No other creature has been so beloved and so reviled at the same time throughout history as has the cat. Likely these strong responses have to do with their marvelous physical prowess, uncanny sensory ability, mysterious nature, and loving natures. These feline traits and abilities left our ancestors in awe of the cat.
People of the past sought answers to their questions about the cat and often devised delightful, eloquent myths to explain the inexplicable. Some of the most entertaining stories focus on how the cat came into being.
Noah and The Kitten (Religion cat legends)
Cat legends from Hebrew folklore declare cats weren’t around before the Great Flood. Noah had quite a time rounding up all the critters and loading them onto the Ark. Not only did he have to convince pairs of reluctant animals to become part of a floating zoo, but he also had to ensure their safety from each other. After all, the lions were not only a danger to the gazelle, hare, and other prey creatures but also to their human caretakers. What would become of them, thought Noah, if the lions became hungry for a midnight snack and gobbled up their housemates?
So Noah took his concerns to heaven and begged for an answer to this terrible dilemma. God answered Noah’s prayers, and all the creatures on the Ark rejoiced as the two lions fell into a deep, deep slumber. Seeing this, the other animals felt safe and gladly climbed aboard the Ark in answer to Noah’s request. In fact, a pair of rats heard about the big to-do and sneaked on the boat without an invitation.
The rains fell, the thunder boomed, the wind lashed for days and nights on end, leaving the people and animals frightened and sick. Once the sun returned to the sky, and sea-sickness subsided, their appetites returned, and Noah took stock of provisions. He discovered the stow-away rats (immune to sea-sickness, it seemed) had not only found the grain, but they’d also been particularly fruitful and had multiplied beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.
Noah again sought heaven’s help, for he knew the voracious rats represented as big a danger as had the lion’s appetite. Once more, God answered his prayers. And lo and behold, the lion, in the midst of his slumbers, produced a gigantic sneeze.
And out of the sneeze sprang a pretty little kitten, with a lion-sized appetite for rodents—and a love for people as big as the Creator’s heart.
You can find these 11 Fun Feline Facts – Explained – useful.
St. Peter and the Cat
Medieval cat legends offer another version of the cat creation story—and it reflects the opinion of felines during this age when for the most part Kitty was reviled as an evil being.
The cat legends go that the Devil was beside himself with jealousy when he saw that God had created men and women. What wondrous creatures they were! But, being nothing if not a true egotist, the Devil just knew he could out-do the Creator.
And so, in an effort to mimic God and create humans, the Devil used his own special brand of creationism. But far from an exalted being, he created a sad-looking, pitiful creature that had no skin.
It was the first cat.
Rather than feeling proud of his creation, the Devil turned his back on the cat in disgust But St. Peter saw the pathetic kitty and heard her crying with despair and shame. And he took pity on her and gave the cat her only priceless possession, a glorious fur coat. That is why, to this day, the Cat takes such vain care of her wondrous coat and washes herself to honor St. Peter and his kindness.
The Contest of Sun and Moon
An ancient fable explains that Sun and Moon challenged each other to a contest to see who could create the finest animal of all. Sun rolled up his fiery sleeves, concentration furrowed his glorious brow, and out of nothingness, he brought forth a lion. The lion strode about the room, proud and powerful, and roared his approval. Impressed, the other gods congratulated Sun and complimented him on such a fine creation.
Moon was filled with jealousy. She gathered up shimmering moonbeams that trailed from her fingertips and fashioned a delicate, yet muscular and sprightly cat. The playful cat scampered about, and even her loving eyes reflected the waxing and waning of her Mother-Moon.
But the other gods mocked the cat. “You’ve given us an imitation lion!” they cried and called Moon a copycat. Sun created a mouse as a sign of his contempt.
Desperate to create something original, Moon tried again—and this time, from the shadow that colored the other side of her brightness, she fashioned a cunning monkey. But the monkey’s silly antics only made matters worse, and the other gods laughed and laughed until Moon’s face turned red with humiliation.
Furious over the mockery, Moon caused an eternal fight to spring between the creatures that had been created. And to this day, the lion despises the monkey, and the cat wages war on the mouse.
Cats and the Weather (Cat Legends)
Our ancestors have been charmed, awed, and even frightened by the incredible predictive ability displayed by cats. Today we know that the feline senses are able to detect the most subtle changes in the world around them. Consequently, cats learn what these changes mean to them, and react accordingly.
For instance, the atmosphere charged with static electricity that heralds a thunderstorm likely feels pretty uncomfortable to the cat when her fur builds up a charge. Her whiskers and fur, each individual hair planted beneath the skin nearby sensitive nerve endings, alert her to wind changes and even subtle shifts in barometric pressure. Scent sense—just the smell of moisture on the breeze—easily alerts the cat to impending rain. To the cat, these clues are more meaningful and accurate than the nightly television weather report.
Of course, ancient people only saw the cat’s reaction and believed she employed magic to predict–or even incite–weather changes. Cats got credit and blame at the same time for a host of natural events especially for storms at sea. In fact, the light breeze that ripples the water during a calm as a prelude to a squall is still called a cat’s-paw. In some countries, bathing a cat was an idea to prompt rain.
In Scotland, cats were evicted from houses during thunderstorms because they were thought to be living lightning-rods. One legend says lightening was designed by angels to rid cats of the evil that infests them during storms. Both Scottish and Japanese folklore credit tortoiseshell cats with the ability to predict storms. Kitty scratching a table leg “raises wind” in Scotland, while a Japanese cat who washes behind her ears foretells rain. A playing cat was thought to actually cause a gale.
