There’s a lot of superstition that still surrounds cats. There is no denying these lovable pets are sometimes misunderstood. And black cats are still perceived as being unlucky.
Here’s 5 fast “cat” facts that may surprise you.
Cats come from the Middle East.
The first records of cats come from ancient Egypt and Cyprus.And 4000 years ago, they were domesticated as pets and as hunting animals. Modern cat breeds seem to have evolved from the Middle East.
The Egyptians trained cats to hunt local birds and pull fish out of the Nile. They were family pets. And they did a good job of keeping their owners homes free of rodents.
2. In Ancient Egypt cats were sacred animals.
At some point Ancient Egyptians started to raise the cat up to “god” status. They even had a cat goddess. Domesticated cats were also worshipped. And the belief was that they were sacred animals,a physical manifestation Bast, the feline goddess.
Cats were often entombed with their owners after death. Their mummies were found in the pyramids of Egypt.
Cat-worship was also prevalent in Celtic culture. And they believed cats were good luck.
The Norse considered cats to be guardians of the gates of the Netherworld. Felines were believed to be the link between us and the spiritual universe.
3. Many cats were murdered during the Crusades.
Many of the superstitions about cats being “bad luck” started in the Middle Ages, in Europe.
Because cats multiplied quickly they were overrunning towns and villages. There were more feral cats than domesticated cats.
During the Middle Ages, superstitions were growing across the Continent. A fear of witchcraft and evil was prevalent. During this time cats began to be feared. Especially black cats, were associated with witches and shape-shifting.
Sadly many poor, lonely and sometimes elderly women were accused of being witches. These were the women that were taking in and feeding the wild cats.When witch hysteria swept through Europe, the cats and their owners were often accused and killed.
During the Crusades, the Christian Church was sensitive to the history of cat worship from the Middle East. For hundreds of years they were purged. Millions of cats were hunted and killed sometimes by themselves and sometimes with the humans who befriended them.
4. Cats could have saved millions of people from the plague.
By the end of the Crusades the cat population was greatly reduced. Cats had once hunted and killed rodents and rats. When the cat all but disappeared, diseased rats ran unchecked through the cities and villages.
It was the rats that spread the Bubonic Plague. Over 55 percent of Europe’s population ( 25 million people) died of the Black Death.
The great irony is cats would most likely have killed the rodents, who carried the plague. But there were few cats left after being purged in the Crusades.
The idea a cat has many lives comes from the ancient Greeks. An English proverb claims that “A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, and for the last three he stays”.
The number nine is the triple trinity from the Greek. It is said to be a mystical number.