Cover image for Classical cats : the rise and fall of the sacred cat
Title:
Classical cats : the rise and fall of the sacred cat
Author:
Engels, Donald W.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London ; New York : Routledge, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 227 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780415212519
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

This is the definitive book on classical cats. The cat has played a significant role in history from the earliest times. Well known is its role in the religion and art of ancient Egypt, no less than its association with witchcraft in the Middle Ages. But when did the cat become a domestic companion and worker as well?
There has been much debate about the position of the cat in ancient Greece and Rome. Artistic representations are sometimes ambiguous, and its role as a mouse-catcher seems often to have been carried out by weasels. Yet other evidence clearly suggests that the cat was as important to Greeks and Romans as it is to many modern people.
This book is the first comprehensive survey of the evidence for cats in Greece and Rome, and of their functions and representations in art. Donald Engels draws on authors from Aesop to Aristotle; on vase-painting, inscriptions and the plastic arts; and on a thorough knowledge of zoology of the cat. He also sets the ancient evidence in the wider context of the Egyptian period that preceded it, as well as the views of the Church fathers who ushered antiquity into the Middle Ages.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

It's well known that cats were revered as household gods in ancient Egypt, but what happened to them after that? According to this revelatory study of cats in the classical world by University of Arkansas history professor Engels, they fared surprisingly well. Using recent archeological, (feline) genetic, literary and artistic evidence, Engels makes the case that by the third century B.C., Felis catus was widely distributed across Europe, thanks to seafaring Greek merchants and colonizers who associated cats with the goddess Artemis and used them to protect their grain supplies. Drawing on Latin inscriptions, Roman mosaics, sculptures and other artifacts, Engels also shows that cats were far more popular among the dog-loving Romans than is commonly assumed. After millions of the creatures were slaughtered alongside the hundreds of thousands of pagans, heretics and Jews with whom they were associated during the Middle Ages, cats got their revenge. Noting that cats have long been instrumental in defending humankind from rodents and the diseases they carry, Engels suggests that the absence of cats in Europe probably contributed to the spread and the severity of the bubonic plague that devastated the continent in the 14th century. Some cat scholars may accuse Engels of a Eurocentric bias for speculating that Roman traders brought the domesticated cat to India, as there is good reason to believe that the cat was domesticated there at about the same time as in Egypt, or even possibly earlier. On balance, however, the book is well-written and researchedÄand stunningly illustrated. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One EGYPT I am one pure of mouth, pure of hands, One to whom, "Welcome" is said by those who see him; For I have heard the words spoken by the Donkey and the Cat, In the house of Eternity. (From the Book of the Dead Egypt is the ultimate homeland of all domestic cats throughout the world, and so will always have a significant place in the history of the species. We are fortunate that a superb book has recently appeared on the topic, Jaromir Malek's The Cat in Ancient Egypt , that treats all aspects of the animal. A chapter devoted to Egyptian cats may therefore seem redundant; nevertheless, it is important for a work devoted to Greek and Roman cats to include a section on Egypt, since many later characteristics of the animal in iconography, symbolism, religion, and folklore have their origins in that culture. Furthermore, it remains true that important descriptions of the Egyptian cat come from Greek authors, most notably Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Claudius Aelian. Finally, we will emphasize the history of the animal in the later period of the country's history (1070 BC - 330 AD), not the earlier era. The Libyan wildcat The Felis sylvestris libyca , the direct ancestor of all domestic cats, is a feline opportunist that has not only survived but flourished in the drastically changing natural and human environments of North Africa for the last five million years. Its head and body length are some 30 inches (75 cm) and its tail, some 12 inches (30 cm). Its ears are not tufted as in other small African wildcats and it has proportionally longer legs than a domesticated individual. As in the case of F. sylvestris sylvestris , and indeed even more so here since the libyca is the direct ancestral form, there has probably been considerable interbreeding between it and the catus . This has led to a gradual reduction of its modern body size and other wild characteristics. This may be why an examination of many mummified ancient Egyptian cats shows that they are larger than the modern libyca (Fig. 0.2). The ancient cats were more closely related to the larger, ancestral libyca , and the modern libyca itself has declined in size through interbreeding.     