Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Origins of the Cat

The first recorded mention of domesticated cats dates back two centuries before the birth of Christ to ancient Egypt. Indeed, it is from the cat goddess Bastet or Pasht, worshipped by Egyptians that it’s thought our word ‘puss’ derives. An alternative derivation of the name could be from the Latin, pusus – meaning little boy (or pusa, little girl)

Whilst is logical that savannah or desert wild cats first became associated with ancient civilisation because of mice in their grain stores, leading to the evolution of modern domestic cats – fable and folk tale offer other explanations for their creation. For you interest here are three of those stories:
Standing statue representing the Egyptian
goddess, Bastet.
Noah and the Ark
Trivia fact: cats are not mentioned in the bible.

An old Arabian legend does however connect the cat’s creation with the ark. The folk tale reports that the pair of mice taken on board multiplied to plague proportions. With no cat on board and conditions growing intolerable, Noah passed his hand three times over the lioness’s head and she sneezed out a cat.

Monkey and the Lioness
Another story about the origins of the cat also involves the ark but also a monkey and a lioness. In this tale the monkey sweet talks the lioness into forgetting her vows of fidelity to her husband, the lion. The result of this transgression of the laws of nature, is the birth of a cat.

Noni, (one of my cats) and her kittens.
Sun and Moon
Another story, recounted in 1664 by Pierre Palliot, writes of the involvement of the planets in the making of cats.
At the moment the world came into existence, the Sun and the Moon competed with each other to create animals. The Sun gave birth to the lion – showy, magnificent and fiery. When the moon saw the admiration of the other planets for the lion, she caused the cat to come forth – cool, elusive and mysterious. However, the Sun, jealous of the Moon’s achievement, belittled the Moon who tried to out-do herself by creating the Monkey. This was met with howls of derision from the stars. In a fit of pique, the Moon avenged herself by swearing an undying enmity between the Cat and the Mouse.
The Norse goddess, Freya.
Her chariot was pulled by cats.
And finally: Legends from Egyptian and Norse civilisations link cats with the sun and moon. The Norse goddess Freya rides in a chariot pulled by cats. The Egyptian goddess Pasht represented light, the sun and moon, indeed the Egyptian word ‘mau’ signifies both light and cat.

“The cat laps moonbeams in the bowl of water, thinking them to be milk” A Hindu poem.



  1. I really enjoyed this. Three tales I've never heard.

  2. Thank you for visiting, Chisem. Don't you just love trivia?
    G x


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