Love Your Pet Day! 20th February
February, the second month of the Gregorian calendar, it is also the shortest month. According to legend, the first calendar of the ancient Romans had only 10 months. About 700 B.C., the ruler Numa Pompilius added January and February. February became the last month of the Roman year. The month takes its name from the Latin word februare, meaning to purify. The Romans purified themselves in February to prepare for festivals at the start of the New Year. Later, the Romans moved the beginning of the year from March to January, making February the second month.
February always had 28 days until the time of the Roman statesman Julius Caesar. Caesar gave it 29 days in standard years and 30 every four years. According to tradition, the Roman emperor Augustus took one day off February to add to August, the month named after him. Today, February has 28 days in standard years and 29 in leap years.
A leap year occurs in every year that can be divided evenly by four, except the years that mark the even hundreds, such as 1500. The only century years that are leap years are those that can be divided evenly by 400, such as 1600 and 2000. Leap years were added to the calendar to make the calendar year nearly the same as the solar year, which is the time it takes for the sun to pass the vernal equinox twice. The extra day is added to the end of February and occurs as February 29 once every four years.
People in most Western countries celebrate Valentine's Day on the 14th of February. Old and young alike exchange Valentine cards with their friends. The custom of exchanging greetings on Valentine's Day goes back hundreds of years. Scholars have found records of Valentine notes that date from the 1400's.
February is usually cold and stormy in the northern half of the world. But sunny days now and then show that spring is not far off. The air is often crisp and clear. People in the Southern Hemisphere enjoy midsummer weather during February.
February symbols: Many people consider the primrose the special flower for February. The amethyst is the birthstone for February.
The February sunshine steeps your boughs,
And tints the buds and swells the leaves within.
William Cullen Bryant
Thirty days hath September,
April, June, and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Excepting February alone
Which hath but twenty-eight, in fine,
Till leap year gives it twenty-nine.
An Old Cat Fairy Story
Long, long ago in parts of Europe, it was believed that fairy folk stole babies from their cribs and left in their place a fairy child. They were called changelings and were unhappy in the human world. A fairy child grew up wild and fey, always looking for a way back into the summerlands; its green or blue eyes were slanted a little and its ears were a little more pointed than normal. And a changeling had a strange way of looking at the world, as though looking through the world to something hidden beyond.
But how? How could fairies steal away babies?
Long ago, when fairies walked invisible in the world, only cats could see the fey folk. When a cat sat silently watching and there was nothing there to see, it was watching the fairies about their business. And when a cat sat on a mother's lap, the sound of the cat's purring was the sound of it spinning sleep so that the fairies could steal away her child to be their toy.
The purr was like the sound of spinning wheels steadily spinning and that's what it was - as humans slept in an enchanted sleep spun by a purring cat, the fairies stole away the human infant and left one of their own in its place.
It was in the cat's nature to be attracted to a changeling infant and to suck its breath as payment for spinning sleep. So at night, the cat settled down in the changeling's crib and sucked the changeling baby's warm milky breath. Sometimes a greedy cat stole too much of the baby's breath and the parents grieved over the child, not realising that their own baby had been stolen away a long time before.
The ancient compact between cats and fairies ended a long time ago when the wise cats realised that humans offered a far more comfortable home. Cats still sit and watch fairies about their invisible business, but they no longer spin sleep so that fairies can steal away human children to be their toys. Cats still like the warmth of a baby's crib and are still accused of stealing a baby's breath.
And of course, cats still purr like steady spinning wheels. When a cat is contented it purrs to itself in satisfaction, knowing that it has a far better compact with human folk than with fairy folk. In modern times, a cat only spins sleep if you let it.
The Prayer Of The Cat
Oh my master, do not take me for a slave, for I have in me a taste for liberty:
Do not seek to divine my secrets, for I have in me a taste for mystery;
Do not constrain me with caresses, for I have in me a taste for modesty,
Do not humiliate me, for I have in me a taste for pride,
Do not abandon me, for I have in me a taste for fidelity,
Love me and I will love thee, for I have in me a taste for friendship.
Author unknown, if you know who the author is please let me know.