Its color is also variable depending on genetics and local environments. Generally, however, the body is a "pale sandy fawn ... with a rufous line on the back and multiple traverse stripes of the same colour, though paler, on the body." The markings generally recall those of the common orange and grey striped tabbies. The tail is ringed and has a black, untufted tip, important features for the purposes of identifying it in works of art. Leopards ( Panthera pardus ), for example, have spotted tails and lions ( Panthera leo ) have plain tails with a tufted tip.     There are several significant Greek references to the libyca . Diodorus Siculus, who wrote a universal history that was published about 49 BC, noted that in a region of what is now central Libya, the wildcats ( ailouroi ) had driven out so many birds from the trees and ravines that none would nest there. This reference is made in the context of a military campaign undertaken by Archagathus, a general of Agathocles of Syracuse in 307 BC, against the Carthaginians. At this time, and indeed throughout the Roman era, North Africa still retained many forested regions.     The natural historian Claudius Aelian, writing in the late second century AD, made many shrewd observations on cats and other animals in his De Natura Animalium . One passage on the taming of the Egyptian libyca deserves to be repeated in full: In Egypt, the cats, the mongeese, the crocodiles, and even the hawks show that animal nature is not entirely intractable, but that when well treated they are good at remembering kindness. They are caught by pandering to their appetites, and when this has rendered them tame, they remain thereafter perfectly gentle. They would never set upon their benefactors once they have been freed from their genetic and natural temper. Man however, a creature endowed with reason, credited with understanding, gifted with a sense of honor, supposedly capable of blushing, can become the bitter enemy of a friend for some trifling and casual reason and blurt out confidences to betray the very man who trusted him. That this animal was indeed a libyca and not a Felis chaus or margarita is indicated by the animals tamability, a characteristic generally absent from the two other species.     Aelian also notes the predation of wildcats on other animals and birds, and how these animals have evolved defensive measures to avoid it. In these instances, it is not certain whether the wildcats are the libyca , or another species; nevertheless, the interest in the stories lies in the preys' methods of escape.     A monkey, pursued by wildcats fled as fast as he could and climbed a tree. The wildcats also climbed the tree, very swiftly, for they cling to the bark and can also climb trees. But as he was going to be caught, since he was one against many, he leapt from the trunk with his paws and seized the end of an overhanging branch high up and clung to it for a long time. The wildcats gave up the chase, descended the tree and went after other prey. This is also an interesting example of teamwork among wildcats in their hunting.     Aelian notes too that the Egyptian Goose is a fierce fighter and can defend itself from eagles, cats, and all other animals that come against it. Finally, there is the ibis, who also eats dangerous snakes and scorpions without harm to itself. It makes its nest on the top of date-palms in order to escape the cats, for this animal cannot easily climb and crawl up a date-palm as it is constantly being impeded and thrown off by the protuberances on the stem. The miu : the domesticated cat The earliest remains of cats in domestic contexts from Egypt date from about 4000 to 3000 BC, but are probably of tame wildcats rather than domesticated cats. Wildcats of various species were first represented in Egyptian art from about 1900 BC, about the time the libyca was domesticated. This is also the time that the first representations appear of what are probably domesticated cats. One bas relief from Coptos of about 1950 BC shows a cat sitting beneath a woman's chair, a common iconographic portrayal in later works of art. By 1450 BC, the cats are a common feature in Egyptian painting of domestic scenes.     For a few hundred years before this era, however, we find the first individuals named after the cat, as other individuals were named after other local animals such as "Monkey," "Wolf," and "Crocodile." The name given to the domestic cat by the Egyptians was the onomatopoeic "miu" or feminine "miit." So we find names such as Pa-miu, "The Tomcat," and Ta-miit, "The Cat."     Among the factors that undermined the serenity and security of Nilotic life, the most significant were deadly snakes, such as cobras and vipers, and rodents, both mice and rats. Since there was little men could do to protect themselves from such dangers, the appearance of an animal that could destroy such vermin would have been a welcome event. Indeed, since snakes can inflict fatal bites on humans, it would have been literally a life-saving event. Since granaries and silos attracted rodents, they represented a reliable source of food for the cats, who would leave the grain alone. Feeding scraps to the cats would assure their presence near their food supplies and homes. As territorial creatures, they would soon strike up associations (if not exactly friendships) with the humans and come to regard the area around their homes as their own. Thus it was just as much a factor of the cats adopting the humans in their territory, as the humans adopting the cats.     