Nine Lives for cat Legends
Throughout history, cats have been associated with the religious beliefs of various cultures. The legend that cats enjoy nine lives springs from this association, and the reference and awe ancient peoples had for the power of numbers.
The number nine—a trinity of trinities—has always been considered lucky and mystical. Multiply nine by any other number and the digits in the resulting answer are always divisible by nine—now that’s powerful magic!
For instance, in ancient Egypt, cats were considered the physical incarnation of the goddess Bast or Pasht (also called Sekmet). Pasht was the female aspect of the god-trinity of that time. The Egyptian pantheon had three companies of nine gods each, and because of their protecting love for the cat, this may have given rise to the thought she had nine lives. A Viking goddess of love and beauty, called Freya, rode in a glorious chariot drawn by loving cats and reigned over the “nine worlds,” and it took nine nights’ ride to reach the sacred river, according to Norse legend.
The cat’s nine lives are even associated with early Christianity. According to a fascinating book, The Cat in Religion and Magic, by M. Oldfield Howey, the ninth hour was the hour of Christ’s death. Described as the Sun of Righteousness, in early Christian symbolism like Egyptian prototypes Osiris and Horus, Christ was represented by the sacred Cat to emphasize he was the new-born, rising Sun, the light of the world. The cat’s ability to be “reborn” in each of nine lives had a strong correlation to a holy Trinity, rising from the dead, and being reborn.
But likely the cat’s incredible physical prowess cemented the cat’s reputation for living beyond one lifespan. People noticed how cats seemed impervious to disasters that typically injured or killed other creatures—like falling from a great height yet landing safely on her feet.
Marks of Favor
Many charming stories try to explain various physical attributes of the cat, especially colors and markings. For instance, tri-colored cats (often called calico) are considered by many cultures to be lucky, probably again due to the mysticism attached to number three. Others have to do with physical differences—extra toes referred to scientifically as a polydactyl cat, are said to be lucky. Other cats are marked forevermore by some spiritual or cataclysmic encounter.
Tail Tales a cat legends
With few exceptions, cats have expressive, lithe tails. Those few exceptions, though, beg an explanation. For instance, the tailless Manx cat originated on the Isle of Man and is said to have lost her tail when Noah shut the door too soon and cut it off. Another version explains that Manx cats became tailless due to an altercation with Samson, who often swam in the Irish Sea. He tangled with a swimming cat one day, and was nearly drowned and only saved himself by chopping off her tail. Ever since the Manx has been tailless.
There’s even a story to explain why Siamese cats have kinked tails—well, they used to, anyway, until reputable breeders set out to eliminate the trait. Anyway, the story goes that one lovely Siamese kitty was entrusted with a jeweled ring, which she slipped over the end of her tail for safe-keeping, and ended up with a permanent kink. Yet another explanation says many many years ago, a Siamese cat tied a knot in her tail to help her remember something…but she forgot it anyway.
Many cultures around the world have considered cats to be beloved of the gods of the day, and they held a special place in the hearts of their prophets and seers. The best cat legends are this story told of Mohammed notes that his favorite feline, Muezza, fell asleep on his sleeve while he prayed. Rather than wake her, the Prophet had such regard for her comfort that he cut off the sleeve rather than disturb her nap.
The Siamese cats are one of the oldest established breeds, and as such, enjoy a number of lovely cat legends. Oftentimes it was believed that spirits of the dead were enshrined inside the living bodies of sacred cats, like the Siamese. There are also references made to a holy “Temple Mark” said to distinguish the True Temple Cats of Siam. Two distinct markings on the back of these cats are said to be the shadowy hand-print of a holy being who once picked up the cat, and forever left the mark on all Temple Cat descendants.
Sacred Cat of Burma (Cat Legends)
Cat legends describes how the Birman cat came by her distinctive looks. Mun-Ha, a venerable kittah (priest), lived in the Temple of Lao-Tsun. The priest spent his days contemplating the golden goddess with sapphire eyes, Tsun-Kyankse, the deity who held sway over the transmutation of souls about to be reborn into new living creatures. Mun-Ha had an oracle that dictated his decisions—his golden-eyed white cat Sinh, whom all the other kittahs revered. Sinh was one of 100 white temple cats kept by the kittahs.
A night came when enemies from Thailand swarmed near the sacred Temple, and broken-hearted, Mun-Ha died in the presence of his goddess with his divine cat nearby. Suddenly, the miracle of immediate transmutation took place, as Sinh bounded onto his dead master and faced the goddess-figure.
The hair along Sinh’s back turned golden, and his yellow eyes became sapphire-blue like the eyes of the goddess. His four feet and ears turned earth-brown, but where they contacted the priest’s venerable head, they whitened to the claws, to the toe-tips, purified by the touch of the holy man.
The transformed Sinh gazed at the other priests with a silent order, and the kittehs obeyed and successfully defended the Temple from the invaders. Thereafter, Sinh refused all food, and maintained his vigil of the goddess—and seven days later, without lowering an eyelash, he died and bore away the soul of Mun-Ha into the goddess’ care, which was too perfect for the earth.
The priests assembled before the goddess Tsun-Kyankse to choose a successor. And wonder of wonders, there came a slow procession of the 100 white cats of the Temple. Their feet were gloved in white; their snowy hair reflected shots of gold, and the topazes of their eyes shone sapphire-blue.
All fell prostrate with fear before the cats, for the priests knew they bore the souls of their holy ancestors. The cats solemnly surrounded Legoa, the most youthful of the priests, and so revealed heaven’s will that he be Mun-Ha’s successor.
And from that day forward, all true Birman cats are marked by the presence of the goddess with blue eyes, golden fur, earth-brown feet with white toes, and are known as the Sacred Cat of Burma.