From “The Fireside Sphinx”

My apologies for my relative quietness on the blog lately — I’ve been quite busy with work, which has left me little energy for detailed blogging!

However, I rediscovered a small story about cats that amused me, and that I thought I’d share. It is from The Fireside Sphinx (1901), by Anges Repplier. It is one of many books that appeared through the Victorian and Edwardian eras expounding upon the glory of housecats, which had been largely vilified in the Western world up until that point.

This was one of my references for my book on Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics, though I ended up not finding any information relevant to falling cats in it. It contains a fun stylized narrative of the housecat throughout history, though it starts with the Garden of Eden and probably shouldn’t be considered a super-reliable source! However, it is a fascinating narrative that looks at how cats had once been revered in ancient times, fell out of favor in the “Dark Ages” as the servants of witches, and returned to favor in more recent times.

The small anecdote I want to share is about the rise of cats after the Renaissance, and one humorously quantitative way to see that rise:

Two proofs we find of Pussy’s rapid progress in esteem. The French country houses built between the middle of the sixteenth and seventeenth cen­turies were all furnished with “chatieres,” little openings cut in the doors for the accommodation of the cat, who wandered in and out of the great chill tapestried rooms as her restless fancy prompted her. These chatieres indicate a careful study of her convenience, yet, by the close of the seven­teenth century, they had wholly disappeared ; – a circumstance, says M. Havard, which points to but one conclusion. In her hundred years of pampered domesticity, the cat had accustomed mankind to wait upon her pleasure. There was no longer any need of creeping through a hole. If she wanted to come in or go out, -and cats are perpetually wanting to do one or the other, – somebody was always ready to get up and open the door.

This is quite familiar to most cat parents, including myself! My cats are fully indoors, but they like hanging out in the garage, and my roommate and I will regularly get up to indulge their passage.

I am also reminded of the legend of the prophet Mohammed,

The love which Mohammed bore for his fair white cat, Mu­ezza, has thrown a veil of sanctity over the whole feline race ; and no good Ottoman ever forgets that when Muezza slept one day upon her master’s flow­ing sleeve, the Prophet – being summoned to the Council – cut off his sleeve, rather than disturb her slumber.

Again, every cat parent can understand this feeling! I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen people take photos with their cat lying on top of them, with a caption something like: “trapped.”

That’s all for now — more blogging to come soon!

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