Before long, the people began to recognize the benefits of having the cat in the house. Households with cats had more food, less sickness, and fewer deaths. Its personality and behavior compared well to the other pets they had in their homes, such as dogs and monkeys. Its cleanliness no doubt attracted the Egyptians, while its "house training" -- the burial of its excrement outdoors in the sand, more preferable to the cat than the fertile earth of the fields -- its killing of scorpions, rodents and snakes that may have entered the house, and its general rejection of grain-based food, the staple of the Egyptian diet as for most ancient Mediterranean peoples, must also have recommended it to their service. In exchange for comfort and safety, the cats were willing to give up some of their freedom. Selective breeding would ensure that only the tamest and best-behaved individuals would survive in human company.     It must also be noted that the cat was a new type of domestic animal. Other animals were exploited for their hides, meat, milk, or hair. Some were used for transport, like the horse, donkey, mule, and later the camel. As we saw in the Introduction, the dog was used for hunting, herding, and for guard work but not for killing rats in antiquity. The cat, however, was used solely as a predator of small animals and later as a human companion. Iconography Cats occur frequently in the art of the New Kingdom (1570-1070 BC) and the Late Period (1070-332 BC). There are wonderful wall paintings of cats and, of course, some magnificent bronzes. Fortunately, these works have been beautifully illustrated and thoroughly described by Malek. Nevertheless, there are two major categories of images that are of interest to us because of their later use by both Greeks and Romans: the "cat under the chair," and the "cat in the marshes." In addition, there is an important series of bronzes depicting the cat goddess Bastet with her sistrum that will be treated in the sections on religion and folklore below.     Most portrayals of the cat under the chair are in the context of a scene depicting a seated husband and wife accepting gifts and offerings from their servants or children. The cat invariably sits beneath the chair of the wife and sometimes a dog sits beneath the husband. For example, in Figure 1.1, we see the couple Ipuy and his wife Duammeres portrayed on their tomb, which dates to about 1250 BC. A cat sits beneath Duammeres' chair and a small kitten scratches at the garment worn by Ipuy. The cats themselves show the typical color and markings of the libyca , which has now been domesticated.     The cat under the woman's chair may symbolize her fertility and the association of both with the goddess Hathor. The dog or the monkey that is frequently found beneath the man's chair, although not on this particular scene, may symbolize his fertility as well. In these tomb paintings, the cat may symbolize the continual force of life even after death. In other scenes, the cats under the chairs play with monkeys, embrace geese, hiss at geese, eat food, or try to break free of their tethers, so they can eat some food that is placed nearby.     Another common theme is the cat hunting birds in the marshes. Often the cat is portrayed with a hunter on his boat or in the marshes attacking water birds. Figure 1.2 shows the family of Nebamun on a small skiff, while the family cat attacks the fowl. The painting is from Nebamun's tomb in the Theban necropolis and dates to about 1450 BC. It is one of the great masterpieces of Egyptian painting. Seldom in any artistic tradition are animals, plants, wildlife, fish, and people portrayed with greater empathy and realism. The cat is a masterpiece in itself and is shown assaulting three different birds at once! Nevertheless the animal is depicted with great naturalism, and is one of the best portrayals in existence. Once again, we see the beautiful golden-tan coat, the darker transverse stripes, and the ringed tail with the black tip (Fig. 1.3).     The cat may indeed have been used to flush out the birds so they could be struck down by the hunter's throwing stick, spear or arrow. Alternatively, during the roosting season, the presence of a cat may force the birds to instinctively protect their nests so that the hunter can have several targets at once. On the other hand, it is more likely that Nebamun merely wanted to show his family together on their eternal journey, and naturally the family cat was included. The cat would do what came naturally when confronted by so many birds and, realistically, it would be quite difficult to train a cat to flush out waterfowl. The goddess in the house: the sacred cats of Egypt Throughout history, many have believed that the cat embodies profound spiritual forces. This has been true not only among the ancient Egyptians and the Europeans, but also among the Asian Indians, Chinese, and the Japanese. Part of the reason for this may have been the remarkable sensory acuity of the animal. Its ability to predict the weather, earthquakes, and perhaps even death, has led many throughout the ages to believe in the animal's preternatural power. For the Egyptians, the cat's ability to destroy harmful scorpions, rodents and snakes suggested it was the embodiment of a divine power that both protected the family from evil and misfortune, and also promoted its fertility.     