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What If Cats & Dogs Had Opposable Thumbs Day - 3rd March

St. Gertrude, the Patron Saint of Cats - 17th March

March, the third month of the Gregorian calendar. It was the first month on the early Roman calendar and was called Martius. Later, the ancient Romans made January 1 the beginning of the year, and March became the third month. March has always had 31 days. Its name honours Mars, the Roman god of war.

March brings in spring and ends the winter. Spring in the northern half of the world begins with the vernal equinox, which occurs on March 19, 20, or 21. On this day, the center of the sun is directly over the equator. March can be both wintry and springlike. Blustery, windy days occur as frequently as mild, sunny days.

In the Northern Hemisphere, many animals end their hibernation, and many plants come to life again during March. Sap flows in the trees, and green buds begin to appear. The first pussy willows and wild flowers can be found in the woods. Most frogs lay their eggs. Hibernating animals, such as bears, chipmunks, and woodchucks, leave their winter sleeping places. Wild geese and ducks begin their northward flights. In March, people begin to look for the first robin as a sign that spring has really come.

March symbols: The flower for March is the violet. The birthstones are the bloodstone (a variety of chalcedony) and the aquamarine.

There are many superstitions about March. We often hear that "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." This means that the first day of March is often stormy, and the last day is mild and warm. Another saying is, "April borrowed from March three days, and they were ill." This refers to the first three days of April, which are generally rough and blustery like March. A third saying calls the first three days of March "blind days" because they are "unlucky." If rain falls on these days, farmers supposedly will have poor harvests.

March Quotations

A lights exists in spring
Not present on the year
At any other period
When March is scarcely here.

Emily Dickinson

The stormy March has come at last,
With wind, and cloud, and changing skies;
I hear the rushing of the blast
That through the snowy valley flies.

William Cullen Bryant

I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,
If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun,
And crocus fires are kindling one by one.

Christina Rossetti

And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earths dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

The Beckoning Cat

The image of the cat with one paw raised in a beckoning movement is a popular Japanese talisman or lucky charm. It is known as the maneki-neko. If worn on the body it brings good luck and wards off bad luck. Images of Beckoning Cats tied around the waist are said to protect the wearer from pain and ill health. If placed at the entrance of a building, a Beckoning Cat made of clay, wood, or papier-mache protects the occupants in a similar way. In the absence of an image, even the written symbol for the cat is alone considered to have protective value. As a protective talisman, it appears in many forms, but always with the right arm raised.

The Legend Of The Beckoning Cat

The temple at Gotoku-ji was a very poor one. Although the monks were starving, they shared their food with their pet cat. One day the cat was sitting by the side of the road outside the temple, when a group of Samurai rode up. The cat beckoned to them and they followed it to the temple. Once inside, heavy rains forced them to shelter there and they passed the time learning about the Buddhist philosophy. Later, one of the Samurai returned to take religious instruction and eventually endowed the temple with a large estate. His family were buried there and near their tombs a small cat shrine was built to the memory of the Beckoning Cat.

Today the temple has been swallowed up by the western suburbs of Tokyo, but it remains a popular center for those who wish to pray for their cats. The cat shrine is regularly festooned with offerings.

The Study Of Cats

Studying cats in literature per se can be a time-consuming but rewarding occupation. Anyone seriously interested in pursuing this topic would be well advised to consult Clair Necker's Four Centuries of Cat Books. 1500-1970, published by Scarecrow Press in 1972 - an annotated bibliography of cat books published in English.

The range in cat literature is enormous, There are adventurous cats like Dick Whittington's friend or Puss in Boots, and there are long-suffering cats as in Susannah Patterson's Pussy Meow. There are musical cats (The King of Cats by Stephen vincent Benet), talking cats (Tobermory by Saki) and even cats who are FBI agents (Undercover Cat by The Gordons).

The largest number of cat books are written for children; the next largest subdivision covers cat care. There are also many general cat books, of which Agnes Repplier's The Fireside Sphynx, first published in 1901, is an excellent example, fiction, anthologies, picture books, cartoon books, and scientific books - anything in short, that strikes a reader's fancy.

Hippolyte Taine on Cat Washing:

His tongue is sponge, and brush, and towel, and curry-comb,
well he knows what work it can be made to do,
poor little wash-rag, smaller than my thumb.
His nose touches his back, touches his hind paws too,
every patch of fur is raked, and scraped, and smoothed;
what more has Goethe done, what more could Voltaire do?

Quote: "I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior." - Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893)

Myths & Legends

In many native American cultures Cats had powers of life and death, corresponding to those of the Egyptian god Bast. Warriors wearing cat masks would partake in ceremonies, hoping that the spirit of dead cats would enter their bodies and give them feline stealth and cunning.

