Abolitionist, minister and editor Henry Ward Beecher was always noted for a certain tenderness to cats. In 1869, a contributor to his paper, the Christian Union, having ventured to speak disparagingly of the feline race, Mr. Beecher replied:
We regard the cat as among the greatest promoters of happiness known to man. To begin with, she is the very embodiment of grace, not the spiritual sort, but the other. Her every motion is beautiful. Her step has the supple softness, her spring the birdlike, airy power of her great cousins, the panther and tiger. Then she is the very embodiment of comfort.
The man that can see a cat basking in the sunshine or curled softly purring by the fire, and not catch by sympathy a sense of dreamy, luxurious enjoyment, --- that man must be a cynic. What home is complete in winter without an open fire! And how utterly incomplete is an open fire without a cat dozing before it!
Cats, too, have warm affections. We do not say that they are unselfish, which is quite another matter; but a cat of the right kind, well treated, will show her affection for you as quick as a dog. Yes, thou lovely, white kitten, who will come running to greet us tonight in long, lithe bounds a dozen rods from the house, -- perish the slander that thy race is cold hearted! Conscience, kitten, we do not pretend that you have. You knocked down our wife’s pet cut-glass cream-pitcher, and never pretended to be sorry. You have stolen from the milk-pan on every opportunity, and even attacked our Sunday’s roast beef. But, you are in the highest degree pretty and amusing and pet-able.
In the spring of 1870, Beecher received a letter from a young Indiana boy, whose family was about to move to Arkansas. But, he was told that his pet kitten could not go with them. Heartbroken, the lad thought of what to do. He remembered hearing of Rev Beecher’s affection for cats. So, he wrote asking the New York minister to accept his pet as a gift, saying “I know you like cats.” In an editorial, Beecher noted:
“Here Is a Hoosier boy, who has a favorite cat, and being about to move to Arkansas he looks about to pick the man on this continent most likely to do justice to the cat; and, blessings on his head! He has selected us! It is the most flattering compliment of our lives. The Universities that were about to offer degrees can step aside now -- we have no need of them.”
He told the boy to send the cat per Express -- and he will pay the bill.
Animals, Vol 50, 1917, published by Mass. SPCA
Boston Journal, April 16, 1870.