2009 The Year of Valley History
Halloween Cat Ornament - Collection of Janne and Jerry Fecht 2009
The first domestic cats were brought to the San Fernando Valley by Spanish colonists about the time the English colonies in America began our Revolution. Under supervision of Catholic Franciscan monks, heavy wooden doors connecting the rooms of the Mission San Fernando Rey de España modified with "cat doors". These allowed domestic cats to roam the whole facility, to keep mice and rats at bay.
With the arrival of American pioneers in the 1800s, the numbers of outside felines exploded. While wheat farmers found tame and ferrel cats allies, the native bird population didn't. Ferrel cats, for example, in the fine urban forest surrounding the buildings of Valley College, have wiped out the native bird population there. Well meaning campus cat lovers, who set out cat food, haven't proved to be friends of native California birds.
While the Spanish padres, who followed the example of Saint Francis Assisi, were apparent friends of house cats, western Christianity hasn't generally agreed. Since cats, especially kittens, were sacred to the Egyptian followers of the Goddess Isis, competing Christians in the Roman Empire viewed felines as "familiars" with the African deity.
It is seldom talked about anymore, but the "sin of familiary" was once a big thing.
Since animals did not have immortal souls, communicating with them had to be an evil thing, according to theologians. Demons were believed to take the form of animals or even people (usually women who owned property and were without protective families).
When Dominican monks wanted to prove to the "holy" Inquisition that a woman was a witch, all they needed was a witness that heard her talking to her cat as if it was a human being. Hmm! (Good thing those monks have not been our 3-cat house in Tarzana lately.)
In 1484, Pope Innocent VIII issued a bull, ordering cats owned by accused witches be also put on trial. Hundreds of thousands of mostly women and cats, were burned at the stake in both Catholic and Protestant nations. (Remember. before our Revolution, accused persons had to prove their innocence.) This Inquisition of Cats gave rise to a massive invasion of rats - and, the rats were home to fleas - and fleas brought the Black Death - and, the Black Death brought an increase in witchcraft trials etc etc.
The association of cats with evil has never left us. Only recently have most of our States enacted laws against the mutilation of cats and other animals.