One of the holiest cats in history was Meuzza, which belonged to Mohammed. According to legend, the prophet was called to prayer one day. The cat was asleep on his arm and rather than wake the cat, Mohammed cut the sleeve from his robe and set it down with the dozing cat.

According to the Koran, the cat is the essence of purity. A cat hospital was built in Bab-el-Nasz, and it was considered a blessing to bring food to the patients. It is unlawful to chase cats from Mosques.

According to lore contributed to the Dutch, only on Christmas eve, and then only in private, do cats get on their knees, fold their paws together, shut their eyes and pray. It is not known what they pray for? Though legend has it that they get what they wish for, which is why not a creature is stirring that night "not even a mouse."

In Norse mythology, the cat was the special animal of Freyja, the Scandinavian goddess of fertility, beauty, love and marriage. In this capacity the equivalent of a Judeo-christian angel cats were responsible for drawing her chariot through the skies. It was considered good luck to get married on her namesake day - Friday, since this guaranteed fertility for the newly weds.

Cats and Lions were considered sacred in ancient China, presumed to have the power to repel evil with a glance or roar, respectively, and to protect crops from predators. These animals were sometimes pictured with wings, as befitted their celestial status. As Lions became extinct, the Chinese bred the Pekinese dogs to resemble them and take their place in holy pantheon.

Some cats did not stay in the afterworld long enough to be considered angels. As far back as the fifth century A.D., both Chinese and Japanese mystics believed that good people were reincarnated, not as people, but as cats. That is why when cats showed up on doorsteps they were taken in and pampered. Many Buddhists and Hindu sects believe that going from human to a cat is a step forward in achieving Nirvana, a state of perfect freedom from pain and worry.

According to an old European folktale, when cats were first created they had wings, but they preyed on birds and threatened them with extinction. So God took away their cat wings though he turned their flutter into a purr, reminding kittens of the time and form which they were most content.

Cats are not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, which may have to do with their importance, as deities, to the Egyptians. On the other hand, there are a number of dogs in the bible, which might also explain their abscence.

In ancient cultures the cat was both a solar and lunar animal. It was said to be psychic and could predict coming disasters people thought it could also affect the weather.

Many deities were connected to some branch of the cat family. Artemis and Diana were both called the Mother of cats; the Roman goddess Liberty was portrayed with a cat at her feet. Although the followers of Zoroaster believed that cat were familiars of the evil god Ahriman the Moslems believed the cat was a good creature given by Allah to help humans. The Hindu goddess Shasti rides a cat; the symbol of prolific fertility and birth.

In Celtic traditions cats were associated with the underworld powers, the dead, and prophecy. Often they were portrayed as evil creatures, but this may have been the wildcat, in Celtic countries, which were untamed. Irish legends tell of a cat called little cat who was a guardian of treasure.

Quote of the month

"Cats are absolute individuals, with their own ideas about everything, including the people they own." - John Dingman

The Cat and the Fox

The fox and cat, two saints indeed,
To make a pilgrimage agreed.

Two artful hypocrites they were,
Soft-footed, sly, and smooth, and fair.
Full many a fowl, and many a cheese,
Made up for loss of time and ease.

The road was long, and weary too;
To shorten it, to talk they flew.
For argument drives sleep away,
And helps a journey on, they say.

The fox to the cat says, "My friend,
To be so clever you pretend;
Say what am I? I've in this sack
A hundred tricks." "Well, on my back,"
The other, very timid, said,
"I've only one, I'm quite afraid;
But that, I hold, is worth a dozen,
My enemies to cheat and cozen."

Then the dispute began anew,
With "So say I!" and "I tell you!"
Till, suddenly, some hounds in sight
Silenced them soon, as it well might.

The cat cried, "Search your bag, my friend,
Or you are lost, you may depend.
Choose out your choicest stratagem!"
Puss climbed a tree, and baffled them.

The fox a hundred burrows sought:
Turned, dodged, and doubled, as he thought
To put the terriers at fault,
And shun their rough and rude assault.

In every place he tried for shelter,
But begged it vainly. Helter-skelter
The hounds were on the treacherous scent,
That still betrayed, where'er he went.

At last, as from a hole he started,
Two swift dogs on poor Reynard darted;
Then came up all the yelping crew,
And at his throat at once they flew.

Too many schemes spoil everything.
We lose our time in settling.
Have only one, as wise man should;
But let that one be sound and good.

Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), Fables, book 9, fable 14. Translated from French by Walter Thornbury.

