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!

Famous Seafaring Felines

cats-at-sea

When most people think of service animals, usually dogs come to mind. Cats may be prone to languidly lounging in the sun, but seldom seem eager to lend a paw.  However, there have been many cats throughout history that proved humans wrong; cats are capable of working side by side with man!

The long and well documented history of cats serving on ships counters the lazy bones kitty stereotype. The bond between cats and sailors has been a strong one throughout history — whether the relationship was created for companionship or simply mousing duties.  Ship’s cats have been employed on trading, exploration, and naval ships going back to ancient times when Egyptians took cats on Nile boats to catch birds in riverbank thickets.  When cats were brought aboard trading ships, the species began to spread throughout the world.  Phoenician cargo ships are thought to have brought the first domesticated cats to Europe around 900 BC.

Eventually cats’ main job at sea was in the position of pest control; rats and mice onboard are a serious threat to ropes, woodwork, food, and grain cargo — not to mention rodents’ roles as carriers of disease.  Cats also offered companionship to sailors.  We now understand that there is a reason animals are used for therapy.  And cats filled this important role well during lengthy stints away from land.

Seven Famous Seafaring Felines

A ship's cat on the Royal Australian Navy's HMAS Encounter, 1914-1918
A ship’s cat on the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Encounter, 1914-1918

Blackie (also known as Churchill)

The mostly black Blackie was the ship cat for HMS Prince of Wales, a King George V-class battleship of the Royal Navy.  The ship was involved in several important actions during World War II, including the battle of Denmark Strait against the Bismarck, escorting convoys in the Mediterranean, and her final action and sinking in the Pacific in 1941.  Blackie achieved celebrity status after Prince of Wales brought Prime Minister Winston Churchill across the Atlantic to Newfoundland for a clandestine meeting for several days with Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The result of their secret summit on the ship resulted in the signing of the Atlantic Charter. As Churchill prepared to disembark the Prince of Wales, Blackie swooped in for a cuddle, Churchill stooped down for a good-bye rub, cameras clicked, and the perfect politician-feline photo opportunity was captured … and gobbled up by the world media.  In honor of the success of the visit, Blackie was renamed Churchill.

Convoy

Convoy was the beloved cat aboard HMS Hermione — and was named for the multiple times he accompanied the ship on convoy escort duties.  Convoy was registered in the ship’s book and was given a full kit, including a wee hammock to sleep in.  He stayed on the ship to the end and was lost along with 87 of his crewmates when the Hermione was torpedoed and sunk in 1942.

Unsinkable Sam

The most famous mascot of the British Royal Navy, Unsinkable Sam, previously known as Oscar, was the ship’s cat aboard the German battleship Bismarck. When the ship was sunk in 1941, only 116 out of a crew of more than 2,200 survived — 117 if you include Sam.  Sam was picked up by the destroyer HMS Cossack, which was in turn torpedoed and sunk a few months later,

Here is Bilgewater, the mascot of the Coast Guard Academy, circa 1944.  He's modeling the new wartime grey cadet uniform.
Here is Bilgewater, the mascot of the Coast Guard Academy, circa 1944. He’s modeling the new wartime grey cadet uniform.

killing 159 of her crew.  Again, Sam survived!!  Sam then became the ship’s cat of HMS Ark Royal … which was torpedoed and sunk in November of that year.  Sam was rescued once again, but after that incident, it was decided that it was time for Sam’s sailorship to come to an end.  Unsinkable Sam was given a new job as mouser-in-residence at the governor general of Gibraltar’s office.  He eventually returned to the U.K. and lived out his years at the Home for Sailors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peebles

Another WWII cat who became the darling of the ship’s crew, Peebles was the master cat aboard HMS Western Isles.  Peebles was said to be an extraordinarily kitty and had a number of tricks he enjoyed performing, such as shaking hands and jumping through hoops.  In the images, you can see Peebles leaping through the arms of Lt. Commander R H Palmer OBE, RNVR on board HMS Western Isles.

Simon

Brave, brave Simon.  The celebrated ship’s cat of HMS Amethyst, Simon was aboard the ship during the Yangtze Incident in 1949 and was wounded in the bombardment that killed 25 crewmembers, including the commanding officer.  Simon recovered and resumed his rat-hunting duties, as well as keeping up the crew’s morale. He was appointed to the rank of able seacat. “Simon’s company and expertise as a rat-catcher

Crewmen on the deck of the USS Olympia using a mirror to play with their cat in 1898.

were invaluable during the months we were held captive,” said Commander Stuart Hett. “During a terrifying time, he helped boost the morale of many young sailors, some of whom had seen their friends killed.  Simon is still remembered with great affection.”

When Simon later died of an infection, tributes poured in and his obituary appeared in The Times. He was posthumously awarded the Dickin Medal for bravery and was buried with full naval honors.

Tiddles

Tiddles was the beloved mouser on a number of Royal Navy aircraft carriers.  He was born on HMS Argus, and later joined HMS Victorious.  He favored the after capstan, where he would play with the bell-rope.  He eventually traveled more than 30,000 miles during his time in service!

Mrs. Chippy

Mrs. Chippy, what a dame.  Well, a tom, actually.  The tiger-striped tabby was taken on board the ill-fated Endurance by Harry McNish, the carpenter nicknamed “Chippy,” where she would explore the Arctic expanse with McNish, Sir Ernest Shackleton and the rest of the crew.  Originally thought to be a female, a month after the ship set sail for Antarctica it was discovered that Mrs. Chippy was actually a male, but the name had stuck. Apparently, Mrs Chippy followed McNeish around like a jealous wife, and was thus named accordingly.

Mrs. Chippy was a handsome, intelligent, affectionate cat, and a rodent-catcher of the first order, garnering the cat a loyal following of admirers among the crew. Sadly, after the ice finally consumed the ship, Shackleton decided that Mrs. Chippy and a number of the more than 70 sled dogs had to be put down. Conditions were extreme and supplies were dangerously limited. The crew took the news very badly.   In 2004, a life-size bronze statue of Mrs. Chippy was placed on the grave of McNish by the New Zealand Antarctic Society in recognition of his efforts on the expedition.

A Few Images of the Most Celebrated Cats Who Served at Sea:

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“The smallest feline is a masterpiece.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

cats on the sea
“I’ll be in my bunk.” The cats of the USS Mississippi climb ladders to enter their hammock, ca 1925. The Mississippi was involved in several fierce battles in the Pacific during World War Two and was hit by kamikazes twice. It survived to be among the ships in Tokyo Bay that witnessed Japan’s surrender.

Source:

US Naval Institute

photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons & The US Naval Institute.