So my people let me ask you this question. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you see a cat? I am sure the answers I would be getting are ‘witch, demon, devil’s messenger, etcetera. Well, I am speaking from a typical Igbo woman’s perspective. As a child growing up, I was made to believe that all these answers were true. When you have a staunch Christian mother like I do, anything that doesn’t sit properly is from the devil and cats seem to be in that category.
The Nollywood industry is not helping matters too…when you see a movie starring Patience Ozokwor (MAMA GEE) or Chiwetalu Agu as evil doers, on their day of confession, its either one is turning into a cat or one charm that was buried got uprooted and turned into a cat. Though these movies may be based on true life events but does that mean cats are evil?
Having given you the eastern point of view, let’s go to the northern part, their belief is slightly different; though some still believe that cats are evil, majority of them see them as harmless animals and keep them as pets. Some even go further saying that the cats protect their family from spiritual attacks. Hmm!!! If someone had told me that cat protects family some years ago, I would have accused that person of witchcraft. Right now I would just smile and say in my head that’s their belief, but that doesn’t stop me from shouting my occasional ‘BLOOD OF JESUS’ when I see one running by.
Not all cultures believe that cats are demonic and i am not just talking about Nigeria alone, i will be referencing other West African countries like Ghana even as far as the Western World. Every culture has their reservations for cats.
I was fortunate to go to Ghana for my tertiary education and people normally say that Nigeria and Ghana are culturally similar. In recorded history, the Ga people of Ghana migrated from ile-ife, technically, we have a lot in common.
I remember the first day I arrived my hostel in the company of my mom, immediately I opened the gate I saw three cats running towards me I didn’t even know when I ran back to the car and shut the door. At that time the hostel manager was coming out to welcome me and when she saw my reaction she busted into laughter, at that point my mom was giving me this look to say I just embarrassed myself and me I didn’t care because she caused it. If she had given me a wider world view about this feline creature, all of that would have been avoided. Once the manager regained herself she told me to come in that the cats were very harmless so I reluctantly entered inside.
During my first year I was able get well acquainted with the different cultures of the country and I realized that truly Nigerians and Ghanaians aren’t all that different in some aspects. With everything that I learnt, the most intriguing to me is their belief on cats. They believe that when one takes very good care of cats, these creatures return the favour by taking away ‘bad omen’ from your family. Yeah I know it sounds crazy but it’s true.
The other day a Ghanaian friend was telling me his family experience with these creatures. He said that his family has four cats that they keep as pets and coincidentally he has three siblings, so it was like one cat for each child. He explained how things were going so well for his family when all of a sudden two of his siblings got seriously ill at the same time and the timing for this mysterious ailment came at the period they both gained their admissions into top schools in USA and Canada respectively, they were just about to start processing their visas when this happened. They took these children to several hospitals around the nation; after several diagnoses, doctors couldn’t give any prognosis because the ailment was idiopathic, so they brought them home. The family was in despair, they had already come to terms with the fact that these kids would die; all of a sudden my friend noticed that two of the cats were sick they couldn’t even move or eat well it was like a mirror image of what was happening to his siblings, he was shocked so he alerted the rest of the family and they decided to put the cats beside his siblings. A week went by and no improvement but rather it was getting worse for both the children and the cats. Until two days later when my friend woke up early to ease himself when he noticed the two cats lying dead on the sitting room floor he panicked and ran upstairs to the room of his sick siblings thinking they had finally kicked the bucket but when he opened the door he saw his siblings awake and healthy. As a matter of fact they were arranging the room he was so shocked that he froze for a minute or two when he finally regained himself he called his parents. In summary, they assumed or believe rather that the cats took away death from the children. Sincerely speaking as him they talk this one my mind they go Africa magic…so I told him that he should thank God for the recovery and not putting it on the dead cats; he realised that I wasn’t buying the story so he urged me to do more research on it which I did and discovered that in Ghana, cats ward off bad omen. While some believe that eating cats fortifies them against evil….To buttress the Ghana-cat romance, there is no place you would go to in Ghana that would not see at least one cat even in tush places, hotels, restaurants etcetera.
In the western hemisphere, cats are used to portray demonic stories. When you watch horror movies you see those using cats as messengers or instrument to make a charm or spell. But like I said earlier not everyone see them that way, you can see a single lady with over 20 cats, ask her why she has that many she would tell you they keep her company, she will even further explain how they are easy to live with and how cute they are, hmmm fear just grip me ..The thought of living with a cat scares me not to talk of over 20 some people dey try sha. Thank you very much for your time. Your questions and comments are welcomed and God bless.
written by Nekky Chris