In the early history of Egypt, cats were sacred through an association with the goddess Bastet, usually represented as a woman with a cat's head. Later on, despite not all cats being worshipped and the practicality of the relationship with humans (cats kept pests under control), cats were also loved for their own sake.
There's even a word to describe the fear of cats (Ailurophobia). It describes an intense fear of cats that's strong enough to cause panic and anxiety when around cats or thinking about them. There are other names for this phobia that is also known as xenophobia, elurophobia, or Gallophobia.
It was not until recent history, on June 1233 that everything changed for cats.
Witchery and Black Cats
Cats were companions for many of the women who practiced witchcraft during 16th century Europe; this is because being one with nature was important within magical practices. Others believed that these dark-furred felines are humans who committed crimes and were thereafter transformed into the shape of cats to pay penance.
The Beginning of the Culturally Accepted Hatred Towards Cats
On June 13, 1233, Pope Gregory IX instigated the first bull of his papacy: the Vox in Rama. The Vox was the first official document to associate cats with witchcraft.
Vox in Rama ("The Voice from Ramah") was issued which prescribed harsh punishments for those who committed heretical offenses. The letter criticized German citizens' worshiping of Lucifer and authorized preaching campaigns against this supposed evil trend; it ordered leaders like Emperor Frederick II, the Holy Roman Empire's King, Henry VII, regional ruler over Germany at the time, or any archbishop within its jurisdiction to take these rebukes seriously by executing those found guilty without hesitation!
Vox in Rama was only one of a series of calls Gregory IX issued for crusades against heretics.
Sacred Rituals Involving Black Cats
The bull describes the "depraved" sect initiation rituals in detail. The ritual goes as follows:
First, the novice must be approached by a mysterious toad that is larger than a life-sized dog with glowing red eyes. Soon after a pale man would appear and those who kiss him would forget all memory of the Catholic faith.
They would sit and eat. A statue of a cat standing upright in the room and after the meal would come to life. After a brief dialogue between the cat and the cult members, the meeting would end.
This decree is considered the trigger of the inquisition and heretic/witch hunts. It was designed to undermine the growing cult of Luciferians in Germany, but the witch hunt quickly spread across Europe.
As a result of this part of the Vox in Rama, cats were killed in massive numbers. The long-term impact was even more brutal. It changed the view the European society had about cats. It morphed the view about cats from a pagan sacred animal into an agent of hell. Christianity was introduced to North America as it was colonized by Europeans beginning in the 16th and 17th centuries and with it, the villainized view about cats.
It is believed (though, there's no proof about it) that this persecution was so savage that some scholars believe that by the 1300s, Europe’s cat numbers were sufficiently depleted to prevent them from efficiently killing rats and mice- thus allowing the bubonic plague to spread.
Cats are Women and We Live in a Man's World
Cats have always been associated with women and dogs are more often seen as male companions "man's best friend".
There's a long history of society that trivializes and mocks all things associated with women. Because cats are so strongly associated with women, many people are more comfortable saying out loud they hate cats than dogs. There are even published books about it, dating as far back as the 60s.
This strong association between women and cats and the lesser value that women and cats have in society is reinforced by cat-bashing or cat-shaming in our day-to-day language. For example:
- When a woman insults people for petty reasons, she's described as catty, whereas a man who exhibits the same behavior would most likely not be described that way. (For what it's worth, the Urban Dictionary entry for "catty" says it can be used for both males and females, but in practice, it seems to be used almost exclusively for females.)
- When two women get into a fight, it's called a catfight (Even though literal cat fights are most common between unneutered males.)
- When an older woman romantically or sexually pursues a younger man, she's called a cougar. (That term does not even exist for men pursuing younger women.)
Once someone encounters a cat that is aloof or unfriendly, they associate the behavior with the overarching species rather than the particular cat. Cats have individual personalities and an individual cat should not change the perception of the species as a whole.
Does this sound familiar? This behavior is very much the same behavior shown against women, where many women are held accountable to every other woman on the planet. "All women are the same"
Why is it Okay to Hate a Cat but Not a Dog?
In his book about cats, the Tiger in the House, Carl Van Vechten notes, “One is permitted to assume an attitude of placid indifference in the matter of elephants, cockatoos, H.G. Wells, Sweden, roast beef, Puccini, and even Mormonism, but in the matter of cats, it seems necessary to take a firm stand….Those who hate the cat hate him with a malignity which, I think, only snakes in the animal kingdom provoke to an equal degree.”
Beyond the fact that from a historical and social point of view, we are biased to think that cats are evil and thus, some other social beliefs trigger cat-bashing:
Cats Don't Care About You
Cat haters will try to make you believe that cats don't care about their people. I've even heard from someone that "they would eat you if they had the chance".
