Tag Archives: History

The Cat’s Meow (Legends & Music)

I’m sharing a sunbeam with my 3 dogs and 2 cats. They all get along and look out for each other and there seems to be a mutual understanding on who is leader of the pack. The cats get fed first and I believe that although they are fond of the dogs, I think they feel sorry for them.  They study them with a look that only can be described as both bewilderment and pity.  I think that stems from the knowledge that their canine housemates aren’t as ‘enlightened’ as they are.

IMG_0102Mr. Biggles

It seems every time I open Facebook, I see at least 10 new postings about cats and their cuteness or cleverness, or misbehaviour.  These postings have ‘Shares’ in the 1000’s and the count escalates in front of my eyes with the addition of new ‘Likes’.  Love them or hate them, there is no sitting on the fence.  That’s the cat’s place!  In the pre Facebook era (for anyone under twenty it is hard to imagine that prehistoric time), cats inspired many a composer and painter.

Leroy Anderson – The Waltzing Cat


A few people I know despise cats, mainly because of the shameless destruction they have on the bird population.  I also have a few friends that will confess that the sun rises and sets on the pleasure they have from sharing their cat’s antics. I don’t know of any other animal that elicits such extremes of emotion from very sane people.

Henry III of France was known to be a brave leader.  He was afraid of nothing, or almost nothing, but if the creature of fur, claws and wise eyes strolled toward him, King Henry would faint dead away.  King Henry III of France

Legend has it that the wild cat was domesticated by the Egyptians and called Mau.  It was admired for its ferocity and agility.  The cat became sacred to the goddess Bast or Baset on the Eastern Delta of the Nile.  Mau’s place in the universe was nothing short of deity.  He was worshipped in the home and adored with jewelry.  The male cat represented the Sun, and the female cat, the moon.  Anyone who killed a cat was themselves put to death.  Diodorus, a 1st century B.C. Greek historian told of a Roman who killed a cat in Egypt.  “This foolish man was slain in his own house by an infuriated mob.”

When the family cat died,  the grief-stricken family would shave off their eyebrows as a symbol of mourning.

The Lamentation of Isis

 There is a curious cat legend about Noah and his ark.  As I church musician I am well acquainted with the story of Noah boarding two of every creature into his ark. noahsarkkc8 I never heard the take that he welcomed every animal but the domestic cat which apparently God hadn’t got around to creating just yet.  As the rain fell pesky rodents had nothing better to do with their time and quickly became 4, and 8, and so on…an ark full of mice what was Noah to do?  He asked the lion for advice and as the lion thought about the matter he had a mighty sneeze and out popped the very first pair of male and female cats. Problem solved.

Japanese sailors brought cats on board their ship to keep the mice under control.  It was considered good luck to have a calico cat.meneki_neko_japanese_bobtail_calico_cat_mousepad-p144694427247276825envq7_400  If you see these a porcelain cats with a raised paw, flip it over to see if it is made in Japan.  Buy it if you believe in good luck!









Alan Hovhaness – Sonata ‘To Hiroshige’s cat” op. 366 (I)

Not all is innocence, sweetness and light with cats and their past.  In the Middle Ages cats were closely associated with witchcraft.  It was believed that the cat possessed occult powers – especially the power to hypnotize.    Inquisitor Nicholas Remy declared that all cats were demons.  ‘At certain festivals such as Midsummer, Shrove Tuesday and Easter, it was customary to burn cats in wicker cages.  “The cat, which represented the devil, could never suffer enough.” 

Fortune, The First Witches Dance

The myth that a cat has nine lives might have stemmed from the medieval belief that a witch could assume a cat’s shape nine times in her life.  At Isabel Gowdie’s witch trial in Scotland in 1662 she is said to have confessed:  “When we go into the likeness of a cat, we say thrice over – With sorrow and a sigh and a black shot.  I shall go into the devil’s name Ay, while I come home again.”

John Williams conducts Devil’s Dance

In 1590, the warlock John Fian and members of his coven were accused of trying to raise a storm for the purpose of drowning King James VI of Scotland (who later became King James I of England) while sailing from Denmark.  How did they raise the storm?  – by tossing cats into the sea.

LEONARD BERNSTEIN – Britten – Sea Interludes – Storm

I have had a number of cats throughout my life, both male and female and they have very different personalities.  The male cat, even has his own nickname – Tom.  Tom’s big night on the town must have provided Scarlatti his inspiration for this Fuga del Gatto.  This is one very cool cat strutting over his territory.

Domenico Scarlatti Sonata K 30 Cat’s Fugue Scott Ross Harpsichord

I bet you have been awakened by cats serenading their songs of love into the wee hours.   I am not sure if Rossini was writing about his cats in his ‘Duetto buffo” or if he was imagining a couple of female diva singers duking it out for top billing in one of his operas.  Maybe it was the first use of the term cat fight?


Gioacchino Rossini: The Cats Duet
Hannah Holgersson & Agnes Vojtko with the Cairo Opera Orchestra, conducted by Nader Abbassi on the 11th May 2007.

There are some very famous cats, Sylvester of Bugs Bunny fame, Morris, Garfield, Orangey of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ but the most famous cats of all are those of T.S. Elliot, given voice by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Memory from Cats – Andrew Lloyd Webber

When a cat allows me to enjoy their presence, I feel special.  They are very particular in the company they keep.   I dedicate this blog to Chris, Nicky, BJ, Bug, Carly, Zip, Charlotte, Daisy, Söze, Charles, Sarah, Jasmine and Mr. Biggles.