Because October 27th is National Black Cat Day and the 29th is National Cat Day, let’s take some time to appreciate our frisky furry friends! For thousands of years cats have been in our company, but as you surely know, not everyone is feels fine about felines. Fortunately, suspicion of black cats is on the decline and that is due in part to the charity, Cats Protection, creating National Black Cat Day in 2011. The 2018 superhero film, The Black Panther, also helped spur on the adoption of black cats. Join us as we learn about the riveting history of the cats in our care so you can treat your friends this Halloween with purrfect party trivia!
History of Cats
“Cats rule the world.” - Creator of Garfield, Jim Davis
The earliest known indication of cat (Felis Catus) cat domestication is an excavated Neolithic grave dating to 7,500 to 7,200 BC found on the Mediterranean Island of Cyprus. Because there is no evidence of other mammalian fauna native to the island, it is likely that its inhabitants brought the cat from the Middle Eastern mainland. Ancient farmers would have appreciated the cats' natural rodent hunting abilities. Thousands of years later (circa 3100 BC), Ancient Egyptians worshiped cats and their gods Mafdet, Bastet, Sekhmet, and Mut often took on the form of cats. Cat shaped decorations found from the New Kingdom of Egypt (beginning circa 1550 BC) indicate the existence of a cat cult and the substantial number of mummified cats found in area indicate that the cult was economically important to the region. According to the 2nd century CE author of Stratagems of War, Polyaenus, all the Persian king Cambyses II had to do during the Battle of Pelusium (525 BC) to neutralize the Egyptian defenses, was to put cats and other venerated animals before his front lines. It seems like cats had it made up until recently. How then did this change occur? Why is someone behaving meanly or spitefully referred to as being catty?
Cats Get a Bad Rap
Many people either love them or hate them. Of course, modern people do not rely as much economically or agriculturally on cats and not everyone is a “cat person.” Afterall, house cats seem to let you know when you unintentionally “rub them the wrong way” by casually knocking things off the counter for you to pick up. But that is more adorable than maddening. More than 2 million cat videos were on YouTube in 2015 and were viewed on average more than any other category. It is strange that many cultures associate black cats with good luck while most of Europe has regarded black cats as bad omens. This is largely due to a papal bull issued by Pope Gregory IX on June 13, 1233. In this Vox In Rama, the pope associated cats with satanism, ancient Egyptian cults, and witchcraft. This was in response to the German Grand Inquisitor, Conrad of Marburg’s concerns over the rise inheretical beliefs. It seems that people, when tortured to confession, will say things that might not be true (like cats appear during satanic rituals). Afterwards, cats, especially black cats, were beaten and tortured across Europe. The anthropologist, James Frazer wrote about how even the French monarchs would set alite the midsummer bonfires that devoured live cats and other animals associated with evil. Some scholars believe that the decimated cat population and the subsequent rise of rodents contributed to the deadly impact of the bubonic plague. Conrad the Inquisitor was murdered after accusing Henry II, Count of Sayn of heresy and the place of his murder is said to be haunted to this day. Then there is the superbly talented Edgar Allan Poe’s 1843 short story, The Black Cat. We will not spoil the fun, but it is a purrfect horror story that encapsulates both our culture’s affinity and aversion to the animal. Research by the ASPCA shows that black cats are the least likely to be adopted. While some programs are in place to encourage the adoption of black cats, many shelters will not allow black cats to be adopted in the month of October for fear of animal cruelty by superstitious people.
Fun Fat Cat Facts!
- The first political philosopher to call himself an anarchist, Pierre Joseph Proudhon, died in 1865, but ever since the 1880s, the color black has been associated with anarchism. Unionized labor strikes that occur without leader authorization, are known as wildcat strikes. The leader of Industrial Workers of the World, Ralph Chaplin, is credited with using a black cat or “sabo-tabby” as the IWW’s symbol for sabotage.
- In 1919 the cartoon character, Felix the Cat, was created by Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer. Felix was the first cartoon to be merchandised due to its popularity and ability to draw movie crowds.
9 Reasons Why Cats Make Wonderful Companions
- Cats are quiet. Other than the occasional and spontaneous sprint in the middle of the night, cats are more chilled out than most pets and are not going to wake the neighbors with incessant barking.
- Cats are easy. You do not need to take them out on walks or bathe them since they are self-cleaning. Long haired cats will require regular grooming, but not as much as dogs.
- Training is a breeze. Puppies can keep you up for weeks until they are settled, but with cats, all you really must do is show them where the litter box is, and they will take care of the rest.
- Cats are efficient. Cats are perfect for apartments because they need less space than dogs and can utilize vertical space better. Cats will feel more at home if you give them vertical structures around to explore on.
- Cats are cheaper. Compared to dogs, cats eat less food, require fewer toys to amuse themselves, and require less grooming.
- Cats are not needy. Cats are emotionally independent and less demanding of your attention than dogs. Plus, they will sleep for 15 hours a day, so you should not worry about them being bored while you are at work.
- Cats live a long time. The average lifespan of a cat is 12 years, but it is common for them to live past 20! Is that why they say cats have 9 lives? Maybe.
- Cats are good for your health. Being around your pet cat will lower your blood pressure and your risk of heart attack. One study found that cat owners are 30 percent less likely to die of heart attack or stroke than non-cat owners.
- Cats are exterminators! Got mice or bugs? Get a cat! Even just the scent of a cat is enough to keep rodents out.
My Photo Pet
We hope you have enjoyed learning about our relationship with cats over the last several millenniums, even if it was a bit frightening. We know you are not a scaredy cat and can handle it. Heck, you are the cat’s pajamas! But then again... curiosity did kill the cat... but he lived 8 more times... ok, ok, we will show ourselves out, but before we do, remember to share your cat tales with us on Facebook and Instagram!