Not long ago, Cat Daddy and I watched a nature documentary which featured underwater creatures who have evolved to be blind. And fair enough; there is no point in having eyes if you live several miles under the sea in pitch darkness. It is hard to understand how nature can be so clever in this way, yet also so stupid. For instance, how did we start out with the lion, the king of beasts, and end up with the domestic cat, an animal who would rather starve than eat from an unsatisfactory bowl, and who would go thirsty if not served fresh water in a glass?
I’m not joking. When Catorze first came to live with us, the rescue told us that he would only drink from a glass and not a bowl. We thought, “What utter nonsense. He’ll get thirsty enough eventually, and then he’ll HAVE to drink from a bowl.”
Nope. He didn’t.
He happily let himself turn into a brittle husk of a thing that crumbled to dust if touched, before we weak-willed humans cracked first and gave him a glass.
According to National Geographic, humans didn’t domesticate cats; cats decided to domesticate themselves. It seems that, after realising that mice and rats were attracted to our agricultural processes, the cats sensibly decided to move themselves to where the prey was, i.e. near us. No doubt at this point they realised just how pathetic we were, and collectively decided to exploit that forever more.
Black cats are not descended from panthers, as I had always imagined, and are, in fact, something of a freak of nature. When I watched MonsterQuest (see below), all about black panther sightings in the wild, the genomic diversity expert told us that black is not only recessive but a rare genetic mutation. His very words were, “Every hundred generations you’re going to get one [a wild black cat] by chance. What are the chances of me seeing it? One in a million.” Big black cats seen in the wild are, apparently, far more likely to have dark spots on a dark background (mistaken for solid colour), or to be large domestic cats or “escapees from private collections” (my mind is truly boggled as to exactly what this could mean).
Then things took a darkly disturbing turn.
In the same episode of MonsterQuest, the historian told us about when black cats started to appear in literature and art. I have transcribed him word for word, mainly to reassure myself that I did not imagine this:
“The black cat comes in … in a series of documents about certain kinds of heretics … At a certain point when the heretics have been praying for a while, a black cat comes down a rope into the middle of the room and is worshipped by these people. And one of their forms of worship turns out to be kissing the black cat under its tail …”
“In other words, on its anus …”
“And therefore this black cat is taken to be either a demon or the devil.”
So black cats originated from hell; no surprise there. But I had to watch the preceding bits over and over again, with subtitles, to be sure that I had heard correctly.
Perhaps this explains why Catorze struts around with his tail up all the time. Cat Daddy always believed it to be some strange birth defect, but maybe this is a throwback to the days of his 13th century ancestors. Anyway, if he’s angling for a kiss, he’s better take a seat because he’s in for a long wait.
For some interesting historical facts about the domestication of cats, please check out this link: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/06/domesticated-cats-dna-genetics-pets-science/
And, for black cat information ranging from cool and mysterious to downright offensive, have a look at MonsterQuest season 1, episode 4: “Lions in the Backyard” on Prime Video.