• U.S.

Animals: Budge on Mike

3 minute read

Copies of what English cat lovers prize as “the Budge monograph on Mike”‘ reached Manhattan last week.

Probably the most famed British feline of the 20th Century, and certainly the most misogynous, Cat Mike spent 20 years prowling about the British Museum, chasing away dogs, scratching with savagery at human females who tried to puss-puss him.

For 31 years, erudite Sir Ernest A. Wallis Budge, Litt. D., D. Litt., D. Lit., was Keeper of the Museum’s Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities. His monograph on Mike may be considered the acme of obital biography, fit to rank with his monumental Coptic History of Elijah the Tish-bite. No more awful authority could be found for the statement that Mike “preferred sole to whiting, and whiting to haddock, and sardines to herrings; for cod he had no use whatever. He owed much to the three kind-hearted gatekeepers who cooked his food for him, and treated him as a man and a brother.” One may assume that only the excessive modesty of Sir Wallis Budge—a sort of Lindbergh among Egyptologists—kept him from setting down the fact that for many years he personally contributed sixpence a week to buy tidbits of sole for Mike.

Cat fanciers may doubt the following anecdote but it is vouched for by Sir Wallis on his honor as an Egyptologist:

“On Sunday mornings the house cat taught him [Kitten Mike] to stalk pigeons in the colonnade. Mike was set to ‘point’ like a dog, and the house cat little by little drove the pigeons up into a corner. The pigeons became dazed, and fell down, and then each cat seized a bird and carried it into the house uninjured. The house keeper took the pigeons from the cats, and in return for them gave a slice of beef or mutton and milk to each cat. The pigeons were taken into a little side room, and after they had eaten some maize and drunk water, they flew out of the window none the worse for their handling by the cats. The fact was that neither cat liked to eat game with dirty, sooty feathers on it ; they preferred clean cooked meat.” On Jan. 1, 1929, Sir Wallis contributed to the Conservative Evening Standard the obituary of Mike which became the basis of the present monograph, printed by R. Clay & Sons, Ltd., Bungay. Suffolk, and obtainable from Sir Wallis at his chambers, 48 Bloomsbury Street, London. W. C. I. The pamphlet also contains a funeral ode of extreme delicacy by Bibliophile F. C. W. Hiley. M. A.. Assistant Keeper in the Museum’s Department of Printed Books, concluding: Old Mike! Farewell! We all regret you, Although, you would not let us pet you; Of cats the wisest, oldest best cat, This be your motto — Requiescat!

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com