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Science Reference Guides

Historical Literature on
Domestication of Cats
and Other Animals

Science Reference Section
Science, Technology & Business Division
Library of Congress

Color painting of a white kitten and a white, black, and brown kitten playing inside of a box
"From a painting by Harriette Ronner."
Voogt, Gos. de. Our domestic animals,
their habits, intelligence and usefulness.

Cats were social companions in some Eastern countries even in Ancient times. However in Europe and the United States, cats were only used as mousers or studied as biological specimens until the mid-19th century, when their position shifted to that of household companion animals. Along with this shift, the focus of scientific study of the cat moved away from simply serving as biological specimens to researching the ancient origins of domestic cats, origins of coat colors, and cat diseases in relation to humans.

The books in this reference guide span the years primarily 1858 to 1922, when this shift occurred in the role of cats. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, cats indeed transitioned from vagabond mousers, artistic muses, and biological specimens to beloved and intelligent household pets and pedigree display objects.

For more information about the history of cats during this time period, see the Inside Adams blog posts “Can Cats Speak to Us?” and “Birds & Cats: Friends or Foes?”. Also, see Everyday Mysteries “How Do Cats Communicate with Each Other?” and “How Did Cats Become Domesticated?”


Reference Books

Amato, Sarah. Beastly possessions: animals in Victorian consumer culture. Toronto, Buffalo: University of Toronto Press. 2015. 306 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: HC79.C6A438 2015
LC Catalog Record Number: 2015452752

This book discusses the consumerism of animals and pet-keeping in the Victorian era. Amato discusses animals kept as pets, animals in zoos, and the role of animals after they die. Animals were enmeshed in all aspects of the social lives of Victorians, from debates about morality, gender dynamics, racism and the materiality of dead organisms.

DeMello, Margo. Animals and society: an introduction to human-animal studies. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. 470 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: QL85.D48 2012
LC Catalog Record Number: 2012013347

This text gives an introductory overview to the field of human-animal studies. It includes information about the history of animals in human society, current debates, and ideas for the future. It is broken into sections about animal categories, human-animal economies, attitudes about animals, animals as symbols, and animal behavior and ethics.

Grier, Katherine C. Pets in America: a history. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. 377 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF411.36.U6G75 2006
LC Catalog Record Number: 2005017575

In this book, Grier addresses pet ownership in the United States from a variety of perspectives, from the beginning of the nation to 2006. She shows how pets became fixtures in most American homes, and how what she terms “the domestic ethic of kindness to animals” helped to change the way that pets were viewed. There is also a chapter about the commercial nature of pet ownership throughout the history of the United States.

Ritvo, Harriet. The animal estate: The English and other creatures in the Victorian Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987. 347 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF53.R58 1987
LC Catalog Record Number: 87011848

This book highlights some of the animal-related discourses of the Victorian era. Ritvo addresses pet keeping and natural history, with such topics as stockbreeding, pedigreed exhibitions, animal fighting, zoological gardens, and various animal welfare organizations.

Original Publications Between 1858 and 1922

*These books from the Library of Congress collections have been digitized and are available at External Link


Champion, Dorothy Bevill. Everybody's cat book: containing chapters on "colour breeding", "showing", "conditioning", "judging", "diseases and their treatment", "how to raise and
treat the show and pet cat", and many valuable prescriptions
New York: Lent & Graff Company, 1909. 119 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF447.C6
LC Catalog Record Number: 10002159

This book contains valuable information for cat fanciers, especially those who wish to breed and exhibit
pedigreed cats. Champion addresses topics such as:
how to breed cats in a cattery, how to properly care for them,
how to exhibit them at cat shows, and how to photograph them.

Black and white drawing of three kittens
"The Innocents. (From ’Our Dumb Animals.‘) Thousands of kittens are abandoned yearly on country roads or in the woods. This is cruel and unlawful." Forbush, Edward Howe. The domestic cat; bird killer, mouser and destroyer of wild life; means of utilizing and controlling it. 1916.

Clark, Marvin R. Pussy and her language. including a paper on the wonderful discovery of the cat language by Alphonse Leon Grimaldi. New York: 1895. 123 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: QL795.C2C7
LC Catalog Record Number: 04029271

This book uses a variety of anecdotes and research to argue that cats are intelligent, useful, and able to communicate with their own language. Included in this book is an essay called “The Cat” by a Professor Alphonse Leon Grimaldi of France. In that essay he outlines the specifics of the cat language, including a list of words translated from cat into human language.

Davison, Alvin. Mammalian anatomy, with special reference to the cat. Philadelphia: P. Blakiston’s Son & Co., 1903. 250 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: QL739.D26
LC Catalog Record Number: 03025258
This is an anatomy textbook meant to instruct students on how to dissect and study cat specimens. It makes no reference to cats as pets, instead focusing on the classification, preservation, and anatomy of the cat.

