Strange Freak of a Cat

Strange Freak of a Cat

Cat 1From the desk of Steve Willis, Central Library Services Program Manager of the Washington State Library:

The town of Sidney, Washington once had a newspaper with the unusual title of People’s Broadax. The first issue, dated Oct. 27, 1889,  was published just before statehood, and the final issue appears to be June 6, 1891. The Washington State Library has a complete run on microfilm.

It was in the very last issue I found this interesting bit of news we can add to Washington State cat lore. It took place in Chico, which is north of Bremerton. Those of you who live with and love felines might say the term “strange freak” is redundant when used with “cat,” but this story does stand out a bit from most other kitty tales.

Strange Freak of a Cat

“G.C. Sutherland of Chico was in Sidney last Thursday and gave the Broadax a call. While here he related a strange freak of his black cat, which for novelty eclipses anything of the kind we have heard for a long time. He stated that she had kittens in a duck’s nest, and about the time the kittens were born three young ducks appeared. Soon afterward the old cat, to avoid the annoyance of the children, removed the kittens and ducks to a spare chamber up stairs. She regards the ducks with the same paternal care and solicitude that she does her own offspring, licking them all over at times and carrying them around the same as she does her kittens, and even stealing food for them. Mr. Sutherland says if you don’t believe it, call at his house and be convinced.”

Now if you are scrambling to try and find Sidney on a modern map, don’t bother. Today the town is called Port Orchard. According to James W. Phillips in Washington State Place Names, “The town was platted as Sidney by developer Sidney Stephens, but in 1903, at the request of residents, the state legislature renamed it and shortly afterward made it the county seat.”

A map of Sidney was published in the same issue of People’s Broadax as the cat story.

cat 2

As for Mr. Sutherland, who apparently built the first hotel in Chico, the book Kitsap County History (1981) gives a brief biography: “Captain George C. and Christina Sutherland arrived from Port Arthur, Canada, in 1889 with their children Horatio, Elizabeth (Donovan), John and Jessie (Green). He operated a salmon saltery on the beach and was the area’s first photographer, calling his firm Sutherland Brothers or Olympic View Company.” I wonder if he ever took a picture of that cat with the ducks?

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