"I gave an order to the cat, and the cat gave it to its tail." - Chinese Proverb
"The cat has nine lives: three for playing, three for straying, three for staying." - English Proverb
"To kill a cat brings seventeen years of bad luck." - Irish Proverb
"May sweet delight be this months theme - I saw a cat in last nights dream." - Country Proverb
"When will you see fairies my dear?" - "Before the cat can lick her ear." - Nursery Rhyme
Quotes of the month:
"There is not a man living who knows better than I that the four charms of a cat lie in its closed eyes, its long and lovely hair, its silence and even its affected love." - Hilaire Belloc
"The ancients in many places gave unto dogs solemn funerals in their hallowed cemeteries, and after they were dead, they ceased not to magnify them, as did Alexander, who built a city for the honour of a dog." - Edward Topsell (The History of Four-Footed Beasts - 1607)
"The cat has been called a thief. To be sure, he has no respect whatever for other people's property, although he can be taught to keep off a dinner-table while he is being watched. It is easier to teach a cat not to do things than to do them. When he is left alone, however, it is best to lock up the fish and the cream. There are proverbs to this effect and they have the ring of truth. Ariel used to hide spools, keys, pens, pencils, and scissors under rugs. She saw no more reason why she should not make such booty her own than the early settlers of America saw any reason why they should not convert aboriginal property to their uses. These early settlers looked upon the Indians as inferiors who had no rights, and the cat looks upon man in the same way."
Carl Van Vechten - The Tiger in the House (1922)
Cats & Fairies
According to wise lore, fairies certainly exist as dwellers in an ethereal dimension. Fairies are very wary and suspicious of humans; they believe them to be responsible for the pillage and destruction of the kingdom of nature (their home). Fairies, however embraces cats into their world, it is said that if a brownie or other household spirit were present in a house, the cat would know and would communicate the intelligence to its owner.
Communion with the spirit of a cat (as in, for example, the close companionship enjoyed between a human and a favourite cat) is said to facilitate human contact with the fairies and their ethereal world.
One method of achieving this was to call the cat into your dreams and allow its spirit to guide you to the fairy. Cats possess the qualities of stillness, silence and patience; all three are vital in the pursuit of fairies.
The most favourable times to see fairies are the early hours of the morning, the noon hour, and midnight. The best conditions are sunshine or the brightness of the full moon, although any moonlit night is believed to vouchsafe visions of the fairy host.
The fairy days are traditionally:
Lady day - 25th March.
May day - 30th April (Walpurgis night - May eve).
Midsummers day - Traditionally the 24th June and its eve, but can be any day around the 21st June.
Halloween - 31st October.
Christmas day - 25th December.
The Purry Gates
It seems that I've reached Heaven, or its doorstep at any rate,
And been winding round St Peter's ankles by the Pearly Gates,
I've plucked the angels' harp-strings and made a merry sound,
But it's plucking at my heart strings that you are not around.
So I think I'll sit and wait here, just outside the door,
And as the souls come floating in, I'll tap them with my paw,
And when you seek admittance, they'll rename this place -
It will become Purradise, and these the Purry Gates!
Pets are very sensitive to unfriendly atmospheres and the presence of unwelcoming psychic presences, although they will happily co-exist with a friendly family ghost. If you are thinking of buying or renting a new home, before finalizing any deal, take your pet to view the front of the building or the front of the garden. If your pet hisses or the fur stands up on end, you should seriously consider if this is going to be a happy family home, however smart the paintwork.
If there is certain areas in your home where pets will not go or where they appear distressed, burn a purifying oil, such as Rosemary or Eucalyptus in that place, or burn a pure white candle to shed light and joy in a gloomy place.
Cats tend to bolt their food down instinctively, because in the wild there might be any number of other predators waiting to steal their prey away from them.
Cats have stereoscopic vision, enabling them to pinpoint the position and distance of objects and prey. They also have stereoscopic hearing for the same reason.
The pads of a cat's paws are so sensitive to temperature that they quickly locate warm spots to sit, such as on car bonnets and over central heating pipes under floorboards.
When cats shake their heads after a jump, they do so to 'reset' the organs of balance in their ears. There is a special fluid inside , which can be compared with a spirit level, though it works in rather a different way.
Cats are very sensitive to the smell of chlorine in water. This is why they would rather drink from a dirty puddle or pond than from a bowl of clean tap water.
The Cat and the Mouse - England
The cat and the mouse played in the malt-house. The cat bit the mouse's tail off.
"Pray, puss, give me my tail."
"No," says the cat, "I'll not give you your tail, till you go to the cow, and fetch me some milk."
First she leapt, and then she ran, till she came to the cow, and thus began: "Pray, cow, give me milk, that I may give cat milk, that cat may give me my own tail again."
"No," said the cow, "I will give you no milk, till you go to the farmer and get me some hay."
First she leapt, and then she ran, till she came to the farmer, and thus began: "Pray, farmer, give me hay, that I may give cow hay, that cow may give me milk, that I may give cat milk, that cat may give me my own tail again."
"No," says the farmer, "I'll give you no hay, till you go to the butcher and fetch me some meat."
First she leapt, and then she ran, till she came to the butcher, and thus began: "Pray, butcher, give me meat, that I may give farmer meat, that farmer may give me hay, that I may give cow hay, that cow may give me milk, that I may give cat milk, that cat may give me my own tail again."
"No," says the butcher, "I'll give you no meat, till you go the baker and fetch me some bread."
