Punch is one of the few relaxed cats I’ve seen in Costa Rica. But, maybe she’s just intoxicated. Word around town is Punch gets drunk off frozen Foo-Foo drinks, the specialty of the house at Chillerz, the restaurant and bar where she sort of lives. Of all the regulars, she’s definitely my favorite.
If man could be crossed with a cat, it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat.
– Mark Twain
Cats are rare in Costa Rica. This is a dog country, and there’s a couple of reasons for that. Dogs are valuable here, serving as inexpensive security systems in a country where property theft is the most common of crimes. There is almost no violent crime, so the dogs don’t have to be big, ferocious, or even scary looking. All they have to be is loud, so yappy, obnoxious dogs are popular. Cats don’t appreciate yappy, loud dogs…so cats are viewed as being anti-social and a nuisance. All that being said, it made me to think over the past few months about cat haters. Is there a history of cat hating? Sure there is…there’s enough of a history of hating “the other” in this world that few animals or people need feel left out. A brief review:
Pope Innocent VIII: Innocent was known for condemning witches, and in the Papal Bull of 1484, he made sure to include that any cat consorting with a lady of the dark arts be burned along with said lady. A fine example he was
Pope Gregory IX: Gregory followed Innocent’s lead, declaring black cats to be “diabolical” and gave his official blessing to the worldwide persecution of cats in general, setting off five centuries of cat hating and torture.
King Henry III: Henry tried to live up to his Pope’s cat hating ways, but the mere presence of a cat made him swoon, and on occasion, even faint. To make up for his shortcomings, the king was “…a lion…” when it came to persecuting the Protestant minority in France. Even the cowardly lion got a heart, why not King Henry III?
William Shakespeare: “I could endure anything but a cat. And now he’s a cat to me…” is a line from All’s Well That Ends Well. And fans of the Bard probably aren’t surprised that his name comes up here, since he has no references to cats in other works that don’t qualify as vilifications. O.K., it’s a small sample, and there’s no record of him actually doing any personal harm to a cat…so, he gets a pass, for now.
Empress Wu-Chao: She had as good a reason as any One for hating cats. It seems that a lady-in-waiting whom she condemned to death laid a curse on the Empress…in the afterlife, the condemned was to return as a cat, and the Empress, a rat. All cats were rounded up from the palace and grounds, and disposed of. Some people just can’t take a joke.
King Louis XIV: As a bratty boy king, young Louis lit fires and then tossed cats…well, anyway, you get the idea. It’s said that he later reformed from his horrific behavior.
Hillaire Belloc: The owner of at least one cat himself, the French author once wrote, “I do not like them…when one hears them praised, it goads one to expressing one’s hatred and fear for them…” Hypocrite, or self-loathing?
Noah Webster: He described cats as deceitful animals, “…and when enraged extremely spiteful”
Isadora Duncan: Internationally known dancer, and celebrity, before it became an insult, Duncan lived next to a woman in Neuilly, France, who had enough cats that she would have been committed in a more organized society. With cats invading her garden day and night, Duncan ordered that any cat captured on her property was to be captured and drowned.
Dwight D. Eisenhower: A man used to power…the power of leading a conquering army…the power of being president of the United States at the height of its power…he feared and hated cats. He gave orders to his staff that any cat seen on the grounds of his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was to be shot. Shade of Eddie Slovak…
I could go on with examples, but, I think I’ve made my point…there seems to be a theme here: Megalomaniacs, the power hungry, and the plain powerful don’t seem to like cats much. Further examples would include: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Genghis Kahn, Napoleon Bonaparte, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, my grandmother, and John, my current landlord…all powerful Fascists…all cat haters. I wanted to include LaToya Jackson here, but I have no idea of any association with Fascism.
Probably the worst example of cat hating and cat baiting was a Chicago banker by the name of Rockwell Syre. In the early 1920s Syre started a campaign to rid the entire world of “filthy and useless” cats by 1925. He offered various incentives, usually bounties, to cat killers, and is rumored to be responsible for the deaths of around seven million cats. Who did the bookwork on this, I have no idea.
Trivia note for the day: Ailurophobe is the technical term for the persistent and irrational fear of cats.
Trivia note for the day II: Ailurus mean “tail waivers.”
I’ll leave off with a quote from an author who was a raving ailurophobe when young, but grew to like them so much he collected them on his retirement ranch in Lawrence, Kansas.
The cat does not offer services. The cat offers itself.
– William S. Burroughs