Introductory and The First Cat Show Picture



A reduction of the large black Cat's Head,
drawn for the Posting Bill giving notice of the first
Cat Show at the Crystal Palace, July 16, 1871.

After a Cat Show at the Crystal Palace, I usually receive a number of letters requesting information. One asks:
"What is a true tortoiseshell like?" Another: "What is a tabby?" and yet another: "What is a blue tabby?" One writes of the "splendid disposition" of his cat, another asks how to cure a cat scratching the furniture, and so on.

After much consideration, and also at the request of many, I have thought it best to publish my notes on cats, their ways, habits, instincts, peculiarities, usefulness, colours, markings, forms, and other qualities that are required as fitting subjects to exhibit at what is now one of the instituted exhibitions of "The land we live in," and also the Folk and other lore, both ancient and modern, respecting them.

It is many years ago that, when thinking of the large number of cats kept in London alone, I conceived the idea that it would be well to hold "Cat Shows," so that the different breeds, colours, markings, etc., might be more carefully attended to, and the domestic cat, sitting in front of the fire, would then possess a beauty and an attractiveness to its owner unobserved and unknown because uncultivated heretofore. Prepossessed with this view of the subject, I called on my friend Mr. Wilkinson, the then manager of the Crystal Palace. With his usual businesslike clear-headedness, he saw it was "a thing to be done." In a few days I presented my scheme in full working order: the schedule of prizes, the price of entry, the number of classes, and the points by which they would be judged, the number of prizes in each class, their amount, the different varieties of colour, form, size, and sex for which they were to be given; I also made a drawing of the head of a cat to be printed on black or yellow paper for 'a posting bill. Mr. F. Wilson, the Company's naturalist and show manager, then took the matter in charge, worked hard, got a goodly number of cats together, among which was my blue tabby, "The Old Lady," then about fourteen years old, yet the best in the show of its colour and never surpassed, though lately possibly equalled. To my watch-chain I have attached the silver bell she wore at her début.


Silver Tankard presented by the
Crystal Palace Company to the Author

My brother, John Jenner Weir, the Rev. J. Macdona, and myself acted as judges, and the result was a success far beyond our most sanguine expectations - so much so that I having made it a labour of love of the feline race, and acting "without fee, gratuity, or reward," the Crystal Palace Company generously presented me with a large silver tankard in token of their high approval of my exertions on behalf of "the Company," and - Cats. Now that a Cat Club is formed, shows are more numerous, and the entries increasing, there is every reason to expect a permanent benefit in every way to one of the most intelligent of (though often much abused) animals.

The First Cat Show

On the day for judging, at Ludgate Hill I took a ticket and the train for the Crystal Palace. Sitting alone in the comfortable cushioned compartment of a "first class," I confess I felt somewhat more than anxious as to the issue of the experiment. Yes; what would it be like? Would there be many cats? How many? How would the animals comport themselves in their cages? Would they sulk or cry for liberty, refuse all food? or settle down and take the situation quietly and resignedly, or give way to terror? I could in no way picture to myself the scene; it was all so new. Presently, and while I was musing on the subject, the door was opened, and a friend got in. "Ah!" said he, "how are you?" "Tolerably well," said I; "I am on my way to the Cat Show." "What!" said my friend, "that surpasses everything! A show of cats! Why, I hate the things; I drive them off my premises when I see them. You'll have a fine bother with them in their cages! Or are they to be tied up? Anyhow, what a noise there will be, and how they will clutch at the bars and try and get out, or they will strangle themselves with their chains." "I am sorry, very sorry," said I, "that you do not like cats. For my part, I think them extremely beautiful, also very graceful in all their actions, and they are quite as domestic in their habits as the dog, if not more so. They are very useful in catching rats and mice; they are not deficient in sense; they will jump up at doors to push up latches with their paws. I have known them knock at a door by the knocker when wanting admittance. They know Sunday from the week-day, and do not go out to wait for the meat barrow on that day; they - -" "Stop," said my friend, "I see you do like cats, and I do not, so let the matter drop." " No," said I, "not so. That is why I instituted this Cat Show; I wish every one to see how beautiful a well-cared-for cat is, and how docile, gentle, and - may I use the term? - cossetty. Why should not the cat that sits purring in front of us before the fire be an object of interest, and be selected for its colour, markings, and form? Now come with me, my dear old friend, and see the first Cat Show."


Cat at Show

Inside the Crystal Palace stood my friend and I. Instead of the noise and struggles to escape, there lay the cats in their different pens, reclining on crimson cushions, making no sound save now and then a homely purring, as from time to time they lapped the nice new milk provided for them. Yes, there they were, big cats, very big cats, middling-sized cats, and small cats, cats of all colours and markings, and beautiful pure white Persian cats; and as we passed down the front of the cages I saw that my friend became interested; presently he said: "What a beauty this is! and here's another!" "And no doubt," said I, "many of the cats you have seen before would be quite as beautiful if they were as well cared for, or at least cared for at all; generally they are driven about and ill-fed, and often ill- used, simply for the reason that they are cats, and for no other. Yet I feel a great pleasure in telling you the show would have been much larger were it not for the difficulty of inducing the owners to send their pets from home, though you see the great care that is taken of them." "Well, I had no idea there was such a variety of form, size, and colour," said my friend, and departed. A few months after, I called on him; he was at luncheon, with two cats on a chair beside him - pets I should Say, from their appearance.

This is not a solitary instance of the good of the first Cat Show in leading up to the observation of, and kindly feeling for, the domestic cat. Since then, throughout the length and breadth of the land there have been Cat Shows, and much interest is taken in them by all classes of the community, so much so that large prices have been paid for handsome specimens. It is to be hoped that by these shows the too often despised cat will meet with the attention and kind treatment that every dumb animal should have and ought to receive at the hands of humanity. Even the few instances of the shows generating a love for cats that have come before my own notice are a sufficient pleasure to me not to regret having thought out and planned the first Cat Show at the Crystal Palace.