Mitis and Riquet are two tom-cats saved from a litter of five; their mother is an Angora, slate-coloured, with the neck, breast, and tips of the paws white. Mitis has a large head and limbs, and a coat which promises to be Angora and the same colour as his mother’s, a white muzzle, and white underneath his eyes, while his lips and the tip of his nose are bright pink. Riquet’s body and tail are black, with grey marks; his head, which is smaller than his brother’s, is grey, with zebra-like bands of black crossing longitudinally and laterally; two white streaks branch out from the upper end of the nose, and on the forehead two curved lines, starting from the corners of his eyes, surround a disc of black and grey.
No sooner has their mother licked them over than they set off whining and seeking for her teats. I made some observations of their movements on the first and second days; but as I am afraid of not recording them with sufficient accuracy from memory, I will begin with the third day, when I took to writing down my observations.
12th May.—They are perpetually moving about, even when sucking and sleeping. Sleep overtakes them in the act of sucking, and then, according to what position they were in at the moment, they either remain ensconced in their mother’s silky breast, or fall over with open mouths into some graceful attitude. The little gluttons, Riquet especially, who seems to be delicately organised, are often troubled with hiccoughs, reminding one of young children who have sucked too copiously. It is curious to watch them when searching for a teat, turning their heads abruptly from right to left, and left to right, pushing now with their foreheads, now with their muzzles; tumbling and jumping one over the other, sliding between their mother’s legs, trying to suck no matter what part of her body; and finally, when they have settled down to their meal, resembling leeches, whose whole activity is concentrated on the work of suction, and who, as soon as they have thoroughly gorged themselves, let go their hold and fall back into inertia.
Whenever their sensibility is unpleasantly excited, as, for instance, if their mother leans on them too heavily, or leaves them alone, or performs their toilet too roughly, they give vent to monotonous—I had almost said monosyllabic—plaints; sounds which can scarcely be called mias, still less miaows; they are best described as trembling mi-i-is. They also emit these plaintive sounds when they have been searching long for a teat without finding one, or if they annoy each other during the laborious search; or if I take them up too quickly, or turn them over in the palm of my hand to examine them. If I set them up in my hand in a standing position, they will remain motionless for a few seconds, as if enjoying the warmth of my hand; but very soon again they begin clamouring with loud whines for their home in the mother’s warm, soft stomach, which is at once their shelter and their dining-room, the familiar, and perhaps the loved, theatre of their nascent activity.
13th May.—This morning Mitis appeared to be ill. He was languid, did not whine when I took him up, and made no attempt at sucking; he had an attack of hiccoughs, accompanied by shiverings all over his body, which made me anxious. It only lasted an hour, however: there may have been some temporary cause of indisposition; or perhaps excessive sucking, or a very great need of sleep, had reduced him to a semi-inert mass.
Riquet’s head is prettier than it was yesterday; the white spot has increased in size, the grey marks have spread and grown lighter, and the head and neck are rather larger; but Mitis has still by far the finest carriage.
Twelve o’clock.—The two leeches have been operating for twenty minutes without desisting. They are now brimful of milk, and settling themselves down, no matter where—one on the mother’s stomach, the other on her paws; no sooner have they placed themselves than they fall asleep.
Two o’clock.—They have no fixed position for sucking; any does that comes first.
When the mother leaves them alone for a moment they turn in rapid gyrations round and round, over and under each other, delighting in the mutual contact of their bodies and the warmth which it engenders. If the mother remains absent for some minutes, they end by falling asleep one over the other in the shape of a cross. If I lift up the top one, the other soon begins to whine: they are not accustomed to solitude, and it produces a painful impression of cold. Very young animals are easily chilled, and sometimes die of cold in a temperature which is not very low. This is owing to the smallness of their bodies and the feebleness of their respiratory organs.
Between four and five o’clock Riquet seemed to me very lively. He was searching for a teat which he could not find, and for ten minutes he crossed backwards and forwards over his brother’s body, giving him frequent slaps with his paws.
Riquet’s nose is a pink-brown, but tending to red-brown.
This evening (ten o’clock) I showed the mother a saucer full of milk; she left her kittens to go and drink it, and afterwards she took a turn at a plate of porridge; her absence lasted barely five minutes. The kittens, during this time, went through their usual manœuvres: Riquet turned three times running round his brother; the latter, who is more indolent, or perhaps has more need of sleep, stretched himself out full length on his side. Riquet, however, cannot rest till he has found what he is searching for—viz., the body of his mother. He is still in a state of agitation when the cat comes back, raises herself with her front-paws on the edge of the box, and drops quietly down by the side of her little ones without touching them. Instantly they start up, raising their little waggling heads; they know that their mother is there—the slight noise she made in getting into the box, and the movement she imparted to it, are associated in their memory with the idea of her presence.
The mother’s first care is to see to their toilet, and she proceeds to turn them over with two or three strokes of her tongue, and then operates on them with the same natural instrument. Both have their turn; and at the end of the operation, which seems to worry them, they whine considerably, though not at all loud. A few minutes after, the melodious snoring of the mother informs me that the whole family is at rest. I take a peep at them: the mother is laid on her left side, describing a large and elegant curve; Mitis, half on his hind-paws, half on his stomach, is stretched across Riquet, and both are sleeping, or sucking—perhaps doing both at the same time.
