Fascination With Felines
By Michael Shinabery
Staff Writer
Alamagordo Daily News

Ancient cultures deified them, the superstitious revile them, and Broadway - well, the Great White Way's two-legged actors had lots of fun with the four-legged bundles of pawed fur purrers.

Man can trace a parallel history with cats hundreds of years into the past.

"Egyptians believed the cat was guarding them during the night, because of its nocturnalness, keeping evil at bay," says Brad Steiger, Cat Miracles co-author. "During the dark ages, the cat became the agent of Satan, the creature of darkness that comes out and stalks us."

Medieval European inquisitors "conducting their tribunals against those accused of heresy and witchcraft decreed that all cats were actually demons in disguise," Steiger and his wife, Sherry Hansen Steiger, wrote in Cat Miracles. The record reflects as well, he says, that accused witches were not the only life whose time on Earth ended in a broiling blaze.

"There were probably more cats burned at the stake than there were witches," Steiger says, "(society) actually had trials and condemned them to be burned at the stake; tied them to the stake and burned them as a demon in corporeal form, or as the familiar of witches. Sometimes the cat would be burned with the accused witch."

All, according to Steiger, because a cat has that well-known, oft well-loved, but certainly "strange" tendency.

"It stares right at you, as if it's probing your mind," he says. "That was carried down and down (through history) and made sinister. It's our human projections, how we humans project the worst side of ourselves upon things we don't understand. The cat, because the cat is nocturnal, does have - to some people - mysterious and hypnotic eyes."

Yet, conversely, there are countless instances when felines act extraordinarily to aid, even save the lives of, their owners. In their book, the Steigers chronicle some surprising and inspirational examples.

A Laguna Niguel, Calif., cat, Lucy, fought off a rattlesnake slithering toward a sleeping 2-year old boy.

A Modesto, Calif. cat, quite out of character, nipped its owner on the leg to draw attention that the woman's 4-month-old baby was suffocating in another room.

A woman on a rural vacation awoke to find her father's cat, Holmes, on her chest. She soon discovered her father, in an adjacent cabin, suffering a stroke; and a kitchen fire was also burning.

Bonnie, a 6-year-old tortoiseshell in Derbyshire, United Kingdom, battled burglars, attempting to steal tons of dog food, at a warehouse. Police found cat fur at the scene, alongside human blood.

An Alabama cat fell 20 stories, bounced off a bush, and stumbled away with only bruises and minor cuts.

A 4-year-old French girl, paralyzed after a four-story fall, was befriended by a tabby, Scrooge. One day, on vacation, Scrooge disappeared and did not find its way home until nearly a year later, braving a 600-mile journey and suffering a gangrenous tail and hernia.

"There is just no explanation," Steiger says, musing over the concept of universal consciousness. "When that little girl is lying in a state of semiconsciousness, she may have been transmitting to that cat, I miss you, please come home, please come back to me.' Sending, as it were, a beacon to that cat to follow that beacon on home.

"You can't believe that it sets out with a Rand-McNally (map)."

The French girl's story, though, does not end at the cat's homecoming at the front door. When the cat was gone, the child's health worsened. Miraculously, at the feline's homecoming, the girl regained her ability to speak. Soon, she was walking with crutches.

The record is a tomcat that journeyed 2,500 miles, over two years, to find its owners who had moved from California to Florida.

"(They) didn't want to shock the cat," Steiger says, "so they left it with a neighbor."

From the Steigers' perspectives, how such things occur often must be accepted at face value.

"There is no explanation," he says. "There is no acceptable explanation for the world in science as we know (and) are expected to accept it. We have to, I think, recognize a universal consciousness, a universal mind, and in the spirit a force that interacts with each of us, human and animals, and that we can tap into if we avail ourselves."

But as to why such things happen, there may be a simpler, already well-accepted reason: the unbreakable bond of love.

"I know cats have a powerful sense of feelings," Steiger says, "and there is a growing awareness that people are becoming more sensitive to animals and the fact that these are sentient beings."

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