puss n' boots

"Of all God's creatures there is only one that cannot be made the slave of the lash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but would deteriorate the cat." Mark Twain

The relationship between cats and people goes back some 5,00 years. While recent archeological evidence has raised doubts as to whether Egypt was the location of the first domestication of the wild cat it is relatively undisputed that the Ancient Egyptians were the first to embrace the cat on a society wide level.

It is generally believed that this relationship evovled from the mutual benefits that each participant received. The Egyptians being farmers needed to protect their crops and grain stores from rats, mice and other vermin while the cats found a ready food supply in these same vermin attracted by the Egyptian crops. That the cats also killed the poisonous snakes that afflicted the Egyptians was an added bonus. From a human perspective this makes perfect sense, the proverbial win-win scenario. The Egyptians had their lives and crops protected and merely needed to refrain from driving away the goose that laid the golden egg but whether or not an easy meal was reason enough for the wild cats to relinquish part of their autonomy we'll never know, the cats aren't talking. At any rate the bargain was struck and the rest, as they say, is history.

A lot can happen in 5,000 years and the Cat Museum of San Francisco is dedicated to examining this history.

As if to prove that the more things change the more they remain the same the BBC reports British Prime Minister David Cameron in Februrary of 2011 welcomed into his home at 10 Downing Street a four year old cat, Larry, to deal with the houses "rat problem". A Downing Street spokesman said the former stray was a "good ratter" and added the animal has "a high chase-drive and hunting instinct" developed during his time on the streets. He is the latest in a long line of Downing Street cats, known unofficially as Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office.

While it's apparent from the above story that the cat is still treasured for it's original function it wasn't long before the cat began to be recognized for it's other attributes.

egyptian cat

The Egyptians eventually associated the cat with the Goddess Bastet with the image of the Goddess taking the form of a cat or a woman with the head of a cat. The cat itself became the living representative of the "Cat Goddess" within the Egyptian home, so much so that killing a cat was punishable by death. The cats nocturnal habits, reproductive abilities, protective/nuturing instincts and hunting skills all attached themselves to the Egyptian and later Greek and Roman Goddesses.

The Norse Goddess Freya was thought to have found cats useful for pulling her chariot, much the way Santa is believed to use reindeer to guide his sleigh.

Jellico cat

T.S. Elliot explored the poetic side of felines in his book " Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats". In one of the books poems "Song of the Jellicles" Elliot depicts cats resting by day engaged in an active nightlife at a "Jellicle Ball".

Andrew Lloyd Webber later turned the Elliot poems into the long running Broadway Musical Theater hit "Cats".

Whether in myth, legend or the arts; as friend, foe or farm animal; we hope you will join us in examining the world of people and cats.