Celebration of All Things Felis sylvestris

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

National CAT DAY 2013

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, and to take the time to figure out the puzzles they are.  Mysterious, warm, playful, affectionate, warrior-like, and wise; these are the traits of the wild and domestic cats that Conscious Companion has been blessed to have known.


 


In ancient Egypt cats were worshiped 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


Cats are the most popular animal companion, with over 95 million domesticated cats sashaying and sauntering around 34 percent of homes in the US alone!  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 in a comical way, check out these humorous 17 Things Worth Knowing About Your Cat.

Click the Image Above
Click On the Image! 


But if you really want to get to know cats of all shapes, sizes, and species, check out our Feline Resources and Support pages HERE.


 

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


 

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


Feline Articles and Must-Know Info!

Stray Cat Strut

Lil Alley Cat by Rachel K Schlueter
Lil Alley Cat by Rachel K Schlueter

Black and orange stray cat sittin’ on a fence
Ain’t got enough dough to pay the rent
I’m flat broke but I don’t care
I strut right by with my tail in the air
Stray cat strut, I’m a ladies’ cat,
A feline Casanova, hey man, thats where its at
Get a shoe thrown at me from a mean old man
Get my dinner from a garbage can
Yeah don’t cross my path!
I don’t bother chasing mice around
I slink down the alley looking for a fight
Howling to the moonlight on a hot summer night
Singin’ the blues while the lady cats cry,
“Wild stray cat, you’re a real gone guy.”
I wish I could be as carefree and wild,
but I got cat class and I got cat style.
~Stray Cat Strut by The Stray Cats, 1981

 


Today, October 16, is National Feral Cat day.  Many years ago I fell madly, deeply in love with two feral cats.  Both of whom, during separate chapters in my life, taught me more than I could have ever imaged about stray cats.  Although we have said our goodbyes, they are still with me in my heart, and they are the inspiration behind this post.

My hope is that you will learn something new here, and in the process, gain compassion for these wise, street savvy souls.  Once we truly understand the myths (and truths) about feral cats and their communities, we can educate others on the many ways to care for and protect these very misunderstood animals.

Samantha
Samantha, our beloved feline family member, who was once a feral cat on the streets of New Orleans.


Myths and Truths About Feral Cats

 

Myth #1:  Feral cats are best cared for in animal shelters.

Fact: Adult feral cats are euthanized more frequently than any other dog or cat (this includes adult dogs, bully breeds, fearful and aggressive cats, aggressive and fearful dogs, and heartworm positive dogs).

Shelter life is incredibly stressful for any animal. Throw in a few sprinkles of feral, and you have a recipe for an all-out-fear fest.  Since feral cats are naturally afraid of humans, they are rarely adoptable, so the majority of  feral cats who enter shelters are euthanized quickly — even though 99 percent of these feral cats have no debilitating conditions, trauma, or infectious diseases.

Even no-kill shelters can’t place feral cats in the average home.  However, feral kittens can often be adopted into homes, but they must be socialized at an early age.  There is a crucial window, and if they aren’t handled in time, they will remain feral and therefore unadoptable. Learn more about feral kittens and socialization here.

 

Myth #2: TNR is cruel.

TNR is the practice of Trapping, Neutering, and Returning cats back to where one found them. TNR has been shown to be the least expensive, most efficient, and most humane way of stabilizing feral cat populations.  The very best thing we can do for a feral cat is to spay or neuter it, then return it to its original community.

 

Myth #3: Feral cats are sick.

Feral cats are just as healthy as your own companion cat, with equally low rates of disease, and equally long natural lifespans.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery found that of 103,643 stray and feral cats examined in spay/neuter clinics in six states from 1993 to 2004, less than 1% of those cats needed to be euthanized due to debilitating conditions, trauma, or infectious diseases.

 

Myth #4: Cat overpopulation can be fixed by removing the feral colony.

Neighborhoods and communities will often roundup colonies of feral cats – either for euthanasia, or to relocate them, but neither of these choices are a permanent or humane solution.  The reality is that it’s impossible to catch all of the cats, and it only takes one male and one female to begin reproducing again.  Even if all ferals are removed, new cats will soon move in and take their place.

Relocation should only be an option when the cats’ lives are at extreme risk, and then responsible relocation practices should be followed.

 

Myth #5: Anyone can socialize a feral cat with a lot of time and patience!

Feral cats survive by avoiding intimate human interaction.  Socializing a feral cat can take years sometimes. Trust me; it took me a year to even touch my beloved Samantha when she was a feral cat.  If you have a feral cat outside your home that you want to befriend, I recommend learning more about feral cat socializing from the the experts.

 

Myth #6:  Shelters are a huge help for lost cats that are found!

Fact:  Only 2 to 5% of lost cats in U.S. shelters are reclaimed by their owners.
Fact:  Most lost cats will eventually return home on their own.
Fact:  Spending time in a shelter actually decreases a cat’s chances of being reunited with his/her guardians.

One of the easiest and most important things you can do for your cat (or feral cat that is living under your care) is give him/her a proper ID tag, AND have your cat microchipped!  This means that wherever they wind up, they can be identified.

 

Myth #7:  Feral Cats are decimating native wildlife and bird populations! 

