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Cats: Our Most Mysterious Friends

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Animals Cat Photo By Alvesgaspar Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Published on July 29th, 2009 | by Yellow Magpie


Cats: Our Most Mysterious Friends

Cat Photo By Alvesgaspar Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Fleet of foot with dexterity to put the most nimble and flexible of acrobats to shame, the feline is unique. It bolts up walls with all the elegance and poise of a maestro’s great symphony.

A physical delight of muscle and sinew controlled by a mind that has mastered its environment, its eyes behold hypnotic qualities that mesmerise the onlooker. It behooves us and it flatters us. It is a source of amusement but yet we are its devoted slaves. This strange creature we call the cat.

Black Cat

Black Cat

The domestic house cat is one of the most common of all animals. However, paradoxically, it is also one of the most mysterious creatures to grace the Earth.

Cats (Felis catus) are members of the felid family. A complicated cocktail of poise, skillful hunting and an indescribable quality that flummoxes most commentators, the cat is a divisive but compulsive subject.

Royal Domestication

It is widely believed that the first cats were tamed by the Egyptians around 5,000 years ago. However, more recently, evidence uncovered suggests that it was the Cypriots rather than the Egyptians that were the first to domesticate the cat. What is known is that all contemporary domesticated cats can be traced back to the African Wildcat (Felis lybica).

Cat Photo By Cindy McCravey

Cat Photo By Cindy McCravey

Grain was a staple diet in Egypt. Large amounts of it were harvested and stored in huge grain storage rooms or silos. However, rats were also attracted to the grain silos. As a consequence, large numbers of cats were attracted to these silos because of the presence of the rats.

It is believed that people began to notice that the rodents were been killed by the cats. As a result, the Egyptians started offering food to the cats in the hope that they would stay around and kill more rats.

From Pharaoh To The Populace

Soon the higher echelons of Egyptian society began to take note. As the Pharaoh also possessed vast stores of grain, it was in his interest to maintain a healthy relationship between people and cats. The Pharaoh declared the cat a demigod to serve his own agricultural interests.

It is thought that if the Pharaoh overtly claimed the cat for his own purposes by claiming exclusive ownership. Some believe there would have been revolt if this action had not been taken.

Representation Of Cat God Bast Photo By Einsamer Schutze Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Representation Of Cat God Bast Photo By Einsamer Schutze Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

However, declaring the cat to be a half-god ensured that it would thrive as a species. It also allowed Egyptians to interact with them while remaining property of the Pharaoh. Killing a cat was punishable by death. Cats even had their own goddess, Bast.

Domesticated cats spread across to other parts of the world. This was mainly because sailors brought them aboard ships as they set out on voyages to far-distant lands.

Supercilious Puritanism And Cat Culls

While the cat was worshiped and idolised during the reign of the Pharaoh, the spread of Christianity saw this became ill-founded hate. No where was this epitomised more than by puritanism. Puritanical religion concerned itself with following out the ascetic traditions of the dominant religions.

The body was a blunt instrument that must be kept clean and sharp from impure thoughts. To keep the mind free from blight, all sources of contaminants were to be avoided at all costs, including the harmless cat.

American Gothic Depiction Of Puritanism By Grant Wood

American Gothic Depiction Of Puritanism By Grant Wood

The Christian Church and its followers claimed the cat to be the manifestation of the devil. Coming into contact with cats meant that one was at risk of being corrupted by evil sources. Puritanism was built upon great denial. The denial of rationalism and science and the denial of nature, both animal and human.

Concentrating on external ‘evils’ allowed the mind to become distracted. This avoided confrontation with our true natures. It also prevented people from questioning their actions. Being emotionally caught up in mass activities such as cat culls helped to numb self-doubt and provide just cause.

Cats bore the brunt of these neuroses and were hunted, tortured and in some cases roasted alive. The cat population went into a rapid decline.

Inevitably, humans paid the price for their superstitious and flagrantly malevolent folly. The Bubonic Plague or ‘Black Death’ has been attributed to an increase in the rat population at the time. This increase was caused because there were not enough cats to reduce the rodent populations which had gotten out of hand.

