After Rosa Bonheur had painted horses, cows, and other tame animals a great many times, she began to want to paint wild animals, such as tigers and bears. She could not go to the far-away countries where they live, so she bought a lion and lioness from a man who had been there. These she kept in a very strong cage of heavy iron bars. Here she came to watch them every day.
This is one of the pictures she painted of the lion. She called him “Nero,” and was so kind to him that after a while he became quite tame. The lioness was always wild, but good old Nero soon became so gentle that Rosa Bonheur could pet him and even go into his cage.
Lynx in a tree
Affection for one of the feathered race was shown by a cat which was rearing several kittens.
In another part of the loft a pigeon had built her nest; but her eggs and young having been frequently destroyed by rats, it seemed to occur to her that she should be in safer quarters near the cat. Puss, pleased with the confidence placed in her, invited the pigeon to remain near her, and a strong friendship was established between the two. They fed out of the same dish; and when Puss was absent, the pigeon, in return for the protection afforded her against the rats, constituted herself the defender of the kittens—and on any person approaching nearer than she liked, she would fly out and attack them with beak and wings, in the hope of driving them away from her young charges. Frequently, too, after this, when neither the kittens nor her own brood required her care, and the cat went out about the garden or fields, the pigeon might be seen fluttering close by her, for the sake of her society.
I have an instance of a still stranger friendship to mention. The servants of a country-house—and I am sure that they were kind people—had enticed a frog from its hole by giving it food. As winter drew on, Froggy every evening made its way to the kitchen hearth before a blazing fire, which it found much more comfortable than its own dark abode out in the yard. Another occupant of the hearth was a favourite old cat, which at first, I daresay, looked down on the odd little creature with some contempt, but was too well bred to disturb an invited guest. At length, however, the two came to a mutual understanding; the kind heart of Puss warming towards poor chilly little Froggy, whom she now invited to come and nestle under her cozy fur. From that time forward, as soon as Froggy came out of its hole, it hopped fearlessly towards the old cat, who constituted herself its protector, and would allow no one to disturb it.
A lady in France possessed a cat which exhibited great affection for her. She accompanied her everywhere, and when she sat down always lay at her feet. From no other hands than those of her mistress would she take food, nor would she allow any one else to fondle her.
The lady kept a number of tame birds; but the cat, though she would willingly have caught and eaten strange birds, never injured one of them.
At last the lady fell ill, when nothing could induce the cat to leave her chamber; and on her death, the attendants had to carry away the poor animal by force. The next morning, however, she was found in the room of death, creeping slowly about, and mewing piteously. After the funeral, the faithful cat made her escape from the house, and was at length discovered stretched out lifeless above the grave of her mistress, having evidently died of a broken heart.
When you see Puss seated by the fireside, blinking her eyes, and looking very wise, you may often ask, “I wonder what she can be thinking about.” Just then, probably, she is thinking about nothing at all; but if you were to turn her out of doors into the cold, and shut the door in her face, she would instantly begin to think, “How can I best get in again?” And she would run round and round the house, trying to find a door or window open by which she might re-enter it.
I once heard of a cat which exerted a considerable amount of reason under these very circumstances. The house is situated in the country, and there is a door with a small porch opening on a flower-garden. Very often when this door was shut, little Deb was left outside; and on such occasions she used to mew as loudly as she could to beg for admittance. Occasionally she was not heard; but instead of running away, and trying to find some other home, she used patiently to ensconce herself in a corner of the window-sill, and wait till some person came to the house, who, on knocking at the door, found immediate attention. Many a day, no doubt, little Deb sat there on the window-sill and watched this proceeding, gazing at the knocker, and wondering what it had to do with getting the door open.
A month passed away, and little Deb grew from a kitten into a full-sized cat. Many a weary hour was passed in her corner. At length Deb arrived at the conclusion that if she could manage to make the knocker sound a rap-a-tap-tap on the door, the noise would summon the servant, and she would gain admittance as well as the guests who came to the house.
One day Deb had been shut out, when Mary, the maidservant, who was sitting industriously stitching away, heard a rap-a-tap at the front door, announcing the arrival, as she supposed, of a visitor. Putting down her work, she hurried to the door and lifted the latch; but no one was there except Deb, who at that moment leaped off the window-sill and entered the house. Mary looked along the road, up and down on either side, thinking that some person must have knocked and gone away; but no one was in sight.
The following day the same thing happened, but it occurred several times before any one suspected that Deb could possibly have lifted the knocker. At length Mary told her mistress what she suspected, and one of the family hid in the shrubbery to watch Deb’s proceedings. Deb was allowed to run out in the garden, and the door was closed. After a time the little creature was seen to climb up on the window-sill, and then to rear herself on her hind-feet, in an oblique position at the full stretch of her body, when, steadying herself with one front paw, with the other she raised the knocker; and Mary, who was on the watch, instantly ran to the door and let her in.
Deb’s knock now became as well-known to the servant as that of any other member of the family, and, no doubt to her great satisfaction, it usually met with prompt attention.
A Cats Eye
A domestic cat sitting before a picture of a male lion
Study of a cat from nature
Kitten and puppy playing with a basket of apples
A Kitten playing (or sleeping)
A Cats Eye
A cat cleaning her kitten
Cat sitting on some cloth
Cat cleaning itself
Cat looking at reflection in the water
Cat on a fence
Cat asleep on a chair
Cat and birds
Cat with kittens
Cat on a wall
There was at Arlington a large yellow cat, called Tom Tita. All the family were fond of him, and Colonel Lee among the rest. This led him to write home about the cats he saw in his travels.
Black Persian 'Minnie'
Archangel Blue Cat
a white Persian - Muff
Young Persian Kitten
Wild Cat shown at the Crystal Palace Cat Show, 1871