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Cats—Boxes for song birds—How to attract the birds—Tame crows—The pigeon fancier—Ornamental land and water fowl—Rabbits, guinea pigs, rats and mice—How to build coops—General rules for pets—The dog

In this chapter on pets, I regret exceedingly that I cannot say much in favour of the family cat. Like nearly all children, I was brought up to love kittens and to admire their playful, cunning ways. When a kitten becomes a cat my love for it ceases. Cats will do so many mean, dishonourable things, and will catch so many song birds and so few rats and mice that it simply has become a question whether we shall like the song birds or the cat. So many people do like cats that it is unfair perhaps to condemn the whole race for the misdeeds of a few. If a cat is carefully watched or if we put a bell on its neck, these precautions will to a certain extent keep the cat from catching birds, but most people have something better to do than to act as guardian for a cat. The fact is that a cat is a stupid animal seldom showing any real affection or loyalty for its owner and possessing but little intelligence. It is very difficult to teach a cat even the simplest tricks. We never know when a cat will turn on its best friend. They have the "tiger" instinct of treachery. A cat which one minute is contentedly purring on our lap may sink its claws into us the next.

The only way to force a cat to catch mice is to keep it half starved. Then instead of catching mice, it will probably go after birds if there are any in the neighbourhood. I have shut a cat up in a room with a mouse and it is doubtful whether the cat or the mouse were the more frightened. The cat does more damage to the song birds of this country than any other enemy they have. If kept at home and well fed, cats sometimes become so fat and stupid that they will not molest birds but this is due to laziness and not to any good qualities in the cat. In normal condition they are natural hunters.

The habits of a cat are unclean, its unearthly cries at night are extremely disagreeable and altogether it is a nuisance. A famous naturalist, Shaler, once said "A cat is the only animal that has been tolerated, esteemed and at times worshipped without having a single distinctly valuable quality."

A few years ago a quail had a nest under a rock opposite my house. Quail raise their young like poultry rather than like robins or wrens or the other song birds. As soon as the tiny quail chicks are hatched, the mother takes them around like a hen with a brood of chickens. This mother quail was my especial care and study. She became so tame that I could feed her. Finally she hatched out ten tiny brown balls of feathers. Our cat had been watching her, too, but not from the same motives and one day the cat came home with the mother quail in her mouth. She ran under the porch just out of reach and calmly ate it. The little brood were too small to look out for themselves so of course they all died or fell an easy victim to other cats. The mother was probably an easy prey because in guarding the young, a quail will pretend to have a broken wing and struggle along to attract attention to her and away from her little ones, who scurry to high grass for safety. I have never been very friendly to cats since I witnessed this episode.

It has been estimated that the average domestic cat kills an average of one song bird a day during the season when the birds are with us. In certain sections a cat has been known to destroy six nests of orioles, thrushes and bobolinks in a single day. The worst offenders are cats that live around barns and old houses in a half wild condition. Many people who say they "haven't the heart to kill a cat" will take it away from home and drop it along the road. A thoughtless act like this may mean the death of a hundred birds in that neighbourhood. It takes less heart to kill the cat than to kill the birds. So much for the cat.

A bird house A bird house

Birds make splendid pets, but in keeping them in captivity, we must be sure that we are not violating the game laws of the state we live in. Nearly everywhere it is unlawful to keep in cages any native song birds or those that destroy harmful insects—the so-called "insectivorous birds." This includes thrushes, wrens, robins, bluebirds, orioles or, in fact, practically all birds but crows, blackbirds and kingfishers. It does not cover canaries, parrots, or any birds that are not native. It is an excellent law and every boy or girl should act as a special policeman to see that his friends and companions do not molest either birds or their nests. It is cruel to cage a wild bird anyway for a cage is nothing but a prison. There is no law against taming the birds or making friends of them and after all this is the most satisfactory way.

If we build houses for the birds to nest in, provide feed for them and in other ways do what we can to attract them, they will soon learn that we are their friends. We must study their habits and always avoid frightening them. Next to a cat, the worst enemies of our song birds are the English sparrows. A sparrow is always fair game for the boy with a slingshot or rifle. In many places these sparrows have driven practically all the other birds out of the neighbourhood, have robbed their nests and in other ways have shown themselves to be a public nuisance. Until 1869 there were no sparrows in this country and now they are more numerous than any other variety of birds, and sooner or later, the Government will have to take steps to exterminate them or we shall have no song birds at all.

