In 2002, the International Fund for Animal Welfare created International Cat Day, which is celebrated on August 8th. This day is dedicated to raising awareness for cats and educating the public on ways to help and protect them. Although different countries might have national celebrations for cats on other days, International Cat Day on August 8th is intended to be celebrated worldwide.
Ever since cats first began domesticating themselves in around 7500 BCE, humans have loved and celebrated them. In Ancient Egypt, they were praised for killing venomous snakes and protecting the Pharaoh, they were used as a representation for the sun god Ra in the Book of the Dead, and the goddess Bastet was often characterized as a cat. In Norse mythology, two grey cats fought alongside the goddess Freyja and pulled her chariot. For centuries, cats have been considered good luck in Russia, and many cats have continuously guarded the Winter Palace since the reign of Empress Elizabeth.
Anyone who has ever owned a cat – or, rather, has been owned by one – knows that cats are well aware of their venerated status in mythology and folklore, and expect that same level of worship today.
Finding images for this post was particularly fun for me, as I am a cat lover myself, and happily jump at any chance to celebrate them. Just like humans, there are images of cats sprinkled throughout history, both with and without the families they’ve chosen. Please enjoy these images of cats from the Oak Park Public Library, the Chicago History Museum, Lewis University, the Illinois State Museum, and the Newberry Library.
View the full The Early Years – Ernest and Marcelline Hemingway in Oak Park, Prints and Photographs, Bruce Cheadle Papers, Illinois Stories – COVID-19, and the Daily Life Along the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Collections on the IDHH.