.
Mog the Cat
Once there was a cat called Mog.
She lived with a family called Thomas.
Mog was nice but not very clever.
She didn’t understand a lot of things.
A lot of other things she forgot.
She was a very forgetful cat.
Cat of the Month ~ May 2019
Rest In Peace. You were loved by many and will be sadly missed.