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loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

performing cats in the news, 1890

from the original publication in PD
Here's the article I promised you yesterday on M. Bonnetty's clever cat troupe.  The illustration above is from the actual publication, an image of star of the show Tibert with a young recruit. I've provided the whole article, despite its length, for your reading pleasure.
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A writer in Harper's Young People gives the following interesting account of a wonderful troupe of performing cats at the Winter Circus in Paris:
"M. Bonnetty, the owner and trainer of these performing cats, believed, in spite of all opinions to the contrary, that puss belonged among animals of the highest intelligence. He collected cats of all kinds, and set patiently to work to educate them. The result has been wonderful, and puss has shown that when treated kindly she is capable of great things, and is a most willing slave, affectionate and gentle, and always ready to do her master's bidding.

"M. Bonnetty never gives puss a harsh word or a blow, for those arouse her hatred, and she never forgets them. His work has been accomplished by coaxing and caressing. He usually begins the training with kittens, but he has had almost as great success with cats which have been several years old when they reached his hands. At first he keeps them in a large apartment for several months, feeding them and petting them until he has won their entire confidence and affection. Then pussy's education begins. The first exercises are very simple, such as jumping through a hoop and climbing a pole, until by degrees puss, obedient to her master's voice, will do every trick that a beast of her size is capable of.

"After a year's training the graceful creatures make their first appearance in public. This is the time of trial, for it sometimes happens that the little feline artist will perform beautifully when alone with her master, but will be frightened and confused by the music, the glare of lights, and the crowd of people at the circus.

"There are fourteen beautiful pussies in the troupe, and the tricks they do are wonderful. They play with mice and birds, holding them in their paws and even in their teeth without doing them the slightest injury; they jump through a blazing hoop held up by the trainer, perform graceful gymnastic exercises on the backs of thirty-two chairs placed in a row, march around in time to music like little soldiers, and group themselves in many graceful and comical attitudes. And the best part of it is that the pussies seem to take as much delight in their amusing capers as do the crowds of children who watch them ; and when a thousand little clapping hands applaud them, they form in a row and look as pleased and proud as if they understood what it was all about. Perhaps they do.

"A gentleman who went with M. Bonnetty to visit the cats in the room where they live found them all sleeping in graceful groups around a glowing stove, for an educated cat loves heat as well as her more humble sisters, and cannot be kept in good condition without it. As the trainer and his friend entered the room fourteen pair of little eyes opened, little ears were pricked up on the alert, and the pussies arose, stretching themselves and purring, and at once crowded around their master, rubbing against him, and reaching up to be caressed, while one little white cat named Gora climbed up to his shoulder and nestled in his neck. 'Yes, they all have names,' said their master, 'and they know them. There are Juno and Brutus and Cajsar and Mayor and Lucette and Boulanger—he's that large cat. He's as gentle and loving and playful as a kitten. You know every word I am saying, don't you, old fellow 1' he added, as a beautiful, glossy tiger cat, with large liquid eyes, came forward purring and showing every sign of feline delight and satisfaction.

"The star of the troupe is named Tibert, after the famous cat in the ancient romance of 'Reynard and the Fox.' Tibert is two years old. He is very agile and skillful. He leads the company in the jump through blazing hoops, and his greatest delight is to turn somersaults over the backs of chairs.

"The performing cats lead very temperate and regular lives. They are given an airing every day, and the large room where they live is lighted and sunny and well supplied with soft cushions for beds. They are fed at regular hours on bread and milk, and once a day they have all the liver they can eat, as that has been found to be the most healthy meat for them. They always have a pan of water, for water is something of which every full-grown cat needs an abundant supply.

"The cats in this troupe are all of the common varieties, black and white cats, tigers, Maltese, and tortoise-shell. The trainer has tried in vain to teach the Persian and Angora cats. They are beautiful for pets, but they are not agile, nor capable of much affection, and they have very little brains and a short memory. When M. Bonnetty needs recruits for his troupe, he seeks them among the cats that climb roofs at night and prowl over back-yard fences, as among these despised and persecuted creatures he has discovered the highest degrees of docility, sagacity, and intelligence."

-- from Horse Stories and Stories of Other Animals: Experience of Two Boys in Managing Horses, with Many Anecdotes of Quadrupedal Intelligence, Thomas Wallace Knox (Cassell Publishing Company, 1890), pp. 108-111

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