Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Cyprus, cats magic and Netflix



By Colette NiReamonn Ioannidou

Netflix viewers can watch The Byzantine Cat and Inside the Mind of a Cat, a 00s film, and a documentary. Set on the island, the former, apart from a cameo by Cypriot Sofia Kalli and skilled Russian trapeze artists, is dire.

Its first Cypriot, a faux taxi driver, tells the heroine ‘Cypruus is the most beeeautifuul place in the warld’ while driving along a featureless road towards a cat monastery, intimating that Cypriot cats are magical creatures.

But Cyprus doesn’t appear to rate high in documented mysteries and miseries surrounding cats through centuries. In his book The Cat in Magic, Mythology and Religion, M. Oldfield Howey describes the Egyptian reverence as well as the horrors inflicted by the Inquisition on men and women (and their families) thought to be practicing witchcraft. For them, cats were the familiars of Satan and thus suffered fates as hideous as those to whom they belonged. If Satan stalked the earth, then, it was in the guise of superstitious inquisitors.

The Prophet Mohamed is believed to have loved felines. In Goethe’s Paradise, Howey wrote, tells “Abuherrira’s Cat, too, here/Purrs around his master blest/For holy must the beast appear/The Prophet hath caressed.” He also mentions some lesser-known legends about Jesus and His love for animals, cats included. In one, Jesus came across some louts tormenting a cat and he drove them off, twice when they persisted.

So, two of the most influential figures in religious history it seems, respected cats. After a lifetime of experience, I defy anyone to know what goes on in the mind of a mog. A dog is an open book; a cat holds its own council.

The documentary includes a very pre-St Helen Cyprus cat buried with a young boy, disproving the popular myth that the mother of St Constantine introduced them to the isle. Or possibly she freighted in reinforcements! Any cat person could have told the docu-makers that of course, cats know their names, particularly if a food treat is in view, absolutely respond to what’s in their interest, and love curling up in odd places like boxes too small for them.

The cat trainers in the documentary are Ukrainian, their spa-fluffed, gorgeous felines prove they can be trained like dogs to perform and they say correctly that each animal has its own personality. All the cats shown are beautiful, pampered and adored.

The luck of cats skims along the same diverse tracks as most living things in this world: some have a good life, others don’t. Unlike the Netflix cats, ferals have a tough time, and often so do those who assist them. ‘Cat lady’ usually equates with lonely eccentricity/dislike of children or a mental defect. Volunteers are ridiculed with verbal abuse, feel helpless when they learn of animals dumped in local parks or village environs for convenience so ‘owners’ needn’t pay for spaying. Or who keep the cat and dump the kits in a bin. Moving a cat, particularly with newborns, away from its territory is a death sentence for the young.

Some municipalities offer free spaying, but often laziness or let someone else do it for me, is the attitude. Shift responsibility onto the mad cat people when unwanted animals are left at feeding spots or in their gardens. Cat P.A.W.S would like to see more government funds channeled into spaying. Many of its members and volunteers buy supplies and pay for treatment for ferals from their own, at times limited, pockets.

Hunger, drought and disease, suffering children in the East and Horn of Africa and catastrophic flood victims in Pakistan far transcend the importance of helping cats volunteers are told. Argue that with the Midas billionaires who don’t help during disasters. If one can alleviate the suffering of warm-blooded, not-so-dumb animals as the documentary shows them to be, on the home front, why would you not?

And, If Netflix wants an authentic supernatural-Cyprus-Cat project, I have such a trilogy of shorts, written after 50 years lived on the island amid the folks and the many, many cats.


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