The story of Dick Whittington and his cat has been known for six hundred years. According to the tale, Dick Whittington wandered into London in the 1400’s from a small village, carrying the only thing he owned, a cat he loved dearly. Being penniless, he made a bet on the cat, and the bet was that the cat would bring great good luck for a ship bound for parts unknown and return with great treasure. Dick sadly parted with his cat, who was taken on board the ship and treated well, where he began to earn his keep quickly by ridding the ship of any mice or rates that had wandered on board. He killed hundreds of rats, and the sailors were well pleased with the cat and made much of him.
A few years later, Dick was still poor, so he decided to go back to his village, where at least he could till the land and plant food to eat. But as he walked down a hill, the city bells began to chime, and they said, “Dick Whittington, Dick Whittington, turn back to London, Lord Mayor Whittington.”
He started off for London when his cat came over the hill from the wharf, where the ship in which he’d sailed off was docked. Dick picked up his friend, for he feared he’d never see him again, and Dick had had no luck at tall. However, the ship had landed on an island with which there many things for trade, but the island was full of rats, and the crew didn’t want to stay there. One of the crew put the cat ashore, and in short order, the cat had rid the island of every single rat, and the captain and crew were able to make very lucrative trades. The captain rewarded Dick Whittington’s cat with much gold and silver, and Dick became a very rich man and lived contentedly with his cat. Eventually, he was made Mayor of London.
Probably not true, but there was a Lord Mayor of London named Dick Whittington!
Cats are useful in ridding barns and houses and yards of vermin. Some people object to feline killing, because occasionally, a bird meets its end at the bite of a cat. But in many years of owning cats, I can not recall my cats killing one bird. In fact, I had a wreathe outside our back door, which is how everyone comes in and the cars drive by to get to the back. A mother bid raised her babies there (I would think the cars and the visitors to our house were traumatic for her), and although the cats knew that a bird nest was right outside the door, ripe for the taking with a little planning on their part, they never bothered them. They would watch and listen for a few seconds and then be on their way.
The yard of a neighbor was overridden with voles, moles and other rodent-like creatures, and they had made a mess of it. My neighbor was trying to sell her house, but the torn up yard was hardly attractive. One day, in desperation, she asked if she could borrow a cat or two, so I took over my two best ratters. Soon, the rodent population had disappeared and my neighbor was able to restore her yard and sold her house. She bought little cat treats and rewarded my warriors well.
I don’t like to see animals of any sort killed (well, insects, absolutely, and spiders, a necessity), but they do carry diseases and a cunning cat can do much to control the balance between rodents and human tolerance.
Submitted by Gay Fifer, owner, Parsley Hollow
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