History Lore N Superstion: a brief history of felines as they evolved over the last 30 million years includes mythology, legend & religious persecution.
CATS are over 30 million years old. Most domestic cats of today are thought to have descended from the African wild cat.
CAT DOMESTICATION began about 3,000 BC in Egypt when cats were enlisted to protect grain silos from rodents. These felines became so valuable that they were regarded as gods. The basic domestic cat was descendant from this Egyptian stock.
THE CAT WAS SACRED to the Egyptian goddess Bastet. Cemeteries containing the bodies of mummified sacred cats have been discovered with bronze statues of cats, is dated around 600 B.C. Cats are known to have been a part of Egyptian households by 1600 B.C. although they were not deified until much later.
Small cats never populated North America. The small predators in existence here included the mink, marten, wolverine, and skunk. The first domestic small cats were brought to this region by early explorers and colonists.
The concept of CAT breeds began in the mid-nineteenth century when the idea of cat shows was invented. Pedigrees were developed by breeders from natural cat breeds that were in existence for thousands of years.
People took the cats with traits that they most favored and then bred those felines to continue and enhance the desirable characteristics.The first true cats were found at the beginning of the Pliocene Period, which was about 12 million years ago.
The evolutionary processes led to three main types of cats: The Forest Cat, the African Wild Cat and The Asiatic Desert Cat. Ancestors resembling modern cats first appeared about 10 million years ago, but they were completely wild and did not associate with humans.
As humans learned to farm, their grain crops attracted mice and birds, and these, in turn, attracted cats. Gradually, around 8,000 years ago, cats and humans learned that they could form a mutually beneficial relationship –the humans protected and sheltered cats who, in return, protected their human’s grain supplies.
Mythology and Folklore of the Manx
When filling the ark and the rains came down, Noah closed the door and caught the tail of a cat. Cats from ships wrecked on the coasts around the Isle of Man came ashore and made the Island their home. Mother cats bit off the tails of their kittens to keep them from being snatched by the invading Scandinavians, who cut off the tiles and used them for decorating their helmets. The Manx is a breed of domestic cat originating on the Isle of Man, with a naturally occurring mutation that shortens the tail. Their sweet disposition make them excellent family pets.
Legend of the Pussy Willow
From Poland comes the story of the pussy willow, a plant that has been named for the cat the world over. Long ago, a mother cat cried inconsolably on the banks of a river in which her kittens were drowning. To help her, the willows swept their long branches into the water as lifelines for the little kittens. Every spring since, buds with the soft feel of a kittens silky fur open at the tips of willow branches.Source: Pet Care Report/ Cats and their History – Ralston Purina Co.
Scottish immigrants believed a cat that entered a room where a body was awaiting burial had to be killed at once. If she were not, the next person the cat touched would be struck blind! The fear of the cat was so great that it was believed evil would strike down anyone who harmed a cat. A person who kicked a cat was certainly to develop rheumatism in that leg! A farmer who killed a cat could expect a mysterious illness to kill off his cattle. Cat superstitions persist to this day. For the most part, Americans believe white cats are lucky and black cats are unlucky. In Great Britain the reverse is thought to be true.
Professional gamblers have the belief that caring for cats and treating them well will increase their luck. This particular superstition was probably started by a feline to ensure a good home. In some parts of the old world, the cat was placed in an empty and waiting cradle of a newlywed, the couple in the belief she would quickly grant their wish for children. The Pennsylvania Dutch continue that time-honored custom today.
Because cats were often deified in pagan religions, they have suffered from religious persecution throughout history. For example, in the 16th century it was very common for a cats to be executed as agents of the devil. Fortunately for today’s cat lovers, this practice eventually diminished in popularity.
Cats and Witches
A very early record of the linking together of witches and cats concerns the ceremony of Cat Wednesday which took place in the city of Metz in Northern France. This involved hundreds of cats being burned alive in the belief that they were witches in disguise.
Cats Witches N Halloween
Witches and cats have had a long association with Halloween. Because cats are nocturnal and roamed at night, they were seen as servants to witches, out to harm those the witches had cursed. It was also believed, by some, that witches had supernatural powers and the ability to change into cats who were more easily able to carry out the witch’s wicked deeds and escape detection. Mythical stories recount great gatherings of witches when the seasons changed – on the eve of May Day and on the eve of October 31, Halloween. A 17th century English woman, Joan Flower, along with her two daughters, were hung for practicing witchcraft. Joan and her daughters were employed by the Earl of Rutland and were accused of cursing his family. His sons had died, and his wife had become barren, and someone had to take the blame for it. It was said that the daughters had stolen some of the Earl’s possessions and given them to their mother who rubbed them on the fur of her cat uttering curses. Nothing is recorded about the fate of the cat, but it is unlikely that it escaped with its life.