14th May.—My kittens seem to grow as I watch them, especially Mitis’ head, neck, and back; he is a massive heavy kitten, but his forehead is broad and high: he will probably be an intelligent cat; his leonine chin, large and well developed, indicates energy and goodness. He begins to show more vivacity than during the earlier days; when he encounters his brother in searching for a teat, or if the latter disputes with him the one he has got hold of, he deals out at him rapid strokes with his paw, which remind one of a dog swimming. His mother has just been performing his toilet in the manner aforesaid, and has no doubt kept him longer at it than he liked; he shows his displeasure by striking out his hind paws, one of which knocks against his ear, and uttering two or three impatient mis.
These very occasional and but slightly emphasised cries are the only ones which Riquet—even the brisk and lively Riquet—gives out, even when I take him in my hand. I have seen other cats that were more unhappy complain more: one, for instance, which was the only one I had kept out of a litter, and which died at ten days old, just as it was beginning to open its eyes; in her grief at having lost all her other kittens, the mother used to carry this one about from place to place, and even leave it alone for hours at a time; I believe it died from bad treatment and insufficient feeding; the poor little thing frequently uttered loud moanings. I cannot feel the slightest doubt as to the causes of its death when I see the mother so happy with the two that I have left her this time; she has not once called or searched for the other three which I drowned. Does this proceed from a want of arithmetical aptitude? Two, for her, are many as well as five. However this may be, she is very happy, very repue, very attentive, and her little ones are habituated to comfort, ease, satisfied desires, and tranquil sleep and digestion. If they do not know how to complain I think it is because they have had no reason to learn to do so.
The colour of Riquet’s hair is changing sensibly: the grey-white now preponderates on his face. The velvety black of his neck, back, and sides is silvered with whitish tints, which have spread since the morning.
Often when they are alone, or even if their mother is with them, they will mistake no matter what part of their bodies for teats and begin to suck it, as a child of six months will suck its finger or even the tip of its foot.
15th May.—To-day I held Riquet on my hand for three minutes. I was smoking a cigar; the little creature stretched out its neck, poked its nose up in the air, and sniffed with a persistent little noise. A sparrow, whose cage was hung up over us, frightened at my smoking-cap, began to fly round the cage and beat at it with its wings. At the sound of this noise Riquet was seized with a sudden fit of trembling, which made him squat down precipitately in my hand. Movements of this kind are reflex ones, the production of which is associated in the organism with certain auditory impressions; but the animal is necessarily more or less conscious of them, or will soon be so. From five minutes’ observation I have thus learnt that Riquet is sensible to strong smells, and that he already goes through the consecutive movements of sentiment and fear.
Riquet’s head is visibly changing to silver-grey; the marks on his back are also assuming this shade.
I took Mitis in my hands, stretched them out and drew them up again. He does not seem to know quite what to make of it; he attempts a few steps, feels about uncertainly with his head, and comes in contact with my coat smelling of the cigar; he appears to be scenting my coat, but not with so much noise and vivacity as Riquet does. He waggles his head about, feels about with his paws, and tries to suck my coat and my hands; he is evidently out of his element and unhappy. The mother calls to him from the bottom of the box; this causes him to turn his head quickly in the direction from which the sound comes (what a number of movements or ideas associated in the intelligence and organism of a little animal four days old!); he starts off again, making a step forward, then drawing back, turning to the right and to the left, with a waddling movement. I give him back to his mother.
I thought I noticed once again this evening that the light of my lamp, when held near the kittens’ box, caused rather lively excitation of their eyelids, although these were closed. The light must pass through these thin coverings and startle the retinas. The kittens were agitated during a few seconds; they raised and shook their heads, then lowered them and hid them in the maternal bosom.
The noise of carriages, the sound of my voice, the twittering of the sparrow, the movements imparted to the box by my hand—all throw them into the same kind of agitation. These movements may be coupled with the movements, unconscious no doubt, but determined by external causes, which are observed in the young.
16th May.—Mitis’ tail is thickening at the root; the hair of its head and neck is close and silky; he will no doubt turn out a considerable fraction of an Angora.
When I place the kittens on the palm of my hand they inhale strongly and with a certain amount of persistence; this is because their sense of smell operates no doubt with tolerable completeness, in view of the species, and in the absence of visual perception, and by reason of the imperfect operation of their touch.
This evening Mitis, having escaped from the constraint in which his mother holds him to perform his toilet, half plantigrade half gastéropode, dragged himself slowly, though as fast as he was able, along his mother’s paws, and at last nestled down in the soft fur of her stomach. While in this position his head, rolling like that of a drunken man, knocked against the head of Riquet, who was in the act of sucking. Instantly Mitis lifts a paw and brings it down on his brother’s head. The latter holds on, as he is very comfortably spread out on the bottom of the box, and is sucking a teat placed low down. A second attempt of Mitis’ fails equally. He then performs rapid movements with his head, searching vigorously for his cup, but not finding it. The mother then places a paw on his back, and his centre of gravity being thus better established, he at last accomplishes his object. Here we have several actions which are no doubt in some degree conscious, but which come chiefly under the head of automatism: the scent which helps in the search for the teat, the instinct to dispute the ground with another who is discovered to be sucking, the movements of intentional repulsion, of struggle, of combativeness. What an admirable machine for sensation, sentiment, volition, activity, and consciousness, is a young animal only just born!