First she leapt, and then she ran, till she came to the baker, and thus began: "Pray, baker, give me bread, that I may give butcher bread, that butcher may give me meat, that I may give farmer meat, that farmer may give me hay, that I may give cow hay, that cow may give me milk, that I may give cat milk, that cat may give me my own tail again."
"Yes," says the baker, "I'll give you some bread, But if you eat my meal, I'll cut off your head." Then the baker gave mouse bread, and mouse gave butcher bread, and butcher gave mouse meat, and mouse gave farmer meat, and farmer gave mouse hay, and mouse gave cow hay, and cow gave mouse milk, and mouse gave cat milk, and cat gave mouse her own tail again!
Source: James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps: Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales: A Sequel to the Nursery Rhymes of England (London: John Russell Smith, 1849), pp. 33-34.
This tale has been traced back fifty years, it is probably considerably older.
Did you know?
The Grimalkin cat was a "gray cat" of Celtic lore with magical powers. Used in various fiction as a familiar to witches.
Freya (or Freija), Norse Goddess of Love and Beauty, had a chariot drawn by two huge gray cats. She is often depicted with frollicking cats. Most recent depictions picture the cats as white.
Para is an ancient Finnish household spirit who appeared in the shape of a cat, snake, hare, or frog.
Raiju, a Japanese demon whose name means "thunder animal". It is a demon of lightning in the shape of a cat, badger or weasel. During thunderstorms it becomes extremely agitated and leaps from tree to tree. If a tree shows the marks of lightning, people say that Raiju's claws have scratched it open.
Malaysians venerated the cat as a godlike creature who eased their afterlife journey from Hell to Paradise. Anyone who killed a cat was required to carry and stack as many coconut tree trunks as the cat had hairs.
Glowing Embers - The Egyptians believed that cats absorbed the fire of the sun through their eyes. At night, the sun was reflected in cats' eyes, as so long as their eyes glowed, the sun would rise again the next day!
Cats & Writers
Cats and writers seem to have an affinity for each other, and the list of famous writers who owned, were fond of, and in many cases, wrote about cats would be long indeed. From Lord Byron to Mark Twain, from Henry James to Ernest Hemmingway, Dickens, Wordsworth. Baudelaire - the names span the history of poetry and prose on every continent.
During medieval times animal stories were popular, as they had always been - and still are today. Many of these stories were collected in Bestiaries, collections of descriptions of the habits of various animals, each followed by a 'signification' that derived a Christian moral from the story. One of the few fragments remaining of the Anglo-Saxon Physiologus is the story of the Panther, and more complete Middle English Beastiary contains 'The Lion'.
The first text devoted entirely to the domestic cat appeared during the latter half of the sixteenth century. Chaucer mused on the cat's preference for mice over milk in the Manciple's Tale.
Cats pop in and out of literature for the next three centuries, gradually becoming more likeable as time goes on. Cervantes has Don Quixote accuse a group of cats of witchcraft, a reference to the horrors of the Middle Ages, as is the witches' invocation of Graymalkin in Macbeth. In John Gay's fable 'The Rat-Catcher and Cats' the two factions eventually arrive at a working agreement. There are three rather important cats in Dicken's Bleak House (1852), belonging to Krook, Mr Jellyby and Mr Vohles. And who could forget Dinah in Alice in Wonderland or the Cheshire Cat in Through the Looking Glass.
Cats play starring roles in many more modern works by famous writers. Even the briefest list would have to include Kipling's The Cat That Walked By Himself; Poe's masterpiece of horror, The Black Cat; Hemmingway's short story, Cat in the Rain; The Cat by Collette; and The Malediction by Tennessee Williams; not to mention Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis; and a number of excellent books by Paul Gallico.
Poets have been no less inspired by their pets: Thomas Gray wrote Ode in 1742; Horace Walpole's unfortunate cat Selima drowned in a tub of goldfish; Edward Lear immortalized the marriage of The Owl and the Pussycat. Wordsworth, Blake (The Tyger), Yeats, Swinburne, and Hardy are just a few of the many others whose cats moved them to poetry.
The poetry of TS Elliot is justly famous for its erudition and social consciousness, but not often for its humour. In Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, however, he reveals an entirely new side of his character in a witty, but always thoroughly sympathetic and knowledgeable series of poems about cats.
Recommended book: Chicken Soup for the Cat & Dog Lover's Soul
Author: Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Marty Becker (D.V.M.) and Carol Kline.
Celebrating Pets as family with stories about Cats, Dogs and other critters. A wonderful collection of stories from people of all walks of life.
Softback - 408 pages.
Published by: Health Communications, Inc.
3201 S.W. 15th Street
Quote: "The tail, of course, must come forward until it reaches the front paws. Only an inexperienced kitten would let it dangle." - Lloyd Alexander