Wow! What a find! Here is an old Italian legend from the Abruzzi region, telling how St. Francis de Paula wished the cat into being.
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St. Francis de Paula performed so many miracles that the devil was made ill with envy. Once he entered the cell of St. Francis in the shape of a grand nobleman with a box full of heavy gold pieces. "Here, Francis," said he, " take these, don't remain in this miserable hovel, enjoy life; it is strewn with roses, why do you collect all the thorns?" St. Francis, without more ado, raised his hand and made the sign of the cross, whereupon the fine gentleman disappeared amid clouds of sulphur smoke. Another time the devil led lovely damsels, barefooted and lightly clothed, into the cell of the saint, and then queens and empresses of glorious beauty covered with jewels and wrapped in mantles of gold tissue. But St. Francis stood there like a log of wood, and at last made the sign of the cross, when everything disappeared. The devil was furious. "I must find some way to make this stolid fellow lose patience.''
After much thought he rubbed his hands with delight. He created mice, and they multiplied by thousands in the wink of an eye. The cell of St. Francis was filled by them and he tried in vain to drive them out with his hands and feet. But as he drove them out of the door they swarmed in at the window, and when he closed both door and window they crept up through holes in the brick floor or dropped down through cracks in the ceiling. Then they clambered up the saint's tunic, made beds in his straw mattress, played pranks in the provision basket and were generally offensive. At last St. Francis, after reciting a fervent prayer, burst out laughing. The mice were beginning to attack him in thousands, when a beautiful little cat was created in the sleeve of his tunic. So he cried to the mice: "I implore you to stop and go your ways or you will repent it."
The mice answered by pushing their noses against the bare skin of the saint, as though they wanted to pierce through him, so he drew the beautiful little cat out of his sleeve, and it sprang at the mice blessed with such a miraculous hunger that it swallowed two at a time of the big ones, and three or four of the little ones. St. Francis hoped they would have been exterminated, and rushed to stop up a hole in the ceiling (he had already shut the door and the window), but he was not quick enough. A pair of mice managed to escape, and thus we have those tiresome mice all over the world. St. Francis then uttered another prayer, and his beautiful little cat was granted a companion. They multiplied exceedingly, and have always been favorites with devout old ladies because they are a creation of St. Francis.
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Isn't that a delightful tale? I found this legend, written by Antonio de Nino for the London Spectator, copied in the August 1899 Fur Trade Review (I'm not kidding - Vol, 27 p. 443).