Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What is it about cats that, if they are not loved, they are treated with such callousness or wanton cruelty? They have been killed because it was believed they acted as witches’ familiars. Alive they were torn apart by Elizabethan gents to prove their strength and masculinity. In China they have been (probably still are) together with dogs being flayed alive for their pelts to make furry toys. There was the case a short while ago of the woman who, after stroking and making a fuss of it, dumped a cat in a green bin and ostensibly left it there to die. By the way she scuttled off, caught on camera, she knew she had done wrong. Later in court she could not explain her behaviour. Now we have the case of a “teenage mother” who purposefully dropped a kitten from the eleventh floor. Here in Crete there are stray cats everywhere and it is estimated the length of their lives to be three years. Every taverna has its quota of cats that get fed by tourists during the season but are left to their own devices during the winter, except for the few people who take the trouble to feed them. Every now and again, despite it being against the law, someone puts poison down to get rid of them. What is it with these beautiful creatures that they are so often treated so unkindly? In ancient Egypt of course it was quite a different matter. Here cats were sacred or totems and even gods, the goddess Bast for example. On death cats were mummified and bowls of milk, rats and mice placed in the tomb. Cats were not only protected by almost every occupant of Egypt, but also by the law. So extreme in fact was the devoutness of the Egyptian culture to the cat, that if a human killed a feline, either intentionally or unintentionally, that human was sentenced to death. There’s a turn-up for the books! Laws were set that also forbade the exportation of cats, though more often than not, many were smuggled to the neighboring Mediterranean countries. Documents state that armies sometimes were set out to recapture these cats from the foreign lands. The historian Herodotus explained there was even greater significance to the cat. He tells a story concerning the Egyptians at war with Persia. The Persian general had decided to collect as many cats that his men could find or steal, knowing the great importance of the cat to Egypt. The soldiers then returned to the town of Pelusium and set the cats free on the battlefield. Horrified, the Egyptians surrendered the city to the Persians rather than harm the cats. Cats were treasured in ancient Rome too of course because they kept the vermin population down, also in Japan. Unfortunately in the Middle Ages, being associated with witchcraft and the devil, thousands were killed leading to a rise in the rat population leading to bubonic plague, the Black Death.
Has any other animal wild or domestic had such a history?


Ben Herman said...

My girlfriend and I have two cats, Nettie and Squeaky. We love them both dearly. They are like our babies. Whenever I see a stray, I wish I could take that cat in. But living in a one bedroom apartment, and currently being unemployed, I need to be realistic. Right now, I have to insure that the two cats that we already do have receive the best care & attention. Hearing stories about cruelty to animals is always heartbreaking. Sadly, though, I do not find such actions surprising. After all, we cannot even act ethically towards our fellow human beings. So why should it be a shock when we mistreat members of a different species?

Lewis said...

B and I have a website called which is definitely not for teenage mothers (if she treats a kitten like that, woe to her own child - I can see a nasty future of abuse and neglect, perhaps even murder).
The church is to blame in a way, as both RC and Orthodox and a spawn of other sects take the stand that Christ came to save mankind (he himself said the "lost sheep of Israel", but, hey!), not the animals, and the OT says man should got forth and subdue the earth. Which he has done to his own detriment.

Lewis said...

Plastic Jesus, plastic Jesus
Riding on the dashboard of my car
Through all trials and tribulations,
We will travel every nation,
With my plastic Jesus I'll go far.

I don't care if it rains or freezes
As long as I've got my Plastic Jesus
Glued to the dashboard of my car,
You can buy Him phosphorescent
Glows in the dark, He's Pink and Pleasant,
Take Him with you when you're travelling far


I don't care if it's dark or scary
Long as I have magnetic Mary
Ridin' on the dashboard of my car
I feel I'm protected amply
I've got the whole damn Holy Family
Riding on the dashboard of my car


You can buy a Sweet Madonna
Dressed in rhinestones sitting on a
Pedestal of abalone shell
Goin' ninety, I'm not wary
'Cause I've got my Virgin Mary
Guaranteeing I won't go to Hell