17th May.—I have observed—or think I have observed—in Mitis, the more indolent of the two brothers, the first symptoms of playfulness: lying on his back with his mouth half open, he twiddles his four paws with an air of satisfaction, and as if seeking to touch some one or something. It is eight o’clock in the evening, the window is open, the sparrow is singing with all its might in its cage, we are talking and laughing close to the cat’s box. Do all these noises in some way excite the sensoriums of the two repus kittens? The fact is, that they have been in a state of agitation for more than a quarter of an hour, travelling one over the other and walking over their mother’s stomach, paws, and head. Mitis, the heavier of the two and soonest tired out, was the first to return to the teat. Riquet’s return to the maternal breast has been a long and roundabout journey from one corner of the box to the other, and round and round his mother.
At nine o’clock I went to look at them with the light. This threw them into dreadful consternation. I observe in them both something like intentions to bite, while rolling each other over, they keep their mouths open, and snap instead of sucking when they come in contact with any part of each other’s bodies; but it is all mechanical. Here we have an increase of activity produced by an accession of powers and temporary over-excitement.
18th May.—They are lying asleep on their sides, facing each other, with their fore-paws half stretched out against the hind ones. Riquet’s sleep is much disturbed; his mouth touches one of his brother’s paws, which he instantly begins to suck. Is this a mechanical or unconscious action? Is he not possibly dreaming? After four or five attempts at sucking he lets go the paw, and sleeps on tranquilly for four minutes; but the noise of a carriage passing in the street, and perhaps the consequent vibration of the floor and the bottom of the box, cause violent trembling in his lips, paws, and tail.
The mother gets back in the box; and the kittens, instantly awake and erect, utter three or four mis to welcome the joyful return.
In settling herself down the mother leans rather heavily on Riquet; the latter, who used formerly to extricate himself mechanically, and who already knows from experience the inconvenience of such a position, moves off brusquely, goes further away than he would have done formerly, and Mitis, on the lookout for a teat, hears close to him the noise of his brother’s sucking. He pommels his head with his hind-paws, rolls up against him, striking out with his fore-paws, and knocks him over with the weight of his body; he is now in possession of the teat which his brother had first tried, and, finding it as good as the one he was sucking before, he sticks to it.
18th May.—Mitis was trying to worry Riquet who was busy sucking. I hold out my hand to make a barrier between the two; Mitis pushes it back with his paw, but soon perceives the difference between the two bodies which he is pushing against, gives over his excitement, and looks out for another teat. No doubt in this case there was no comparative perception of difference, but different sensations producing different muscular actions; that is all, I imagine, but this is nevertheless the germ of veritable comparison.
19th May.—Both the eyes of both kittens are about to open; the eyelids seem slightly slit, and are covered with an oozy film. At the external corner of Mitis’ right eye there is a little round opening disclosing a pale blue speck of eyeball, the size of a pin’s head. At the internal commissure of the left eye there is also a round opening, but much smaller, and showing no eye-ball through it. Riquet’s right eye is also opening slightly; the edges of the left eyelids are stopped up by a yellowish discharge.
I fancied that Mitis was playing in the box; I tumbled him over on his back, tickled his stomach, and stroked his head; he struck out his paws without attempting to pick himself up; this was evidently a more or less conscious attempt at play. His mother came to lick him in this attitude, and he performed with his fore-paws as previously. Riquet, too, shows a tendency to play, but not of such a pronounced nature.
21st May.—Riquet’s left eye is beginning to open at the inside corner.
I took them both up on my hand, and waved my fingers in front of their partially opened eyes; but I did not observe any movement from which I could infer the power of distinguishing objects.
Mitis, placed close to his mother’s head, nibbles at it and plays with his paws on her nose; the mother does not approve of this amusement; she lays a paw on her son’s neck and teaches him respect; soon he escapes from her grasp, and begins searching for a teat.
Some streaks of fawn-colour have mixed with the zebra-like black and grey on Riquet’s neck: he is now quadri-coloured.
Mitis is seated on my hand. I kiss him on the head, three times running, making a slight noise with my lips; he shakes his head twice. This is an habitual movement of the mother cat when one kisses her or strokes her head and it displeases, or if she is occupied with something else.
When I pass my hand in front of their heads, at about four centimètres’ distance, they make a movement with the head and wink their eyes; I am not sure whether this means that they see, though their eyes have been more or less open since yesterday evening.
They have not yet begun to purr.
22nd May.—I went up to the box towards twelve o’clock. Riquet’s left eye, the light blue colour of which I can see, seems to perceive me, but it must be very indistinctly. I wave my hand at ten centimètres from his eyes, and it is only the noise I make and the disturbance of the air that cause him to make any movement.
Both Mitis’ eyes are almost entirely open; I hold my finger near his nose without touching it, I wave it from right to left and left to right, and I fancy I perceive in the eyes—in the eyes more than in the head—a slight tendency to move in the direction of my movements.
23rd May, 7 p.m.—Their movements are less trembling, quicker, and fierce not only because of increased strength and exercise, but because intention, directed by eyesight, is beginning to operate.
The more I observe young animals, the more it seems to me that the external circumstances of their development—alimentation, exercise (more or less stimulated and controlled), ventilation, light, attention to their health and their affective sensibilities, care in breeding and training,—are perhaps only secondary factors in their development. Actual sensations, it seems to me, serve only to bring to the service one set of virtualities rather than another; a sentient, intelligent, active being is a tangled skein of innumerable threads, some of which, and not others, will be drawn out by the events of life. This it is that marks out the precise work, limits the power, but at the same time encourages all the pretensions of educators. If all is not present in all, as Jacolot asserted, who can say what is and what is not present in a young animal or a young child?
