From Henrietta Emma Darwin1 [29 October 1862]
My cat Greysy deserted her 2nd kitten Bullsig when it was a month old, I suppose because she had no milk, as it was always thin & she neglected it so that we heard its remarkably loud mews from the cellar over the house. Bullsig always wished to play with his mother whilst she hated & repulsed him; till the night before her confinement when she let him get into the basket prepared for her & touzle her as much as he liked, though he didn’t try to suck her. We saved the kitten she had next day & ever after he used to suck her & stay in the basket at the same time with his younger brother. She was now a very good mother, & kept them very fat.—
My kitten Miss Legge I took from its mother when she was a month old & cd not eat meat, so that it was a great deprivation. At Hartfield where we were,2 there was an old cat & kittens & about 2 days after we got there she adopted this cat & sucked it with the others. She had this mother for a fortnight & then nearly 3 weeks interval till we came to Shanklin where there were two old cats giving milk & 3 kittens.3 She took to both these cats & played with the kittens. One day I observed her snowzling in the stomach of the kittens, & constantly beginning to purr as soon as she thought she had found the tit. She did not leave off till its whole stomach was quite wet.—
our Ilkley4 cat used to suck its own stomach when it was happy just like a child does its thumb. It did it a great part of the day, & used to purr over it as if it was so good.—
Instinct in cats.
Please cite as
Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 3787,” accessed on 24 March 2017, http://www.darwinproject.ac.uk/DCP-LETT-3787