Castle Cats

Many British castles still house resident cats whose official duties include reducing the rodent population. However, since most of these great buildings have become tourist attractions, complete with restaurants, snack bars, and picnic areas, their feline occupants have enjoyed unexpected softening of their lifestyle. Sumo, the huge ginger and white tomcat who patrols the castle grounds and 35 acres of gardens at Hever Castle, where Henry VIII so ardently courted the ill-fated Anne Boleyn, has become so well fed that the waterfowl around the castle moat completely ignore his approach!

Convent Cats

In Cyprus, the Byzantine convent of St. Nicholas of the Cats today houses only five nuns but has a feline population of over 200 cats. Although the animals are traditionally tended by the nuns, most of them live semi-wild. The convent is situated near the British military base at Akrotiri, on the south coast of Cyprus, not far from Limassol. The feline community there is an ancient one, dating back to the fourth century. At the beginning of that century, there had been a disastrous drought on the island, which had decimated human population. When St. Helena of the Cross, the mother of King Constantine the Great, visited the island in AD 328, she became aware of this problem and persuaded her son to take action. He appointed Calocaeus, the chief of his camel corps, as Governor of the island. Calocaeus arranged for a special group of serpent killing cats to be brought there from Egypt. The cats were taken to the Akrotiri peninsula, which is still known today as the Cape of Cats (Cape Gata). There they were cared for by the monks of the then active monastery of St. Nichols. According to legend there were soon over a thousand of these snake hunting felines.

The cats apparently carried out their duties efficiently and survived well over the centuries. A Venetian monk, who visited the island in 1484, recorded that the monks summoned the cats to eat by tolling a bell. After their meal, they then trooped back outside again to continue their ceaseless battle with the venomous serpents.

A century later, in 1580, Father Stephen Lusignan wrote that Basilian monks who originally occupied St. Nicholas of the Cats were presented with all the surrounding land, on one condition, namely that they should be under obligation to maintain always at least a hundred cats and to provide some food for them every day in the morning and evening at the ringing of a bell, to the intent that should not eat nothing but venom and that for the rest of the day and night they should go a-hunting for those serpents.

With the Turkish conquest of Cyprus in the sixteenth century, the monastery fell into ruins and many of the cats died of starvation. After a period of abandonment, the present Greek Orthodox convent was established to give new life to St. Nicholas of the Cats, with nuns replacing the monks in the role of cat protectors and providing a continuing sanctuary for the descendants of the feline survivors of the ancient monastery.

Despite the best efforts of the nuns, however, by 1994 the cat population was in poor condition. Many of them were diseased and others were emaciated and suffering from malnutrition. The colony was breeding so fast that it was impossible for the Sisters to keep up an adequate food supply. Tourists visiting the convent were horrified by the condition of the cats. The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) was called in to help. They caught the cats, medicated them, treated their wounds, spayed 63 females, and then released them all again. Regular food supplies were also arranged and at last the famous Convent Cats of Cyprus were healthy and secure for the future.

Cats & Aromatherapy

Although there is a place for Aromatherapy in your cat care, it must not be used in place of professional Vetinary treatment.

Cats are now known to be good for our health, by actually stroking a cat it is having a calming effect on our nervous system, which in turn lowers our blood pressure. People who have had a heart attack lengthen their chances of survival if they own a cat.

Aromatherapy oils do have their place in cat care; below are a few instances where Aromatherapy oils can be used.

Canker of the ear: This is a problem that Cats encounter, one form is eczematous, and the other is due to a parasite. The scratching can cause a sore and infection can set in. The ear will feel hot to the touch and there could be a discharge of wax. Try to clean the ear if possible. To prevent a sore from forming due to constant scratching, warm a teaspoon of Olive oil and add one drop of Lavender oil and one drop of Chammomile oil, insert a small amount into the ear and rub gently the surrounding area. Canker is contagious so it is important to treat it.

Mange: This is also very contagious in cats, all the bedding should be treated or thrown out. Cover your cat with water to which you add three drops of Lavender and three drops of Tea tree essential oil, you could use Chammomile as well. Try to ensure (much to your cats disgust) that you cover the whole area of the cat with this solution.

Fleas: The age old problem that affects not only our Cats but our home as well. This remedy will not only get rid of fleas but will get your cats coat in a good condition as well. Many shop bought sprays have chemicals in them which are not only bad for the environment but also bad for your Cats as well, this remedy is based on a more natural approach and will not effect the balance of the oils in your Cats skin. Take an old steel brush and cover it with a piece of flannel, ensuring you pull it down over the brushes teeth. Prepare a bowl of warm water and mix in 4 drops of Cedarwood or Pine oil and soak the prepared brush in it before hand. This treatment will disinfect the Cat, condition the coat and collect the parasites and eggs in the brush. Brush the mixture through your cats coat several times rinsing the brush out in the solution regularly. Another way of dispersing the oil is to put 4 drops of either oil neat on a brush and brush through your cats coat thoroughly.

