Cats are a kind of cute kids for us. And they behave so conveniently – like damn nice adults who don’t need anything from us, who don’t get in the way when they weren’t invited, and serve themselves…
The history of mankind of the last 10 thousand years knows only 2 cases when people turned against cats. The first occurred in medieval Europe. In the XIII century, Pope Gregory IX was concerned with the fight against heresy, witchcraft and pagan beliefs. According to one version, Freya, a resident of Asgard, the leader of the Valkyries, the goddess of love and war (always in one bottle, right?), caused him serious trouble. She was traditionally revered by the Germanic and Scandinavian peoples. This tradition, among others, spoiled business for Rome, so it was necessary to take Freya out of the game in any way.
Since myths said that when the goddess wanted to ride, 2 black cats were harnessed to her chariot, Gregory IX decided: it would be nice to make these suspicious animals the object of sacred persecution.
Feline genocide in Europe in the Middle Ages
In 1234, the Pope issued a bull in which he declared black cats to be the embodiment of Satan. The illiterate peoples of Europe at that time did not read the bull itself, the information was passed from mouth to mouth – by a classic spoiled phone. Probably, therefore, all seals were recognized as “unclean” in general. And a cruel cotogenocide began.
Cats were destroyed en masse, with imagination, sometimes – together with their owners. At some point, the animal population declined so seriously that rats and mice began to breed at an incredible pace in Europe. And they were carriers of the plague. Historians believe that the destruction of cats was an indirect cause of the severe European epidemic of the “Black Death” of 1346-1382, which mowed down 25 million lives.
In some places, for example, in the French city of Metz, cats were hated for another 400 years. Here they were considered responsible for the epidemic of uncontrollable crazy dancing – it was a case of mass psychosis, from which 1.5 thousand people suffered. At the time of the “Black Death”, similar outbreaks of collective, similar to a mass seizure of dance occurred in Cologne, Erfurt and other cities. And it looked bad. For example, once in Utrecht, about 200 people danced on a bridge, as a result of which it collapsed, and the dancers drowned.
People were at a loss to guess what was causing the ecstatic dancing of the crowd. In Metz, they decided that the satanic cats were to blame, of course. A barbaric tradition arose in the city to burn 13 animals in an iron cage every year (so that the delusions would not be repeated) and lasted for 4 centuries…
The second example of human dislike of cats we can observe right now – in Australia. And it is connected… with ecology. Cats were brought to this country by the British in 1788 and naively assumed that there they would do the usual thing – live in barns and destroy rodents.
But it was not there. The animal world of Australia, due to its long isolation from other continents, developed in a very special way. The cats who arrived in the country found that there are many small, defenseless and delicious marsupials living around, as well as no less delicious mammals without bags. Some cats spat on human barns and went wild. As a result, cute fuzzies have now completely (!) destroyed 30 species of Australian animals.
There are about 2 million feral cats living in the country. They kill billions of small animals in the wild every year. They hunt at night and hide from humans in rabbit holes during the day. By the way, ecologists’ research reports that domestic Australian cats are also not averse to editing lists of local animals – they kill different fauna almost more than wild cats.
In general, in Australia, there are now whole state programs for the complete destruction of cats in national parks – on quite large territories. Bringing a cat to the country is a difficult quest. Animals are accepted only sterilized, and each must undergo a six-month (!) quarantine.
But the conditional dislike of cats on a distant continent is more state than national. Despite all the environmental problems, the population of domestic seals in the country in the period, say, from 2013 to 2016, increased by 6.5%.
Cats are still adored and nurtured all over the world. And more and more, as recent history shows. For example, in the USA, the number of domestic cats has tripled over the past 50 years. In China, for 40 years, their number has increased by 10% per year, and in the UK – by as much as 13%.
Since cats are loved now, they have never been loved before. But, as today, almost everywhere they were attributed mystical, and even divine properties. The ancient Egyptian cult of the goddess of fertility, joy, fun, hearth, love and female beauty (well, again) named Bast or Bastet has been well studied. She was portrayed by herself as either a woman with a cat’s head, or just a cat.
The cult of Bast in ancient Egypt achieved nationwide popularity. Sacrifices were made to her, including by the rulers of the country personally. In memory of the deceased domestic cat, the owners shaved off their eyebrows. If a sacred animal accidentally fell under the wheels of a chariot, its driver could be lynched by a mob, stoned to death.