Persecution in the 13th century
Papal might was brought down upon witches and cats in the 13th century when horrible acts of atrocity were carried out on humans and felines. Black cats in particular were believed to be agents of the devil, especially if owned by an elderly woman.
People of ancient Ireland believed that cats operated somewhere between the mortal and spiritual realms. They viewed them as guardians of the gates of the Otherworld; a link between humans and the Otherworld. According to Celtic folklore, spirits that took the form of Cait Sidhe, a large black cat with a white spot on its chest, could steal the soul of the dead before the Gods could claim it.
The Celts believed that cats had once been human and had been changed into felines as punishment for their wicked ways. Cats were sometimes tied up with silver ropes because it was believed that these creatures had the ability to protect hallowed treasures. Later, Catholic culture mixed with Celtic beliefs and the cat became thought to be the witch’s familiar.
In the 16th and 17th centuries tens of thousands of witches and cats were put to death in Germany, 75,000 in France and 30,000 in Great Britain. Cats were often tortured, along with their unfortunate humans, before being burnt, or buried alive.
The Plague and Cats to the Rescue
In 1348, the Black Death or bubonic plague swept across Europe in successive epidemics with an overwhelming loss of life. In England, more than half the people died; in some parts of France, only one-tenth of the population survived. By bringing the rodent population under control, cats heroically saved the humans from complete extinction.
Cats in Asia
Cats were honored and protected in Asia because the humans there recognized the value of our services in protecting food crops and the silk worm industry from destruction by rodents.
Cats in Thailand
Cats have guarded temples in Thailand and other parts of Asia for centuries. One Thai legend says that hightly spiritual people reicarnate as cats as their last stage on the way to heaven. Another explains the dark patches on the shoulders of some Siamese cats as “temple marks” left by Buddha’s fingers when he touched them in blessing.
Cats and Hindu
Hindus, who revere all living creatures, have a special rule about cats: Each faithful family is expected to house and feed one.
Cats and Clairvoyance
Cats have often been associated with clairvoyance. An early European tradition held that one could acquire this gift by growing up with a tortoiseshell cat.
Cats in Japan
In Japan, a cat with a raised left paw brings wealth, while one with its right paw raised brings luck and happiness.
Cats In South Africa
A South African tribe told of a cat who served as the “external soul” for an entire family whose lives depended on her existence. When she died, the family members quickly fell lifeless too.
The Greeks and Their Cats
The Greeks credited their goddess Artemis with creating the cat and ascending to the moon in feline form.
Cats in South America
In South America, some people worshipped a puma god and thought medicine men turned into jaguars when they died.
Cats and the Romans
The Romans gave Venus, their goddess of love, many of the attributes of Bastet and often depicted the goddess with a cat. Some historians believe importing cats to England was the Romans’ greatest contribution toward civilizing the British.
For transportation, the Norse fertility goddess Freya used a cat-drawn chariot. Finnish people thought the souls of the dead were collected by cats drawing a sled.
When people in Java wanted to make it rain, they would bathe two cats, a male and female, then carry them in a procession with music.
The TABBY Cat
In America and other Christian countries, the tabby cat has a legend of its own. As the Christ child lay in the manger, no animal – not even the gentle donkey or the faithful shepherd dog – could soothe Him to sleep. But when a little tabby jumped lightly into the manger and began to purr a lullaby, the Babe fell asleep at last. Ever since, all tabbies’ foreheads have borne an M in token for the Madonna’s gratitude.
According to Italian Folklore
…on the same night that Mary gave birth to Jesus, a virgin cat in Bethlehem gave birth to a kitten.
From Letters to His Children
Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)
The Lone Cat of the Camp
Stamboul, La., Oct. 13, 1907
Official White House portrait by John Singer Sargent
DARLING QUENTIN: When we shifted camp we came down here and found a funny little wooden shanty, put up by some people who now and then come out here and sleep in it when they fish or shoot. The only living thing around it was a pussy-cat. She was most friendly and pleasant, and we found that she had been living here for two years. When people were in the neighborhood, she would take what scraps she could get, but the rest of the time she would catch her own game for herself. She was pretty thin when we came, and has already fattened visibly. She was not in the least disconcerted by the appearance of the hounds, and none of them paid the slightest attention to her when she wandered about among them. We are camped on the edge of a lake. This morning before breakfast I had a good swim in it, the water being warmer than the air, and this evening I rowed on it in the moonlight. Every night we hear the great owls hoot and laugh in uncanny fashion.
Plutarch and his CAT Theories: The Greek author, Plutarch, had a hair-brained theory about cats. He thought that a female cat produced one cat in her first litter, two in her second, and so on till she reached twenty eight. When she reached that magic number, he believed that she ceased bearing kittens. His theory was based upon the connection, at that time, with cats and the moon – since there are 28 days in the lunar moon. He also linked cats with cleanliness, noting that unnatural odors could make them mad.