P ETER'S cat is very fond of going in to the wood. We are afraid she will be killed some day. For Peggy's father shoots all the cats he finds in the wood, because they eat the rabbits and pheasants.
But Peter cannot keep her at home. As soon as it gets dusk, she slips out, and often does not come home all night. She goes in the dusk, because then all the animals are feeding. So she can catch mice and young rabbits, as well as partridges asleep on the ground, and other birds in the trees.
She is a very clever hunter. Her body is so well made for catching her prey. She is slender, but very strong. She can kill a mouse with one stroke of her paw. She can spring ever so far, and so quickly that few mice or birds can escape her.
Then she has soft pads under her feet, so that she can creep along very quietly. And she can jump down from a high wall because the soft pads keep her feet from being hurt when she reaches the ground.
We all know what sharp claws she has at the end of her toes. But when she is playing with her kitten or with Peter, her paw is so soft you would not think she could scratch. This is because she has a groove in each toe under the skin, and when she does not want her claws, she draws each one back into its own sheath.
But when she springs on a mouse or a bird, she strikes with her paw, and as she bends her toes, out come the claws and pierce the flesh of her prey.
But how does she see the rats and mice in the night? Paul showed us that she can open the middle of her eye very wide in the dark. We took pussy near to the lamp and saw the hole or "pupil" of her eye was only a little narrow slit. Then we shut her up in dark room for some minutes, and took her outside, and looked at her eyes in the moonlight. The little slit had become a large round black hole.
The slit lets in enough light for pussy to see in the daytime, and when she goes out at night the slit stretches out into a big round hole which lets in all the light there is, from the moon or the stars.
But if it is very dark indeed, she feels her way with her whiskers. Paul says it is very cruel to cut a cat's whiskers, for they are a great help to her in the dark.
Pussy has a very rough tongue. If you let her lick your hand, you will feel how different it is from your own tongue, or that of a dog. It is so rough that she can rasp the scraps of meat off a bone, after she has torn away the flesh with her long pointed front teeth.
Pussy is very clever in getting her living, and if you look at her head you will see why. For she has a good broad forehead with plenty of room inside for a large brain. We put a rabbit's head near hers the other day. It was so narrow, and had so little room for a brain we were not surprised that the cat is too cunning for him.
Who would think that Pussy, who sits and purrs with her kitten by the fire, is so fierce in the wood? But Paul says that there were once wild cats in Scotland and in the north of England, and they were as fierce as tigers. Tigers and cats are very much alike. Tigers can be loving too. We heard a tiger purr one day in a wild beast show, when she was licking her cub.