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How Feline Resilience Conquered the Odds and Broke the InternetBy Shane Addinall Aug 11, 2022Whether you love them, dislike them, or are indifferent toward them, the popularity of cats in pop culture is undeniable. Cat worship originates from ancient times, and it seems like we’ve come full circle.
We can track the human fascination with cats back to ancient times where it sometimes manifested as adoration and, in some cultures, even worship. Our feline friends have an interesting history and although beliefs in the Middle Ages threatened their existence, they thrive in modern society.
Today, our fascination with these exquisite creatures allowed them to appear across pop culture for the last few decades and, most recently, take over the internet. We celebrate international cat day in August and dedicate this blog to all the moggies who ever roamed the earth and those still to come.
Felines in Ancient History
Very few animals have had such an important role in society as cats. Historic records tell of how ancient civilisations either idolised the furry friends or vilified them.
Archaeologists discovered evidence of the Near Eastern Wildcat, presumed the closest relative to the house cat we all know and love in the modern world. The discovery dates the existence of these wild cats back to the people of Mesopotamia approximately 100,000 years ago and scientists believe domesticated cats predate ancient Egypt, to approximately 12,000 BCE.
Although these discoveries prove a much earlier existence of the fond relationship between humans and cats, they recorded most of the known historical facts after this period in history. These tales date back thousands of years and although not all are factually correct, they lay the foundation for man’s fascination with felines.
✓ Cats in Ancient Egypt
Whether or not you love cats, chances are you know of the important position cats held in ancient Egypt. The culture is layered with images of its devotion to cats and one of the major deities from Egypt takes the form of a cat. Bastet, commonly depicted as a woman with a cat head, was the goddess of health and home, the protector of women’s secrets, and the goddess of cats.
The Egyptian’s adoration for cats surpassed their concern for any other living thing, including themselves. Historical documents show that by 450 BCE any person who killed a cat, accidental or not, received the death penalty. When a house cat died, the entire household shaved their eyebrows as a sign of deep mourning and through a sacred ritual, the burial took place at the holy temple of Bubastis.
✓ Feline Folklore from Persia
According to a legend from Persia, cats originate from an act of magic when the Persian hero, Rustum, saved a magician from a band of thieves. The warrior then gave the man shelter for the night and offered him hospitality. Filled with gratitude, the elderly magician offered Rustum a gift of his choice. He thanked the magician but said he needs nothing as he has all his heart desired with the warmth of the fire, the scent of the smoke, and the wonder of the stars above.
The legend tells how the magician captured a handful of smoke and added fire to it, and then he brought down the two brightest stars. After kneading this all together in his hands and blowing on his creation, he revealed to Rustum a smoke-grey kitten with eyes as bright as the stars and a tongue that darted like a flame, the first Persian cat.
✓ Chinese and Japanese Mythology
Another part of the world that idolised cats in ancient times is the far East. In both China and Japan, mythology and superstitions about felines abound. Much like the Egyptian beliefs around Bastet, Chinese folklore shows the goddess Li Shou in cat form. They believed she represented the importance of cats as myths tell how the gods appointed cats to oversee their creation. The tale ends with felines electing humans for the position, as they found it mundane.
The Japanese Beckoning Cat, aka Maneki Neko, represents the goddess of mercy. The legend tells that a cat was sitting outside the temple of Gotoku-Ji and as the emperor walked by, the tabby lifted its paw. This acknowledgement from the cat drew the emperor’s attention, and he entered the temple when only moments later, lightning struck the exact position he moved away from. The cat saved his life and since then became a good luck symbol.
The Source of Many Superstitions
Sadly, powerful beliefs that cats are evil followed the era of worshipping cats. Some religious movements demonised felines as evil beings directly linked to witchcraft and the devil. Thankfully, these misguided ideologies mostly disappeared around the 17th to 18th centuries, but some superstitions remain to this day.
✓ Felines Fall from Grace in Europe
Early European history shows the high-standing cats enjoyed in mythology and religion but the Catholic reign increasingly demonised pagan symbols and pre-existing links between cats and witchcraft were enough to label kitties as evil forces. The negative connotations took a turn for the worst when Pope Gregory IX denounced cats, especially black cats, calling them demons in the league of Satan.
These proclamations caused severe damage to the cat population in Europe which eventually led to a rat and mice infestation. Ironically, this brought on the dreadful disease that caused thousands of people to die. Because of the uninformed society, the link between the plague and the vermin infestation didn’t sink in and some believe that is why until today, people are weary of black cats.
✓ Black Cats: Lucky or Cursed?