An important religious concept among the ancient Egyptians, as well as other ancient peoples, was animism, the belief that divine spirit pervaded all of nature. Nature was divine and different aspects of nature were embodied in different divinities. Every person, animal, plant, and inanimate object, every tree, glade, brook, and hill was thought to be suffused with a spirit. In this respect, ancient Egyptian concepts were very close to the early beliefs of polydaimonia among the Greeks and numen among the Romans. Later indeed, when Egyptian religions spread to Europe -- especially during the Hellenistic and Roman eras -- these concepts proved compatible with comparable Greek, Roman, and Celtic beliefs. This ancient substratum of paganism antedated the later, more sophisticated notions of great gods who controlled various aspects of nature. It also proved to be the most resilient and the most difficult to suppress in later times.     All of nature was a manifestation of divine power and, in pre-agrarian hunting societies, this power would be frequently encountered in the form of animals. In Egypt the lower classes were always in close contact with various domestic and wild animals, hence the religion of animals remained popular with them, even after greater gods were introduced. Indeed, the common folk were frequently excluded from the full worship of the high gods, since only priests were allowed into their sacred precincts.     Associated with the belief of animism was a related magico-sympathetic concept of nature. Many ancient cultures believed that there were no accidents or coincidences in nature, but that everything was related by a divine providence. Therefore it was no coincidence that the cow's horns resembled a crescent moon; this meant that the cow was the sacred animal of the moon goddess. Similarly with the cat: its nocturnal habits and pupils that change from crescent to round meant that it was also sacred to the moon. Indeed, it was thought possible for the moon goddess to be incarnate in a cat.     In spite of its humble origins and lack of a strong cult early in Egyptian history, the cat's religious popularity gradually surpassed that of any other animal, spreading at last far beyond Egypt's boundaries. One of the most misunderstood aspects of Egyptian religion is their attitude towards animals. Animals were not worshipped per se , as was frequently claimed by pagan detractors and early Christian authors; rather it was thought that they, as well as all other living beings, were imbued with the same spirit as their creator. The Egyptians did not make a distinction between animals and humans -- to them, living beings included gods, people, and animals. Each was made by the creator god, worshipped him in their own way, and were under his protection.     Moreover, some animals were thought to be the visible epiphanies or incarnations of divinities, a function that could also be fulfilled by certain images of the gods. An animal such as the Apis bull could act as the visible incarnation of a divinity during its life, and after death it would be buried with full honors and a successor chosen. This was also true of cats. If a cat had the proper sacred markings, she might have been thought to be the incarnation of the goddess Baster. At first, the fact that a god could be manifest in a certain animal did not necessarily confer special protection for its species as a whole.     By the Late Period (1070-332 BC), however, most domesticated and many wild animals were regarded as potential epiphanies of divinities, and so a god could well be present in every Egyptian household. This was especially true from the fifth century BC to the end of the pagan era of the country in the fifth century AD, when cats and other animals, especially the ibis, came to be regarded as sacred, imbued with the divine presence. Indeed, there was an upsurge in popularity of animal cults during that time. This increased popularity may have been caused by the failure of the great gods of the country to protect it during a period of frequent foreign invasion and occupation. Furthermore, Egyptian reverence for animals was also unique to that country, as ancient scholars frequently noted, and Egyptians may have wished to express their national and cultural identity through this form of worship.     Sacred animals were of three types. First and foremost were the Temple Animals, the living incarnations of divinities; the goddess Bastet would have been incarnate in a cat. These animals lived in the Holy of Holies within the temple precinct and had special markings associated with the myths of the divinity. It must be stressed that the Temple Cat and other Temple Animals were not worshipped on their own account, but because it was believed that the divinities were incarnate in their persons. The god manifest in the animal was worshipped, not the animal itself. In the same way, idols were not worshipped by pagans either, but it was thought that the gods would manifest themselves within certain images. These were distinctions lost on most ancient and modern critics. In a similar vein, the divine incarnation of Christ was misunderstood by other pagan critics, like Celsus.     The second type of sacred animals included the members of the same species, kept in the cult center, who received special treatment, care and feeding, but who were not themselves manifestations of the divinity. Thirdly, there were the other members of the species that lived in domestic or wild contexts. These also received special treatment and veneration as members of a sacred species.     