The legends that a cat is a difficult, magical animal and has access to otherworldly forces are naturally reflected in modern advertising. For example, in the promo video of the Flying Horse energy, the theme was beaten absolutely wonderful:
Catvertising, or how “cat advertising” appeared
The history of the partnership between a cat and a human has approximately 10,000 years. In ancient times, on fertile lands – approximately where Syria and Lebanon are now located, people guessed to live a sedentary life, plant grain in the fields and store the harvest in barns. Local steppe rodents figured out where the food began to concentrate, and moved into storage. A species of wild steppe cats Felis lybica lived in the same area. Its representatives quickly realized where their daily prey was hanging out, and also began to move closer to human buildings.
People are no dumber than cats (in theory). At first they found that the annoying mice began to destroy the stocks. And then they noticed that the cats who came for mice voluntarily restrain the feasts of rodents. Of course, the seals began to be fed and welcomed in every possible way.
Thus began the conditional domestication of the steppe cat. Most of the seals currently living in humans are descendants of Felis lybica.
Why are we talking about conditional domestication? It turns out that scientists believe that although people tamed cats, they “domesticated” themselves. The animals entered into a kind of “contract” with man, receiving from him almost guaranteed food and shelter and providing him in return with their natural dexterity in destroying rodents.
But people tend to romanticize everything, to put some heartwarming story into everything. Hence the persistent, age-old associations linking cats and home comfort. Of course, advertising actively uses this. See how gracefully it plays on a person’s love for hugge, personified by cats, IKEA:
As we have already noticed, cats have always been associated not only with the delicious smoke of their native hearth, but also with women. Advertisers began to work out the second association in the print press:
The association about comfort began to be used even earlier. Here is an example of a magazine advertisement for Kosset carpets in 1957 (also in the British press):
But these are not the most ancient examples of “cat advertising”. Probably the earliest examples of the exploitation of images of cats in advertising belong to the period from 1890 to 1920. Take a look at the promo of copy paper, clothes and shoes, cold lozenges and polishes for stoves of those times:
As you can see, with the help of cats, they advertised anything (and not just food and other products for the fuzzies themselves). But not to say that they are very often used in marketing. However, over time, the popularity of owning domestic cats grew (recall the staggering statistics given above). And with the advent of cheap Internet, it resulted in a real obsession with funny photos and videos with cats in the main roles.
Of course, advertisers could not ignore the trend and began to use images of cats in their work more actively. So active that by 1999 this activity had acquired its own name – Catvertising (from the merger of the words “cat” and “advertising“). It was used relatively rarely until 2011, when the Canadian agency from Toronto, John St, made a video parody of a report on the work of an advertising agency, calling it just Catvertising. In the “reportage”, agency employees tell in all seriousness that they have a special department of “cat advertising” and a special “cat production”:
One of the most successful examples of cat advertising in the 2010s is a series of commercials created for the Cravendale milk brand by the British company Arla Foods, which in turn is the “daughter” of the Swedish-Danish group of the same name.
Cravendale’s ad plays up the idea of what would happen if cats grew their thumbs:
The IT company EDS (owned by Hewlett-Packard) was cheerfully noted in the cat market. The company offers a variety of solutions for data management and organization of business processes – from insurance and consumer lending software to information support systems for major sports competitions.
EDS presented its work with technology and data as a completely crazy activity – as if serious guys like cowboys were herding… cats:
We have to admit that cats make almost any product or service cute…
…but why is a person being led to this?
We have already discussed the cultural and mythological roots of the phenomenon. However, there are also some biosocial and psychological reasons for a person’s love for cats. Previously, the layman believed that “the cat walks by itself,” although he really wanted the animal to have affection for the owner. Many even noticed her.
Science has not reported anything on this topic – it has traditionally paid great attention to the study of the social behavior of dogs, because they are well-trained and, unlike seals, are always ready to throw themselves on a person’s neck. However, in recent years, scientists have also taken up cats. In particular, in 2019, a study thundered in the press, showing that about 65% of domestic cats are really attached to their owners.
