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Are you a dog person or a cat person? Is it possible to be both? I always thought of myself as a dog person, but since a big loveable tabby, named Dougal Archie, came into my life, I think I’m both.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the Dog Days of summer and got the chance to post a great photo of a dog cooling off in Lake Banook, in Dartmouth N.S. I think it’s only fair that today, on International Cat Day, I should write about cats.
August 8 is a full day of recognition and veneration of one of humanity’s oldest and most beloved pets. The festivities were put together for the first time in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), among other animal rights groups, to celebrate the most popular pet on the planet.
While we’re on the topic, have you ever heard of the term, “Cat Nights?” I hadn’t either until last year. I was partaking in the annual George Street Festival in St John’s, N.L., when a man named Fred walked over and started to talk about the weather. While we chatted, a cat walked right in front of us. I commented on how I was glad the cat wasn’t black; his comment was much more interesting. He said, “I wonder what number it’s at?" I asked him to explain.
In a nutshell (because Fred was quite a storyteller) the term goes back to an old Irish legend concerning witches. It was believed that a witch could turn herself into a cat eight times, but on the ninth time, she couldn’t regain her human form. He explained that his grandfather used to say that August 17 was the date of no return! He believed this bit of folklore inspired the saying, “a cat has nine lives.”
The August heat can make cats uncomfortable, causing them to yowl and this could have prompted the speculation about witches on the prowl in the first place.
This old poem written by V. Neumann sums things up quite nicely!
By old Irish lore
on the 17th of August
more cats are among us
than ever before.
It is said that witches
can turn into a cat.
But no more than eight switches
as a matter of fact.
On the ninth switch
they cannot regain
their life as a witch.
A cat they must remain.
So if in mid-August
you should hear the cats yowl
amongst sounds of the locust
when cats are on the prowl
Then you will know
as lore was told over time
that cats will show
lives as many as nine.
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network