On May 30 of every year, we celebrate International Hug Your Cat Day, a special occasion dedicated to expressing our love and affection for our beloved feline companions. This event encourages cat owners to show their pets extra love and care through warm hugs and attention. From domestic house cats to farm cats and even feral ones, cats have been valuable companions to humans for many years. They not only provide us with friendship, but they also help control rodent populations by detecting sounds that are beyond human hearing range such as those produced by small mammals like mice.
Health Benefits of Hugging a Cat
Research indicates that having close contact with your cat can have positive effects on your immune system. Exposure to your cat’s dander may help build immunity to a variety of allergens by enhancing tolerance. Furthermore, studies suggest that embracing your furry companion can be significantly beneficial in reducing symptoms related to certain illnesses, as well as alleviating feelings of loneliness, depression, anxiety and stress. 1
Historical Background of Cats
The history of cats is full of reverence, superstition, and cultural significance that stretches back thousands of years. The domestication of cats is believed to have begun in the Near East around 9,500 years ago, but the evidence of cats’ importance in human societies can be traced back even further, particularly in ancient civilizations such as Egypt and Greece.
Cats in Ancient Egypt were indeed seen as sacred animals and were closely associated with the goddess Bastet. Bastet, also known as Bast, was a goddess of home, fertility, and childbirth, as well as the protector of the pharaoh. She was often depicted as a lioness in her warrior aspect, symbolizing her strength and ferocity. However, in her gentler aspect, she was usually portrayed as a domestic cat, symbolizing grace and poise. Her cult center was in the city of Bubastis, which became a significant site for cat burial. The devotion of Egyptians to their feline companions was so profound that killing a cat, even accidentally, was considered a grave crime.
As for the ancient Greeks and Romans, cats were not their first choice for pest control. Weasels were more commonly used for this purpose. However, evidence suggests that cats were present and appreciated in these societies as well. On coins dating back to the 5th century BC from Magna Graecia (an area of present-day Southern Italy that was extensively populated by Greek settlers), there are depictions of legendary founders Iokastis and Phalanthus playing with cats. This suggests that while cats might not have been the primary choice for pest control, they were cherished as companions.
The ancient Greeks had a term for cats, ‘ailouros’, which means ‘having a waving tail’. Interestingly, the association of cats with Greek deities came later, as cultural exchanges with Egypt influenced Greek mythology. The Greek goddess Artemis, known for her connection with the natural world and wild animals, became associated with cats. This association was likely influenced by the syncretization of Artemis with the Egyptian goddess Bastet, both of whom shared common attributes of fertility, protection, and the moon. In addition, in Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, Diana – the Roman equivalent of Artemis – is said to transform into a cat.
May 30th marks the International Hug Your Cat Day, a special event that celebrates the affection and attention we give to our beloved pet cats. It also commemorates the important role that cats have played in human society throughout history. Take this opportunity to show your feline friend some extra love and cherish the special relationship that has lasted for centuries between humans and cats.
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