The earliest instance of the cat in a religious context comes from a series of ivory "magic knives," dating between 2000 and 1500 BC, that were decorated with animals and mythic beings. Their purpose was apotropaic, that is, to protect individuals from the dangers of everyday existence, illnesses, accidents, and bites from scorpions and snakes. The cat is often engraved on the knives because of its ability to destroy snakes. These knives are usually found in the tombs of women and children. Apotropaic, "good luck," amulets with cats remain common all the way into the Ptolemaic (323-30 BC) and Roman (30 BC - AD 330) periods.     Furthermore, in works concerning the interpretation of dreams, some written as early as 1980 BC, the vision of a cat was a good omen and meant that a large harvest would come. Once again, we are reminded of the cat's role in destroying grain-devouring rodents. Although not a prominent religious role, the manifestation of the cat as an apotropaic animal, giving good luck and warding off evil and misfortune, will continue through the European Middle Ages and into the modern era in European folklore and custom.     From around 1500 BC, it was believed that the sun god Ra, the most powerful divinity in the Egyptian pantheon, could manifest himself in the form of the cat, the "Great Tomcat." Each night Ra, in his incarnation of Atum-Ra, would journey to the underworld and there, in the form of a cat, would confront his great enemy, the snake-demon Apops (Apophis). At that time he slew the snake with a large knife, thus ensuring his return as the sun the following morning. There are numerous portrayals of this nightly event in Egyptian papyrus texts (Fig. 1.4).     The origins of this connection to the sun, unique to Egypt, are probably related to the cat's eyes. According to Horapollo, writing in the fourth or fifth century AD, the male cat's pupils changed during the passage of the sun through the day ( Hieroglyphica , 1. 10. 18). We may understand this to mean that during the dim light of the morning, the cat's pupils are nearly round and full. As the sun nears the zenith, they narrow to thin lines, expanding again as the sun sets. The cat's pupils were indeed subject to much learned commentary, as we shall see in later chapters. Furthermore their golden-amber color, unusual in the animal kingdom, and rounded shape may also have suggested this relation.     Horapollo also noted that the sun god of Heliopolis (On), Atum-Ra, was portrayed as cat-shaped ( ailouromorphos ). We may also suggest that the connection with the sun, especially for Atum-Ra, the god of the setting sun who travels beneath the underworld, lies in the cat's reflective eyes that shine on even in darkness. Christopher Smart's poem may help us understand this belief: For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins. For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary. For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes. For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.    There is also the animal's sense of the death of others, appropriate for an underworld divinity. The cat has a well-known propensity for warmth: For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way ... For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him ...     Finally, one may note the static electricity of the animal's fur perhaps suggested a connection with a divine light: For by stroking of him I have found out electricity. For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire. For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies of men and beasts. These poetic sentiments, expressed in the eighteenth century, reflect the transcendent attitudes of many cultures towards the cat, including the Egyptians.     More often, however, the characteristic changes in the cat's pupils were associated with the movement of the moon as in Yeats' poem: Does Minnalouche know that his pupils Will pass from change to change, And that from round to crescent From crescent to round they range?     It was this relationship between the cat and the moon that was the most long-lasting, surviving into modern folklore. The earliest connections in this context were with the goddess Harbor and her sistrum. The sistrum was a bronze musical instrument with a handle and a rounded open frame (cf. Fig. 1.5). Within the frame are some bronze rods (from one to four in number) that rattled when shook. Along the curved frame of the instrument, one or more cat figures were usually attached and the figure of Hathor generally appeared in the handle. When the sistrum was shaken quite a noise was produced; it may have resembled that of a tambourine when shaken, only deeper and richer. The noise of the sistrum was symbolically associated with fertility and regeneration symbolized by the cats, because of the animal's reproductive powers. This musical instrument was used commonly in Egypt, but is also found in archeological excavations all over the European continent and throughout the Roman Empire until the end of antiquity (and even beyond). A sistrum, perhaps used for the worship of Isis, was even found in London. It is believed that the site of St Paul's Cathedral in London was originally dedicated to Diana, another goddess of the cat. Hathor the goddess was also represented as a cow, and the two appear frequently in Egyptian works of art through the Roman era.     