The usual size of a bird house is six inches square and about eight inches high. It should always be made of old weather-beaten boards in order not to frighten away its prospective tenants by looking like a trap of some kind. The chances are that the sparrows will be the first birds to claim a house unless we keep a close watch and drive them away.

One way to keep them out is to make the entrance doorway too small for them to enter. A hole an inch in diameter will admit a wren or chickadee and bar out a sparrow, but it will also keep out most of the other birds. The usual doorway should be two inches in diameter. It is surprising how soon after we build our bird house we find a tiny pair making their plans to occupy it and to take up housekeeping. Sometimes this will happen the same day the bird house is set up. Always provide some nesting material near at hand; linen or cotton thread, ravellings, tow, hair and excelsior are all good. Of course we must not attempt to build the nest. No one is skillful enough for that.

Nearly all of our native birds are migratory, that is they go south for the winter. The date that we may look for them to return is almost the same year after year. Some few birds—bluebirds, robins, cedar birds and song sparrows will stay all winter if it is mild but as a rule we must not expect the arrival of the feathered songsters until March. The phoebe bird is about the first one we shall see.

In April look for the brown thrasher, catbird, wren, barn, eave and tree swallows, martins, king birds and chipping sparrows. In May the principal birds of our neighbourhood will return—thrushes, vireos, tanagers, grosbeaks, bobolinks, orioles. The game birds—quail, partridge, meadowlarks and pheasants do not migrate as a rule. At least they do not disappear for a time and then return. When they leave a neighbourhood, they rarely come back to it.

All the song birds begin nesting in May. Consequently we should have our bird houses "ready for occupancy" May 1st. It will take about twelve days for most birds to hatch their eggs. Some varieties will hatch three broods in a season, but two is the usual rule.

We shall require a great deal of patience to tame the wild birds. Some bird lovers have succeeded in teaching birds to feed from their hands. A wild bird that is once thoroughly frightened can probably never be tamed again.

A crow is a very interesting pet. Crows are especially tamable and may be allowed full liberty around the dooryard. We must get a young one from the nest just before it is ready to fly. Crows are great thieves and are attracted by bright objects. If you have a tame crow, and if any member of your household misses jewellery or thimbles you had better look in the crows' nest before you think that burglars have been around.

The chief difference between tamed wild animals, such as squirrels, birds, owls, foxes, crows and so on, and the domesticated animals and birds, dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, pigeons and chickens, lies in the possibility with the latter of modifying nature and breeding for certain special markings, colours or size. All breeds of chickens from the little bantams to the enormous Brahmas have been bred from a wild species of chicken found in India and called the jungle fowl.

All the great poultry shows held throughout the country annually are for the purpose of exhibiting the most perfectly marked specimens of the breeders' skill. This is decided by judges who award prizes. The competition is sometimes very keen. In barred Plymouth Rock chickens, for example, there are sometimes a hundred birds entered to compete for a single prize. The breeders are called fanciers. The principal breeders of certain animals such as rabbits, pigeons or poultry, form an association or club and agree to an imaginary type of the animal called the ideal or "Standard of Perfection."

For example, the breeders of white fantail pigeons agree that perfect birds shall be of certain shape and size, with the head resting on the back just at the base of the tail; the tail should be spread out like a fan and contain at least twenty-eight feathers. These feathers should be laced on the ends. The model fantail should have a nervous jerky motion and never be at rest. Each of these points is given a certain value on a scale of marking and in judging the birds they are marked just as you may be in your lessons at school. The fancier tries to breed a bird that comes the nearest to this model. The prizes are sometimes of great value.

There is an enormous list of breeds in nearly all varieties of animals and poultry. In pigeons alone there are carriers, pouters, tumblers, baldheads, beards, dragoons, barbs, jacobins, Antwerps, turbits, owls, orientals, damoscenes, capuchins, fantails, trumpeters, swifts, Lahores, Burmese, Scandaroons, magpies, nuns, Archangels, runts and so on.

These birds are very different in appearance, the pouter, for example, has the power of inflating his crop until it puffs out in front as large as a baseball. Jacobins or as they are commonly called, "ruffle-necks," have an immense ruffle of feathers like a feather boa. Dragoons have a huge wart on the bill as large as an almond. The tumblers are so named from their habit of turning backward somersaults during flight.

Almost every one who starts keeping domestic pets either soon tires of the sport or becomes a fancier. The care of common pigeons is a very simple matter. The principal thing is a good loft or cote for them in the top of a barn or house. They will practically take care of themselves and after a few years greatly increase in numbers.

