Celebration of All Things Felis sylvestris

“As every cat owner knows, nobody owns a cat” ~Ellen Perry Berkeley

National CAT DAY 2013

Today, cat lovers all over the world celebrate and honor the felines that have touched their lives. We also come together to encourage their adoption.

This national day of feline adoration and acknowledgment started in 2005.  Eight years later, the organizers hope to find at least 10,000 shelter animals new homes.  Why?  Well, because cats are amazing. They are so misunderstood and highly underestimated.  They deserve our love and respect, and no animal deserves to live and end their life alone and scared in a shelter. And, as many of us know, rescued cats are by far, one of the best things in life.

Despite many of the myths about people who love cats, we are not “crazy”.  In fact, we are some of the most sincere, loving, devoted and kind-hearted people in the world.  As the Susan Easterly quote so perfectly explains, “People who love cats have some of the biggest hearts around.”

It takes a very special someone to understand a cat, to listen to them when they don’t say a word, and to take the time to figure out the puzzles that they are.  Mysterious, warm, playful, affectionate, warrior-like, and wise; these are the traits of the wild and domestic cats that I have been blessed to have known.


 


In ancient Egypt cats were worshipped as gods. Cats have not forgotten this.

Dating from 664 B.C. - 395 A.D, Egyptians mummified their house cats. The ancient Egyptian reverence for cats is well-known—and well-documented in the archaeological record: scientists found a cat cemetery in Beni-Hassan brimming with 300,000 cat mummies. (National Museum of Natural History)
Egyptian cats were associated with the goddess Bastet, and were revered and immortalized in many forms of art, like this one.

Cats and humans have enjoyed a mostly symbiotic relationship for thousands of years. A study published in the journal Science secured more pieces in the cat-domestication puzzle based on genetic analyses.  They discovered that all domestic cats, are descended from a Middle Eastern wildcat, Felis sylvestris lybica, which literally means “cat of the woods.” Cats were first domesticated in the Near East, and many scientists speculate that the domestication process began up to 12,000 years ago!

A genetic study in 2007 revealed that domestic cats are descended from African wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica). I had the honor of working very closely with this species in captivity at the Audubon Zoo
A genetic study in 2007 revealed that domestic cats are descended from African wildcats (Felis silvestris lybica). I had the honor of working very closely with this species in captivity at the Audubon Zoo

Cats not only are an incredible source of affection, love and healing for us today, but they have always been useful to people in other ways.  As humans began to settle down, till the earth and store surplus crops, mice entered the picture. And when the first wild cats wandered into town, the stage was set for what the Science study authors call “one of the more successful ‘biological experiments’ ever undertaken.” The cats were delighted by the abundance of prey in the storehouses; people were delighted by the pest control. The symbiotic relationship was born.

Opus vermiculatum in the National Museum is a floor mosaic with a cat and two ducks from the late Republican era, first quarter of the 1st century BC. House cats were considered to be both useful and reverent to Roman society.
Opus vermiculatum in the National Museum is a floor mosaic with a cat and two ducks from the late Republican era, first quarter of the 1st century BC. House cats were considered to be both useful and reverent to Roman society.

You can view more images from the Smithsonian Museum’s A Brief History of House Cats here


In the United States, cats are the most popular animal companion, with over 95 million domesticated cats sashaying and sauntering around 34 percent of homes. Check out these house cat stats:

  • 95.6 million —  Estimated number of companion cats
  • 46 percent of guardians live with one cat
  • 31 percent of homes live with two cats
  • 24 percent of guardians live with three or more cats
  • 26 percent of companion cats were adopted from an animal shelter

Source: 2013-2014 statistics, contact the American Pet Products Association Pet Owners Survey

Top Ten Countries with Companion Cats
Top Ten Countries with Companion Cats

Cats are one of evolution’s most charismatic creatures. They can live on the highest mountains and in the hottest deserts. They are extremely adaptable and are now present on all continents except Antarctica, and on 118 of the 131 main groups of islands—even on sub-Antarctic islands. ~ Geneticist Stephen James O’Brien

wild cats desert and snow
Cats can live in forests, grasslands, tundra, coastal areas, agricultural land, scrublands, urban areas and wetlands. Their habitats even include small oceanic islands with no human inhabitants. Pictured here are the domestic shorthair cat (left) and The Sand Cat (Felis margarita) — “Desert Cat Extraordinaire”  on the right

 

Fascinating Feline Facts and Folklore: 

