The Aristocats: 1909

 

OUTFITTING HER MAJESTY, THE CAT, NOT AN EASY TASK NOW

The Society Feline Is Many Grades Removed from the Midnight Prowler on the Back Fence.

Blue Blood in a Cat’s Veins Is a Costly Fluid

Fashionable People Are Turning Nowadays from the Dog to the Cat

More Cats Were Seen in Newport Last Seasons Than Ever Before in its History

A Cat Is Better Fitted For Carrying About.

The proverb maker says “A cat can look at a king.” But it takes a king to look at a fashionable cat these days. At least a king of coin, for a society feline is as far removed from the midnight prowlers, whose habitat is a plank on the backyard fence as the moth is from the star. Blue blood in a cat’s veins is a costly fluid. Most cats serve only the boy in the backyard and the cartoonist, but a cat of fine blood and prize markings is a feline gem of the rarest ray serene. And each ray of blood, so to speak, is worth its weight in silver.

Fashionable folk are turning from the dog to the cat. The cat is being gradually promoted from the basement to the sleeping basket in the parlor. Instead of sleeping wherever it can the cat now has a specially made sleeping basket and wears a nightgown. The cat craze is spreading everywhere. More cats were seen at Newport last summer than ever before in all its history. And this when the time of the cat is winter. A cat looks more fashionable in winter than in summer. A dog can follow all right in the summer, but in the winter he can’t jump through the snow; and if he does he gets is boots all dirty. A cat is fitted for carrying. Then in the winter time when the dog cannot very well accompany his owner the cat comes into her own. Her long, thick fur makes her look appropriate when the snow blows and the wind bites. When the air sings and brings red to women’s cheeks a cat looks a picture under a woman’s arm.

 

 

This winter more than forty cat shows will be held in the United States. Rare cats will be exhibited and blue ribbons will be awarded from Bangor, Me., to Pasadena, Cal. Even in Canada cat fairs will be held. There the two governing bodies that hold these shows, and the books of these institutions show that there are 2,000 pedigreed cats in the United States. And all the fashionable Toms and Tabbies are not pedigreed, nor are they social climbers. By chance they happen to have the marks and qualifications that go to make a desirable cat, and the first thing they know they are raised to the ranks of society by being taken up by a cat lover.

Ask the first man you meet on the street, or the person next you on the car what he imagines a fashionable cat is worth and he will wrinkle up his brows for a moment and say: “Oh, I suppose about $20.” Then he will blush and built fortifications by saying that he supposes there might be one cat worth that much.
Tell a cat fancier that and he will slap his knees in glee. He will inform you impressively that you couldn’t any more than buy a night prowler for that.

Why, $20 wouldn’t go very far toward outfitting a cat even. Goodness no! Twenty dollars would leave a cat’s wardrobe so barren that a cat of luxury would get up and stalk majestically away. Put $20 in a cat’s outfit and you would have to have the bill of sale to know that you had bought anything at all. It wouldn’t more than buy a cat blanket and a few catnip balls. Cat is another way of spelling money. Especially if you put fashionable before it. A kitten from a blooded sire sells for from $50 to $100. Yes, actually sells. That is the mark-down price, too. The value of an average prize-winning cat is about $150. Then when you begin to sift them out for the best the price jump up like steel on a squeeze. Whenever you start out to buy a blooded cat or kitten take a full pocket-book. Cats often change hands at $500.

 

Mrs. George Lynas, an Indiana woman, has a cat that she bought in England for $525. This does not include the expense of bringing him over. He is a Persian Chinchilla, and is 3 years old. His name is Rob Roy II. Of Arrandale. His name is no more aristocratic than he is. Mrs. James Conolisk of Gowanda has a cat valued at $800. Ho, that is not just the value she puts on it; there are several persons who would like to become his owner at that figure. That is not all. C.H. Jones of Rochester, N.Y., has a cat that he holds at $2,000. No, that is not a mistake—there should be three ciphers after the “2.” The animal’s name is Honorable Peter Stirling—or “Petie.”  Honorable Peter is a very famous cat, and is known wherever cat lovers congregate. “Petie” has a record behind him, for he has promenaded on Broadway with his master without string or chain. He walks along with his master with all the proud dignity of his namesake. Two thousand dollars would buy enough ordinary cats to have made the Pied Piper hurry out early in the morning and study the want ad section. If you had $2,000 to invest in the common or backyard variety of cats you would have to put electric trucks on all the furniture vans in town. The Egyptians who held cats to be sacred and bowed down to them in worship would only give two or three kopecks for a bushel of them. Such a cat as “Petie” ought to be able to look at a whole battalion of kings and never get fussed.

