We are in the south. One sees it in sundry small ways–in the behaviour of the cats, for instance. . . .
The Tarentines, they say, imported the cat into Europe. If those of south Italy still resemble their old Nubian ancestors, the beast would assuredly not have been worth the trouble of acclimatizing. On entering these regions, one of the first things that strikes me is the difference between the appearance of cats and dogs hereabouts, and in England or any northern country; and the difference in their temperaments. Our dogs are alert in their movements and of wideawake features; here they are drowsy and degraded mongrels, with expressionless eyes. Our cats are sleek and slumberous; here they prowl about haggard, shifty and careworn, their fur in patches and their ears a-tremble from nervous anxiety. That domestic animals such as these should be fed at home does not commend itself to the common people; they must forage for their food abroad. Dogs eat offal, while the others hunt for lizards in the fields. A lizard diet is supposed to reduce their weight (it would certainly reduce mine); but I suspect that southern cats are emaciated not only from this cause, but from systematic starvation. Many a kitten is born that never tastes a drop of cow’s milk from the cradle to the grave, and little enough of its own mother’s.
- Norman Douglas, Old Calabria (1915), chapter XVI. Reposing at Castrovillari, presented by Authorama.com Public Domain Books
Norman Douglas (1868 - 1952) was a British writer who wrote, among other things, well-crafted and insightful books of his travels.