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Decoding Cats

By Gay Published: August 3, 2009

Yes, there a jillion kinds of cats—not only have we pure breeds, but also half-breeds, multi-breeds, and  pure breeds who mix with half breeds and so on.  We know that, and we cat lovers know that we love them all.

Who knows what makes a cat especially lovable?  My cat Frogger, the enormous feline whom we found grievously injured, seems to be every child’s and young teen’s favorite.  Perhaps it is his immensity that delights them.  Like a big dog, he is more laid back and much more accommodating of too-small hands trying to lift him onto too-small laps.  Whatever, despite his absolute bullying of my little female, he is gentle and loving with people.

As with dogs, most of prefer a certain type.  I’m a big dog person, but that is not to say that I don’t adore a Wheaten Terrier or a Border Collie, smaller than the huge galumphs I’ve owned, and that I am not partial to a tiny terrier or a dachshund, especially the long-haired ones.  Here, I am going to try to identify for you a few characteristics of cats.  Once that is completed, we can get into the serious business of deciding which cat YOU’D be if  suddenly transformed.

Cats have a long and honorable history.  There are fossils of cats dating back twelve million years, which fall into three categories: cheetahs, great cats, and small cats, from whence evolved wild cats.  In turn, those wild cats were the forebears of our own beloved cats.  Tabby cats were domesticated 3500 years ago and are pictured in tombs of ancient Egyptians.  Cats have had a long, long time to evolve into the lovable, beautiful animals we know today.  Cats were so valuable to the Egyptians, for their role in keeping the mouse population down, that it was illegal to take a cat aboard a ship bound for foreign ports!

Enterprising sea-farers, however, managed to stow a few cats on board, and in this manner, they spread all across the world.  They were valued not only for their hunting ability, but as well for their beauty and companionship.  But cats underwent a transformation from deities, for the Egyptians, to evil, in medieval Europe.  In Egypt, cats were so revered, a cat killer received a death sentence.  Medieval cats were associated with the devil and often suffered terrible torture before they were killed.  Now those were backward societies!  The widespread extermination of cats allowed for proliferation of rats, which carried fleas that carried The Plague.  By the 1600’s, cats were able to come out of hiding and were once more valued for their hunting prowess.  It is not a coincidence that the revival of cats resulted in a slow-down of the Black Death that swept through Europe, killing as much as a third of the population.

Cats can be classified into distinct categories (ok, maybe not so distinct.  To me, if it purrs, is furry, and has whiskers and a dainty manner, it’s a cat, and therefore, lovable and desirable).

A cat whose hair is the same all over, root to tip, has a solid coat, and these colors are black, chocolate, lilac, blue, red, white, and cream.

A variation in the color is known as shading.  There are three types: smoke (usually gray on top, with white hair underneath), chinchilla, a cat which boasts a white color with a hit of color, and finally shaded, which denotes a coat that seems to have color brushed atop the cat.

Tortoiseshell cats have one solid color mixed with red or cream.  Torties are most always females.

Tabbies are perhaps the best known cat color and pattern.  A classic tabby pattern has a mixture of stripes and swirls, and the tabby pattern appears on the lowliest alley cat to the most magnificent Maine Coon.  Mackerel tabbies have definite stripes and spotted tabbies sport spots  Patched tabbies look as if, indeed, their coats have been patched together with stripes and circles and spots and swirls on a classis tabby.

A cat who has white on its coat, regardless of the main color is called a parti-color  A bicolor cat as two thirds color and one third white.  A van is completely white except for  an orange pattern on the top of the head and along the tail.  That’s our Frogger.

Cats can possess points, which are colors on the face and ears, feet and legs and tail that are a darker shade than the body.  You will find beautifully pointed cats in the Siamese or Birman cats.

Cats’ eyes range in color from blue to yellow, orange, and copper. The shape of the eye may be round, the exotic almond shape, and oval.  They are all beautiful.

Just thinking about the many forms of cats makes you want to run out and adopt more, doesn’t it?  Is there such a thing as too many cats?  I suppose one could make a case for it, but had I an enormous house or heated barn, I would have as many cats and dogs as I could afford to medically care for and feed!

Written by Gay Fifer, owner of Parsley Hollow, Inc.

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