Of all the kitty cats, those with lush, solid black fur have the hardest time rebuilding their reputation. As mentioned, this probably stems from their demonising in the medieval era, and yet centuries after learning the truth, some people still hold to the belief. They specifically tied black cats to the Salem Witch Trails and at Halloween people still use them as icons of horror.
According to these ancient superstitions, if a black cat crossed your path, it brought bad luck. Others believe that if the black moggy walks directly toward you, it brings fortune. If it walks away, it is a bad omen. Some also think black cats are the grim reapers and represent death if spotted at a funeral or on someone’s sick bed.
In some parts of the world, people believe these dignified mousers bring good luck. Naturally in Egypt cats could do nothing wrong, regardless of their colour. Japanese beliefs state that someone who owns a black cat will be lucky in love. It is also a long-standing tradition in Europe for sailors to keep a black cat in the hope of a safe journey. In Scotland, a black cat appearing on your porch is a sign of prosperity.
✓ A Cat to Help in Gambling
If you are not in Scotland and don’t have a porch, there is another way to attract luck according to Japanese beliefs. Their Beckoning Cat comes in many colours and depending on the design of the Maneki Neko, it could bring gamblers fortune. If you have ever seen these happy little cat statues, you have noticed some have their left paw in the air and others have their right paw raised. For this talisman to bring fortune and wealth, it must be gold with its right paw raised.
Pop Culture and Kitties
Around the turn of the 19th century, the popularity of cats increased significantly and into the 20th century, most people had restored faith in feline friendships. Today, most once more adore cats and their appearance in pop culture pays testament to their high standing in society.
✓ Iconic Cat Characters of the Last Few Decades
These famous cats either arrived on our screens via television or the internet, but regardless of how much time you spend on either of the media platforms, you will recognise most of them. Of the newest celebrity cats is probably Grumpy Cat, with her perpetual frown. Her real name is Tardar Sauce, but since her owner shared the grumpy face in 2012, Grumpy Cat has become the subject of many memes.
He may not be real, but his love for lasagne and lounging around lazily hit home with many viewers and made him the most famous cartoon cat. Garfield started as a newspaper comic strip in the 70s and his following grows continuously decades later. He even holds a Guinness World Record as the most widely syndicated comic strip ever.
Another cartoon cat made it into the hearts of cat lovers around the world, but she is a permanent third grader and started as the image on a coin purse. Hello Kitty is a global sweetheart, loved by children and adults alike and although rumours circle about her being a human, the HK community will none of it.
✓ Cat Memes
The incredible rise of cats on the internet came as no surprise to cat lovers. Some argue that our fascination with felines has its roots in the biological make-up of cats. Thanks to the anti-social behaviour of the tabbies, we are infatuated with their actions. With cat images making their way from one email to the next in the 90s and blogs dedicated to tabbies it was only a natural progression for viral cat memes to join the list of internet cat-madness.
Along came LOLcats and characters like Grumpy Cat and the rest is history. Now, cat memes express every human thought, emotion, and action and often become vehicles for political opinions. The most popular meme images include the pondering cats with prosthetic hands and, of course, Grumpy Cat.
Moggies Arrive in the Gambling Scene
Software developers with their fingers on the consumer market pulse harnessed the opportunity of including the most popular animal on the internet in igaming titles. These slots will have feline fans purring for more.
✓ Pushy Cats by Yggdrasil
Take this slot for a spin and enjoy the vibrant colours on the game-show set where a delicious carnivorous diet fills the reels. Cats make up the audience and game show hosts and the high-energy game reminds us of a playful kitten with the zoomies. High volatility and a maximum multiplier of 20,000x makes Pushy Cats a game for the adventurous cat-lover. Sticky Wild respins and a Bonus game filled with bouncy bonus features ensures the best slot entertainment like only Yggdrasil can.
✓ Feline Fury by Play’n GO
Play’n Go takes us to a time of castles and pirates in their Feline Fury online slot. Set in the Middle Ages, the cat characters in this slot game appear as pirates, merchants, and aristocrats. Medium volatility and the unusual characters set this tabby-themed slot apart from its counterparts and Play’n Go included entertaining extras to create a unique slot experience.
✓ Lucky Neko by Yggdrasil
Speaking of lucky cats and gambling, Yggdrasil presented punters with the ultimate token of luck. Inspired by the Japanese talisman, Lucky Neko includes the oh-so-lucky Maneki Neko ornaments in a collection of colours to bring all kinds of fortune to the player. Take this high volatility game for a spin while playing with the friendly beckoning kitties that help you find your fortune.
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