A model pigeon house for breeding fancy pigeons requires separate mating boxes, nests and other appliances. It would be impossible to make much of a success with fancy pigeons if they are allowed their liberty to fly about and mate at will.

The best nest boxes for pigeons are rough earthenware pans, eight inches across, which may be bought cheaply at a bird store. The floor of the cote should be covered with sawdust or gravel to the depth of half an inch. Pigeons that are confined should be fed regularly on a mixture of small grains and cracked corn. They should also be given cracked oyster shells, grit and charcoal occasionally. A pigeon loft should be rat proof and clean.

It is very doubtful whether there is any money in raising pigeons or squabs for market. Fanciers never sell their output for market purposes unless it is to get rid of surplus or undesirable stock. A breeder who is successful in winning prizes with birds of his "strain" as it is called will find a ready market with other breeders for all the birds he cares to sell. Prize winning birds sometimes bring a hundred dollars a pair. It is by no means easy to breed prizewinners and the chances are that the beginner will be a buyer of stock rather than a seller.

Homing pigeons or as they are commonly called, carriers, are not bred for special markings like fancy pigeons but because of their power and speed in flight. A carrier has the "homing" instinct more fully developed than any other animal. In some homing pigeon races, the birds have made speed records of over a mile a minute for many hours and have flown over a thousand miles. If a well-bred homing pigeon fails to return to his home loft it is almost a certainty that he is either forcibly detained or that he has been killed by hunters or hawks. Never try to capture a pigeon that may stop for a rest at your loft. He may be in a race and his owner may be waiting for his return five hundred miles away when every minute counts in winning a prize.

Another large class of birds that make fine pets although they are not strictly in the class of birds bred by the fancier are the ornamental land and water fowl. The chief objection to these birds as pets is the expense of buying them. The list of birds in this class is very large. In swans the leading varieties are mute, American whistling, black Australian, white Berwick and black-necked swans. The largest class are the pheasants. They are exceedingly beautiful, especially the golden, silver, Lady Amherst, Elliott, Reeves, green Japanese, Swinhoe, English ring neck, Melanotis, and Torquatis pheasants. The common wild geese are Egyptian, Canadian, white-fronted, Sebastopol, snow, brant, bar-headed, spin-winged and many others. In ducks, there are mallards, black, wood, mandarin, blue and green winged teal, widgeon, redhead, pin-tail, bluebill, gadwell, call and many others. Beside pheasants, ducks and geese there are also the various storks, cranes, pea-fowl and herons in the "ornamental fowl" list.

These are all wild fowl. The commoner varieties will cost from six to fifteen dollars a pair and the rare ones several hundred. To keep the semi-wild birds from flying away they are usually pinioned, a process of taking off the end joint of one wing. The colours of some of the ornamental fowl are more beautiful than any birds in nature. Pheasants especially are easily cared for and make interesting pets. They can be tamed and if kept outdoors they will seldom be subject to disease. Most of these birds are as easily cared for as chickens.

A home-made rabbit house A home-made rabbit house

Rabbits make fine pets for boys and girls. They are clean in their habits, hardy and gentle. The common kinds are white rabbits with pink eyes or albinos, and brown rabbits or Belgian hares. With rabbits also there is a "fancy." The Fur Fanciers' Association recognizes the following distinct breeds: Belgians, Flemish giants, Dutch marked, English, Himalayan, silvers, tans, Polish, lops, and Angoras.

A rabbit hutch or coop is easily built from old packing boxes. One third of the coop should be darkened and made into a nest, with an entrance door outside and the rest simply covered with a wire front, also with a door for cleaning and feeding. The hutch should stand on legs above ground as rabbits do not thrive well in dampness. They will, however, live out all winter in a dry place. A box four feet long and two feet wide will hold a pair of rabbits nicely. Rabbits will become very tame and may often be allowed full liberty about the place if there are no dogs to molest them.

The drawing shows a standard type of rabbit hutch. A boy who is handy with tools can easily build one. We can always dispose of the increase in our rabbit family to friends or to dealers.

Guinea pigs or cavies are similar to rabbits in their requirements. The chief difference is that guinea pigs cannot stand excessive cold and will not do well if kept outside in severe winter weather. Rabbits and cavies will eat almost anything and eat constantly. The usual feed is hay, clover, wheat, corn, carrots, turnips, cabbage, lettuce, celery, potato parings, or any green food or grains. Cavies are especially fond of bread and milk.

