For all the amusing comments of those who enjoy reading books from the Regency era (both men and women) suggesting they’ll end up alone with only a house full of cats to keep them company? In the Regency era, cats were not kept as pets, coddled, or snuggled as attempted today. Instead, cats ruled an estate precisely because they worked for their vittles!
As one of the few, if not the only, animals to domesticate themselves, cats have been known to stay where the food is offered. The more intelligent cook might put out cream; hence, estate cats roamed, taking care of mice and rats. In times of the plague, smallpox, leprosy, and other diseases killing the masses, a pet that would kill disease-ridden vermin was cherished.
A playful cat that had enjoyed a night of hunting might find a sewing circle the most interesting thing. During the day, they may be roused by a ball of string or a length of ribbon, but by night they were, and are still, one of the uniformly deadliest creatures on earth. Moreover, they hunt indiscriminately, so the poor squirrel and the family rabbit may be the offering to the cook for another bowl of milk.
After countless hours learning about cultures that revere cats, particularly Ancient Egypt, I greatly appreciate that cats allow us their company. I’ve even visited Venice, a city full of cats. For the price of a regular dinner, most cats keep a vigilant eye out for pests. Of course, they may have made other plans and will never consult you, but it’s best to keep the bowl full for when they return.
Sources for Estate Owners Welcomed Cats to Roam!:
Zax, David “A Brief History of House Cats” Smithsonian Magazine June 30, 2007, A Brief History of House Cats | History| Smithsonian Magazine
Matthews, Mimi “The Character of Cats: Depictions in Georgian and Regency Literature” Mimi Matthews May 28, 2015, The Character of Cats: Depictions in Georgian and Regency Literature | Mimi Matthews