It's interesting that National Cat Day falls during Adopt A Shelter Dog Month, rather than June which is Adopt A Shelter Cat month. As one whose very first pet was a stray kitten I found on the way home from school, who lived all of two weeks as it turned out she had distemper, National Cat Day offers the opportunity to extoll the virtues of the cat.
Cats can elicit strong emotions both ways in people. That superstitions surround them emphasizes that cats are more "mysterious" than dogs. Perhaps its because they tend to be more independent, though we've had cats that as soon as you sit down and they have a lap to jump into they will claim you and expect to be petted. While on the other endof the spectrum, cats can completely ignore you and prefer to stay to themselves, allowing a petting only at their choosing.
In both Hebrew and Arabian mythology, the cat was created when a lion sneezed, with the Hebrew version putting this on Noah's Ark when he requested help to control the rat problem. There is no question that the cat's larger cousins can be seen in domestic cat behavior. Prowling for prey, pouncing to catch that prey (even if it is just a shiny piece of paper), how they play with other cats in the house, and even forms of body language and communication reflect their formerly wild existence. When a cat bumps you and rubs against you, they are "claiming" you by leaving a bit of their musk on you just as lions in the wild will when claiming their mates.
Dozens of superstitions surround cats which were domesticated in ancient Egypt 3,000 years ago. The Egyptian god Pasht had a cats head and was attended by cats. Killing a cat could mean death to the offender and it was considered good luck when a black cat crossed one's path. It was believed that the rays of the sun were kept in a cat's eyes at night for safekeeping.
It was in the Middle Ages where cats were given a bad reputation, especially black cats, which were considered to be witch's familiars and as evil spirits. This was not a good time in human history to be a cat. The myth of the black cat has been perpetuated through countless movies, though in Bedknobs & Broomsticks, Piewacket was a familiar, though certainly not evil.
Cats have sailed the seas for hundreds of years as rodent control aboard ships, which has resulted in many superstitions regarding cat behavior and what it foretells for the sailing vessel. From whether a cat crosses a sailor's path as he is headed to board the ship to behavior on the ship that can portend wind, storms or good luck with a catch, some of these superstitions have continued into modern times, especially in relation to cats and sneezing, which may go back to the Noah's Ark myth.
Charles I of England was so superstitious in regard to his cat that he had it guarded night and day. His superstition was confirmed as the day after his cat died, he was arrested.
Other myths surrounding cats include that they will take a baby's breath (I can personally attest that this is not true); whenmoving to a new home, put the cat in through the window, not the door so it will not leave; when a cat is very busily washing its ears, rain is in the forecast.
Cats have such diverse personalities that shelters have developed personality tests to better assist in placing cats with adopters. At the Kansas Humane Society, not only did this help increase the number of adoptions, it significantly decreased cats being returned. It is a good idea to spend some time with a cat you're considering adopting as it gives you the opportunity to see how that personality may adapt in your household.
Each personality type has sub groupings based on the level of characteristics a cat exhibits. The three basic groups are Alert, Sociable and Equable. The degree to which a cat is alert, curious and playful affects its scoring in the Alert group. Sociable scores look to identify whether the cat is a loner or gets along well with other animals and humans. The Equable group of traits looks at evenness of mood, whether the cat accepts what happens around it without getting disturbed or does the cat seem to fly off the handle for seemingly no reason.
That cat personalities are a combination of nature and nurture, and can differ drmatically among kittens in a litter, kittens certainly offer the greatest opportunity to develop the kind of cat that gets along best in your household. That said, our own "disposable" kitten that arrived on our doorstep five years ago was a sweet and affectionate kitten, but as she got older, she became more aloof and chose to play more with the other cats than the humans. Conversely, we've adopted several older cats who, once they became acclimated to the rest of the menagerie, found their place in the house and their personalities settled in at a very different place than when they first arrived.
If you'd like to find out what kind of cat you are, there are some fun cat personality tests for humans. While these aren't scientific, you might get some insight into the kind of cat personality that would complement you best.
Adopting a Cat
There are several things to consider before adding a cat to your home. Like puppies, kittens need a lot of attention. They love to play and play helps them socialize. Will you have the time to play with your kitten? Are you looking for a family cat or one that is just for you? Will your cat be indoor only? More and more, the recommendation is to keep your cat indoors. When you adopt an older cat, indoors is highly recommended as cats have been known to leave to seek their former home. Do you want a lively cat or one that is primarily a lap cat? Do you have dogs in the house or other animals? Are you a go-go person or would you rather curl up on the couch and watch your favorite TV show? One of the older cats we adopted was tagged as a Personal Assistant, but turned out to be a Party Animal of the first order. She will party with anyone four-legged or two-legged and it is in bursts of intense dashing through the house, leaping and pouncing until she wears herself out. Personality profiles also are not an exact science.
An older cat that likes to be held has had a lot of human socialization. Likewise, the one that cowers at the back of the enclosure may simply be shy and will need coaxing to come out of her shell. Don't assume that the one you find that's exactly the color you want but hisses and lays its ears back at you will come around as cats are independent and also will choose their people.
Cat-proof your house by putting small breakables away until you've had a chance to train your cat regarding where it is and is not acceptable to explore. Be sure you have several scratching posts of different types as cats have preferences for the materials they will trim their nails on. To keep them off furniture, double sided sticky tape is a low-cost solution until your cat has found her favorite scratch post.
Be prepared that bringing a cat into a new home can elicit behavior that was not in evidence before. They might mark territory to establish themselves in the household and give the other animals notice. Seek assistance from behavior resources on the internet and cat experts in the area, including your veterinarian and the shelter you adopted from.
When Luna first arrived at our house as a stray, she refused to use the litter box. No, it was not pleasant, but we decided to train her the same way a puppy is trained, using the crate. We fashioned a small litter box, and when we were not around to watch her, she was in the crate or kept in the bathroom with the big litter box. It took about three weeks, but she learned to use the litter box and the litter box problem was solved. When a cat adopts you, it is a complement. Sometimes it just takes a little extra adjusting to ensure houshold harmony.
Cats are incredible creatures and what other household animal can create comfort just by jumping in your lap and purring? It doesn't matter how stressful the day has been, a purring cat helps let the stress fall away. And it has been scientifically shown, that when a person strokes a cat, their blood pressure goes down and even their heart rate will be at a calm level.
Is there a cat in your house? Represent for cats: add your story in the comments to celebrate these fabulous felines for National Cat Day. And check out the wonderful cats available in area shelters.