Cats in Court, 1878

William Needham was furious. An animal trainer, Professor Moffat, claimed that his beloved dog was, in fact, his own. Moffat claimed that Needham had stolen his valuable performing terrier, Soot, and after being tracked down the deceitful Needham was refusing to return the dog. The whole affair had lasted for nine months.

Moffat summoned Needham to court. He entered, enraged, followed by his little dog. He declared that the dog was his. The judge, unusually, asked Moffat to get the dog to do some tricks to prove he was Soot. The terrier sat there, completely unmoved by Moffat’s instructions. The judge was about to rule in Needham’s favour when Moffat decided to try a bold play.

Out of his large leather bag he produced a black cat named Jim. Jim was Soot’s performance partner, explained Moffat, and this cat would prove that the dog was his. Up Jim jumped to the witness box and swung from the trapeze Moffat held. He meowed loudly whenever his name was called. He played fetch. He did a small slalom manoeuvre, and the court roared with laughter. Everyone in the courtroom loved his antics, except for the terrier. He sat there nonplussed by the cat’s tricks, and when Jim came over he didn’t interact at all.

Delightful though these proceedings were, the judge was not convinced and dismissed the case since despite the lovely cat tricks, Moffat couldn’t prove the dog was his. Needham got to go back home to Borough with his terrier, and Moffat was stuck with an apparently very talented cat.

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