The Philanthropic Cat, 1823

We thought our readers might enjoy the two following letters sent in to the newspapers in 1823, on the subject of philanthropic cats.

Gabrielle Arnault as a child, by Louis-Léopold Boilly, 1815
Gabrielle Arnault as a child, by Louis-Léopold Boilly, 1815


A Country Gentleman, who is neither a friend to thieves nor poachers, has at this moment in his household a favourite cat, whose honesty he is sorry to say, there is but too much reason to call in question. The animal, however, if far from being selfish in her principles, for her acceptable gleanings she regularly shares among the children of the family in which her lot is cast. It is the habit and repute of this said Grimalkin to leave the kitchen or parlour as often as hunger and an opportunity may occur, and went her way to a certain pastry cook’s shop, where the better to conceal her purpose, she endeavours slyly to ingratiate herself into favour with the mistress of the house. As soon as the Landlady’s attention becomes engrossed in business or otherwise, puss contrives to pilfer a small pye or tart, &c. from the shelves on which they are placed, speedily afterwards making the best of her way home with her booty. She then carefully delivers her prize to some of the little ones in the nursery. A division of the stolen property quickly takes place, and here it is singularly amusing to observe the sleekit animal, not the least conspicuous among the juvenile group, thankfully mumping her share of the illegal traffic. We may add, that the pastry-cook is by no means disposed to institute a legal process against poor Mistress Gib, as the children of the Gentleman to whom we allude, are honest enough, to acknowledge their four-footed playmate’s failings to papa, who willingly compensates any damage the shopkeeper may sustain from the petty depredations of his would-be philanthropic cat. – (Edinburgh Observer.)

The Morning Post, 12th August 1823.

Harris Museum & Art Gallery via
Harris Museum & Art Gallery via


EDITOR – After reading the interesting little anecdote in your Paper of the Philanthropic Cat, I am encouraged to lay before your Readers another trait of one of its kindred species. In the summer of 1817, I hired a small villa in the neighbourhood of Sevenoaks, which, when I entered, I found not wholly untenanted, for I soon observed a find large yellow streaked Tom Cat, which I admired much, but my wife having an antipathy to cats, I was compelled to order that the hapless animal should be forbid the premises. This the servants attempted to put into execution, but in vain, for in despite of sticks, stones, tin kettles, and other offensive weapons, Puss always returned when the storm had abated, till at length we relented, and the exile was re-established in its office of slaying rats and mice. A month after this, the cook, when about to put a fine fowl on the spit, was called away, d when she returned the fowl was gone. Search was made, and in five minutes the fowl was discovered in the merciless claws of the Cat. The enraged cook darted the spit which she held in her hand at the wretched animal; but anger blinded her aim – it missed, but in a moment Puss was well belaboured with broomsticks, from which at length he contrived to escape. For two days was he missing, but on the third, as the cook was busied in culinary avocations, she head a gentle purr behind her, and looking round, she saw the fine fellow with a plump young pheasant in his mouth, which he gently laid at her feet. Need I add, the pheasant was plucked, pulled, roasted; so it was, and the very best I ever tasted in my life. An anecdote, somewhat similar, may be found in the rare Tract of PERSIA LEFORDE, printed at the Hague in 1589, entitled “Histoyre des Animeaulx Domestiques.” I am sorry to say, Puss took to poaching, and was killed the year after, by the double-barrel gun of one of Lord STANHOPE’S Keepers.


The Morning Post, 13th August 1823

The Country Wedding by John Lewis Krimmel, 1820 (you may have to look closely for the cat!)
The Country Wedding by John Lewis Krimmel, 1820 (you may have to look closely for the cat!)

9 thoughts on “The Philanthropic Cat, 1823

  1. Can’t see the cat at the wedding. I loved these stories. I laughed out loud at the antics of the cats. I am sorry the poaching cat got killed. The cat who stole from the pastry shop and carried the food home to the children was hilarious — as long as one doesn’t think about germs encountered along the way and the mouth of the cat.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. joannemajor

      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

      (By the way, the cat is in the top right hand corner of the wedding portrait, on top of the cupboard and, by the looks of it, up to no good!)


  2. Some things never change. One of ours, in silent stealth mode, recently pilfered an entire cod fillet and was discovered eating it equally quietly right behind my chair. I only turned my back for a millisecond. I refrained from attacking this particular sleekit grimalkin with either the spit roast or the broom but he was seriously out of favour as my husband and I had to share the one remaining fillet or supper.

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