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15997.  Thu Mar 10, 2005 5:01 am Reply with quote

Here is something QI, it’s in a couple of different places around the web, although nowhere that you would call authoritative. Anyone heard about this before?

The Ancient Egyptians regarded the cat as one of the most sacred animals. Cats were revered as gods, and it was absolutely forbidden for anyone to kill them. When a pet cat died its owners would shave off their eyebrows as a sign of mourning and the body was embalmed and buried with gifts for their afterlife. In the fifth century BC King Cambyses led the Persian army into battle against Egypt. They succeeded in conquering Egypt because they had cats attached to their shields and so the Egyptians could not fight back for fear of injuring the cats

16000.  Thu Mar 10, 2005 5:43 am Reply with quote

I was aware of the catness of said Egyptians, but the cats-on-the-shield thing sounds too amazing to be true. I mean, an attacking army is an attacking army, whereas a picture of a cat is not a cat.

Didn't know about the eyebrow thing, though. :-D

16001.  Thu Mar 10, 2005 5:46 am Reply with quote

Herodotus has lots of anecdotes about Cambyses, but I can't find this one. A pity, because it has potential.

16002.  Thu Mar 10, 2005 5:48 am Reply with quote

I got the impression that it was actual cats that they had on their shields, rather than pictures.

Agreed that it is a bit fanciful.

Ah well.

16007.  Thu Mar 10, 2005 9:58 am Reply with quote

The story that live cats were tied to the shields appears on several websites, but alas none of them give an original source for the tale. Anybody who has ever tried to make a cat walk on a leash, even the kind that are harnesses that go around the body, ought to realise that this is a non-starter unless the cat is practically dead.

16010.  Thu Mar 10, 2005 10:13 am Reply with quote

Years and years ago we had a half-Siamese cat to whom we attached a lead, after having been told they were amenable to being taken thus for a walk. As soon as we'd got into the local park, the cat shot up a tree and stayed there, leaving us for all the world like misplaced bellringers. We never tried it again.

Perversely, Gwenni (for it was she) always insisted on coming on walks with us after that, yowling loudly all the way out and trotting with her tail held high all the way back.

16012.  Thu Mar 10, 2005 10:47 am Reply with quote

The closest I’ve come to a source for this story was on this website:

In the second century AD, the Macedonian rhetorician Polyaenus gave an account of the battle of Pelusium, in the eastern Delta, in 525 B.C. The stratagem of the Persian conqueror Cambyses was to shield his soldiers from missiles by putting rows of animals, cats among them, in front rank. The Egyptians were afraid that they might injure or kill their gods and duly lost the battle. It is unlikely, though, that this is a true story.

It mentions Polynaenus, who is famous for his “stratagems of war”, so it sounds likely that the story could have come from there, although the author cites his reference as “The Cat in Ancient Egypt” by Jaromir Malek.

So at least it looks like it’s a real story, if not a true one!

16013.  Thu Mar 10, 2005 11:09 am Reply with quote

I can't find a Polyaenus e-text, though the Gutenberg server is overloaded so maybe it's there. Printed versions appear to be:

    Polyaenus: Strategematon Libri VIII; and Incerti Scriptoris Byzantini Saeculi X. Liber de re Militari, edited by E. Woelfflin and I. Melber; and by R. Vari respectively (Stuttgart, 1887/1901, reprinted 1970).

    Polyaenus: Stratagems of War; translated by R. Shepherd, (London, 1793: reprinted Chicago, 1974).

    Polyaenus: Stratagems of War, 2 Volumes, translated by Peter Krentz and Everett L. Wheeler (Chicago, 1994).

Brackett, you might have to nip down the Bodleian after your tea. As pointed out, he's writing more than 700 years after the event, but it still makes a good yarn.

16023.  Thu Mar 10, 2005 1:44 pm Reply with quote

When cats get revenge - now it's personal...