The three classes of cavies are Peruvians or Angoras, with long silky hair; Abyssinians, with coarse hair in tufts or rosettes, and the common guinea pig or smooth, cavy. A pair of cavies will cost about two dollars. A dry airy cellar is a good place to keep them as they are cleanly in their habits. Neither cavies nor rabbits are especially intelligent but they do learn to know their master or at least the one who feeds them. Pet rats and mice are in the same class as rabbits but they should always have a coop that they will not gnaw out of. There is even a mouse club. It is in Europe and has over a thousand members.

An interesting example of skill in breeding is seen in Dutch belted varieties of cattle, in hogs, rabbits, cavies and mice. In all of these animals the same markings have been bred by careful crossing and selection. In all lines of "fancy" it is important to stick to a few varieties. We shall never make much of a success if we have half a dozen kinds of chickens, pigeons or rabbits. By far the most important "fancy" is with chickens, but this subject will be considered in the chapter on the care of poultry.

Among other pets are tame squirrels, turtles, snakes, lizards and toads. A tame gray squirrel makes a splendid pet. After a while we can give our squirrel full liberty and find him back in his nest at night. I once had a tame owl but I found that because of his habit of flying and feeding at night he was a very stupid pet. Besides that his powerful beak and sharp claws or talons were dangerous. I also once had a pair of flying squirrels but they also only appear at night and were consequently uninteresting in the daytime. We must always study the natural habits of our pets and try to give them coops and food as much like nature as possible. My flying squirrels were given soft feed in place of the usual hard-shelled nuts. Consequently their teeth grew so long that they were a positive deformity. We finally liberated them but before they could get to a place of safety one of them was caught and killed by a chicken. The poor little creature was so fat from overfeeding and lack of exercise that he had all but lost the power of using his legs.

Coops for pets may be as elaborate as our pocketbook will allow. The important things to remember are to construct a coop so that it may be cleaned easily, and to provide plenty of ventilation. It must also be dry. Fresh air is as important for animals as for people. The larger we can make a coop, the better it will be. Be careful not to overfeed pets. Regular and frequent meals of just what they will eat up clean is better than an occasional big meal. Rabbits require very little water. Usually they will obtain enough moisture from the green food they eat. It is a mistake, however, to think that water will kill rabbits. Change the straw in the nest boxes frequently. When they make fur nests do not disturb them.

For squirrels and other small animals, the coop may be made entirely of wire except the baseboard, which should be a piece of seasoned wood. Be sure that there are no sharp wire points or projecting nails in a coop to injure the animals.

The whole secret of taming wild creatures is patience. We must try to show them that we are their friends. The most direct way to an animal's heart is through his stomach, which is another way of saying that the owner should personally feed his own pets if he wishes them to know him.

There is really no reason why a country boy or girl should have any caged pets at all. In the city it is different. Perhaps the best pet for the unnatural conditions of city life is a canary. The real spirit to develop a love for the little creatures that inhabit our woods and fields is to feel that they are our friends rather than that they are prisoners. By all means cultivate the acquaintance of your "small country neighbours."


Every boy should own a dog. He is the friend and companion of our youth. For a boy to grow up without a dog is to be denied one of the real joys of life.

Senator Vest once said: "The one absolute, unselfish friend that a man can have in this selfish world; the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous is his dog. He will sleep on the cold ground where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely if only he can be near his master's side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will guard the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert he remains."

The breed makes but little difference so long as the dog is intelligent and kind. Mixed breeds and mongrel dogs are often the most intelligent. A thoroughbred dog will give us more satisfaction possibly than a mongrel because he will make a better appearance. But at the same time, he is far more likely to be stolen. There are so many breeds to select from that it is almost impossible to give much advice. As a rule, the dog we shall like is the one we can get. The very heavy dogs such as Saint Bernards, mastiffs and great Danes are clumsy and will require outside quarters, as they are too bulky to have in the house. On the other hand the small toy breeds such as Pomeranians, black and tans and King Charles spaniels and pugs, are too delicate to be a real boy's dog. A list from which you may safely select a dog would be bull terriers, Airedale terriers, Scotch terriers, Irish terriers, cocker spaniels, pointers and setters, either Irish or English. This is by no means a complete list. I prefer a setter because my first dog, "Old Ben," was a setter, and he shared in most of my fun from the earliest recollections that I have. When he died I lost a true friend. It was the first real sorrow I ever had.

