Happy Friday the 13th! I’m sure a lot of bloggers today will be talking about triskaidekaphobia, and the history behind the “unlucky number 13”. There will probably be a few posts, too, about Jason. Horror lovers will be happy.
I’m not a fan of horror — books or films. I’ve read Dracula, and I’m determined to finish reading Frankenstein this year, but that’s about as far as I lean toward the horror genre.
What do I like? Well, if you’ve visited my official author page on Facebook — Christina Cole’s Love Notes — or if we’re “Facebook friends”, you know the answer to that question.
Cats have become associated with evil and horror — although they certainly don’t deserve their wicked reputation. So, to celebrate this frightful day of superstitions and unluckiness, I’m going to share a few myths and misconceptions about my furry little friends. How about thirteen? Sounds like the perfect number.
1. Cats, especially black cats, are important in witchcraft.
This little myth has been around for a long, long time. It seems to have originated during the middle ages when beliefs in witches were strong. It was noticed that many widows and spinsters kept cats as companions — and by coincidence, many of these women were ones who were thought to be witches. The link between black cats and witchcraft was forged when a father and son were walking home late one night. A big black cat suddenly darted in front of them. It hissed and crossed their path. Frightened, they pelted the creature with stones, watching as it ran into the home of an old widow woman. When the widow appeared the next morning, she was limping and bruised. This led folks to suspect that she was, indeed, a witch, one who turned herself into a cat in order to roam about freely at night. Incidentally, not everyone believes it’s unlucky for a black cat to cross your path. Pirates of old believed that if a black cat approached, it would bring bad luck. Seeing a black cat walking away was cause for celebration, though, for it took any bad luck away from you.
2. Cats will suck the breath out of babies.
I can’t count how many times I heard this cat-tale while growing up. Although my grandfather was extremely intelligent, he believed with all his heart that this story was true. Later, I heard explanations that cats could smell milk on a baby’s breath, and that was why this happened. No, it’s not true. I’d be willing to venture that a large cat could smother a tiny baby simply by wanting to curl up and share a bit of warmth, but I haven’t tracked down any case where this has actually happened.
3. Cats will always land on their feet.
Nope. Cats, however, are extremely flexible, so they can perform mid-air acrobatics that would be impossible for us. Do you know why? Cats don’t have fixed collarbones. This also explains how they can slip through very small openings.
4. Cats love milk.
Yes and no. A kitten loves its mama’s milk, but that’s true of all species. What I discovered as I checked out this little misconception is that any animal has trouble digesting milk from a different animal. Just like humans, cats can be lactose intolerant. Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or any other form of milk isn’t a special treat for them.
5. Cats hate water.
Most cats don’t like getting wet, not because they hate water, but because water causes their fur to smell. It’s hard to sneak up on prey when you’re stinky, you know. Actually a lot of cats are fascinated with water and love watching it rush out of a faucet or pump. Some even like to play in puddles. I once had a cat, Kitten Caboodle, who loved bathtime. She was always underfoot in the shower, and when it rained, she begged to go outside. Just like with humans…it takes all kinds, I suppose.
6. Cats go crazy for catnip.
This myth is half-true. Sensitivity to catnip – a member of the mint family — is inherited. Only about 50% of cats have the crazy-for-catnip gene. Those who do will roll, flip, wobble, and weave when they get a whiff of nepetalactone, the essential oil the plant contains. Those without the gene won’t be affected. Neither will any kittens. The gene doesn’t “kick in” until sometime between three and six months of age. A catnip-induced frenzy will last about ten minutes, followed by a “recuperation” period of two hours. After that, the cat’s sensitivity to the plant will return. Incidentally, if a cat eats catnip rather than smell it, it often has the opposite effect and will mellow out your feline friend.
7. All calico cats are female.
This is another one that’s almost true. Most calico and tortoiseshell cats are indeed female. That’s because the tricolor coat pattern is carried by the X chromosome, which greatly reduces the possibility of a male calico being born. However, male calico cats do occur in very small numbers (1 in 3,000 kittens) and are usually sterile. Calico cats, often nicknamed “money cats,” are also believed to bring good luck to their owners.
8. If you rub a cat’s fur backward, you’ll soon find yourself in a fight.
There are a lot of superstitions about cats. This is one of them. Needless to say, there’s no valid evidence to support this idea.
9. If a cat sleeps with its tail toward the fireplace, it will bring bad luck into the home.
As with the previous supersition, this one has nothing to back it up.
10. When a cat washes behind its ear, it’s a sign of a visitor approaching.
As above…no proof of this one. But, you might want to watch your car and see what happens. The superstition further states that if it’s the right ear the cat washes, the visitor will be a male. The left ear indicates the approach of a female.
11. It’s good luck to see a cat on your wedding day.
According to Norse mythology, it was very good luck for a cat to appear at a wedding. Cats were associated with Freya, the goddess of love. Her appearance promised a happy marriage. Maybe this one is true. I’d like to think it is.
12. Cats can “raise the wind” and stir up storms.
Some folks once believed that restless cats were responsible for storms. Of course, we’ve figured out now that the reverse is true. Approaching storms can make cats restless. A cat’s nervous system can sense changes in atmospheric pressure long before humans do. The electricity in the air also causes cats to rub their ears and lick their fur — which has led to more weather-related supersitions, such as the belief that when a cat licks its tail, rain is on the way.
So…there’s a dozen little myths and misconceptions, but I promised you thirteen, didn’t I? Here, just for Friday the 13th, is one more little tidbit of information.
Let me introduce you to Kaspar from the Savoy Hotel in London.
Here’s his story…
Kaspar’s tale began in 1898, when the diamond magnate Woolf Joel held a dinner party for 14 guests at the London hotel. One dropped out at the last minute, reducing the number of diners to 13, prompting one to predict that death would befall the first person to leave the table. Joel scoffed at the idea and left first. Weeks later he was shot dead.
Shocked by the news, the hotel invited staff to join tables of 13. This practice continued until in 1927 when the designer Basil Ionides created a 2ft-high feline sculpture to become the 14th dinner guest.
Incidentally, Kaspar now has his own restaurant. Kaspar’s Seafood Bar and Grill opened, appropriately, in 2013.