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The Otter who was reared by a Cat, edited by Andrew Lang

Naturalist’s Note-Book.

There is still living in the kingdom of Galloway a wonderful cat who is so completely above all the instincts and prejudices of her race, that she can remain on friendly terms with young rabbits, and wile away a spare hour by having a game with a mouse. A real game, where the fun is not all on one side, but which is enjoyed by the mouse as much as by the cat.

Hardly less strange, from the opposite point of view, is the friendship that existed between two cats and an otter, which had been taken from its mother when only a few hours old, to be brought up by hand by a gentleman. This was not a very easy thing to manage. It was too young to suck milk out of a spoon, which was the first thing thought of, but a quill passed through a cork and stuck into a baby’s bottle proved a success, and through this the little otter had its milk five times every day, until he was more than five weeks old. Then he was introduced to a cat who had lately lost a kitten, and though not naturally very good-tempered, the puss took to him directly, evidently thinking it was her own kitten grown a little bigger. In general this cat, which was partly Persian, and, as I have said, very cross, did not trouble herself much about her young ones, which had to take care of themselves as well as they could; but she could not make enough of the little otter, and when he was as big as herself she would walk with him every day to the pond in the yard, where he had his bath, watching his  splashings and divings with great anxiety, and never happy till he got out safe.

But, like human children, the baby otter would have been very dull without someone to play with, and as there were no little otters handy, he made friends with a young cat called Tom.

All through the long winter, when the pond was frozen, and diving and swimming were no longer possible, he and Tom used to spend happy mornings playing hide and seek among the furniture in the dining-room, till Tom began to feel that the otter was getting rather rough, and that his teeth were very sharp, and that it would be a good thing to get out of his reach, on the top of a high cupboard or chimney piece.

But at last the snow melted, and the ice became water again, and the first day the sun shone, the otter and the old cat went out for a walk in the yard. After the little fellow had had his dive, which felt delicious after all the weeks that he had done without it, he wandered carelessly into a shed where he had never been before, and to his astonishment he suddenly heard a flutter of wings, and became conscious of a sharp pain in his neck. This was produced by the beak of a falcon, who always lived in the shed, and seeing the strange creature enter his door, at once made up his mind that it was its duty to kill it. The cat and the gentleman who happened to come in at the same moment rushed forward and beat off the bird, and then, blinded by excitement, like a great many other people, and not knowing friends from foes, the cat rushed at her master. In one moment she had severely bitten the calf of his leg, given his thigh a fearful scratch, and picked up the otter and carried him outside. Then, not daring to trust him out of her sight, she marched him sternly up the hill, keeping him all the while between her legs, so that no danger should come near him.

As the otter grew bigger the cats became rather afraid  of his claws and teeth, which grew bigger too, and inflicted bites and scratches without his knowing it. But if the cats tired of him, he never tired of the cats, and was always dull and unhappy when they were out of his way. Sometimes, when his spirits were unusually good (and his teeth unusually sharp), the poor playfellows were obliged to seek refuge in the bedrooms of the house, or even upon the roof, but the little otter had not lived so long with cats for nothing, and could climb nearly as well as they. When he had had enough of teasing, he told them so (for, of course, he knew the cat language), and they would come down, and he would stretch himself out lazily in front of the fire, with his arms round Tom’s neck.

It would be nice to know what happened to him when he really grew up, whether the joys of living in a stream made him forget his old friends at the farm, or whether he would leave the chase of the finest trout at the sound of a mew or a whistle. But we are not told anything about it, so everybody can settle it as they like.