contributed by Fedora the Fabulous, a feline correspondent
Greetings, humans. I am back this month, having spent the last two traveling with my dear friend Mehitabel, a feisty feline who loves adventure and once was Cleopatra in a former life. You may have read her story as told by a poet named Archy, once a human who reincarnated as a cockroach. Difficult to type, but Archy managed it by jumping forcefully from one key to another, foregoing capital letters as a necessity. Archy and Mehitabel, a book by Don Marquis, uses Archy’s own free verse poetry to tell their story if your interest is aroused and you want more of the story. (Amazon's description: the book is about Archy the cockroach and Mehitabel the cat in her ninth life. First published in 1927, this free verse poem has become an essential part of American literature)
I reminisce about my fascination with a sleek cat named Pywacket. She was forced by Hollywood to play the role of a cat that lived with a witch, and helped the witch when the witch (played by a stunningly cat-like Kim Novak) cast spells. The movie-- Bell, Book and Candle --unfortunately reinforces the false notion that cats are full of the devil, which could not be further from the truth. Admittedly, I enjoyed watching a young Jack Lemmon as the witch’s hipster brother, a role that did inject some comic relief. I hear Pywacket decided to stay in California after filming, having become accustomed to having her coat brushed and her nails polished by minions assigned to take care of her and who begged Pywacket never to leave them. They had fallen in love, understandably.
Humans' belief that felines embody the devil has had serious consequences for felines and has brought great harm to so many of us. While some humans have realized how preposterous this belief is, others will hunt us down to torture or kill us. Take Halloween night. Especially my ebony friends take care to stay hidden, for fear of entrapment, injury or death.
Superstitions about cats are alive in many cultures. The Irish, for instance, imbued us cats with the devil. I found a collection of stories told among the Irish that William Butler Yeats edited in 1888. Titled Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry, that had a story in it called “The Demon Cat.”
According to this ancient tale, a wicked black cat came to a fisherman’s house, attacked anyone who tried to stop him, and proceeded to eat the bounty of beautiful fish that were laid out on the kitchen table. The fisherman’s wife grabbed a bottle of holy water and poured it on the cat. Dense smoke filled the air and before long, nothing was left of the cat except black shriveled remains. The story ends thusly: “And from that time the fish remained untouched and safe from harm, for the power of the evil one was broken, and the demon cat was seen no more.”
The story is sheer nonsense, of course. But it is stories like these that keep alive the terrible discrimination against cats that some humans practice.
Listen up humans. Cats are not evil. Cats are not the devil in disguise. Cats are cats. Some may not like us because we are independent, with minds of our own. But do not confuse independence with wickedness. I must close now, for I have said my peace for the time being.
And by the way, if you have a favorite cat in literature, tell me about it! I am always looking to expand my knowledge. E-mail me here.