While dogs have evolved and have been bred to be overly dependent on humans ¨almost obsessively¨ cats will deal with fearful or unknown situations on their terms, not like dogs or children. Other studies, though, have shown that cats display attachment styles similar to dogs and children.
The four attachment styles defined by Donald Bowlby are Secure, Anxious-Ambivalent, disorganized, and avoidant have been seen in cats.
Cats can even suffer from separation anxiety. Learn more about it in this post about separation anxiety in cats if you are going out on vacation or back to the office because your cat might suffer from it.
Cats Don't Wanna Be Touched
How many times have you been petting a cat and without apparent reason or warning, they attack you to stop? Well, that's simply 2 lies in 1 sentence.
Cats always have a reason. Cats are not vengative or have resentment. Cats don't want to punish you or make your life impossible. Cats are cats. Cats have their agenda programmed into their primal brains.
If a cat doesn't want to be petted it will let you know by flicking and wagging the tail before biting. Learn more about cats' body language in this article.
If you are thinking: "My cat doesn't like to be touched but I do it anyway because I love them". I have to admit that I sometimes find myself making the same mistake. Why are we so entitled to a pet's love? I believe we should give love in form of touch only when the other living creature appreciates touch as a love language. Ignoring that is not only selfish, it's straight failing to love our cats in a language they understand.
A 2013 study shows cats release anxiety hormones when handled, particularly by people they don't know.
I have good news for you: Feline love isn't needy. My cat's (Mia)'s main love language is quality time. She will follow me around the house and be present, even in the most intimate moments. She doesn't need or seek to be grabbed or touched, she just wants to be there.
Cats are an Environmental Disaster
Global research has found plenty of evidence that cats are endangering wildlife. Domestic and feral cats are the biggest invasive species and their amazing hunting skills make them, right after humans, the biggest killers of wildlife.
Cats contribute to up to 3.7 billion bird losses each year! Cats with free access to the outdoors will kill an average of 34 birds per year.
Every animal in the wild that's a carnivore, like cats, kills for food. The problem comes when the animal doesn't belong to the ecosystem (because the prey in the ecosystem has not evolved to endure the invasive species). Additionally, most indoor/outdoor cats kill not just for food, but pleasure.
Cats use to chase, hunt kill as entertainment, as a way to release energy and that's unnecessary. Even when your cat doesn't bring birds/lizards to your door, thinking that your cat doesn't kill is misguided and probably not true if they spend any time unsupervised and outdoors.
My recommendation if you want to enrich your cat's life as an environmentally responsible cat parent is that you walk your cat on a leash instead of letting your cat out unsupervised. Also, cats that stay indoors live an average of 2 to 5 years while cats indoors will live an average of up to 15! I want my cat Mia to stay with me for as long as nature will let her.
Cats are Jerks
The fact that we don't understand an animal doesn't make the animal a jerk, makes us ignorant. Those who say that cats are jerks are giving person attributes to a cat.
Anthropomorphism is a literary device that assigns human characteristics to nonhuman entities like animals or inanimate objects. When we do this as a literary device, we add depth to a story and find meaning in what animals do. When we use anthropomorphism to define cats' actions in real life, we are flat-out wrong.
Cats are not capable of many human emotions. Cats don't hate, are not vindictive nor show resentment, and they don't do things to piss us off.
The reality is that cats do things (even knocking things down) to call our attention. Our answer to that calling, positive or negative, proves to them that their tactics work.
When your cat does things you clearly showed them that you don't like, they are using the behavior that triggers your reactions and gets your attention. You are reinforcing the behavior every time they trigger you.
To prevent your cat from being a jerk, anticipate their needs and deal with them in anticipation so that they don't need to get your attention to have their needs met.
Cats Allergies Make Cat Haters Every Day
As an allergic person myself, cat allergies are very real. You can go from feeling amazing to being ready to go to bed and forgetting that the world exists in minutes.
I understand that suffering from allergy is tough but developing hatred toward the animal causes it when the animal is not doing it intentionally, it's a little harsh.
If you are a cat lover and would like to have a cat but you have allergies, you might want to read this article about hypoallergenic cats!
Send this article to a cat hater. If there's hatred towards cats in their heart and they get the information to reevaluate it, you might be converting a cat hater into a cat lover. That would probably make us both (you and me) very happy. All cats want is to be loved in their love language, a few treats a warm bed (or a box) to sleep on, and plenty of time to take naps.
Stay Wild, Stay Safe, See You Outdoors!
Albert & Mia