Lemon juice is also good in prevention of fleas. Use one part fresh lemon juice to 10 parts water. Dampen your hands and rub into the cat's fur thoroughly. Lemon mixture cannot be kept in the fridge, the mixture should always be freshly made. Blood is the fleas only form of food, but when garlic is detected in it they will leave well alone. Add one or two garlic capsules to your pets food in spring and summer, depending on the size of your cat.

Flea collars: Most commercially bought flea collars are made with highly toxic chemicals which can be absorbed through the cats skin. Cats will lick around the area where a flea collar is worn, thus increasing the chances of absorbing the chemicals. An essential oil collar provides excellent protection from fleas, it is very cheap and easy to make. Buy a soft material collar and soak it in the following mixture; half a teaspoon of alcohol, 1 drop of Cedarwood, 1 drop of Thyme, 1 drop of Citronella, 1 drop of Lavender, Mix with 4 garlic capsules(break them open and add contents of capsules to the mixture. Soak the flea collar in the mixture and leave to dry before putting it around your cats neck. This collar should be effective for up to one month.

Abscesses: Cats often get abscesses during a night on the tiles from fighting with other cats. Put neat tea tree oil to bring it to a head. As the cat licks the fur he will ingest the oil which also helps clear up the abscess. After it has burst and the pus has discharged, dab some neat Lavender oil on the wound to speed up healing.

Arthritus: Just like humans cats can suffer from arthritis to, a gentle massage into the affected area with the following mixture usually brings some relief to the cat. 4 drops of Rosemary, 2 drops of Lavender, 3 drops of ginger, diluted in 30ml vegetable oil.

"The Cat must be considered as a faithless friend, brought to oppose a still more insidious enemy. The domestic cat is the only animal of the tribe to which it belongs, whose services can more than recompense the trouble of its education, and whose strength is not sufficient to make its anger formidable. Supple, insinuating, and artful, it has the art of concealing its intentions till it can put them into execution. Whatever animal is much weaker than itself is an indiscriminate object of slaughter, - birds, bats, moles, young rabbits, rats, and mice, - the last named being its favourite game."

From: Animals, Their Nature & Uses - By Charles Baker

A Kitten

He's nothing much but fur
and two round eyes of blue,
he has a giant purr
and a midget mew.

He darts and pats the air,
he starts and cocks his ear,
when there is nothing there
for him to see and hear.

He runs around in rings,
but why we cannot tell;
with sideways leaps he springs
at things invisible...

Then half-way through a leap...
his startled eyeballs close,
and he drops off to sleep
with one paw on his nose.

Eleanor Farjeon (1881 - 1965)

Charm A Cat!

As cats became increasingly prized as luck bringers, the problem arose as to how they could be acquired. An eighteenth century magazine gave the following account of a charm by means of which numerous cats could be captured:

"In the new moon gather the herb Nepe and dry it in the heat of the sun; gather Vervain in the hour 8, and only expose it to the air while the moon is under the earth. Hang these together in a net in a convenient place, and when one of them has scented it her cry will soon call those about within hearing; and they will rant and run about leaping and capering to get at the net, which must be hung or placed so that cannot accomplish it, or they will tear it in pieces."

Vervain is sometimes call the "holy herb" from its use in ancient sacred rites. It was supposed to cure the bites of rabid animals and to arrest diffusion of the poison. Near Bristol, UK, there is a "Field of Cats," so called because a large number of cats were drawn together there by this charm.

The word charm originally meant incantation, but later it was stretched to include any object or action which was believed to possess the power of the incantation or spell.

Recommended book: The Cat Whisperer

Author: Claire Bessant

Claire Bessant - Chief Executive of the Feline Advisory Board (FAB), shows you how to turn your favourite pet into your best friend.

A must read for every cat fanatic, having read the book three times I still refer back to it at least once a week. - Padraig

The book explains how cats function as cats, what they are like, what they dislike, how they behave, and uses that knowledge to help you build up a relationship with your pet on a day-to-day basis.

Hardback - 184 pages.

ISBN: 1-903402-42-5

Published by: John Blake Publishing Ltd
3 Bamber Court
2 Bamber Road
United Kingdom
W14 9PB

And finally...

Quote: "The cat is the mirror of his human's mindů the dog mirrors his human's physical appearance." - Winifred Carriere

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