“As the basket was padded and lined with satin, and bedizened with fringe and ribbons, pussy did not object to being a prisoner therein, and to being placed on the lady’s bustle as a pack.”
During the mid-1880s, the silhouette of women’s gowns was characterized by the size and shape of the bustle or “dress improver.” Unlike the more moderate-sized dress improvers of the 1870s, the bustle of the 1880s was—at its most extreme—large, protruding, and shelf-like. For fashionable ladies with cats, it provided a convenient ledge on which to strap a satin-lined cat basket.[…]Continue Reading
The nineteenth century news is filled with reports of hero pets rescuing their masters and mistresses from various catastrophes. Dogs routed burglars and saved children from drowning, while cats meowed the alarm when the house was on fire or when a family member had stopped breathing in their bed. Both cats and dogs were also known to intervene in cases of spousal abuse. For a battered Victorian wife, this animal intervention could sometimes mean the difference between life and death. […]Continue Reading
‘As the supply alluded to is to be levied upon all old maids, beyond a certain age, and intitled to certain yearly or other income; I make no doubt but both Houses of Parliament will speedily manifest their hearty concurrence thereto.’
The London Magazine, 1777.
The 1777 edition of the London Magazine includes an interesting letter to the editor in which a gentleman—who signs himself as ‘A Friend to the Community’—has appended a proposed bill to levy a tax of ‘6d. in the pound’ on old maids. He claims that this tax will generate revenues of nearly £300,000 per annum, a sum which could then be used to help fund the British war against the American colonies. The proposed bill begins by stating:[…]Continue Reading
‘Old maids and cats have long been proverbially associated together, and rightly or wrongly these creatures have been looked upon with a certain degree of suspicion and aversion by a large proportion of the human race.’
Dundee Courier, 5 October 1880.
Spinsters have long been associated with cats. This was especially true in the Victorian era when the stereotype of the old maid and her feline dependents was so pervasive that an 1880 edition of the Dundee Courier not only declared that “the old maid would not be typical of her class without the cat,” but that “one cannot exist without the other.” Like cats (who were generally viewed as being sly and self-serving), old maids faced their fair share of societal persecution. Doomed to live in a state of “single blessedness,” they were often seen as being eccentric or as having been soured by their “blighted hopes.” […]Continue Reading
“It is during the summer months, when house holders leave town for their holidays, that poor pussy is forsaken and forgotten, and no provision being made for her, she is forced to take to the streets, where she seeks in vain to stalk the wily London sparrow or pick up any scraps from the gutter.” The Book of the Cat, 1903.
In the late 19th century, Victorian families embarking on their summer holidays often chose to leave their pet cat behind unattended. This decision—likely motivated by the belief that, when left to their own devices, all cats will hunt for their supper—resulted in a profusion of half-starved cats wandering the streets in search of a handout. The sight of so many cats in distress compelled some to take drastic action. One lady in the west of England even went so far as to offer a holiday feline euthanasia service. As a June 24, 1889 edition of the Gloucester Citizen reports:[…]Continue Reading