“The way to get on with a cat is to treat it as an equal – or even better, as the superior it knows itself to be.” (Elizabeth Peters, Egyptologist and mystery writer)
The worship of cats by the ancient Egyptians is well-known. It has been surmised that this deification occurred because cats saved the Egyptians from starvation. The Nile River valley was amazingly fertile due to annual flooding so food could be grown in great abundance, but the granaries were infested by rodents. Enter the cat, hunter of rat. When the people of the Pharaohs befriended Felis sylvestris lybica, their days of belt-tightening were over. Now there was enough to go around the whole year. Hence the literal elevation of cats onto pedestals. This cultural reverence was carried down to the individual level: when an Egyptian household’s feline died, the whole family would shave off their eyebrows. Their tragedy was thus announced publicly and without shame to friends and neighbors in a fashion that was undeniably (pause) in-your-face.
Fast-forward a few thousand years and the cat’s worthiness was no longer as appreciated: During the Dark Ages in Europe the Church somehow got it into its head that cats were of the devil and needed to be eradicated. Perhaps bounties were offered; whatever the motivation, many people took up this ridiculous crusade (is there any other kind?), and cats were decimated. What happened next? Rats bred unchecked and spread The Plague, killing at least a third of the population of Europe. This is why cats look so smug to this day. “Not so fast,” they seem to be saying in response to any treatment that is less-than-deifying. “Remember what happened last time? We do…”