There is a vast amount of superstition, myth and folklore surrounding cats. Throughout history, these lovable pets have been misunderstood. Black cats, especially, have a gotten an undeserved bad reputation.
Here are some cat facts that may surprise you.
1. Cats come from the Middle East.
Some of the first recorded histories of cats came from the Middle East. It was over 4000 years ago when cats were first domesticated both as pets and hunting animals. Many modern cat breeds evolved from ancient Egypt and Cyprus.
The Egyptians, especially, trained cats to hunt local birds and fish along the Nile. These beloved family pets also kept their households free of rodents.
2. Cats were once worshipped as gods.
It was during this period that Ancient Egyptians began to elevate cats to god status. Their best known feline goddess was named Bast. Domesticated cats were worshipped and thought to be a physical manifestation of the goddess Bast.
Bast was the goddess of fertility, the moon and protection of both humans and cats.
As a sacred animal, when cats died, they were often mummified and entombed with their owners or in a place of honor.
There were also other ancient cultures where cats came to be revered and worshipped. Various pagan rituals included cat worship. And the ancient Celts and Irish handed down many “good luck” cat superstitions.
In Celtic and Norse religions, cats were considered guardians of the gates of the Netherworlds. They were said to be the link between humans and the spiritual universe.
3. Cats were spread throughout the world through illegal trading.
The Egyptians were definitely in love with cats. They were even protected by law. The punishment for killing a cat was death. The ancient laws also forbid the export or trade of cats.
Despite the export restrictions, an illegal underground cat trade developed. Phoenician traders risked their lives to smuggle cats out of Egypt. They then sold them throughout the ancient world.
During this time, cats begin to appear across the Mediterranean, India and the Orient (China and Japan). They were often domesticated and appreciated for their rodent and bug catching skills.
4. There was a thousand-year purge when cats were killed.
Most “bad luck” superstitions about cats began in Europe.
At first Europeans had been as enamoured with cats, as the rest of the world. When they first appeared as a domesticated animal, they were prized as pets.
However, cats quickly multiplied and were soon overrunning the villages and cities. There were more feral and homeless cats than pets in households.
By the Middle Ages, cats began to be hated and feared. During this time cats (especially black cats) became associated with evil, witchcraft and shapeshifting.
Cats were caught up in the witch hysteria that swept through Europe. Many of the poor, elderly, and lonely women that were accused of witchcraft cared for cats.
During the Crusades, the Church was especially sensitive to the history of cat worship. For 1000 years throughout Europe, cats were purged. Millions of cats were hunted and killed during this time.
5. Cats could have saved millions of people from the plague.
Sadly, when the cat population was depleted, diseased rats took over overran the cities. This spread the bubonic plague, which was also known as the “Black Death.” Over 60 percent of the European population (estimated at 25 million people) died.
The irony remains that the cats could and would have combatted the rodents who carried the plague if only they had not been purged.
6. Cats do not always land on their feet.
Cats are incredibly agile. But they don’t have nine lives, and they don’t always land on their feet.
The legend that a cat always lands on its feet came from many sources.
French physiologist, Etienne-Jules Marey, did a series of cat experiments in 1894. In one, he held a cat upside down then dropped it while he was filming the fall. That particular cat showed amazing acrobatic skills.
More recent studies have suggested that the distance they fall makes all the difference. Sometimes cats can survive dramatic survive falls. Cats have shown a remarkable ability to survive falls.
Although cats are naturally graceful, any cat owner can tell you that cats don’t always land on their feet.
7. Cats don’t have nine lives.
The rumour that a cat has many lives comes from the ancient Greeks through an old English proverb that claimed that "A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays".
The number nine is the mystical triple trinity of Greek numbers. This may be where the myth that cats have nine lives originated.
Even though cats don’t get nine lives, they are amazing and loving animals. There is a great saying attributed to Albert Schweitzer. He stated that “ There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.”
Do you have a cat? If so, please comment. Thanks!