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Cats in Indian Lifestyle and History: Where Do They In shape In?


Mar 17, 2023
Close up of cheerful Indian young couple with a cat

At very first glance, India’s pet possession prices can make it seem to be like cats are not a great deal of a cultural variable. Figures have risen in the past couple of a long time, but cats only surface in 20% of Indian properties1. Even on the streets, you are significantly less most likely to spot a roaming feline than a stray dog, even however cats multiply a lot more swiftly.

But a relative deficiency of residence cats could not be a coincidence. Alternatively, it could be a very long-standing solution of the animal’s spot in Indian custom. Cats have appeared in the country’s historical history for in excess of two millennia, playing pivotal sections in vital Indian literature and lore. Their affect is abundant, and a further appear into their heritage can assist demystify the attitudes and beliefs, each good and damaging, that persist in the tradition.


Cats in Early Indian Lifestyle

The cat’s put in Indian record starts with the origins of structured culture on the subcontinent. Relationship again to 2500–1700 BCE, the Indus valley civilization, or Harappan civilization, was one of the very first a few civilizations, alongside Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Although the early Indian cultures did not deify cats like Egyptians, felines were still a notable existence. The sprawling civilization centered on sturdy, nicely-planned agriculture practices, and domesticated animals inevitably observed their way into the equation.

Cattle, buffalo, camels, and possibly even Asian elephants were being important for meat, transportation, and doing the job in Harappan grain fields. Pet dogs and cats were being popular, guarding communities and their livelihood. Domestic cats may have developed from a commensal connection. As rodents came to invade grain fields and outlets, cats obviously had causes to are living among the population, providing totally free pest command.

Black cat with white spots standing on a rural street with raised paw
Graphic Credit: Oleg Elkov, Shutterstock

divider-catCat Depictions in Indian Literature

More than the centuries, cats grew to become central figures in different facets of Indian society. Most noteworthy is their look in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata all over 4–5 BCE. The two ancient epics, which numerous regard as historical texts, are vital influences in Indian culture and the Hindu religion, with their crucial classes on life, morality, and ethics guiding the country’s citizens to this working day.

Ramayana and Mahabharata

The Ramayana references cats as disguises, with vital figures taking advantage of the animal’s stealth. Hanuman makes an attempt to rescue Sita, Rama’s spouse, from Lanka, reworking into a black cat to go amongst the shadows undetected. In retellings of the lore, the god Indra, an vital component of Vedic and Hindu religions, also changed into a cat. Upon being caught obtaining an affair with Ahalya, the king of the gods transformed to keep away from capture.

The Mahabharata gave the cat a additional educational position in the story of Lomash and Palita, a cat and mouse. Even with becoming enemies, Palita served Lomash escape immediately after the cat fell into a trapper’s palms. In trade, Lomash offered defense from other close by predators. But when Lomash was no lengthier in threat, intuition took back again over, and the two turned enemies after more, a cautionary tale of electricity dynamics and motivations in associations.


The Panchatantra is a collection of animal fables from historical India that includes several references to cats. One particular tale describes a team of mice who plan to bell a shopkeeper’s cat to elude danger but drop small when no one volunteers. One more named “The Cat’s Judgment” casts the cat in a treacherous light. Performing like a devoutly holy creature, the cat tricks a partridge and hare into trusting and approaching him. When they do, he quickly kills them.

Stray cats in a street of india
Impression Credit rating: Scott Biales DitchTheMap, Shutterstock


The Cat’s Job in Indian Religion

Hindu mythology helps make sparing point out of the cat. But it does enjoy an important part for the goddess Shashti, a determine of worship, specially in North India. The goddess of fertility and protector of kids makes use of a cat as her mount. A person noteworthy tale centers on the black cat wrongly taking the blame for missing food items and struggling punishment for it. In retaliation, the cat steals the small children of its accuser and delivers them to Shashti until finally the lady makes amends.

Legal guidelines of Manu

All-around the very first century, the Regulations of Manu, or Manu-smriti, grew to become the authorized code of the Hindu religion. Working with many areas of Indian existence, which include the caste program and secular regulation, the Sanskrit text continues to influence the tradition.

When cats don’t factor into any critical tales, 1 legislation encompassing the properly-lived everyday living of a Brahman outlines fairly distinctive attitudes towards the creatures. According to the text, Brahman need to not honor, not even by greeting, males who dwell like cats.

divider-catContemporary Tradition and Cats

Cats really don’t take pleasure in the exact popularity in Indian households as in lots of other international locations. Looking at their background in Indian storytelling and religion, it is easy to see how they could get a standing for becoming sneaky and untrustworthy. And given that they really don’t occupy a popular put in Hinduism, Indians may perhaps not have a potent pure affinity for cats.

Quite a few theories persist about why cat ownership is so lower in India. The deceptive persona that numerous attribute to them surely doesn’t support. And superstitions surrounding black cats nonetheless abound, as they do about the globe. In India, lots of watch the black cat as a warning from Lord Shani, a Hindu deity of retribution. If a black cat crosses your route, you should continue to be away and enable another person else continue to start with, correctly transferring any negative luck to them.

Exterior of folklore, some may perhaps think that cats do not align with Indian values. For instance, cats are carnivores. In a region where eight in ten men and women restrict meat consumption, and approximately 40% discover as vegetarians, it may not leave much room for opposing eating plans.

California Spangled cat
Impression Credit history: Burhan Oral GUDU, Shutterstock

Increasing Cat Ownership

Pet possession opened up in unforeseen methods across the globe in latest yrs, thanks primarily to COVID. When individuals stayed trapped at dwelling, loneliness seeped in, option struck, and pet sales were equipped to surge. And though pet dogs have been, by far, the desired alternative for most pet house owners, interest in cats exploded.

With the expansion in pet ownership, the selection of pet cats in India in 2023 is expected to be much more than double the volume from 2014. For young generations anyhow, practicality is turning out to be more crucial than cultural stigmas. Cats are minimal upkeep and easy to elevate, specially as a initially pet. And in more compact apartments, their compact measurement would make them fantastic housemates.



Last Considered

There’s far more to India’s cat lifestyle than the large species you’ll see in the wild. Cats have created their mark in the richest Indian traditions, but their status is shifting appreciably with the instances. As the pet current market grows and India’s citizens take fresh views on their position in the house, cats may perhaps be redefining their part in India’s culture.

Highlighted Impression Credit history: VAKS-Inventory Agency, Shutterstock

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