A dog should not sleep in the same room with his owner, but should have a warm dry kennel and be taught to regard it as his home.

Do not make the mistake of overfeeding a dog. He does not need three meals a day. One is sufficient, about nine in the morning, when he should have all he wants to eat. If you insist on a second meal give him a dog biscuit or a bone to gnaw on in the evening.

Keep your dog free from fleas, in spite of what David Harum says that "a reasonable amount of fleas is good for a dog, because it keeps him from brooding over being a dog." A thorough bath with carbolic soap and water will rid a dog of fleas, but this treatment should be repeated at weekly intervals to kill the eggs which hatch in the meantime.

Fresh insect powder or Scotch snuff if dusted thoroughly in a dog's coat will cause fleas to leave. This treatment should be done out of doors. A good plan is to place the dog on a sheet or piece of white paper and work the powder well into the hair, especially around his neck and behind the ears. Be careful not to injure his eyes.

A dog will soon recognize his master, and there is no quicker way to show that you are his master than to enforce obedience when you attempt to make him mind. Whether a whipping is necessary depends on the dog. With most dogs a good scolding will be sufficient. Never whip a dog when you are angry and never overdo the matter. It is possible to "break a dog's spirit," which simply means to make him afraid of you. A dog so frightened is ruined until you regain his confidence, a very difficult thing to do. Never cuff a dog with your hand. Always use a whip or switch. Let the whipping be a definite ceremony with a plain object in view.

Some dogs will prove to be headstrong and others will try to do whatever their master wants. There is an amazing difference in dogs and their intelligence seems to have no limits.

A dog must never be allowed to annoy our neighbours or friends. One of the most annoying habits that a dog cultivates is that of running out and barking at passing carriages or people. A few lessons in discipline early in life will break him of this habit, but once acquired it is practically unbreakable.

Another very annoying habit is that of allowing a dog to put his paws on us. We may not mind it when we are dressed in old clothes but friends or callers are possibly not so considerate.

Nearly every bad habit that a dog learns is usually the fault of the owner rather than of the dog. The training of a dog should be done as a puppy. Therefore we must secure our dog as young as possible.

In training hunting dogs the first step is called "yard-breaking." With ordinary dogs a thorough course in yard-breaking by teaching the simple command is all that will be necessary. First of all, teach your dog to lie down and come to you at call. The usual word for the former is "charge." A dog can be taught this in a very short time. Take him by the neck and back, and at the word, force him to lie down. Do not use any other words, or even pet him. Simply impress on his mind that when he hears "charge" it means lie down. As a rule a puppy is taught to come by snapping the fingers or by making a noise with the lips similar to that by which we urge a horse. It is almost natural to say "Come here." After a puppy learns to follow us at the command "heel in" and to run ahead when we say "go on," we must also teach him to come when we whistle. Most boys can make a whistle with the fingers sufficiently penetrating to call a dog for a long distance but a small metal whistle to carry in the pocket is the best way.

After a dog has acquired the simple lessons of training we shall find that he learns to understand us and to do our wishes very quickly. There should be a complete understanding between a dog and his owner. He will know our ways and we shall know his.

I have hunted in Virginia with a dog so intelligent that merely by watching him his master could tell whether he was on the trail of a rabbit, wild turkey, or deer. For each kind of game he had a different manner of barking and what is more remarkable, he was a thoroughly broken quail dog with the best "nose" or scent I have ever known and of course did not bark under these circumstances. Such a dog would be a mystery to any one who did not know his ways.

This dog "Old Doc" would hunt with any one on quail, but if the hunter did not succeed in killing game the dog would soon show his disapproval in every way, sulk along behind, and if the poor shooting continued, finally leave for home. A friend who took him out told me, "First I missed the birds and then I missed the dog." He had left in disgust.

No matter what breed our dog is we shall surely become greatly attached to him and almost look upon him as a friend rather than as an animal. A boy should never encourage a dog to fight. It is a cruel, unmanly thing and one that a real dog lover will never do. Dog fighting is a form of brutality second only to tying tin cans and other things to a dog's tail for the "fun" of seeing him run. I once saw a poor beast lose his tail as a result of this brutal joke. Some one had tied a string tightly around his tail and the dog ran until completely exhausted. He then kept out of sight for a few days. In the meantime the string caused his tail to become fearfully sore and finally to fall off. Can any one see a joke in this?


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