Forbush, Edward Howe. The domestic cat; bird killer, mouser and destroyer of wild life, means of utilizing and controlling it. Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co., 1916. 112 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SB994.C3F7
LC Catalog Record Number: agr16000378

This bulletin published by the Massachusetts State Board of Agriculture was meant to clarify the confusing and contentious relationship between cats and other animals, such as birds and rodents. Using scientific methods of data collection and analysis, Forbush laid out the extent of the damage caused by cats in Massachusetts. He then detailed some potentially solutions to those problems, including killing stray cats and superfluous kittens, limiting breeding, and keeping cats confined indoors, especially at night.

Hill, John Woodroffe. The diseases of the cat. New York: W.R. Jenkins, 1901. 123 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF985.H64
LC Catalog Record Number: 01027740

Written by and for a veterinarian, this book addresses the diseases of cats, which Hill believed were being ignored in the literature. He gives descriptions of many different types of diseases, outlining their symptoms and treatments.

Huidekoper. Rush Shippen. The cat, a guide to the classification and varieties of cats and a short treatise upon their care, diseases, and treatment. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1895. 148 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF447.H9
LC Catalog Record Number: agr03000916

This is a comprehensive guide to the cat, including its classification, anatomy, origin, breeds, care, diseases, etymology, and symbolism. It was written in response to the first cat show in the United States, held months earlier in New York City.

James, Robert Kent. The Angora cat: how to breed, train and keep it. Boston: James Brothers, 1898. 102 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF449.J3
LC Catalog Record Number: unk82032347

This is a book meant to introduce amateurs to Angora cats, one of the most popular pedigree cat breeds in the United States at the time. It addresses their origin, training, care, breeding, exhibitions, and diseases. At the end there is also a portion called “Facts and Fancies of the Cat” that includes stories and facts about cats.

Mivart, St. George Jackson. The cat: an introduction to the study of backboned animals, especially mammals. New York: Scribner’s, 1881. 557 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: QL737.C2M8 1881a
LC Catalog Record Number: 42032399

This is a scientific text that addresses the anatomy, classification, and origin of the cat as a species. Mivart explains that cats are suitable biological specimens for study because they are mammals, and thus related to humans, but their size and availability makes it easy to study them. This text views cats as domesticated, but not necessarily as household pets.

All Pets
*These books are about pets, including cats.

Biggle. Jacob. Biggle pet book: a collection of information for old and young whose natural instincts teach them to be kind to all living creatures. Philadelphia: W. Atkinson, 1900. 142 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF413.B59
LC Catalog Record Number: 01029010

Part of a series of Biggle books, this text advises readers about different types of pets, explaining their behaviors and how to
take care of them. The goal of the author is to provide humans with the knowledge to be good pet owners, for the sake of both the humans and the pets. The pets discussed are: dogs, cats, ponies, goats, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs, squirrels, rodents, and birds.

Color painting of a large black and white dog lying on an orange fabric in front of some red fabric"German Dog. From a painting by Otto Eerelman."
Voogt, Gos. de. Our domestic animals, their habits,
intelligence and usefulness.

Crandall, Lee S. (Lee Saunders). Pets and how to care for them. 2nd ed. New York: New York Zoological Park, 1921. 303 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF413.C75 1921
LC Catalog Record Number: 21015192

This is a practical guide that explains how to care for a variety of common household pets: dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, and fish. The author works with the New York Zoological Park. He believes that everyone is born loving animals, and that encouraging that love leads to the development of many positive qualities.

Davenport, E. (Eugene). Domesticated animals and plants; a brief treatise upon the origin and development of domesticated races, with special reference to the methods of improvement. Boston: Ginn and Company, 1910. 321 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: S494.D2
LC Catalog Record Number: 10023650

This book was written as a high school textbook to encourage students to become interested in agriculture. It takes a broad approach, giving the history of how all plants and animals became domesticated. Davenport incorporates theories of natural selection to explain breeding and heredity. In the second half of his text he describes certain organisms in particular, including dogs, horses, donkeys, oxen, sheep, goats, pigs, cats, birds, and a variety of plants.

Dixon, Royal. The human side of animals. New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1918. 252 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: QL751.D5
LC Catalog Record Number: 18017426

This book is part of a series of similar titles by Dixon (others include the human side of plants, trees, and birds). This book in particular is meant to show readers the truth of how similar humans and animals are. Dixon believes that animals can feel and express many human emotions. He talks about a variety of animals, both wild and domestic.

Earl, Thomas M. Pets of the household: their care in health and disease. Columbus, OH: A.W. Livingston’s Sons, 1895. 158 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF413.E13
LC Catalog Record Number: 12021581

This book is a practical guide meant to inform pet owners about the best ways to care for their pets and keep them from getting ill. Eight chapters, a majority of the book, is dedicated to birds, while there is only one chapter about aquariums and one chapter about all “pet quadrupeds” – dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea-pigs, and squirrels.

Mayo, Nelson S. (Nelson Slater). The care of animals: a book of brief and popular advice on the diseases and ailments of farm animals. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1903. 459 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF747.M47
LC Catalog Record Number: 03032828

Written by a veterinarian, this book seeks to provide advice for people who take care of animals, but are not veterinarians themselves. The species Mayo addresses are: horses (and other animals in stables), dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and poultry. He talks about how to care for animals and how to identify and treat a variety of diseases.

