Thursday, April 14, 2011

Cultural depictions of cats

The cultural depiction of cats and their relationship to humans is as old as civilization and stretches back over 9,500 years. Cats have figured in the history of many nations, are the subject of legend and are a favorite subject of artists and writers. Black cats have been associated with death and darkness.

Earliest history

Cats were originally domesticated because they hunted mice who would eat stored grains. Cats protected the food stores by keeping the mice at bay. It was a beneficial situation for both species: cats got a reliable source of prey, and humans got effortless pest control. This mutually beneficial arrangement began the relationship between cats and humans which continues to this day. While the exact history of human interaction with cats is still somewhat vague, a shallow grave site discovered in 1983 in Cyprus, dating to 7500 BCE, during the Neolithic period, contains the skeleton of a human, buried ceremonially with stone tools, a lump of iron oxide, and a handful of seashells. In its own tiny grave 40 centimeters (18 inches) from the human grave was an eight-month-old cat, its body oriented in the same westward direction as the human skeleton. Cats are not native to Cyprus; they must have been brought over by boat. This is evidence that cats were being tamed just as humankind was establishing the first settlements in the part of the Middle East known as the Fertile Crescent.

Ancient Egypt

Classical folklore
The Greek essayist Plutarch linked cats with cleanliness, noting that unnatural odours could make them mad. Pliny linked them with lust, and Aesop with deviousness and cunning.
Middle Ages
Since many equated the Black Death with God's wrath against sin, and that cats were often considered in league with the Devil thanks to their aloof and independent nature, cats were killed in masses. Had this bias toward cats not existed, local rodent populations could have been kept down, lessening the spread of plague-infected fleas from host to host.
In the Renaissance, cats were often thought to be witchesfamiliars (for example, Greymalkin, the first witch's familiar in Macbeth's famous opening scene), and during festivities were sometimes burnt alive or thrown off tall buildings.

Folklore dating back to as early as 1607 tells that a cat will suffocate a newborn infant by putting its nose to the child's mouth, sucking the breath out of the infant.
Black cats are generally held to be unlucky in the United States and Europe.
In Japan, there is the Maneki Neko, also referred to in English as the "good fortune" or "good luck" cat. It is usually a sitting cat with paw raised and bent.e, and to portend good luck in the United Kingdom.
Cats have been considered good luck in Russia for centuries. Owning a cat, and especially letting one into a new house before the humans move in, is said to bring good fortune.
West Africa
Cats are a delicacy of the Ewe people who believe that eating cat meat, particularly the head, brings good luck to the eater and would prevent them from dying in a foreign land. In Ghana, cats are often associated with witchcraft and evil. Thus, seeing a black cat in one's dream is seen as a bad omen.
There are many cat breeds throughout the world, with each cat breed having differing temperament and characteristics. Below is a list of just some of the different cat breeds.
Abyssinian Cat
American Bobtail Cat
American Curl Cat
American Shorthair Cat
American Wirehair Cat
Asian Cat
Australian Mist Cat
Balinese Cat
Bengal Cat
Birman Cat
Bombay Cat
British Shorthair Cat
Burmese Cat
Burmilla Cat                            
Chartreux Cat
Colorpoint Shorthair Cat
Cornish Rex Cat
Cymric Cat
Devon Rex Cat
Egyptian Mau Cat
European Burmese Cat
Exotic Cat
Havana Brown Cat
Himalayan Cat                            
Japanese Bobtail Cat
Javanese Cat
Korat Cat
LaPerm Cat
Maine Coon Cat
Manx Cat
Munchkin Cat
Norwegian Forest Cat
Ocicat Cat
Oriental Cat
Persian Cat
Pixie Bob Cat
RagaMuffin Cat
Ragdoll Cat
Russian Blue Cat
Savannah Cat
Scottish Fold Cat
Selkirk Rex Cat
Serengeti Cat
Siamese Cat
Siberian Cat
Singapura Cat
Snowshoe Cat
Somali Cat
Sphynx Cat
Tiffanie Cat
Tonkinese Cat
Toyger Cat
Turkish Angora Cat
Turkish Vankedisi Cat

No comments:

Post a Comment