Author: Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Animals in Cities

A city is a group residence for human beings. There is no room in it for any animal but one— At present we make a sort of menagerie of it.

Genus Homo is the major factor, bus he shares his common home with many other beasts, and members of others whose Latin names are not so familiar.

The horse is most numerous. He is a clean animal, a good friend and strong servant where animals belong—in the country. In the city he is an enemy. His stable is a Depot for the Wholesale Distribution of Diseases.

The services of the horse, and the tons upon tons of fertilizing material produced by him, are financially valuable; but the injury from many deaths, the yearly drain from long sickness, and all the doctors and druggists bills, amounts to a far greater loss.

There is no horse work in a city that cannot be done by machine. The carriage, wagon, truck and dray, can take his place as workers; and they

We are learning, learning fast, how large a proportion of diseases spring from minute living things which get inside of us and play havoc with our organism. And very lately we are learning further, that of all the benevolent distributors of disease none are more swift and sure than certain insects; insects which are born and bred in and upon the bodies and excreta of animals.

It is true that our kitchen garbage furnishes another popular nursery for flies, but the unclean stable is the other breeding place.

Next in number to the horse come the dog and cat. These creatures are not healthy and not happy in a city. They cannot be kept there without injury to them; and the injury is more than revenged upon their keepers.
The dog furnishes his quota of deaths from hydrophobia, as well as plain "assault and battery;" he defiles our sidewalks, and the fruits and vegetables exposed upon our sidewalks; he keeps us awake by his forlorn howling; he has diseases of his own which we may receive from him; and he has fleas.

The flea, as well as the fly, is a valiant and industrious purveyor of disease. From beast to beast they hop, carrying their toxic germs with them: and the dog, displeased with his persecutors, scratches them off upon our carpets.

The same applies to cats. A cat in the country is clean and safe; a cat in the city is neither—if it has any freedom. If a young kitten, cleansed and flealess, were reared in a lofty apartment, it would be clean, doubtless; but the usual cat is free on intersecting fences; and in the contact of warfare, or of gentler feelings, the flea is free to travel and exchange.

The rat and mouse come under the same condemnation; they have fleas. They make dirt. They tend to increase and maintain our insect pests and terrors. They penetrate to all unsavory places. They acquire disease themselves, or carry the germs of it in their blood or on their fur. Their parasites gather them up and give them to us. The rats will leave a sinking ship, the fleas will leave a sinking rat, and among their millions some of them come to us.

When we build cities clean and tight from basement to roof,—all concrete, brick, stone, metal, and plaster; when the holes for pipes of all sorts are scaled as they enter the home; when the kitchen is eliminated by 90 per cent. and replaced by the food laboratories; when no animal but man is allowed within city limits—and he is taught to keep clean; we can then compare, for antiseptic cleanliness with a fine hospital—and have few hospitals to compare with!


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Chicago: Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "Animals in Cities," Forerunner, ed. Symons, Arthur, 1865-1945 and trans. Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853- in Forerunner (London: Smith, Elder & Co., November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues)), Original Sources, accessed December 5, 2023,

MLA: Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "Animals in Cities." Forerunner, edited by Symons, Arthur, 1865-1945, and translated by Elwes, R. H. M. (Robert Harvey Monro), 1853-, in Forerunner, Vol. Volume One, London, Smith, Elder & Co., November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues), Original Sources. 5 Dec. 2023.

Harvard: Gilman, CP, 'Animals in Cities' in Forerunner, ed. and trans. . cited in November 1909 - December 1910 (14 issues), Forerunner, Smith, Elder & Co., London. Original Sources, retrieved 5 December 2023, from