One hundred years ago, the residents of the Upper West Side bolted their doors in fear of a group of marauding cats that hunted the neighborhood, stealing food and keeping locals up with their screams.
Or so wrote a clearly amused New York Times reporter in an article dated July 24, 1916.
The story says that the cats were led by “Wang, a tailless mauve cat from Formosa,” who had escaped from a “careless sea Captain.” As many as 100 cats would roam the streets at night, particularly West 80th between Amsterdam and Columbus, ducking into basements or sneaking into grocery stores to steal food. Janitors tried to get dogs to chase them away, but the canines would cower in their rooms “hiding under the bed” when the cats came by.
The immigrant janitors and residents compared the cats to other fearsome beasts:
A policeman blamed the problem on the new practice of putting lids on garbage cans, which kept the cats out of the trash and made them hunt for food.
Compared to these cats, the rats of today seem practically tame — cute even!
Cat photo via Etsy, which sells cat eyepatches.
To read other entries in our weekend history series, click here.