  • Dating from 664 B.C. – 395 A.D, Egyptians mummified their house cats. The ancient Egyptian reverence for cats is well known and well documented in the archaeological record: scientists found a cat cemetery in Beni-Hassan brimming with 300,000 cat mummies.
  • Ancient Celtic lore speaks of Grimalkin, a grey cat with magical powers. Many works of art have been dedicated to the Grimalkin. While magical cats are nothing new, it is interesting to note that even the Great Bard, Shakespeare spoke of Graymalkin in Macbeth. In Act I, the first witch says, “I come, Graymalkin,” when her feline familiar calls.
  • The religion of Islam speaks of cats as being clean, useful animals. (Which, all cat guardians know this to be true!) In the Islamic world, the cat was respected and protected at least in part because cats were loved by the prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam. According to folklore, Mohammed’s cat Muezza once fell asleep on the sleeve of his master’s robe –instead of disturbing his beloved cat when he had to leave, Mohammed cut off the sleeve of his robe.
  • Due to Papal influence in the 13th century, horrible acts of atrocity were carried out on humans and felines, all in the name of The Church. Black cats in particular were believed to be agents of the devil, especially if owned by an elderly woman and were burned alive with their human.
  • In Japan, there is a myth that cats turn into super spirits when they die. According to the Buddhist religion, the body of the cat is the temporary resting place of the soul of very spiritual people.
  • When God covered the world with water, and Noah set his ark afloat, the ark became infested with rats eating up the stores of food. Noah prayed for a miracle, and a pair of cats sprang to life from the mouths of the lion and lioness. They set to work, and quickly dispatched all the rats — but for the original two. As their reward, when the boat reached dry land the cats walked at the head of the great procession of Noah’s animals. Which is why, the legend concludes, all cats are proud, to this very day.
  • Some people believe that cats engage in astral travel even in life. They also believe that if a cat adopts you, it will stay with you forever, even after death.
  • The Druids thought black cats were human beings. These humans in cat form were punished for evil deeds.
  • In ancient Poland, Ovinnik, who appeared in the form of a black cat, was worshipped by many farming families because he watched over domestic animals and chased away evil-natured ghosts and mischievous fairies. Like most creatures of Slavonic mythology, they were great until you didn’t appreciate them or give them what they needed — then they made mischief that could have tragic results.
  • King Osorkon, of the twenty-second dynasty, placed a white cat in the center of a magnificent temple and ritually endowed it with supreme power.
  • The Romans respected the vermin-catching abilities of the domestic cat, but also saw them as exotic pets and sacred animals. They associated the cat with liberty and divinity and so the cat was the only animal allowed to walk freely around their temples. Libertas (the goddess of liberty) was often depicted with a cat at her feet
  • Fisherman’s wives kept black cats while their husbands went away to sea.  They believed that the black cats would prevent danger from occurring to their husbands.  These black cats were considered so valuable that they were often stolen.
In Norse mythology, Freyja (Old Norse the "Lady") is a goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death. Freyja is the owner of the necklace Brísingamen, rides a chariot pulled by two cats
In Norse mythology, Freyja (Old Norse the “Lady”) is a goddess associated with love, sexuality, beauty, fertility, gold, seiðr, war, and death. Freyja rides a chariot pulled by two cats

The cat, it is well to remember, remains the friend of man because it pleases him to do so and not because he must. ~Carl Van Vechten

Since cats are known for bringing laughter into the home, World Cat Day wouldn’t be complete without some humorous feline facts.  To help educate us about our furry feline friends, the way that no one but The Oatmeal Comic can, check out these 17 Things Worth Knowing About Your Cat!

Click the Image Above
Click On the Image! 

 


 

Do you have any rescued kitties in your home? Who has graced your life with their purrrfection?

egyptian cat gods
“O sacred cat! Your mouth is the mouth of the god Atum, the lord of life who has saved you from all taint.” ~ 4th Century B.C. Song of Praise from Egypt

 

Note: This message has been approved by the cats who own us.


 

References:

http://www.terriwindling.com/blog/cats-cat-lore/

http://www.nationalcatday.com/index.htm

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/cat_know

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/brief_cats.html

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/pet_overpopulation/facts/pet_ownership

http://www.mapsofworld.com/world-top-ten/countries-with-most-pet-cat-population.html

One thought on “Celebration of All Things Felis sylvestris

  1. Pingback: Ancient Egypt, first domestic cats | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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