I placed Mitis on a foot-warmer, the contact with which produced two or three nervous tremblings, somewhat similar to slight shiverings; he seemed pleased, however, and stretched himself out on the warm surface, with his eyes half-closed, as if going to sleep. Afterwards I placed Riquet there; he went through the same trembling movements, but then proceeded with an inspection with his muzzle—scenting or feeling, I do not know which, the article on which he had been deposited. He then gently stretched out a paw and laid himself down flat, the contact with the warm surface inducing sleep, by reason of the familiar associations between the like sensation of warmth experienced on his mother’s breast and the instinctive need of sleep.
When they trot about in their box, some of their movements appear to be directed by sight.
Their ears have lengthened perceptibly during the last two days, and so have their tails.
When any one walks about the room, if they are not asleep or sucking, they begin frisking about immediately.
The mother, whom I sent to take a little exercise in the courtyard, has been absent for half an hour. Mitis is asleep; Riquet, lying with his head on his brother’s neck, was awakened by the sound of my footsteps, all the more easily roused no doubt because he was hungry, and because his mother had been absent so long. I stroke his head with my finger, and he puts on a smiling look. I make a little noise with my lips to rouse the sparrow, and this noise pleases Riquet, who listens with the same smiling countenance.
They now attempt to climb higher; they do not knock their noses so frequently against the partitions of the box, they certainly direct their paws at certain points determined by their vision; eyes, noses, and paws now operate in concert on the teats or any other objects that come across their way; for they do not go much in search of objects as yet. Their field of vision does not stretch very far; what they see is matter of chance and accident rather than of real intention. If I wish to attract their attention by waving my hand, I must not hold it further than fifteen centimètres from their eyes. I must go very close to them before they appear to distinguish my person. I am not sure that they see the whole of it; I rather think that only certain portions are visible to them,—amongst others my nose, because it stands out in relief, and my eyes, because they reflect the light vividly.
24th May, 9 p.m.—The orbits of their eyes seem to me rather more expanded than this morning, possibly because the light makes their pupils contract. I placed a candle on a chair by the side of their box; the light evidently annoyed them, but it stimulated them to exercise their limbs. Mitis, after having promenaded and struggled about in a corner of the box, and grown accustomed to the lively sensations on his retina, directs his steps towards the most brightly-lighted point of the box. A band of light falls full on the upper part of the partition on the side facing me. Mitis, and Riquet after him,—more from imitation than personal excitement,—tries to climb up this luminous board; he does not succeed, but the attraction continues undiminished. I thought involuntarily of the plants which struggle up walls to reach the light.
Mitis, still somewhat disconcerted—though much less so than at first—when he looks directly at light, retires into a corner, and tired, no doubt, with the exercise he has just been taking, places himself, or rather falls back, on his mother’s tail. I take him up gently, and set him in front of his mother’s stomach, and by the side of Riquet, who had just finished his gambols also, and was sucking. Then began a scuffle, the front paws working away perceptibly like the battoirs of a washerwoman. I come to the rescue, placing my hand between them, and this calms them down; they favour me, however, with a few ridiculous little taps. Mitis, meanwhile, has taken possession of the contested teat, and celebrates his victory by the first purr that to my knowledge he has produced.
Riquet is now in a great state of agitation; he is lying in the dark, behind his mother’s back, and close to the side of the box facing me. I hold my finger to him; he lifts himself up and leans his head slowly forward to touch or scent my finger. He can now distinguish people, but more by touch, scent, or hearing than by sight, the latter sense being very imperfectly developed and little exercised. When I make a slight noise with my lips the little creature starts and jumps about, but does not lift up his eyes to my face, which he has seen close to him, has looked at with attention, but which he is very imperfectly acquainted with, and does not accurately localise with respect to my hand and my body.
Riquet is close to his mother’s head. He has stretched a paw over her neck, and is looking at some part or other of her head, I don’t know which, while playing gently with his little paw. Here we see an intelligent development of affection; he now loves his mother in a more conscious way; his visual and tactile perceptions are becoming co-ordinated, are amplifying his knowledge, and giving strength and precision to his sentiments.
I stretch out my finger to Mitis, who is still lying on the spot where I found him at first. In return, either from curiosity, or from instinctive impulse and movement, he holds out his little paw, which seems to enjoy the grasp of my finger, and sticks to it.
25th May.—I place my kittens, one after the other, in the hollow of my hand. Mitis squealed when I lifted him out of the box, and during the three minutes that I kept them in my hand they both seemed almost indifferent. The instant, however, that I put them back in the box they seemed quite delighted to get back again, or else they were stimulated to play by the various sensations—muscular, visual, tactile, and thermal—which I had occasioned them. Standing and walking about on my hand had stimulated Mitis to an extraordinary display of strength. In his desire for prolonged exercise, and no doubt also wishing to renew the vivid sensations of light he had just experienced, he set to work to climb up the perpendicular wall of his dwelling, making all the time a great noise of scratching. All movement produces sensations; and all sensations produce movements.
26th May.—They both play with their paws and their muzzles, but frequently, as if by chance, only without very marked intention, and with very uncertain movements.
