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In Praise Of Our Farm Cats

Whenever Old Macdonald asks visitors to his farm for their favourite farmyard friends, we always find that it is our collection of farm cats who come top of the poll, much to the dismay of the Meerkats and the Otters, as well as the rest. So we thought we would tell you a little bit about cats to keep them happy! After all they are as much part of the farm as the goats, sheep, Llamas and even Old Mac himself. So do read on!

The domestic house cat is a small carnivorous mammal. Its most immediate ancestor is believed to be the African wild cat. The cat has been living in close association with humans for around 9000 years, and were first tamed in North Africa. Of course the ancient Egyptians loved them so much that they worshipped them! The cat goddess Bast became the deity representing protection, fertility and motherhood.

As a revered animal and one important to Egyptian society and religion, some cats received the same mummification after death as humans. Mummified cats were given in offering to Bast and in 1888, an Egyptian farmer uncovered a large tomb with mummified cats and kittens. This discovery outside the town of Beni Hasan had eighty thousand cat mummies, dating to 1000-2000 BC. That is a lot of cats!

Cats spread to other parts of the world by ship. The crew members would always keep extra cats aboard the ship to kill any mice that might be aboard. Cats spread quickly, and soon were part of many religious beliefs and dieties. One such goddess, Freya, a Norse goddess during the middle ages, had the head of a cat and the body of a woman. They were loved in many parts of the world, and in China were particularly adored by the Song Dynasty which was over 1000 years ago. They particularly liked long haired cats so some of ours would have got on very well there!

The inclusion of cats with religious gods became the cat’s downfall. When Christianity spread, it condemned false gods, and cats were viewed as a manifestation of the devil. This led to 100 years of pure torture to the cat. Many were killed, tormented, burned at a stake, or else roasted alive. Consequently, the cat population declined tremendously, and cats became scarce.Just goes to show how ignorance about animals can be so harmful and stupid, which is why you visit us to learn more!

They certainly had problems in the Middle Ages in Europe where they were often associated with witchcraft and during festivities were sometimes burnt alive or thrown off tall buildings. We do not tell ours about this! However a medieval King of Wales,  Hywel Dda (the Good) passed legislation making it illegal to kill or harm a cat. They like him here!

The Muslim religion also has a special place for cats. The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) had a pet cat, Muezza, and the most famous story about Muezza recounts how the call to prayer was given, and as Muhammad went to put on one of his robes, he found his cat sleeping on one of the sleeves. Instead of disturbing the cat he cut off the sleeve and let him sleep. When Muhammad returned, Muezza awoke and bowed down to him, and in return, Muhammad stroked him three times. This is said to be why tabby cats have an “M” on their foreheads.

Cats were seen as good luck charms by actors, and the cats often helped cure the actors’ stage fright. Not quite sure how, but it is a nice story. Actors are a strange lot though! Also, of course, cats feature in many famous plays and stories such as Puss in Boots and Dick Whittington!

So you see, our cats carry on a tradition that has seen them worshipped, burnt, loved and protected in Wales. So no need to worship ours, but if they are in the mood give them a quick rub….they will love it!

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