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Friendships of Animals - Harper's


A very sharp fox-terrier belonging to the writer never could be induced to regard a cat in any other light than that of an enemy. Having to go and live in a house where a cat was kept, the first thing the dog did was to turn the cat out. As mice, however, were troublesome, and as the terrier, even with the best intentions, could not banish them, another cat was considered necessary; so a kitten was secured, and in due time introduced to its future companion the fox-terrier.

The little cat put up its back and spat at the dog, which was at last made to understand that it was to leave the kitten alone. For some days the two animals regarded one another with suspicion; at length the cat came up and licked the dog's nose. From that hour their friendship was established. They became inseparable; then the kitten soon discovered that the dog's tail and ears made excellent play-things, and in the meekest and most submissive manner the dog allowed the kitten to pull it about as much as it pleased. Very often, however, the dog felt inclined to play; then for about five or ten minutes the two would rush round the room; but it generally ended in the cat retiring under part of the furniture, to escape being somewhat roughly upset by the impetuous rushes of its canine playmate. Sometimes, when the kitten wanted to play, nothing could induce the dog to get up, and at other times the kitten would take no notice of the dog's pressing offers of a romp.

When lying still and dozing, the two were generally to be found close together, and at night the cat invariably curled itself up on the dog's back, and so went to sleep; but curiously enough, although the dog made no objection to this arrangement, it would not on any account get up into its bed if the cat was there first. On one occasion, and one only, the two were seen in a very comical position. The dog was sitting up on the hearth-rug, solemnly gazing into the fire. The cat, which was still in its kittenhood, went up and jumped on to the dog's head. There it sat, with its tail curled round its front paws, likewise looking into the fire. For a few minutes the pair were quite still; then the dog moved, and the kitten sprang down. A more curious sight has probably seldom been witnessed.

It was noticed that the fox-terrier always knew its feline friend in the dark, and was always able to distinguish it from other cats. These, when they appeared, were always ferociously charged and driven away; and one day, in its eagerness to get at a strange cat, the dog nearly hurt its little companion. It happened in this way. The two friends were out together in the yard behind the house. The cat got up on a wall, and soon afterward another cat appeared at the other end. The two stood looking at one another about ten yards apart, when the dog became aware of the presence of the stranger. Knowing a way up on to the wall, it immediately ascended, but when it got up, its companion was between it and the other cat. However, the dog rushed along the wall to get at the interloper, and as there was no room to pass, simply knocked its little friend over, and then made a great effort to catch the enemy.

It was curious to see a dog perpetually rushing at cats, and then returning from the chase to gambol about in the most friendly manner with another cat. The friendly intercourse with the one never had the slightest effect in changing its animosity to others. The dog's affection even went so far as to cause it to show resentment whenever the cat was punished. When the cat was touched with the whip, it would turn up its eyes, and look as much annoyed as it was possible for a dog to be. Animals have keener susceptibilities, and show more feeling, than many people imagine.

Sea-gulls are not often met with as domestic pets; but the great bird-fancier Morris, in his work on natural history, mentions a tame sea-gull which struck up a great friendship with a terrier which spent a great part of its time in the garden where the gull was kept. Here is an anecdote contributed some years ago to the Naturalist, on the authority of Mr. Donaldson. His gull was quite an epicure in its way, and fancied sparrows' flesh for dinner. But as it had to cater for its own luxuries, the question of catching the sparrows became an important one. However, the gull thought the matter over, and soon devised an excellent scheme for capturing the four or five sparrows which it required as a daily bonne bouche. It fraternized with a number of pigeons which were fed in the yard where the gull was kept. The crafty bird had made a note of the fact that several sparrows always came down at feeding-time to get some of the food spread for the pigeons. "By getting among the pigeons, and keeping my head down," reasoned the gull, "I shall get close enough to catch some of these nice little fellows easily."

And this is how the gull made use of its friends the pigeons. It went among them, and, by stooping, avoided detection. Then, to use the words of the eye-witness, the gull "set at a sparrow as a pointer dog would do at its game." In an instant it had the luckless victim by the back, and swallowed it without giving it time to shut its eyes. But this was an unlovely friendship. The motives were altogether mercenary and low. The story affords, however, a curious instance of the power of reasoning possessed by some animals.