I seem already to distinguish in them two different characters. If one can go by appearances, Mitis will be gentle, patient, rather indolent and lazy, prudent and good-natured; Riquet, on the contrary, lively, petulant, irritable, playful, and audacious. Noise and contact seem to excite him more than his brother. But both of them are very affectionate towards their mother, or perhaps I should say very appreciative of the pleasure of being with her, of seeing, hearing, and touching her, and not only of sucking from her.
I hold Mitis up to the edge of the box; he evinces a desire to get back to his mother, but does not know how to manage it. His muscles have not yet acquired the habit of responding to this particular psycho-motive stimulus; he crawls up to where my hand ends, advances first one paw, then another, and finds only empty space; he then stretches out his neck, and two or three times running makes an attempt with his paws at the movements which are the precursors of the act of jumping. He would like to jump down, but cannot do so; instinctive intention is here in advance of the adaptiveness or the strength of the muscular apparatus fitted to execute it. He retreats frightened and discouraged, and whines for help.
Riquet placed in the same position, goes through almost the same movements, but he is able to do more; he has managed to seize hold (chance perhaps assisting him) of the edge of the box, he sticks to it, leans over without letting go, and would have got down, or rather tumbled down, into the box, if I had let him.
27th May. Every day they get to know me better. Now, after I have taken them in my hands, or stroked their head, neck, or lips, they go back to their box quite excited; they walk about in it faster than before, snap at each other and strike out their paws with much more spirit. Play has now become a matter of experience with them, and grows day by day a little more complicated; they seem to be aware of their growth in strength and skill, and to derive pleasure from it. To-day, for the first time, Riquet scratched the piece of stuff on the bottom of the box, and he did it with playful gestures and an expression of delight; first he stretched out one paw, then the other, with his claws turned out, and, being pleased with the noise produced by drawing back his claws, he renewed the operation twice, but no more. It will be necessary to go through the same experience two or three times more, in order to fix the idea of this game in his little head.
They have already tried several times running (either by accident or with a vague idea of ascending) to hold on to, or climb up, the sides of the box; if they were not slippery, or were covered with a cloth, I think they would have strength enough to lift themselves up to the edge.
They lift their head and paws as high as they can, in order to see better. All the inside of the box seems to be sufficiently well known to them, but all the same they are constantly making experiments in it, either by touch, sight, hearing, scent, and even taste; for they frequently lick the board, and try to suck the cloth at the bottom. They would no doubt gladly extend the area of their experiences, but I shall leave them habitually in the box until they are able to get out of it by themselves; they can get quite enough exercise in it, and they have enough air and light, and I think the prolongation of this calm, happy, retired existence makes them more gentle. The mother prefers their being in the box, and I am of the same opinion, though not perhaps for the same reasons. They would become too independent if allowed to follow their caprices, and exposed to the dangers of adventure, instead of being accustomed to the restraint of the hand which they love and which humanises them. I want them to become so thoroughly accustomed to my hand, that, when they receive their freedom, they will still recognise it from a distance, and come to it at my will. My hand is a very precious instrument of preservation and education for them.
28th May. When, standing close to the box, I take Mitis in my hands, he looks at the box, bends his head, stretches out his paws, and shows a considerable desire to get down, but without making any effort towards this end. I hold him a little lower down, at a few centimètres from his mother, and he no longer hesitates but lets himself glide down to her, his movements, however, only turning out a success thanks to my assistance. Can it be that he had (what Tiedemann does not even allow his fourteen-months-old child to have possessed) a vague perception of distance, of empty and inhabited space, anterior to personal experience? “He had not yet any idea of the falling of bodies from a height, or of the difference between empty and inhabited space. On the 14th October he still wanted to precipitate himself from heights, and several times he let his biscuit fall to the ground when intending to dip it in his cup.”
The kittens endeavour to climb along the sides of the box, but their idea of height (perhaps an instinctive idea) is not sufficiently determined; they seem quite astounded at not reaching the goal with the first stroke. At the same time I may be mistaken in my observations; perhaps they went up these four or five centimètres mechanically, because in walking along horizontally they found under their paws the surface of the partition which may have seemed a natural continuation of their road. Perhaps they have no wish to get up to the edge of the box.
28th May.—The grey spots on Riquet’s back are now almost as large as the black ones.
The eyes of both kittens are getting less and less blue; they are assuming an indistinct colour, between dirty grey and light brown. Their expression is frank and sympathetic; they seem to direct their looks consciously and voluntarily.
Riquet is looking at me with an expression of pleasure, seated upright, with his paws lifted languidly. I hold my finger near him, and he extends his left paw. I stroke the left side of his head, and he leans the part which I caress on my finger, as a full-grown cat would do, and rubs himself two or three times running against my finger. These are invented movements—I mean movements furnished all of a sudden by the stimulus of hereditary virtualities, and which seem to astonish the young animal as well as to please him; it is thus that we see automatic movements at one moment coming under the control of consciousness, and the next escaping from it, refined, simplified, adapted, and perfected. Life invents but few new movements; but there are many, no doubt, ready to appear if the influences of surroundings permitted it.
