One of my favorite things to do is read old newspapers, today i found this…
Thousands of cats.
When I was living in a steamboat town on the Mississippi, remarked an old man in a barbershop a few days ago, there was a fellow who put up a very neat job on the inhabitants, against whom he must have had a terrible grudge.
He came into the town one day and distributed handbills right and left, taking special pain to put as many as possible into the hands of farmers who come to sell grain, that was before the railroads came to take business away from river towns, some of which had an immense trade.
The place I was in had 5000 or 6000 inhabitants and was the shipping port for all the grain raised for miles around, as well as the place where the farmers obtained all their supplies. The last time I was there it had dwindled down to a village of 2,000, and perhaps by this time it has no existence at all, even on the map.
These bills that was so freely scattered about stated that the advertiser had a contract with a certain Steamboat company for finishing a large number of cats to destroy the rats and mice that were very numerous about the warehouses at different landings along the river. He therefore offered $3 for each full grown tom Cat, $2 for healthy female puss, and $0.50 a head for kittens old enough to get their own living.
All the cats were to be delivered at a certain place in the town on a Thursday evening, the night that a particular boat was due.
Well that Thursday afternoon came and all the streets of town were just crowded with people. They came in wagons, on foot, and on horseback, and every person carried a sack, some of them several.
By evening between 3000 and 4000 cats had been brought into that defenseless City. They were left in and about a vacant building near the landing. The man who wanted to purchase the cats was nowhere in sight. The country people were making inquiries for him everywhere.
A crowd of boys, attracted by the caterwauling went into the building and began them amusing themselves by untying the bags and letting out the cats. Of course the cats begin fighting and raised noise like 10,000 demons.
Suddenly a stampede occurred and the animals rushed pell-mell into the crowd, crawling over people jumping and fighting and climbing walls and roofs in a mad race for Liberty.
The boys took after the cats and the men joined in, determined to rid the town of the feline invaders.
The next morning there was a good many stray cats seen about in backyards and a good many dead ones lying in the streets and alleys. One Boatman said he counted 400 dead cats in the river. The man who perpetrated the joke was never again seen in the place, luckily for him
~Pittsburgh Dispatch (Taken from The Oxford Democrat, Paris, Maine, August 6 1889)