Menault, Ernest. The intelligence of animals. New York: C. Scribner & Co., 1872. 368 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: QL785.M57 1872
LC Catalog Record Number: 13017443

This book investigates the intelligence of animals throughout the animal kingdom, from ants to chimpanzees. It brings together anecdotes and scientific observation to draw conclusions about the intelligence of many species of animals.

Miller. Olive Thorn. Funny friends; or, Queer pets at Marcy’s. New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, 1892. 363 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: QL49.M66
LC Catalog Record Number: 04029448

This book presents up-to-date (in 1892) natural history knowledge about animals in a story format geared towards young people. It addresses both pets and wild animals, with some unusual species such as lizards and aquatic animals.

Outdoor Enterprise Publishing Co. Outdoor opportunities; the raising and care of small animals, birds and plants: a practical treatise on the raising and care of small animals, birds and plants for profit and pleasure. Kansas City, MO: Outdoor Enterprise Publishing Co., 1922. 256 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF399.O8
LC Catalog Record Number: 23003604

This book consists of various essays about how to make money by cultivating plants and raising animals. It covers a wide variety of species, including dogs, cats, rabbits, goats, foxes, bees, frogs, mushrooms, and more.

Shaler, Nathaniel Southgate. Domesticated animals, their relation to man and his advancement in civilization. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1895. 267 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF41.S52
LC Catalog Record Number: 04033742

Shaler approaches the topic of domesticated animals from the perspective of the history of human civilization as a whole. Animals are only important insofar as they are useful to humans. The species included in this text are dogs, horses, cats, birds, and insects. Shaler also discusses new concepts of morality regarding animals and how domestication signifies progress of civilization.

Voogt. Gos. de. Our domestic animals, their habits, intelligence and usefulness. Boston: Ginn & Co., 1907. 297 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: SF41.V94
LC Catalog Record Number: 07040011

Originally written in French, this book gives a comprehensive look into various types of domestic animals. The goal is to both increase awareness about the usefulness of domesticated animals for civilization of humanity, as well as increasing their popularity as pets through photography. The pets addressed in this volume are: dogs, cats, horses, donkeys/mules, sheep, goats, pigs, cattle, rabbits, and poultry/birds.

Young Readers
*These books were written for a young audience.

Acton, John Hayne. Uncle Jack’s discovery: sixty short, true, strange, interesting and instructive stories about animals, birds, fishes, reptiles and insects. Portland, OR: Metropolitan Press, 1915. 213 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: QL791.A3
LC Catalog Record Number: 16002200

In this text, Acton uses stories to illustrate that animals are not as unintelligent as people think. He believes that children should be taught that all life is sacred. Included are stories about a variety of animals, both domesticated and wild, from butterflies to elephants. After the stories, there is a short chapter called “Uncle Jack’s Letter to Young America” in which children are told that all animals share similarities and should not be mistreated. He also outlines a contest for readers to uncover the ‘secret’ message within his book.

Guernsey, Lucy Ellen. Meat-eaters: with some account of their haunts and habits. Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1858. 468 p.

LCCN Permalink:
LC Call Number: QL737.C2G9
LC Catalog Record Number: 04034022

This book uses a story format to teach children about the natural history of carnivores. In the story an aunt gives a series of lectures to children about the different species. There are chapters on both pets and wild animals, including cats, dogs, large wild cats, wolves, bears, and wild dogs.



Photo of four gray kittens in a cage
Courtesy of Madison Arnold-Scerbo


American journal of veterinary research
   LCCN Permalink:
   LC Call Number: SF601.A3
   LC Catalog Record Number: 42050041
   URL: External Link

Historia medicinae veterinariae, World Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine
   LCCN Permalink:
   LC Call Number: SF615.H57
   LC Catalog Record Number: 78646947
   URL: External Link

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association
   LCCN Permalink:
   LC Call Number: SF601.A5
   LC Catalog Record Number: 16022549
   URL: External Link

Journal of veterinary medicine
   URL: External Link

Journal of veterinary medicine and research
   LCCN Permalink:
   LC Catalog Record Number: 2015202460
   URL: External Link

Society & animals
   LCCN Permalink:
   LC Call Number: QL85.S63
   LC Catalog Record Number: 93643882
   URL: External Link

Veterinary heritage: bulletin of the American Veterinary History Society
   LCCN Permalink:
   LC Call Number: Not in Library of Congress
   LC Catalog Record Number: sv 98001545
   URL: External Link



Alley Cat Allies
   URL: External Link

American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP)
   URL: External Link

American Cat Fancier Association (ACFA)
   URL: External Link

American Society of Animal Science
   URL: External Link

American Veterinary Medical Association
   URL: External Link

The Cat Fanciers’ Association (CFA)
   URL: External Link

International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM)
   URL: External Link

World Veterinary Association
   URL: External Link

Compiled by Madison Arnold-Scerbo & Tomoko Y. Steen, Ph.D., August 1, 2017

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