29th May.—They are learning more and more to exercise their muscles and perfect their movements; they are daily acquiring fresh powers and adaptations, and in their games with each other and their mother they show intention and pleasure; they are learning more and more to distinguish people; if any one presents a finger to them, they always hold out their nose, or else a paw; this seems to have become a reflex action with them. They also appear to localise certain sensations which are in some sort artificial. I touch the tip of Mitis’ left paw, (he has been sucking for the last ten minutes); he stops sucking, and instantly turns his head in the direction of his paw; but this is perhaps because he has seen my hand, and the muscular sensation associated with this visual sensation may have determined his movement alone and almost automatically. I vary the experiment, however, and pass my finger two or three times running across his neck; he raises his head and looks behind him, as if understanding where I had touched him. However this may be, I should not like to affirm in him the faculty of localising pleasure or pain, except as a sort of automatic localisation of sensations, which would be the result of certain anterior adaptations.
The mother is engaged on the toilet of Mitis, who neither looks pleased nor displeased; he makes a sound which is neither a cry of pain, nor the whining of complaint or anger; if he is giving expression to a mental condition well defined to himself, I cannot guess at it. It is a tremulous noise which might be represented by the following letters: mrrrimr....
2nd June.—Riquet’s ears grow more than those of Mitis. The hair of the latter has ceased to grow, and his tail is scarcely more bushy than his brother’s. He will not be more of an Angora than Riquet, in spite of the long silky hair, which during the first days grew so abundantly on his neck, stomach, and thighs.
Riquet has become more patient, and Mitis more lively during the last few days. It would be very presumptuous to pretend to found precise inductions as to the future on observations taken during the first days; hypothesis itself must maintain the most scrupulous reserve, especially as regards predictions concerning intelligence and character. A cat which appears very intelligent at the age of one or two months, often shows very mediocre intelligence when a year or two old, and vice versâ. As to the colour and nature of the hair, six weeks must have elapsed before one can give any certain opinion as to the real shade that it will be, and as to its flexibility, abundance, brilliancy, and waviness. As for the ears I have often erred in my predictions ... which are scarcely perceptible at birth, and during the first eight or ten days, will sometimes grow to a disproportionate length afterwards. With regard to the paws and the tail, half a decimètre’s length at the moment of birth indicates undoubtedly an appreciable length later on. One can also determine on the first day the future firmness of the muscles and bones by the relative resistance of these little velvety lumps when held in the hand. A strong voice, which is more especially the appendage of male kittens, indicates at any rate good lungs.
Mitis, who is so gentle, has more flattened ears than Riquet; the latter’s stand up more like those of foxes and wolves. The little complementary pavillion ... which is attached to both edges of the ear, slightly towards the bottom, and which in man is designated by a slight rudimentary excrescence, is beginning to appear in both my kittens.
They are now well advanced in the art of play; they fence well with their paws, lick each other, and tumble and roll each other over. Riquet, who has some difficulty in standing upright on his legs, has attempted a jump. They try to bite each other at play, specially aiming at each other’s paws. Often by mistake they seize their own paws with their teeth and gnaw at them; but they are not long in finding out their error.
I place them on the ground. They tremble, seem frightened, or rather astonished, or undecided, and make a few uncertain movements. One of them perceives the mother at a distance of about a mètre, looking at them from under a chair. He goes straight up to her, but very slowly, and with a great deal of waddling; all of a sudden he stops. He has heard his brother’s voice, the latter having whined on my touching him to rouse him out of his persistent immovability; he turns his head in our direction, distinguishes me, turns straight round, and comes up to me with much greater rapidity and assurance than he had shown in going to his mother. The reason of this is, that the road to me was shorter and surer, and the stimulus to traverse it greater, owing to the larger proportions of my body. I place them back in the box, and they begin playing again with zest. The one who had only moved feebly on the floor, walks, and even jumps, much better this morning. This little outing seems to have stimulated him to an effort which he had not made before. In like manner we sometimes note progress in young children from day to day.
They can now climb up to the middle of the box.
A board, a few centimètres wide, is nailed to the top of the box, and covers about a fourth part of it. Mitis looks at it with longing eyes; he makes up his mind, draws himself up as erect as he can, stretches up his paws to the partition and within five centimètres of[Pg 164] the upper plank; he is longing to make an upward leap, and finally he ventures on it; but his heavy abdomen and his weak legs play him false, and he rolls over ignominiously. In like manner a young child, not yet firm on his legs, leaving the support of the chair to venture a step alone, falls in a soft heap on the floor.
4th June.—They play more and more with my finger, bite at it and lick it. They seem to look at all objects more attentively, and more sympathetically at their mother and me.
When they are playing about under their mother, one sees only a confusion of white paws, pink noses, shining eyes, and whisking tails. I have put them on my bed. They walk much better there than in the box, and infinitely better than on the floor; they studied everything in this new locality, walking, climbing up and down, sliding and rolling about. Riquet, having reached the edge of the bed, would have fallen over if I had not held him back. His more circumspect brother, finding himself in the same situation, leant his head over for a moment, and then, as if defying a danger more or less realised; turned round and precipitated himself at the other side of the bed.
11th June.—They frisk and bound about, and catch at all objects indiscriminately with their claws to try and climb. They look into each other’s eyes as if trying to discover the expression of sentiments and ideas. This may proceed from astonishment and curiosity, and the delight of the ever new impressions which the movement of the eyes cannot fail to produce in them. But must it not also be partly the result of an hereditary predisposition of their organisation, which leads them to seek in the eyes for the meaning which they express? We know that adult animals, as well as man, are endowed with this tendency which proceeds from instinct rather than individual experience.
