When I lived in Beirut in the 1930’s, I used to feed a stray cat who hung around outside our house. I would lower a container of leftovers to him from a kitchen window.
People’s relationship with cats goes back to antiquity. Cat images are found on walls of ancient caves as well as in stone carvings. In ancient Egypt and ancient Greece there was a cat goddess named Bastet and killing a cat carried an automatic death sentence. Cats helped control snakes, scorpions and other pests. By saving crops from mice and rats, cats protected humans from starvation and death.
There are many beliefs about cats. They always land on their feet; they have nine lives. I recently learned that the superstition about a black cat crossing your path was because some believed such a cat was actually a witch.
But in Slavic folklore seeing a cat brings good luck because it drives away evil. Cats are considered “clean” in the Islamic world and permitted to live indoors with their owners.
Of course cats don’t consider themselves “owned” and prefer to think that associating with humans was their idea. Cats often think they have a better idea. For example, they won’t tolerate being washed, but very effectively lick themselves clean.
The place where cats lead the best lives is in Istanbul. They roam freely everywhere. It is said that there are 30,000 0f them being taken care of by people but not adopted. They are allowed to keep their independence and live as they please, wherever they prefer. They are protected but not imprisoned.
Writers are often depicted with their pet cats nearby, on chairs, bookshelves, or laptops. In return the cats get to figure in their writings, often as the main character as in T.S Eliot’s Old Possums’ book of Practical Cats featuring Macavity the monster of depravity, the Napoleon of Crime, who is also known as the Hidden Paw and is wide awake even as he is half asleep.
And let us not ignore Puss ‘n’ Boots and Dr.Seuss’s red and white cat who always wears a top hat. The Seuss books were conceived to make it easy for children to learn to read because they are written in verse and are simple to memorize. And finally I mention the mysterious Cheshire cat who lives with Alice in Wonderland and can appear and disappear at will.
I have read that cats only meow to humans because they have better ways to communicate with other felines (rubbing, tail flicking, growling).
Dogs are more devoted and obedient than cats but also more needy.
Famously cats are not amenable to herding.
I say hurray for Felis Catus. (or was that Felix?)
Editor’s note: We are breaking with past practice by providing a cat video below.