¿With Kindest Greetings for this Christmas dayî

Lithograph scrap, cat in a slipper, 1870s

A complete outfit for a cat looks like an inventory of the trunk of a belle going to the seashore for a month. Tabby has to have more things to wear than a bride. Tabby must have a collar. Some cats have lived and flourished to a ripe old age on the division fence who never once felt the need of a collar. But you must remember that our Tabby is a fashionable cat. A collar worn by Fluff would never do for Tabby, Never! Horrors! no! A dog collar on a cat! Again horrors! Even if nine tenths of the people can’t tell a dog collar from a cat collar it would never do to put Fluffs collar on Tabby. Tabby could never lift her eyes in self-respect if she had to wear a dog collar.

lalique cats choker

The caption is ambiguous as to whether this Lalique glass collar is a collar engraved with cats or a collar designed to be worn by cats, c. 1906-8 https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/cats-choker/IgHy04_MHQ64MA

A cat collar is rope-shaped—round–so that it will fit down into the fur. The collar isn’t to show much, for the cat’s fur is an adornment. On a short haired cat a collar of some width may be used, but never on a cat of long fur. The color of the collar must harmonize with the color of the cat. A cat properly rigged out is a study in color harmony. There should be no abrupt changes of color; the blankets, collar and leading string should present one impression—an artist would call it a “tone.” The rigger out of cats is just us much of an artist as the man who sticks his thumb through a palette and smears paint on his jacket. Before a man will begin to outfit your cat he steps off a few pace and casts a critical eye over her, studying her just as a decorator does a room before he begins operations. As far as the ensemble will harmonize this year the prevailing color in collars is tan and brown.   Last year the collars had a touch of red in them, but this season they are more sombre. A collar costs just what you want to pay for it—usually more. You can begin at $10 and keep on for some time. The costlier collars are set with stones; often a small diamond gleams on top of the collar, or a row of moonstones may encircle the leather belt. When you begin putting stones and jewels on the collar of your cat you are adding ciphers behind the first figures on your check-book with great celerity. Then a “lead” must be bought. The lead is of braided leather or silk cord and must harmonize with the collar and blanket. Otherwise there would be a discord in the color symphony.

cat in cradle 1880 Letters from a Cat

A cat of caste must have three blankets at the very least. No self -respecting cat can have fewer. A dog would need more, of course, but a cat, since its hair is its show, must have a wardrobe of three blankets. One is a house blanket; this is to keep its fur slick and smooth. Then it must be the possessor of a heavy winter blanket, and a lighter one for spring. The ruling color for winter blankets is dark, with blue as a choice. The spring blanket may show more color. On a cat of color a Scotch plaid may be worn, but if the cat is of solid color the fast color should be kept to. From the present rage in cat and cat accessories it will not be long until the fashion magazines will devote a corner to the latest styles in cat outfittings side and side with the latest in women’s hats and muffs.

Your pocketbook gets a full breath when you come to boots; a dog can wear rubber boots or leather hoots and enjoy them, but a puss in boots goes only in Mother Goose rhymes. Boots were tried for cats, but the cat always sat down and tried to get them off. But cat cuffs make up for lack of boots. A cat cuff is a kind of wristlet worn around a cat’s ankle. They are made of leather, and fasten on with a polished buckle. Some of them have minute bells, which give a soft tinkle as Puss picks her way. When she skips and frolics they play a merry tune. The old story of the cat being belled is now a fact. For traveling there is a specially made bag. It looks like any ordinary bag, but when the conductor goes on by the owner reaches down and rolls up the end. Cross bars show, and from the inside Puss pushes her nose against the screen. This is to give her air. This bag costs from $11onward and upward.

A basket to ship Tabby when you don’t feel like carrying her may be bought. It has airholes, and an opening where food may be put in. It costs $6. You put your pet in, give her some food, and you need not worry about her, for, with the conveniences of the basket, she will have a safe and easy trip to her destination. A cat housed up must have exercise. For this purpose for people who do not send their animals to a regular cattery during the snowy days, a cat gymnasium may be bought. This is a little woolen affair that sets on four legs, and may be put up in the nursery or in any open room. The cat may climb the pole, thus sharpening its claws or strike at the swinging balls that hang in the middle. Across the top is a round perch, on which it is the delight of the average cat’s life to walk. It will try and try until it succeeds. When it grows tired it gets in the swinging basket and can rock itself by walking from one side to the other. A cat exercising outfit gives a cat health and contentment.

wicker cat bed

Wicker cat bed that belonged to Sara Roosevelt, mother of Franklin D. Roosevelt. https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/asset/-/rAGFVwloddJN6Q?childAssetId=gAEkRmepzQQaZQ

When night comes the cat is put to bed. But it is not by opening the door and putting her out. And here comes the nightgown. It has two little sleeves for the forelegs, and tucks and puckers and frills, to say nothing about the lace at the collar and the pink ribbons. Puss sticks her forefeet into it, it is drawn over her, then buttoned at the top. If you buy the gown downtown you pay $4 up. Generally up. Then you put Tabitha in her little sleeping basket. It is of wicker, and has one low side for her highness to crawl in over. In the bottom is some kind of skin, usually goat, making it as soft and downy as can be. The basket is shoved under a bed or a piece of furniture during the daytime. A cat used to sleeping in a basket will not sleep anywhere else. The sleeping basket wears a tag reading $3.