Partly from imitation of their mother and sister, partly from the teaching of their instinct, they went off one day to a certain out-of-the-way spot, where was placed a pan full of ashes, the object of which does not require to be explained. Observing this, I carried them from time to time to this pan. The smell proceeding from it was in itself sufficient to excite them to satisfy their needs. Three or four such experiences sufficed to associate with the idea of this smell the idea of the pan, of the place where it was, and of the need to be satisfied. I do not say that this habit of cleanliness, so quickly acquired, may not as quickly be lost, by means of new associations taking the place of the first. There is no doubt, however, that if the people would make it a rule to watch over the formation of habits in cats during the first weeks (and probably also in other animals and in children), it would not afterwards be necessary to have recourse to a system of barbarous, and often useless measures, in order to obtain from them by violence that which nature will manage alone with but very slight assistance.
The shutters are closed on account of the extreme heat, so that the room is in semi-darkness, and all the objects in it steeped in mysterious shadow. Riquet, frisking about at a little distance from the box, sees a footstool at about a mètre’s distance. This object, with its four feet and their shadows would easily produce in my mind the illusion of some mysterious animal. This, however, cannot be the case with the kitten, unless we suppose in it a mental confusion of the inanimate with the animate, that is to say, the animalisation of the inanimate. My opinion is that the surprise, and presently, too, the terror which Riquet manifests, and which keeps him transfixed to the spot, have their origin rather in a certain indeterminate tendency to fear in the presence of all sudden and unusual impressions. Such an apparition would have had no effect whatever on him a few days ago; but to-day it is so much out of harmony with his now numerous experiences, that it contradicts and jars against all his familiar habits. This is, in my mind, the sole cause of his terror. However it may be, he draws himself up on his small paws, bristles his tail, humps up his back, and without either retreating or advancing, sways right and left in the same attitude. I make a movement; this noise brings his paroxysm of fear to a crisis, and he gives expression to it by a fretful fû; he then turns round and goes off as fast as his legs will carry him, the first way that comes, which happens to be to the side of the bed.
12th June.—They are attracted by the noise which I make in crumpling paper, in scratching the wall, or tapping a piece of furniture; but metallic sounds, if soft, do not have the same effect on them; the noise of objects being knocked, dull heavy sounds, or the noise of sharp voices, astonish them and make them prick up their ears, but not lift their paws. They take pleasure, however, in all the noises which they make themselves, provided they are not too reverberating, or caused by the displacement or fall of some large object. The loudest voice that I can put on pleases them almost as much as the little playful tones I generally address them in; they also delight in the strings of articulated consonants, which I repeat to them; but they do not like whistling, although they are not so much annoyed by it as is their mother, who comes up to me and rubs her head under my chin and over my mouth, and gives me little taps on my lips with her paw directly she hears me whistling. What specially delights them are the dry sounds which their claws make on wood, linen, paper, the straw seats of chairs, and the covering of the bed.
Mitis has drunk some milk this morning for the first time. I put the tip of my finger, moistened with this fluid, under his nose, and he licked it several times running. Enticed by the smell, he dipped his nose into a cup of milk, but did not know how to set about drinking; up came the mother and took his place, as if the milk was her rightful property. She generally tries to take away from her little ones anything fresh, when it is first given to them, perhaps out of maternal precaution, not thinking them strong enough to digest anything but her milk. As she laps in a great hurry, she always spills a certain quantity of milk round the saucer. I placed Mitis in front of what had been spilled, and whether by chance, or because he was incited by the smell, he fell to licking and cleaned it all up. A quarter of an hour later he drank out of the cup, very awkwardly however, and very little, plunging his nose so far into the milk as to make him sneeze.
Riquet, to whom the same advances were made, licked the tip of my finger, but did not touch the milk in the cup. He is less strong than Mitis, and possibly less precocious in this respect.
When I come back into the room after an absence of even half an hour, the mother raises herself on her paws, as if moved by a spring, and her two satellites with her,—all at the same instant and with the same movement.
They still continue to be very fond of us, and not to be startled by strangers.
I have tried to make Riquet drink: I put his nose into the milk, and he then dipped his paw in himself and licked it, but would not lap. He went so far as to approach the cup with his nose and just touch it with his lips, but he then started off again.
He is now under the chimney, sniffing and then scratching the ashes, which, as his movements indicate, remind him of his ash-pan. If I once or twice tolerated an infraction of my rule, the habit of cleanliness so easily formed in him would perhaps be hopelessly lost; this is why I hasten to carry him to his pan.
At 3 o’clock we repeated with Riquet the experiment which had failed in the morning; we smeared his nose with milk. He then licked it, and afterwards put his nose in the cup, and drank a good teaspoonful.
This morning they are more vigorous and nimble than yesterday, and they have been disporting themselves on my bed for more than an hour, whilst their mother and elder sister were engaged, by way of recreation, in snatching tufts of hair from each other’s coats, in scratching and throttling each other. The mother gives a cry to indicate that this sport has reached its limits. Mitis has tumbled off the bed with affright, uttering a plaintive cry.