16280.  Sun Mar 20, 2005 2:06 pm Reply with quote

This was uncovered by Gray:

Q: Where do most tigers live?
Forfeit: India
A: The USA

According to National Geographic there may be more tigers being kept as pets in the USA than there are remaining in their wild habitats in Asia. Research done for the National Geographic Ultimate Explorer television documentary America's Big Cats in Crisis in October 2003 indicated that, for every lion and tiger in a zoo, there may be as many as 10 privately owned. Restrictions vary by state: As of June 2002, 19 states ban private ownership of big cats, 15 require only a license or permit, and the remaining 16 have no regulations at all, Ultimate Explorer established. Big cat ownership is particularly popular in Texas; the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that there may be as many as 500 lions, tigers, and other big cats in the Houston area alone. "America's zoos, and to some extent, circuses are largely responsible for today's big cat explosion," the Ultimate Explorer documentary noted. "Twenty-five years ago, zoos freely bred the animals in order to have a steady supply of cute cubs to display. But over-breeding led to an overabundance of big cats."

16784.  Mon Mar 28, 2005 10:08 am Reply with quote

Using a clever system of rotating arms, waist and legs, cats (nearly) always land on their feet when dropped - we've all covered this ground, I'm sure.

Has anyone ever heard of the proposed plan to incorporate this phenomenon with the fact that buttered toast always lands buttered side down? By strapping buttered toast to cats' feet, a vast buttered-cat array will levitate indefinitely: this technology can be extended to monorails, anti-grav cars, you name it...

Silly, but amusing. It's a Monday thing.

17024.  Fri Apr 01, 2005 4:04 am Reply with quote

Newly released gen from the UK's Freedom of Information act reveals some interesting cat-related info.
A series of cats from a humble mouser in 1929 to a pedigree feline who could not be sacked for "diplomatic" reasons have been employed.

One of the cats, from 1947, was called Peter II, who was sadly run over in Whitehall. Surely a good gag question there...

In the tenth Century, the Kind of South Wales, Howel Dda, set up a number of laws concerning cats:
The price of a kitten, before it could see, was a penny; after it could see, and before it caught a mouse, two-pence ; and after it had caught a mouse, four-pence...

If any one stole or killed the cat that guarded the prince's granary, he was to forfeit a milk ewe, its fleece, and lamb, or as much wheat as, when poured on the cat suspended by the tail, the head touching the floor, would form a heap high enough to cover the tip of the tail. (Laws of Hytvell Dha, folio edition, London, 1730.)

Egyptians cat-killers were punished by death. Diodorus Siculus writes of a brave Roman soldier who was the victim of this law.
[W]hoever kills a cat in Egypt is condemned to death, whether he committed this crime deliberately or not. The people gather and kill him. An unfortunate Roman, who had accidentally killed a cat, could not be saved, either by King Ptolemy of Egypt or by the fear which Rome inspired. [Diodorus Siculus, Library of History Bk. I, Ch. 83, para 8-9.]
Herodotus talks at length of cat customs in Egypt (Histories, II, right at the end)
On every occasion of a fire in Egypt the strangest prodigy occurs with the cats. The inhabitants allow the fire to rage as it pleases, while they stand about at intervals and watch these animals, which, slipping by the men or else leaping over them, rush headlong into the flames. When this happens, the Egyptians are in deep affliction. If a cat dies in a private house by a natural death, all the inmates of the house shave their eyebrows; on the death of a dog they shave the head and the whole of the body.

17026.  Fri Apr 01, 2005 4:22 am Reply with quote

It's always useful to have a cat on-board your foundering ship. The statute of Westminster the First (1276, 3 Edw. I.) says:
...provided that where a man, a dog or a cat escape alive out of the ship, such ship or barge or anything in it shall not be adjudged [a] wreck...

Frederick The Monk
17042.  Fri Apr 01, 2005 7:03 am Reply with quote

In the tenth Century, the Kind of South Wales, Howel Dda, set up a number of laws concerning cats

- which makes them the first reference to the domestic cat in british history.

17165.  Tue Apr 05, 2005 5:23 am Reply with quote

In 1879 Liege, Belgium employed 37 cats to carry bundles of letters to villages. This service didn't last long as cats proved to be thoroughly undisciplined

S: American Philately Association


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