International Cat Day 2022: A Look at Famous Cats in History
Cats have been around humans for a long time, so naturally, there are more than a few notable felines appearing throughout history. In honor of International Cat Day 2022, let’s take a look at five of the most famous cats in history and mythology—from ancient Egypt to the modern world.
1. Bastet (Egypt)
Bastet was an Egyptian cat goddess who protected pregnant women and mothers with their children. She was also associated with joy and music, which explains why she’s often depicted playing the sistrum — a musical instrument that would make a rattling sound when shaken. Bastet’s shrine was at Bubastis (modern Tell Basta), where she was worshiped throughout Egypt until the 5th century A.D.
2. Mimi & Friends (France)
Marie Antoinette was known to have pet dogs, but she also had six very spoiled Turkish Angora cats who lived with the French Queen during her time at Versailles. One of the most famous cats in the group of 18th-century felines was named Mimi. She was so beloved by the queen that she slept on her pillow every night and accompanied her wherever she went. Legend holds that when Marie Antoinette was sent to prison awaiting her execution, her beloved Angora cats were saved by sailing away on a boat to America, eventually becoming ancestors of the Maine Coon breed.
Queen Victoria (1819-1901) was the longest-reigning British monarch in history, ruling for 63 years, a record broken by her great-great-granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth in 2015. She also had a cat named Tabby, who lived with her at Buckingham Palace. Tabby was born in 1887 and became a favorite of the queen when she discovered that the cat would sit quietly on her foot while she worked at her desk. According to legend, Tabby was very popular with visitors to Buckingham Palace because she would allow them to pick her up and stroke her. The queen herself would sometimes wear little mittens so she could pick up her beloved tabby without getting scratched by its claws.
Félicette was a French cat who became the first creature to survive spaceflight when she was launched into outer space in 1963. At the time, France was vying with Russia and the United States to build a successful space program and gain political influence around the globe. Félicette’s mission to space was part of that effort. The cat was placed inside a special capsule with sensors attached to her body to record heart rate, breathing, and other body functions. Félicette survived the trip and returned safely back to Earth. Her launch made her an instant celebrity in France! Félicette died in 1967, and was buried in the courtyard of the French Space Agency headquarters near Paris, where she had been trained for her historic flight. Her tombstone reads “the first cat in space.”
Snow White (Cuba)
Ernest Hemingway had many cats, but his favorite was a polydactyl Maine Coon named Snow White. He loved the cat so much that he took her with him to the Finca Vigia in Cuba, where he lived from the late 1940s until his death in 1961. She followed him around the property and sat on his lap while he wrote at a table in one of the outbuildings. When Hemingway went out to catch marlin, a sport he loved, Snow White sometimes went along for the ride. Snow White and other Hemingway cats are survived by their descendants, who live in Cuba, Spain, and Key West today.
All of these cats have had an impact on the world in which we live in one way or another. We can admire them for their fame, but, ultimately, isn’t it more about what each cat did for their human? How, for each famous cat named here, the bond between them and their humans was so strong? It’s this kind of loyalty and love that endures that we should take away from these historic felines.