A ludicrous incident very nearly parted me from my two little pets. An old laundress, whose sight is very feeble, as well as her mind, shut them up in her bundle of linen, on which they had been playing whilst she was counting it. I gave them up for lost, having searched for them everywhere, even in my boots. Three hours later they were brought back to me safe and sound. This is what had happened: on opening the bundle, out walked a kitten (Mitis) who seemed very much surprised, he was put in a basket with a cup of milk beside him; the other was only found an hour later, to the great astonishment of the laundress, squatting under a cupboard and showing nothing but the tip of his nose. He refused all manner of consolation, and would not touch the milk, in spite of the example of Mitis who did not wait to be pressed.
As soon as they were safe back with me they both ate some bread soaked in milk.
The mother was very much dejected by their absence. When, after calling them in vain with her most caressing voice, and making pretence to play to entice them to come to her, she became convinced of their absence, she filled my rooms with agonised screams. She then begged to be let out to look for them in the court-yard, but soon came in again and began screaming and hunting about as before. She came up to me and got up on my knees, looked me fixedly in the eyes, and then curled herself up on the bed where the kittens often sleep with her. Her eyes went beyond the expression of profound despair; her eyelids quivered, a slight moisture covered the eyeballs, and at the inside corners there was the appearance of tears. There is no doubt that cats cry.
I have several times noticed, but in a specially distinct manner to-day, on lifting them away from any place where they are comfortable, an instinctive, or perhaps intentional, tendency to lean either with the stomach or the paws, in order to remain fixed to the spot. An analogous movement may be noticed in young children, when one tries to take them out of the arms of some one they are fond of. I might no doubt have observed this fact in my kittens long ago.
I was holding Mitis in my hands, and I lifted him near to his mother and Riquet; he made a precipitate movement to get down to them, instinct urging him to spring—and that all the more since he is now stronger;—but his experience and his strength not sufficing to enable him to adapt his efforts to the distance he had to cross. Thus it is that falling from the bed often means in his case a bad attempt at jumping down. It is also possible that it is the example of his mother and big sister, as much as his increased strength, which suggests these somewhat impulsive bounds, which moreover belong to the organic habits of the species. The little unfledged bird also falls from its nest, when attempting a premature flight.
Nothing in the shape of food comes amiss to Riquet: soup, meat, potatoes, pease, lard—he snaps at, and devours whatever he comes across and whatever is offered him; but one must beware of the little glutton’s sharp claws. Mitis takes his food more gently.
18th June.—Riquet is playing with me on the sofa. A sole is placed on the table. The smell of the fish excites and puzzles him, for he does not know whence it comes; he travels over me in all directions, trying to follow the scent, and is soon perched up on my left shoulder, which is tolerably close to the table; he works towards the table, and I stoop my shoulder to let him slide on to it. He rubs his nose first against a spoon and then against a glass; the plate containing the sole is only a decimètre from the glass, but as he does not know that a plate contains food, and that it is from there that the savoury smell proceeds, he does not direct his steps towards it. Finally, however, he finds himself in front of the plate, puts his four paws on it, and instantly disposes himself to eat the whole fish. I instantly carry him off. What a small number of experiences he will need (two or three only I have determined) in order to adapt to actual practice these judgments and movements which unite instinctively with certain sensations! We call this reasoning in man, and, nevertheless, it closely resembles a piece of subjective mechanism, which is blind at starting, and which adapts itself to objective representations with such promptitude, that consciousness seems to follow, not to precede, its operations.
Whilst I was at my breakfast they climbed up my legs, and I had the weakness to let them stay for a moment on the table. They invaded my plate, Mitis going so far as to bite into the fish, and Riquet licking and gnawing the edge of the plate; the smell of the fish is so penetrating that he confuses it with the plate. Moreover, he has no idea of containing and being contained. Soon he comes across a mouthful of fish which I have prepared for him: he flattens himself out on the plate, and eats with courageous and deliberate precipitation, inclining his head now to the left, now to the right, sometimes closing his eyes from delight, but oftenest keeping them open and fixed attentively on the plate,—one would say he was afraid of losing his precious morsel; and here we see a result of the preservative instinct which he has received from his ancestors.
Mitis has got into a round earthen pan, and from association of impressions tries to satisfy a need which he would not otherwise have felt. The vessel, however, being small, and his movements causing it to totter, he jumped out and ran off to his own pan.
20th June.—Mitis suddenly springs from the table to the floor, first feeling his mother with the end of his paw, and then passing over her without touching her: is it a personal or a social motive which makes him act thus? Does he wish to avoid walking on ground that is not firm, or is he trying not to hurt his mother? In like manner will a horse, on the point of trampling a live body, hastily withdraw his foot.
They have been playing for a long time on my bed; before I go to sleep I shall carry them to their own bedroom, to their mother who awaits them somewhat sadly. They came back into my room as soon as I did myself. I sit down in front of my table, they climb up along my legs, and I determine to place them back on my bed. Twenty minutes later I reinstate them a second time in their domicile, but they do not stay there two minutes. I had just got into bed again when back they come, spring at the bed-cover, the chairs, the wall, with a noise of scratching and rustling which excites them to continue their difficult ascent; at the end of two minutes the siege is accomplished, and I am seized upon, trodden over, scratched and gnawed. I cannot be master in my own room except by shutting the door, at which, however, they come and scratch, but without much persistence.
So there they are, now pretty well masters of their movements, taking headers to get down from the bed to the chair, from the chair to the floor, climbing up along the curtains and the tapestry, and even attempting to climb the furniture and polished objects. A few more days and their mode of descending will be less like tumbling, their ascents less like scrambling: they will spring and they will bound, and will be real individual cats.