Esther Newton discovers a feline influence on the medicinal world

When you’re shivering with the flu or have a raging headache, have you ever thought about using cats’ faeces as a cure? No? Well, take a step back in time to the Roman Empire and you might.  Pliny, a historian of the time, believed cats’ faeces were of great medical benefit.  The dung was mixed with mustard to cure ulcers of the head and for uterine ulcers, it was added to resin and oil of roses. Thank goodness for today’s sweeter smelling methods of treatment!

But it isn’t just during the time of the Roman Empire that cats were thought to have healing powers.  There are many tales of our feline friends giving us a helping paw over the years. From Ancient Egypt, to Nottinghamshire customs, to veterinary sayings of old and recent research into the amazing power of the purr, the following article will highlight how cats have long since been seen as healers.

ANCIENT EGYPT

It has been well documented that cats were held in high esteem in Ancient Egypt.  One of the goddesses the Egyptians worshipped was Bast, part woman and part cat.  Bast represented the sacred eye of Horus, the God of light.  Egyptians made cat amulets for the home and placed them in shrines to the goddess or wore them as personal amulets.  If the amulets featured the sacred eye (known as utchat and translated as ‘possessed of mental and physical health’), it was considered a powerful talisman against sickness.

A CAT’S TAIL 

According to the Celts, a cat’s tail held great power, so much so, that if anybody trod on a cat’s tail, it was believed that a serpent would rise up and strike that person down.

In Nottinghamshire, a cat’s tail wasn’t seen as something to fear but as something which could heal and in particular heal a stye in the eye.  If a single hair from the tail of a cat was rubbed nine times across the stye, it was thought the stye would be cured.  It’s enough to make your eye water just thinking about it!

HEALING WORDS

Cats have found themselves the subject of all sorts of quotes, from ‘cat got your tongue?’ to ’the cat’s pyjamas’, but some of them refer to the belief that cats can heal.  A quote from a veterinary school which it is argued still does the rounds today is, ‘If you put a cat and a bunch of broken bones in the same room, the bones will heal.’

Writer, Roger Caras said, ‘Cats are a tonic, they are a laugh, they are a cuddle, they are at least pretty just about all of the time and beautiful some of the time.’

‘You cannot look at a sleeping cat and feel tense,’ journalist, Jane Pauley stated.

In his book, Honourable Cat, Paul Gallico wrote, ‘Everything a cat is and does physically is to me beautiful, lovely, stimulating, soothing, attractive and an enchantment.’

Cats Protection’s Clinical Veterinary Officer, Beth Skillings is quoted as saying, ‘Sitting with a relaxed purring cat at the end of a hectic day is a soothing massage for the soul.’

RESEARCH

There seems to be some truth to the quotes that cats can have a calming influence on us and even heal.  Cats Protection carried out research, together with The Mental Health Foundation, and discovered that 87 per cent of cat owners felt a cat had a positive impact on their wellbeing and 76 per cent felt that they were better able to cope with their day through owning a cat.  A third of those taking part in the research found stroking a cat had a calming effect on them.

THE POWER OF THE PURR           

CaseyA study was carried out by Fauna Communications in 2006 which found that evolution has given cats a natural healing mechanism, through their purr.  A cat’s purr creates vibrations of between 25 and 140 HZ.  These vibrations can reduce infection and swelling, as well as reduce blood pressure.  Building on this further, the research discovered that purr vibrations can help to heal tendons and muscle as well as soft tissue and promoting bone strength.

Perhaps the use of cat faeces is going a bit far but there’s no doubting that cats, at the very least, have the power to make us feel better.

 

This article first appeared in the Cats Protection quarterly magazine, The Cat (Autumn 2014 issue) and permission to publish it on the Daily Mews website was kindly given by the author, Esther Newton.  My grateful thanks and appreciation. 

Do check out Esther’s blog on writing tips: https://esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com/

Dogs Come when Called

"Dogs come when called. Cats take a message and get back to you."

"Of course, every cat is really the most beautiful woman in the room."

Edward Verrall Luca (essayist)

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