In the morning comes the manicuring. For there is a special manicure set, with two brushes, two combs, a box of nail paste, a buffer to make the claws glisten, a pair of nail clippers, and a toothbrush, Some of the boxes have a bit of chamois skin, which will give luster to a cat’s hair when rubbed over it. And again some of the ultra cats have nail files in their manicure sets; these files give the nails a delicate rounding off that must make a cat’s heart pound with joy. A manicure set with your monogram on the leather case will mean $25 at the very least. A cat of the blue ribbon class has to be manicured just the same as an heiress. A cat is the daintiest of animals but still she has to have her teeth brushed; and if the brush does not eradicate all the tartar she must be taken to a cat hospital.

cats in a scales 1873 St Nicholas

A cat of blood is watched over night and day, in sickness and in health. If she falls ill she is taken to a special cat hospital in an ambulance, where a white-suited doctor with the walls of his office hidden by degrees in Latin and penmanship flourishes feels her pulse, looks at her tongue, and taps her ribs. When he performs an operation on your kitty you couldn’t tell the bill from that of a private hospital. At the hospital cats are boarded, exercised, and groomed. Attendants do nothing else than wait on them. Every whim that floats through the cat’s mind is promptly attended to. If you wish to go out of town for the summer yon can leave your Napoleon Bonaparte, or Josephine, at the hospital, assured that every attention known to man will be given your pet.

cat headstone

Pet cat’s headstone, Bodnant Garden, Conwy, Wales http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/93302

Finally, when your cat dies she may be buried in a cat cemetery, and have her own tombstone and flowers. A small fee keeps up the lot. There is such a cat cemetery at Yorktown Heights, N. Y., where the graves are laid out in neat, orderly rows, and stone headpieces richly carved rear themselves to the memory of departed Tabbies and gone-but-not-forgotten Toms.

Democrat and Chronicle [Rochester NY] 21 November 1909: p. 15

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is that delightful holiday, “International Cat Day,” when our feline friends are celebrated. Cook has made some tempting dishes of chicken for all of the Hall cats and they have received an extra ration of catnip.

Like the “dandy dogs, the aristocrats of dogdom, the cat, too, has her day and her fashionable accoutrements.

victorian cat collar with bell

Cat collar with bells.

Fashionable cats are now ornamented with collar and bells, so that puss makes music wherever she goes. Weekly Chillicothe [MO] Crisis 13 November 1884: p. 1

And one would give much to see a chat chapeau created by a Parisian milliner. These portraits of “Monkey” and his hats are from the 1940s.

 

Cats’ Millinery Marks Parade of Parisiennes

Paris, Oct. 30. Cats have ousted dogs in the affections of French women. Whereas, in the past it was considered fashionable for a Parisienne to promenade with a dog dressed in a neat tight-fitting coat, today this Parisienne is out of date if she does not take with her a cat, often of priceless value. But cats do not wear coats. They wear specially-fitted and made hats.

Below the Sacre Coeur, up at Montmartre, there lives a hatter. In his shop window he has on exhibition the tiniest hats ever seen in France. At any hour of the day cars roll up outside the shop and Madame, carrying her pet cat under her arm, walks inside the shop and Madame, carrying her pet cat under her arm, walks inside the shop and engages in an earnest conversation with the hatter. She has come to have her pet angora tried for a hat. She prefers a bowler shaped hat as a change to the soft slouch hat. She also wants to purchase a small top hat for her pet for evening wear. The hatter’s recommendations of a soft velvet hat fall on deaf ears. The hatter says bowler hats fit the cats better than any other and he has large orders on hand. El Paso [TX] Herald 30 October 1920: p. 21

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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One thought on “The Aristocats: 1909

  1. floodmouse

    My cats are more of the back fence variety, and I have to buy bulk packs of the safety stretch collars from the cat supply website. I have four mud-covered collars retrieved from the back yard & waiting to go in the laundry right now, plus one brand new collar missing in action after less than two days on the cat. I think I am singlehandedly keeping the cat supply warehouse in business. Forget about rhinestones, let alone gemstones, I’m afraid they are getting nylon, and as far as colors, it only comes in blue or red.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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