Cats



Takashi Hososhima, via Flickr

Many people around the world own cats. Liz Waid and Joshua Leo look at the many interesting stories and beliefs about these animals.

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Transcript


Voice 1

Thank you for joining us for today’s Spotlight program. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2

And I’m Joshua Leo. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

Can you solve this riddle? Do you know what I am talking about?

What animal has nine lives, a long tail, may be good luck or bad luck, and sounds like this?

If you guessed a cat, you are right! Today’s Spotlight is on cats. These animals have been the subject of many stories and beliefs all around the world. In some cultures, people have even worshiped these animals. In today’s Spotlight we look at the history and stories of the domestic cat.

Voice 2

Cats began as wild animals. But the cats we are talking about today are domestic cats - cats that have learned to live with people. They are the cats people have as family pets. Cats have a long history with people. Many experts believe that the first domesticated cats came from Egypt. Ancient pictures show that cats were a normal part of Egyptian life for thousands of years!

Voice 1

No one knows exactly when the first cats in Egypt came from the wild and became domesticated. But experts say that it was probably about 4,000 years ago.

Voice 2

Many experts believe that the first cats in Egypt were African wild cats. These small wild cats were skilled at hunting and eating smaller animals like mice, rats, and poisonous snakes. And these were some of the Egyptians’ biggest problems!

Voice 1

Mice, rats, and snakes attacked food supplies in Egyptian houses and village grain storage areas. Experts say that wild cats began to enter Egyptian communities. The cats hunted and killed the mice, rats, and snakes. The Egyptians were probably very grateful for the assistance of these cats. So, they repaid the animals with small pieces of food. Experts say that it was only a short time before these wild cats began to enter Egyptian homes. This was a good deal for everyone!

Voice 2

The wild cats probably began to spend more and more time inside the homes of the Egyptians. They let the Egyptians take care of them. The cats began to raise their babies near people. Also, after a time, the wild cat’s diet probably changed. It began to depend on people for food, instead of hunting its own food.

Voice 1

The Egyptian people probably also encouraged particular cats to mate. This way, they could breed good characteristics into the cats - making them more friendly. As the cats became more and more domesticated, they became the perfect pets for Egyptians. The cats liked to play and they were intelligent. They showed love toward the Egyptians. And they also kept problem animals away from the food stores.

Voice 2

History experts say that many ancient pictures show cats taking part in everyday Egyptian life. The Egyptians valued the mysterious qualities of the cat. They believed that the female cat was a good mother. Evidence even shows that Egyptian people started naming their children after cats!

Voice 1

And soon, the image and shape of cats began to appear on everyday objects. Cat images appeared on jewellery that a person would wear around the neck or arm, or on the ear. People owned cat statues. Women even began copying the look of the cat. They painted around their eyes to look more cat-like.

Voice 2

Many Egyptians even worshiped a cat goddess, a female god. She had the body of a woman, but the head of a cat. They called her Bastet. They believed that Bastet protected women, children, and domestic cats from harm. Every year, Egyptians had a celebration for her.

Voice 1

Egyptians valued cats so much, that they worked very hard to protect them. During one time in Egyptian history, it was illegal to kill a cat - even by accident. The punishment for this act was death!

Voice 2

Many experts say that domestic cats began to spread quickly from Egypt through other parts of the world. Today, millions of people around the world still own cats as pets.

Voice 1

And people still recognize the mysterious nature of the cat. In fact, cats have been the subjects of many beliefs and stories around the world - some good and some bad. You have probably heard a few interesting beliefs or stories about cats from your own country. Many of these beliefs are superstitions. Superstitions are beliefs that are not based in fact. Here are some superstitions about cats from cultures around the world. Some of these superstitions are very old. But they may still influence cat owners in particular areas today.

Voice 2

When a cat washes behind his ears, you may expect visitors. This is a Dutch superstition.

Voice 1

An old English superstition says: if a cat leaves a house forever, the people living there will always be sick.

Voice 2

A very common worldwide superstition says that cats have nine lives.

Voice 1

Some superstitions say that cats can predict weather. Here are some English superstitions. If a cat washes behind its ears, it will rain. But, if your cat is sleeping with all four of its feet under its body, it means you can expect cold weather very soon.

Voice 2

Many superstitions about cats have to do with luck. Cats can be either good luck, or bad luck - but it depends on the situation.

Voice 1

In the United States, it is bad luck to see a white cat at night. But dreaming of a white cat is good luck.

Voice 2

In France, it is bad luck to carry a cat while crossing a stream of water.

Voice 1

Have you ever heard a cat sneeze? An old Italian superstition says that a sneezing cat is a good sign for anyone who hears it.

Voice 2

In the United States, it is bad luck if a black cat walks in front of you. But in Britain, and many parts of Europe the superstition is different. In these places, a black cat who walks in front of you means good luck! And in Southern England a newly married woman may hope that a black cat walks in front of her. There, the superstition says that if that happens, she will have a very good marriage.

Voice 1

Cats are definitely the subjects of some strange beliefs. These superstitions are not true. But they all show how full of mystery people believe the cat to be. Do superstitions like this exist in your community? Do you have a cat? Write to us and tell us your experiences at radio@radioenglish.net.

Voice 2

The writer and producer of this program was Liz Waid. The voices you heard were from the United States. Computer users can hear more Spotlight programs on our website at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called “Cats.” We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye!

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Question:

Do you like cats?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
Miiran
said on March 05, 2009

A great tale

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Vomax
said on November 07, 2011

A common belief in Italy tell if you see a black cat while crossing a street in front of you then will be bad luck.
Then you must go back to avoid bad luck…

Best regards.

Max.

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Makhnyuk
said on June 29, 2015

Earlier I believed that it’s a bad luck if a black cat walks in front of me, but one time then one of my friends said that it’s a very good luck. And I decided to follow his suggestion because sometimes it can be a big trouble to turn back. I think that we all should believe in good luck no matter who or what it is – cat or dog, black or white and so on…
I wish to have a good luck for everyone.

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Juliana Bendeck
said on July 01, 2015

Yes I like cats. Cats are My favourite animals

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doimoigiaoduc
said on July 02, 2015

I don’t like cats, I like dogs. But somewhere, cats are killed for food.

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doimoigiaoduc
said on July 02, 2015

I haven’t known that cats had so many misterious things.

FaizanMedico's avatar
FaizanMedico
said on July 02, 2015

I love cats so much. I have a black and white female they are amazing, affectionate, funny, clean and don’t require walks in the cold and rain or bark when you go out.They protect you from snakes by hunting.

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God is Love
said on November 19, 2015

I am from Mexico the superstition that I have about a cat is when the cat washes behind its ears ,  we expect visitors but I am from Mexico , Oaxaca in this state of mexico we have a lot of superstitions about cats, this superstition my mom told it to me. and I have heard that the cats are of the devil but I don´t think this, because I like cats and I don´t care what color.

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Trang Phan
said on May 22, 2016

i love cats so much.

Czarinarj's avatar
Czarinarj
said on February 01, 2018

I have ten beautiful cats.
I love theim much.

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Honneur
said on June 19, 2019

There is a lot of superstition about cats in my country and people usually have cats as pets. I’m not a “politically correct” man and I must say I do not like cats. They are ready to hurt anyone who dares to approach them. Maybe they’re just scared of strangers, but I definitely do not like them. I’m so sorry…