Friday, June 22, 2012

Friday Art & History Feature - Cats

"As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat" (attributed to Ellen Perry Berkeley)

I have always been a dog person...that is until I met my hubby and got introduced to his three cats. Since then, I'm both a dog and a cat person (well, I'm an animal person in general). Those three cats became like my children and I can't imagine my life without them. All three had the personality more of dogs than cats. They were loving and loved to cuddle. Today, we only have one left out of three. The other two have since passed away, which caused us much sadness and grief. We make sure to pamper the last one of the group we have left.

Kirk, who was like a son to us, especially to my hubby. RIP

You can love cats, don't love them and think they are stand-offish, you can treat them as children or be too allergic to even be in the same room with them. But you cannot deny that there's something mysterious and special about these creatures.

My little old man Bones, the cat we still have today

The history of house cats is immense, so I'm only going to tell you a few key and interesting facts out of it here.

It is now thought by scientist that the first domestication of wild cats occurred over 8,000 years ago. Some of the earliest findings of this domestication lead back to ancient Cyprus, where archaeologists discovered a skeleton of a cat buried with a human even earlier. Other scientists, however, believe that the domestication of cats happened around 12,000 years ago in the Middle East area, with the rise of the first agricultural societies.

While the domestication of dogs occurred much earlier before the domestication of cats, and dogs had many uses to humans, it is thought that the reason cats were initially domesticated during the beginning of agricultural societies was to have them hunt mice that would get into the grain storage.

Bast (Bastet)
 Since then, cats have been around humans as companions, as well as aloof observers. They are mysterious and often finicky, creatures that do whatever they want to and interact with humans when they wish to. Many cultures and some religions held cats in high esteem. For example, Egyptians were known for worshipping this animal and even had a goddess, Bastet, who had the head of a cat and was the goddess of love and protectress of Lower Egypt. It is interesting to note that she started out as a "lion-headed" goddess before her transformation into a feline one. The ancient Egyptians held such reverence for domestic cats, that to kill one meant death as punishment.

In the Middle Ages, cat became associated with dark powers and witchcraft. They were often killed as protection against evil and this went on until about 1600, until the domestic cat once again started to become popular in the West. A number of superstitions were also developed during the Middle Ages in Europe, such as the belief that a cat will suffocate a newborn infant by putting its nose to the child's mouth, sucking the breath out of the infant.

Interestingly, though, cats were favored by actors because they seemed to relax and calm their nerves before performances.

Chinese also valued cats highly but for more practical purposes of killing rats, but they were also favored as pets. Japanese respected and revered cats as bringing good luck and good fortune. The same is true in Russia, where cats are often put into a house first before a family moves in so they can bring good luck and cleanse the space of evil spirits.

Maneki-neko, the "lucky" cat of Japan

Today, cats are the most common pet in households around the world. With over 80 various breeds of domestic cats, there's a large variety to choose from. But whatever breed they are, they make great companions, even if sometimes they don't show the love as readily as dogs. In fact, sometimes it seems that cats behave more closely to us, humans.

I'd like to tell you a personal family story about cats. This story is fascinating and amazing, but also sad, so I have to give you a warning. I heard this story from my grandfather. When he was a child of about 3-4 years old, he was with his mother in evacuation (as this was during World War II) in some small village far away from any big city. He fell very ill, and the local doctor said that he will not survive the night. There was a cat in the house they were staying in. The cat kept coming and laying on my grandfather's chest. The adults tried to chase him away a number of times, but in the end they gave up and let him lay there. In the morning, my grandfather was all better...and the cat was dead. It was as if he took the sickness into himself. My grandfather is not a big believer in a lot of supernatural things, but the few times he told this story, I could see that there was still amazement in his voice.

What is the most amazing experience you've ever had with cats? Are you a cat person at all?


  1. What a fantastic story, and I love the history too. I am a total cat person. I get them and they get me. And I believe there is something mystical about them.

    1. Heather, yes, absolutely there's something mystical about them. Even the way they look at you. Of course, I'm also a big fan of big cats :)

  2. Wow, Yelena! What an amazing story!
    I'm very much a cat person - though one day we're going to own a BIG dog (hubs wants an Irish Wolfhound). Our little one is very much like a son to us also, and very much more dog than cat. He covers his food with a plastic bag when he's done eating for the moment, he plays fetch with those little jingle balls, and he *sort of* loves water (when he gets a bath, he wines very minimally, and when I take a bath he sits on the edge of the tub and dips his arm in to check the depth - lol!).
    I agree with Heather - there's something about them that's just so mystical and calming.

    1. Awww, that does sound more like a dog lol Amazingly, lately I see and meet a lot of cats who are not as afraid of water as we are all taught they are. I love that your cat also covers his food with a big, how cute! :)

  3. I've always loved cats. They're eternally cute and holdable. And independent! I don't like dogs as much because they're much needier and tend to make bigger messes and noises in my experience. Too much energy. Give me a laid back feline any day!

    My cats will always be my furbabies. Even my mother calls my cats her "grandkitties".

    And that's an amazing story. What a wonderful cat.

    1. Awww, love how your mother calls your cats her "grankitties"! :)

  4. That is an amazing story about your grandfather and that cat. I'm a cat and dog person myself but my cat recently passed away and I miss him terribly. And you're right, there is something mysterious and calming about these creatures.

    1. I'm so sorry about your cat, Elise. I know how had it is.

      And yes, it is an amazing story my grandfather told us. I still have chills every time I think about it.

  5. Cats are special creatures. Before my allergies kicked in, I had an awesome cat named Oreo. He walked up to my door one day and meowed. I opened the door, he walked in, and didn't leave. Eventually, I had to find him another home, but I still remember him with fond memories.


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