Scientists conducted an experiment: the owners of adult cats and kittens entered an unfamiliar room – in turn, each with his animal. After 2 minutes, the owner was asked to get out of it, leaving the cat or kitten alone. And this could potentially cause stress in the animal. After another 2 minutes, the owner returned, and the researchers observed the cat’s reaction.
It turned out that when people returned, about two-thirds of cats and kittens approached people, as if greeting them. Then the cats returned to exploring the room, but periodically approached the owners again. Scientists came to the conclusion that this part of the animals was really attached to “their” people and regarded them as a “security base” in an unfamiliar situation.
The author of the experiment, an animal behavior specialist from the University of Oregon (USA) Kristin Vitale, told reporters: “This may be an adaptation of the bond that cats had with their parents in childhood. This behavior can mean: “Everything is fine. My master is back, I feel comforted and calm, and now I can study the room again.”
What a joy for cat lovers. Man as a social animal has been prone to personification since ancient times – he gives a “personality” to natural phenomena, including pets. He longs to communicate with them. And when the cat shows some attention to the owner, he is ready to exclaim: “What did I say?! She understands me and loves me.”
In fact, domestic cats are usually busy with only three things: playing hunting, lying down (saving energy for hunting) and purring. The latter seems to be a process of self-medication.
Research by Elizabeth von Muggenthaler, a bioacoustic specialist from the Institute for the Study of Fauna Communication in North Carolina (USA), has shown that cats purr when they are sick, give birth, and are afraid. It is known that they do this even when they are near death.
Purring in domestic cats is quite complex sounds at frequencies from 20 to 50 Hz. Bioacoustics report that vibration in this range contributes to an increase in bone density and relieves pain from tendon and muscle injuries…
So, cats, by and large, are engaged in themselves and their simple needs. But since they have been “fulfilling a contract” with a person for 10 thousand years, he is involved in their daily life, and as a party to the contract, he plays his role as a “security base”.
Therefore, you can play hunting with a person, you can purr on a person’s lap, and sleeping in his bed is also a normal option. And he is free to think to himself what he wants. And people think.
Some of the human hopes really come true. For example, purebred cats can experience quite a strong attachment to people and suffer from separation. This is described in his book “The Cat. Natural and cultural history” specialist in the field of feline behavior with 30 years of experience Sarah Brown.
She also reports that the socialization of cats depends on whether the kitten was picked up in the first 8 weeks of his life and how long he was held in his arms (40 minutes a day “on the handles” socializes kittens noticeably better than 15).
The author of the book writes that women tend to have a closer “mutual understanding” with cats, because they usually, when communicating with an animal, squat down or sit on the floor. And men literally arrogantly prefer not to do this.
Domestic cats really choose to communicate with their owners more often than with strangers. And they respond better to the voice of a well-known person. But the main “social” quality of cats that attracts people, according to Sarah Brown, is their independence.
The popularity of a cat as a pet is explained by the fact that it is easy to take care of it, it adapts well to life in a confined space, keeps itself clean, is an undemanding creature, but at the same time provides a person with company.
We can state that it’s not “cats walking by themselves”, it’s us, selfish monkeys, walking by ourselves and paying attention to domestic cats only when it popped into our heads. The rest of the time, the cats are invited to entertain themselves on their own, and they do a great job with it. Aren’t these perfect companions?
And they are also “infantile beautiful”
A study by specialists of the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience of the Italian Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Rome) showed that people like the faces of cats because they look like the faces of children. The “infantile” features of feline physiognomies and the expressive look of cats cause the person looking at them to produce the hormone oxytocin. In humans, it is responsible for a sense of trust in a partner. He is involved in a friendly and long-term love relationship. And also in the formation of parental feelings.
In general, cats are kind of cute kids for us. Only they behave comfortably – like damn nice adults who don’t need anything from us, who don’t get in the way when they weren’t invited, and serve themselves.
It is not surprising that experts are using images of cats in traditional and digital marketing with might and main. It would be stupid not to do this, because it has developed so nicely – both in the cultural and neurobiological sense.
But how cats use people – this question is far from closed. A person, perhaps, should not be deluded by the feeling that he decides everything for them. It makes sense to dig deeper into the topic of oxytocin. Something looks suspicious is the forced injection of the hormone of friendliness, we only have to take a closer look at the mimimish kitty…