By the Twenty-second Dynasty (945-715 BC), the cat had become associated with another goddess, Bastet -- identified by the Greeks with Artemis -- who became one of the most revered divinities in the Egyptian pantheon in the first millennium BC. The Twenty-second Dynasty had its capital at Per-Bastet, the "House of the Goddess Bastet," which the Greeks called Bubastis (Fig. 1.6). Indeed, one of its pharaohs was named Pamiu or "Tomcat" (773-767 BC). The cat was now regarded as the manifestation of Bastet. She was paired with the lion-headed female divinity, Sekhmet, the ferocious protector of Egypt. Just as Sekhmet protected the nation, so Bastet protected the household, especially its women and children. Like Artemis of the Greeks with whom she was later identified, Bastet was a fearsome huntress but also a loving mother. She, or one of her earlier manifestations, also appears on tomb paintings escorting the deceased to the place of judgement.     Her most important role, however, was as the goddess of motherhood, fertility, childbearing, and childrearing. These aspects continued under the Greek goddess Artemis, the Roman goddess Diana, and the Greco-Egyptian goddess Isis, right through the European Middle Ages, and indeed they survive into modern folklore and custom. The cat was an obvious symbol of these important aspects of human life. We have already noted the cats' phenomenal rates of fertility.     High fertility rates were important aspects of ancient and medieval human populations as well, but have unfortunately been neglected by many historians. Before the development of modern medicine and improved diets -- brought about in part through the introduction of New World crops into the Old World, and higher living standards brought about through the Industrial Revolution -- life expectancies were very low. Census data from Roman Egypt, probably also characteristic of the country during earlier eras as well as of much of the ancient and medieval Mediterranean in general, show a life expectancy at birth of about 22.5 years for females and 25 years for males. The differential in death rates was caused by mortality occurring among women during their childbearing years between the ages of 15 and 44.     Because of the low life expectancies and the high death rates, birth rates also needed to be high. The average woman bore six children during a relatively short life span just to keep the population growth rate stable, neither increasing or decreasing. Married women bore on average nine children. Their rates were higher than average because many women simply did not survive through their marriageable and childbearing years. Many married women bore far more than nine. Marriage was nearly universal for both men and women. If these high birth rates were not maintained, the population would decline at a geometric rate, and would soon be biologically replaced by immigrant groups or become extinct. Surprisingly, these important facts and their impact on the lives of ancient women and on social institutions, including religion, have not been considered by modern historians until the last few years.     Marriage, family, motherhood, childbearing, and childrearing were central to the lives of all women before the industrial age. The cat was thought by Western women to be the living embodiment of this divine force of nature for almost four thousand years. Bearing, nursing, and raising numerous children have been tasks honorably fulfilled by women through the ages, and there was no better symbol of these qualities than the cat. Only aristocratic women could be exempt from nursing, with the use of wet-nurses, who were far beyond the resources of the vast majority. As we have noted, female cats will not only sacrifice their lives on behalf of their kittens but are solely responsible for their upbringing and training. This is especially true for the barn cats and feral cats who must learn to make it on their own from their mothers. This dedication by a small animal to its young has been an inspiration to women for millennia.    The cat has several physical characteristics that may have helped endear it to women. A full-grown cat is nearly the size of a human infant. Its cries can often sound remarkably similar to those of a baby, and its large frontal eyes and rounded face may also have suggested this sympathetic relationship. The animal has a "childlike," playful, and mischievous nature and, when not at play, is usually asleep.     The animal's relationship with motherhood goes far deeper, though. Biologists have long observed that the relationship between cats and their owners closely resembles that between kittens and their mothers. Cats often regard their human owners as a source of food and nurturing. The physical difference in size between a kitten and its mother is proportional to the difference in size between a cat and a human. The padding or kneading motion of the animal's front paws when sitting on their owners is the same motion that kittens use to express milk from their mothers. Cats are also more closely related to humans genetically than any other family of animals except the primates.     Women often cradle the animal in their arms. They frequently carry cats in the same way they carry infants. Cats are often of therapeutic value, especially for the elderly. Blood pressure is lowered and emotional satisfaction is gained simply by petting the animal. Girls and young women may anticipate their own children in the future when they hold them, while elderly women may fondly recall their own infant children in the past. All these factors have endeared the cat to women in many cultures throughout the globe. (Continues...) Copyright © 1999 Donald Engels. All rights reserved.