Back in the dark old days, witches were said to have familiars. These were animal companions, generally cats. During the bad old days of the Inquisition and the witch trials in Europe and America it was claimed that these familiars were given to witches by the Devil. They were said to be small demons which could be sent out to do a witch’s bidding. As a result, along with these so-called witches, many, many cats were tortured and killed. The exact number of women killed for being witches is not known, and the figure often disputed, but it is certainly in the tens of thousands, starting way back in the 1200s. It horrifies me that in South Africa, in this present day, women still face the threat of being accused of witchcraft. Feminist theorists will tell you that this has always been as a result of the fragility of the male ego at work. A woman who displays knowledge of herbs, medicine (mid-wife or natural remedies) or prospers, and more importantly does so without the help of a man, puts herself at risk in a small community. I mean, how can she possibly manage, let alone thrive, without a man to aid her?!! There has to be something supernatural at work!
Here is a simple example to illustrate my point: say a single woman in this community happened to love butterflies and displayed a wealth of knowledge on the subject. Butterflies and caterpillars were seen to be lowly beings, or even worse, demonic. Friedewald writes in A Butterfly Journey, “for some people, these creatures were the work of the Devil, and those who were interested in them were surely up to no good — why, they might even be witches, who must be put to death”. He notes that according “to popular belief, witches possessed the power to change themselves into butterflies in order to curdle cream and butter.” This is where the name “buttervögel” in German and “butterfly” in English came from. Hectic, right!!?
Dear reader, you should know by now that I am known for my “scenic routes”, so this was my roundabout way of introducing my topic: cats. So yes, women and their cats. It is perhaps for the reasons above (witches and cats) that cats are generally associated with the feminine (and dogs with the masculine). Cats are independent, mysterious, mercurial and selective and certainly extremely intelligent and it seems for a lot of men this is not what they want in their women, and certainly not in their pets. You cannot bend a cat to your will or all women and this is very threatening to a lot of men. Now, of course, I am generalizing to prove a point. Some men do like cats, I am a cat person and am considered by most to be a man, and by some, even masculine. I have an affinity with the feline much like I do with the feminine though. As I am pro-feminist so I am pro-feline. I like to think of myself as the cats’ familiar. You don’t choose the cat, the cat chooses you. If you wish to take a cat as your familiar, you must ask permission first. Apparently research has shown that cat owners often exhibit introverted qualities, especially compared to dog owners, who tend to be more outgoing. Cat owners apparently have also been found to be smarter, more sensitive and more non-conformist than their canine-loving counterparts. I don’t know how true all that is but I love cats and I don’t really care what is says about me. At the animal shelter that I volunteer at, I am often called a cat whisperer. They are drawn to me as I to them. I love all animals (which is why I do not eat them) but it is with cats that I share a special bond. So as the anniversary of the passing of my best friend, my furry little buddy, Champers, draws near, I share with you my love of cats.
Michelle Pfieffer as Catwoman, need I say anything more:
Rest in Peace, Champers. You remain in my heart and in my memories.