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Mark Twain was known to rent cats when he traveled

Samuel Clemens, known to literary history as Mark Twain, once wrote that “when a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.” Those are not the words of someone for whom cats are a passing fascination. In fact, the writer likely enjoyed the company of felines over people. At one time, Twain owned 19 cats, many with inventive monikers such as Soapy Sal and Sour Mash. So deep was his ailurophilia (love of cats), Twain even rented furry felines for company when he traveled. As he wrote in his autobiography, “Many persons would like to have the society of cats during the summer vacation in the country, but they deny themselves this pleasure… These people have no ingenuity, no invention, no wisdom; or it would occur to them to do as I do: rent cats by the month for the summer, and return them to their good homes at the end of it.”

In 1906, while staying for the summer in Dublin, New Hampshire, Twain procured the companionship of three kittens from a local farmer’s wife (he got a discount if he took three) — one named Sackcloth and the other two, identical twins, both called Ashes. One of Twain’s biographers, who visited the author during his stay, recalled Twain holding open a screen door for two waiting kittens, saying, “Walk in, gentlemen. I always give precedence to royalty.” Twain’s rental payment covered expenses for the cats’ care for the rest of their lives.

DID YOU KNOW?

Cats are not nearly as domesticated as dogs.

Although cats and dogs are the most popular pets of choice in the U.S., cats are far less domesticated than their canine counterparts. Dogs began their journey to becoming man’s best friend in the Paleolithic era some 30,000 years ago, and today they exhibit many of the telltale signs of domestication, including decreased tooth size and docility. Cats, on the other hand? Not so much. Studies have shown that the Felis catus (the scientific name for your kitty) isn’t genetically far removed from Felis silvestris, its wild cousin. Cats likely first started fraternizing with humans when the rise of agriculture increased rat populations, creating a symbiotic relationship. But because wild cats aren’t social or hierarchical animals, they weren’t as easily integrated into human societies as wolves were, which is why house cats retain their hunting instincts while many dog breeds rely on humans to survive. Some scientists argue that cats are actually in a “semi-domesticated” state and that we are only at the beginning of the domestication process. It would certainly explain why they remain frustratingly (if adorably) aloof — always making us question whether they serve us, or we serve them.

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