Many people dislike the idea of stray cats, but science has cleared them of the blame for impacting wildlife populations.  The true threat to other species are human activities such as habitat destruction, fragmentation, pollution and encroachment.  Outdoor cats occasionally kill birds and other wildlife, but the bigger truth that we need to recognize is this: humans are the species that have most significantly damaged the environment, habitats, and ecosystems.

“The clear leading animal that’s really putting wildlife at risk is the human population.  We just don’t like to acknowledge that it is our fault. It’s not a case of the cat being the worst offender.  It isn’t even remotely the worst offender.  It’s us.”- Wildlife Biologist, Roger Tabor, one of the world’s leading experts on feral cats

Read more about How Much of an Impact Cats really Have on Native Wildlife.

Myth #8: Feral Cats are “homeless” cats

Feral cats are not homeless.  They have a home; it’s outdoors!  Feral cats are no more “homeless” than squirrels, raccoons, or rabbits; their community is their home.  It’s where they learned to live, adapt, and thrive — often with help from a compassionate caretaker.  The outdoors is the natural habitat for feral cats.

 coralinecat


Feral Cats and Stray Cats – What They Really Need

Outdoor cats have existed alongside humans for 10,000 years.  They are not a new phenomenon.  Feral cats and stray cats (yes, there is a difference) live and thrive in every landscape, from the inner city to rural farmland.  Although they greatly appreciate a delicious can of tuna, they don’t want to snuggle with you on your couch.  It’s important to recognize and respect that they belong outside, vaccinated, spayed and neutered.  Feral cats are members of the same species as companion cats.  This is why feral cats are protected under state animal anti-cruelty laws. Just like our feline family members who live indoors with us, shelter, food, and water are especially important to feral and stray cats in cold weather!

"Mama Cat" and her kittens.  Mama Cat was a feral cat that lived around my house in New Orleans. I TNR (spayed and released) her and then spayed and neutered her kittens and found homes for most of them.  I loved her so much.
“Mama Cat” and her kittens, one of whom lives with us now.  Mama Cat was a feral cat that lived around my house in New Orleans. I spayed and released her, then spayed and neutered her kittens and found homes for all of them.  I loved her so much, but I knew she could never live an “indoor life”.  I did what was best for her by allowing her to live outside, vaccinated, and spayed.



Cats are a Natural Part of the Landscape.

Cats have always been a part of the natural environment.  They have adapted to the changes that humans brought about in their environment, but their biological instincts and interactions with their surroundings haven’t changed.  What has changed in the last 10,000 years is how humans have impacted the environment. Our unrestrained use of natural resources has damaged crucial habitats and resources that species need to survive.  Instead pointing the finger of blame at wild felines, we need to take a hard look at what we can do to change the way we impact our world and the animals we share it with.

Feral Cats Belong Outdoors. They have been along side humans for 10,000 years. We can help them by spaying and neutering them, then leaving them be.
Feral Cats Belong Outdoors. They have been along side humans for 10,000 years. We can help them by spaying and neutering them, then leaving them be.


Why Should We Even Care?

Today, On National Feral Cat Day, we celebrate the growing movement to protect the lives of outdoor cats with humane and effective programs like Trap- Neuter-Return (TNR). ~ Becky Robinson, president and co-founder of Alley Cat Allies.

 

In the video below Jackson Galaxy reminds us that:

  • Feral cats are not socialized to people.
  • Feral cats cannot be adopted.
  • TNR helps reduce the number of cats being killed in our shelters each year.
  • More than 330 local governments have ended ‘catch and kill’ and embraced TNR, but there is still much more work to be done.

 


 

Common Questions about Feral and Stray Cats

 

IMG_1023-0

 

What is Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR)?

Trap-Neuter-Return is the humane and effective approach for stray and feral cats.  It has been in practice for decades in the U.S. after scientific studies in Europe show that Trap-Neuter-Return improves the lives of feral cats, improves their relationships with the people who live near them, and decreases the size of colonies over time.

Did you know that TNR:

TNR (Trap & Neuter Return)
A Conscious Companion doing a TNR (Trap & Neuter Return)

Informing friends, neighbors, and family members, about the benefits of TNR can be tough.  There are so many misperceptions about stray cats and feral cats. But Alley Cat Allies has a great resource on their website called Troubleshooting with Community Members.

In this Alley Cat Allies PSA,  Jackson Galaxy explains why National Feral Cat Day® is the perfect time to raise your voice to protect the cats you love—indoors, outdoors, and everywhere in between.  We can educate people about feral cats, how to help them, and what not to do.  Please help to spread the word that TNR is the humane approach for feral cats.  Do you have any experience with stray cats or feral cats? I would love to hear your stories!

coraline-cat-stray-cats-feral-cat_stray cat strut

“What’s your name?” Coraline asked the cat.

“Look, I’m Coraline.Okay?”

“Cats don’t have names.” he said.

“No?” said Coraline.

“No,” said the cat. “Now you people have names.  That’s because you don’t know who you are.  We know who we are, so we don’t need names.”

― Neil Gaiman, Coraline


SOURCES:

http://jacksongalaxy.com

http://www.alleycat.org

Matthew Bershadker – President & CEO of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

http://www.straypetadvocacy.org/cat_predation.html


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