Uniquely Furry Animals

Cats actually have two layers of fur. The innermost layer provides insulation whilst the outer layer gives the cat’s coat its colour. Many are surprised by the small spaces that cats can squeeze into. However, a cats actual body is quite small in comparison to what is on display. What you mostly see is just their very thick fur coat.

Tabby Cat Photo By Agne27

Tabby Cat Photo By Agne27

Disinfected Tongue

Another interesting fact about cats is their saliva. Cat’s saliva contains a natural disinfectant and deodourant. Contrary to popular belief, it is actually a protein in cat’s saliva, and not fur, which causes an allergic reaction in some people.

Cat owners should never give their pets milk. Apart from it being unnatural, milk gives cats diarrhoea as many cats are lactose intolerant. It is also believed that central heating causes some cats to moult constantly. This in of itself is not bad. However, they swallow their fur whilst moulting and this in turn reduces the efficiency of digestion.

Cat Tongue Photo By Jennifer Leigh

Cat Tongue Photo By Jennifer Leigh

Cat Personality

Cats are highly intelligent animals as most cat owners will attest to. They possess excellent communication skills and have been known to use tools under scientific observation. What is also interesting is that cats display a wider range of personalities than other animasl apart from humans.

Mind Altering Parasite

Cats are host to a parasite called Toxoplamosis gondii. Although the parasite is primarily found in cats, it affects all warm-blooded animals. The parasite is transferred by ingesting or imbibing infected cat faeces.

Toxoplasmosis gondii causes quite a serious disease called Toxoplasmosis. Besides physical changes in humans such as lymph swelling, toxoplasmosis causes behavioural changes. Some of the more serious conditions include slower reactions. Men have a tendency to become indifferent and less conscientious about their appearance and everyday habits including work practice. Toxoplasmosis is also linked with jealousy in men.

However, strangely it appears to affect both sexes differently. Women who suffer from the condition are more likely to be sexually permissive. They also display greater levels of conscientiousness than women who are disease-free. Toxoplasma gondii is also believed to be a contributory factor in the onset of schizophrenia.

Toxoplasmosis Gondii In A Lymph Gland Photo by Nephron Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Toxoplasmosis Gondii In A Lymph Gland Photo by Nephron Creative Commons ShareAlike LicenceToxoplasmosis Gondii

It is estimated that somewhere between 25% to 40% of all domestic cats have Taxoplasma gondii antibodies present. This means that they have at some stage come into contact with the parasite.

However, cat owners can easily prevent their pets from becoming infected by keeping them indoors. Wearing gloves whilst handling ‘kitty litter’ also prevents the transmission of the parasite.

Purveyors Of Mystery

For many, the cat is the ultimate paradigm of efficiency. Of all the animals known to man, surely only one can claim to have human servants? Most cat owners have simply no idea what their pets get up to when they are not around. Unbeknownst to most owners is the fact that cats are serial beggars of both food and attention. In fact, they spend much of their time scampering around begging other people for food.

They are probably still as mysterious to us today as they were to the ancient Egyptians. Perhaps cats are far cleverer than even they themselves imagine. How many animals have devoted human owners who write titles such as ‘Secrets to Keeping A Cat Happy’?

Vital Statistics

  • Cats generally average up to 30 cm (1 foot) in height and 50 cm (20 inches) in body length.
  • They can weigh as little as 1.8 kg (3 lbs) right up to 11 kg (23 lbs). One obese cat appears in the Guinness Book of Records with a weight of 21 kg (45 lbs).
  • Cats can live as long as 25 years.
  • Cats are found world-wide with the exception of the Polar Regions. Basically, where ever a human resides, a cat is sure to be not far away.

Further Reading

For everything you need to know about choosing and caring for your cat watch – CATS: Choosing, Caring and Training.


For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access CATS: Choosing, Caring and Training here.

For those who live in Canada, you can obtain CATS: Choosing, Caring and Training from here.

For Germany: CATS: Choosing, Caring and Training.

For France: Les Chats: 1001 Photos is an exquisite book documenting Cats in photographs.

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