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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 !

Monday, April 10, 2017

the naturalist's cat, 1700s

Here's what the French naturalist Sonnini (Charles-Nicolas-Sigisbert Sonnini de Manoncourt, 1751-1812) recorded on the subject of his most beloved pet:
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As everybody knows, the Turks are great cat-fanciers; and in Egypt a cat is even allowed in a mosque. These animals are in all the houses of the inhabitants, and are indulged and caressed by the effeminate and indolent of the upper classes. In fact, unless they were deified, as in the times of the ancients, it would be impossible for them, our zoologist thought, to be made more of.
Sonnini himself had a passion for cats. ‘He always kept a number of them, and in his works has spoken of them in the highest terms of commendation. The manners of the Egyptian cats confirmed him in his idea that these animals are greatly influenced by the treatment they receive. He compared the barbarous usage of the miserable creatures in his own country, and asked, who could wonder if they had a savage look and wild manners, while these Egyptian pets were so gentle and familiar. If the reader share with me M. Sonnini’s partiality for mousers, he will read with great pleasure what follows :—
“ I was for a long time the possessor of a very fine Angora cat. Her long and thick hair covered her completely; her bushy tail formed a brush, resembling a beautiful plume of feathers, which she could at pleasure turn upon her back. No spot, no shade tarnished the dazzling whiteness of her coat. Her nose and the turn of her lips were of a pale rose colour. In her round head sparkled two large eyes—the one of a light yellow, and the other blue. The graceful movements and attitudes of this charming cat were even surpassed by her amiable disposition. Her aspect was mild, and her gentleness truly interesting. Though ever so much handled, she never exerted her claws from their sheath. Sensible of caresses, she licked the hand that stroked her, or even that by which she was teased. When travelling, she would lie quietly upon my knees, without the necessity of being held; she made no noise, nor was she at all troublesome while near me, or any other person she was in the habit of seeing. When I was alone she sat at my side, would sometimes interrupt me with little affectionate caresses in the midst of my labours or meditations, and she would also follow me in my walks. In my absence she would seek me, and at first cry after me with uneasiness; and if I did not soon make my appearance, she would leave my apartment, and attach herself to the person in the house whom, after me, she most loved.She knew my voice, and seemed to receive me every time with increased satisfaction. Her step was straight, her gait free, and her look as mild as her disposition; in a word, under the brilliant and furry skin of a cat, she possessed the good temper of the most amiable dog..."
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Sonnini speaks even more of his treasured friend, and movingly of her eventual death.  This is a vivid picture of devotion to a cat, rare to find during this period of human history.

-- from Brightwell, C. L. 1811-1875. (1861). Romantic incidents in the lives of naturalists & celebrated travellers. London: Nelson. 151-3

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