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An Asian Tomcat Myth

An Asian Tomcat Myth

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Published by jesusa
"In Asia, one of the fascinating cat myths has to do with its males or tomcats. The myth concerns the belief that tomcat sporting furs of three colors, and which survive into adulthood, get to reign as "king" (presumably of a territory it is able to roam). "
"In Asia, one of the fascinating cat myths has to do with its males or tomcats. The myth concerns the belief that tomcat sporting furs of three colors, and which survive into adulthood, get to reign as "king" (presumably of a territory it is able to roam). "

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Published by: jesusa on Jan 05, 2009
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10/08/2009

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by Jesusa Bernardo(First published at Newsvine.com, 02 January 2009)
Of all the animals that roamed the earth, cats perhaps form the speciesassociated with the most exotic, regal and most number of myths andsuperstitions. Cats became no less than objects of worship during the time of ancient Egypt, with domesticated cats being accorded the ultimate respect of mummification followed by cemetery burial. In Europe in the Middle Ages,cats suffered three centuries of persecution, including summary killings andtorture, borne out of their association with witches and witchcraft. In the 17thcentury, cats regained public favor when the court under French CardinalRichelieu began the trend of keeping them.Today, superstitions such as a black cat crossing the path of a person as bringing bad luck, and myths, such as these feline creatures having nine lives, survive. InAsia, one of the fascinating cat myths has to do with its males or tomcats. Themyth concerns the belief that tomcat sporting furs of three colors, and whichsurvive into adulthood, get to reign as "king" (presumably of a territory it is able toroam).
King Tomcat
 This cat myth is still told in parts of the Southeast Asian country, the Philippines. Incidentally,the Philippine archipelago, is a former Spanish colony named after King Philip II under whosehonor was invented the cat organ, a public musical-cum-torture instrument wherein boxed catswere made to howl (in pain) as their tails tied to an organ keyboard were jerked with the pounding of the keys. This king tomcat myth has a rather grim component. Supposedly, so that
 
cats (or male cats only ?) would not have to be burdened by the future rule of a king cat, adultmale cats kill, nay, murder, all male kittens with three-colored coats. Animal grim and reallyfantastic-sounding. 
A Childhood Myth
 I have lived with cats and dogs around since I could remember. Ours was the typical Filipinofamily that nurtures pets as driven by both utilitarian and companionship perspectives: dogs are
bantay
(guards) against intruder as cats are against, well, rodents. Amidst this animal-friendlyenvironment, this tomcat story became a fixture in my mind. Well, at least ever since my father and siblings figured I was old enough to comprehend stories.Even at a young age, such a story sounded like a tall, leaping tale to me. I was perhaps of pre-school age when I began dismissing the tomcat story as incredible--despite the seemingly seriouscountenance of my father from whom I remember first hearing the oft-told story. How could catsknow all that? How could cats know the idea of a king? More incredibly, how could cats know aking based on an outside feature--something like based on one's clothes (or skin color)? In adultterms, what my young mind was basically saying was that such a tomcat story couldn't be true because to believe so would assume that cats have a sophisticated culture that takes care of the process of social order. It assumes that elite cat dominance is based not on the usual "physicalmight is power" but rather, on a summary selection process that is both racist and sexist.Of course, as I entered schooling years, I came to "recognize" the story as a superstition, ananimal myth. But stories around the tomcat myth persisted. I heard more than once that richfellows are able to keep three-colored male kittens alive to adulthood by caging or enclosingthem as a way to protect their special pets from murderous feline attacks. Convinced that thestory is nothing but "superstition," I did not bother with finding out its veracity or otherwise. Isoon lived, grew up and matured without giving any further thought to this tomcat myth,although I must say that I don't think I have ever seen a tomcat with three-colored fur (supposedly, any color combination) in the neighborhood.
Kitten Murders & the Tomcat King
 
 
It would take some three decades later before this tomcat king story would be resuscitated in mymind. One early morning a few years ago, my husband and I went to visit my parents' gravenearby while our kids were still asleep. I remember that I left the backdoor open because we only planned to stay in the cemetery for a short while. Coming back, we were surprised by the sight of one of the newborn kittens of our female cat lying dead on the floor near our old sofa chair.A few days earlier, our female cat with a three-colored coat had delivered a litter of 4 (or 5?)kittens to nurse, and subsequently brought her babies to the space underneath the sofa through atorn part of the leather upholstery. Fearing the worst, I stooped down to push the torn leather andto check underneath. What I saw was almost something straight from Discovery Channel'sfeatures of murder-capable animals such as lions and chimps. All of the kittens--all of which hadsimilar three-color patterns as their mother--were dead and all of them had blood and bite markson the neck.It was a ghastly sight, but which jolted the tomcatstory out from the deep recesses of my memory.Blurting out the possibility of the truth of a three-colored future cat king, I asked my husband to check out the sex of the dead kittens. He checked out atleast three of the four and reported that two weremales. Putting two and two together, I remembered a big white tomcat circling around some two daysearlier. Oh dear, I cried. So the tomcat story is true!?Cat murder and the feline king tale seemeddefinitely real at that point. For a time, I blamedmyself for forgetting to lock the door through which the "wicked" tomcat probably got in.
Three-Colored Cat is "Calico"
 Searching for answers to mystery, I scoured the Internetusing <"cat myth" three colored> and , and other combination search words. It was then that I learnedthat male cats are sometimes capable of murderingkittens they did not sire--much like lions often do. I

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