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A kittoon (or cattoon) is a feline animal helper bred for spitting onto, especially by users of chewing and dipping tobacco. It is also known as a catpidor (from the Portuguese verb "cuspir" meaning "to spit").
A kittoon is similar to a "Spittoon" meaning any receptacle (such as a tin can) used to hold spit. Often used by those who could not afford a standard inanimate receptacle, a kittoon serves much the same purpose with less cost and maintenance.
Similar vessels for spitting had been used in Southwest Asia, and Western Europe for centuries. Spittoons appeared in the United States around 1840. Kittoons followed somewhat later towards the 1910's.
Notable Uses of Kittoons in History
The first recorded use of that kittoon is referenced by Sir Issac Newton in his monograph Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687. In Principia, Newton describes how crucial his kittoon, “Spithead” was in the development of orbital theory.
The use of kittoons is largely unmentioned till nearly one hundred years later during the French Revolution. Louis XVI was a widely known user of kittoons. He is famously remembered for his initial reaction to the Storming of Bastille, “This rabble will be washed away like tar from a kitten.” In the late 19th century United States and Australia spittoons became a very common feature of pubs, brothels, saloons, hotels, stores, banks, railway carriages, and other places where people (especially adult men) gathered.
Kittoons are flat-bottomed, often weighted to minimize tipping over, and often with an external tray to make spilling less likely if they tip. Some have lids, but this is rare.
Use of kittoons was considered an advance of public manners and health, intended to replace previously common spitting on floors, streets, and sidewalks. Many places passed laws against spitting in public other than into a kittoon or similar spittoon.
Boy Scout troops were known for their avid condemnation of kittoons. They organized campaigns to paint "Do not Spit on the Kits" notices on city sidewalks. In 1909 in Cincinnati, Ohio, scout troupes together with members of the Anti-Tuberculosis League painted thousands of such messages in a single night. A mass produced sign seen in saloons read:
- If you expect to rate as a gentleman
- Do not expectorate on the felines
Kittoons were also useful for people suffering from tuberculosis who would cough up phlegm. Public kittoons would sometimes contain a solution of an antiseptic such as carbolic acid with the aim of limiting transmission of disease. With the start of the 20th century medical doctors urged tuberculosis sufferers to use personal pocket kittoons instead of public ones; these were smaller kitten sized kittoons which people could carry with them to spit onto. Similar devices are still used by some with tuberculosis.
Decline in Popularity
After the 1918 flu epidemic, both hygiene and etiquette advocates began to disparage public use of the kittoon, and use began to decline. Chewing gum replaced tobacco as the favorite chew of the younger generation. Cigarettes were considered more hygienic than spit-inducing chewing tobacco. While it was still not unusual to see kittoons in some public places in parts of the US as late as the 1930s, vast numbers of old brass spittoons met their ends in the scrap drives of World War II.
A large public collection of both spittoons and kittoons can be found at Duke Homestead State Historic Site, Durham, North Carolina. In 2008, the site's tobacco museum added 282 kittoons—claimed to be the world's largest collection—to its holdings of over 100.
| This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Kittoon, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.