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Legends of Cats and Humans

The Legends of Cats and Humans

The history of the relationship between cats and man dates back to over 9,500 years. Cats have become part of the history of many nations and civilizations as well as being a popular subject of legends.

The reason for the interaction of cats with humans has not been concluded but a gravesite discovered in 1983 is Cyprus dating to 7500 BC contains the remains of a human and a young cat. The cat is believed to be domesticated since cats are not native to Cyprus. But the earliest proven records of attempts to domesticate cats date back to 4000 BC in ancient Egypt where they were used to keep vermin away from grain stores to prevent food poisoning. It is important to note that Ancient Egyptians considered cats to be sacred in the context of having the goddess Bast embodied as a cat.

Aside from the Egyptians, Vikings also used cats are vermin catchers and companions. Cats were also regarded as sacred animals due to the strong association of the goddess of love, fertility and war with them.

By the middle ages, cats were then thought to be a witch familiar similar to the cat in Macbeth’s famous opening scene. During festivities, cats were either burnt alive or thrown off tall buildings.

A medieval King of Wales then passed a rule that made it illegal to cause harm to a cat when other cultures considered them evil. The mass killing of cats in the middle ages was actually cited to be one of the reasons for the spread of the bubonic plague due to the increased population of rats since the cats that hunted them significantly decreased in population.

By 1607, European folklore tells that a cat will suffocate an infant by sucking the breath out of the infant. There was a widespread acceptance of the tale explaining that the cat is jealous of the attention the infant gets or that the smell of milk from the infants mouth lures the cat in. However, studies have shown that unless a cat is raised on milk, it will actually prefer water.

The Japanese Maneki Neko, known in English as the cat of good fortune is actually from a legend. It tells that a cat waved at a Japanese landlord that was intrigued and then went towards it. Lightning then struck where the man had previously been standing which made the landlord attribute his good fortune to the cats action. The figure is commonly seen in businesses to draw money in.

In more modern times, there are still beliefs that black cats can bring bad luck while some believe it brings good luck. But the most common withstanding lore is that a cat has nine lives due to its righting ability even after falling from a great height that would otherwise kill any other animal.

Whatever belief withstands, cats have become part of human life and will no doubt continue to be part of it.

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