How a Family Dog May Lower a Child’s Asthma Risk

by Agata Blaszczak-Boxe, Contributing Writer   |   November 02, 2015

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Agata Blaszczak-Boxe.

AGATA BLASZCZAK-BOXE Agata Blaszczak-Boxe is a contributing writer for Live Science. She covers health, psychology and paleontology, as well as other science topics. Agata has a Master of Arts degree from the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. When she is not writing, she can be found reading food blogs, lifting weights or playing with her two attention-hungry cats.

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Muezza, the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s favorite cat.

Muezza (or Muʿizza) (Arabicمعزة‎) is said to have been the Islamic prophet Muhammad‘s favorite cat.[1][2]


It is told that Muhammad awoke one day to the sounds of the Adhan, the Muslim daily call to prayer. Preparing to attend, he began to dress himself; however, he soon discovered his cat Muezza sleeping on the sleeve of his prayer robe. Rather than wake her, he used a pair of scissors to cut the sleeve off, leaving the cat undisturbed. When he returned from the mosque, Muhammad received a bow from Muezza in gratitude. He then stroked his beloved cat three times.[1][2]

History books also record that the Sufi leader Ahmed ar-Rifa’i cut his sleeve because a cat was sleeping on it, then stitched it up later and said “nothing changed”.[3]

However, Muhammad in other hadiths commanded that animals be treated kindly, giving the example of a man who goes to heaven for getting water from a well for a thirsty dog,[4]and another woman who goes to hell because she kept a cat locked up, not feeding it, nor allowing it to forage for its own sustenance.[5]

Additionally, a UK-based pet food company, Halal Pet Products Ltd, produces what they claim to be a completely halal cat food, which they named Muezza Pure.[6] The company justifies their development of the product by asserting that, while there are no laws in Islam prohibiting animals from eating haram foods, Muslims are forbidden to handle or feed haram foods, such as pork and carrion, to animals.[6]


  1. a b Geyer, Georgie Anne (2004). When Cats Reigned Like Kings: On the Trail of the Sacred Cats. Andrews McMeel Publishing. ISBN 0-7407-4697-9.
  2. a b Stall, Sam (2007). 100 Cats Who Changed Civilization: History’s Most Influential Felines. Quirk Books. ISBN 978-1-59474-163-0.
  3. Al-Thahabi, Shamsuddin. “الرفاعي”Siyar A’lam Al-Nubala. Retrieved on 24 October 2014.
  5. Muslim ibn al-Hajjajصحيح مسلم. Retrieved on 24 October 2014.
  6. a b .

The domestic cat is a revered animal in Islam.[1] Admired for its cleanliness as well as for being loved by the prophet Muhammad, the cat is considered “the quintessential pet” by Muslims.[2]

Origins of reverence

Cats have been venerated in the Near East since antiquity, a tradition adopted by Islam, albeit in a much modified form.[3] Muhammad is reported to have said that “a love of cats is an aspect of faith”; according to other hadiths, he prohibited the persecution and killing of cats. The prophet purportedly allowed a cat to give birth on his cloak, and cut off the sleeve of his prayer robe rather than wake his favourite cat, a female named Muezza, who was sleeping on it.[2] This fits in with the theme of compassion in Islam.

Cat resting on a pillow next to an imam in Cairo, by John Frederick Lewis

 One of Muhammad’s companions was known as Abu Hurairah (literally: “Father of the Kitten”) for his attachment to cats.[1] Abu Hurairah claimed that he had heard the Prophet declare that a woman went to Hell for starving a female kitten and not providing her with any water, but this was disputed by the Prophet’s widow Aisha.[4] According to legend, Abu Hurairah’s cat saved Muhammad from a snake.[2] The grateful prophet stroked the cat’s back and forehead, thus blessing all cats with the righting reflex. The stripes some cats have on their foreheads are believed to mark the touch of Muhammad’s fingers.[5] However, many Muslims do not believe all hadith are 100% accurate.


The American poet and travel author Bayard Taylor (1825-1878) was astonished when he discovered a Syrian hospital where cats roamed freely. The institution, in which domestic felines were sheltered and nourished, was funded by a waqf, along with caretakers’ wages, veterinary care and cat foodEdward William Lane (1801-1876), British Orientalist who resided in Cairo, described a cat garden originally endowed by the 13th-century Egyptian sultan Baibars, whose European contemporaries held a very different attitude towards cats, eating them or killing them under papal decrees.[2] Aside from protecting granaries and food stores from pests, cats were valued by the paper-based Arab-Islamicate cultures for preying on mice that destroyed books. For that reason, cats are often depicted in paintings alongside Islamic scholars and bibliophiles. The medieval Egyptian zoologist Al-Damiri (1344-1405) wrote that the first cat was created when God caused a lion to sneeze, after animals on Noah’s Ark complained of mice.[2]

Hygiene and neutering

Cat outside a mosque in Şirince, Turkey, with people praying in the background

In Islamic tradition, cats are admired for their cleanliness. They are thought to be ritually clean, unlike dogs, and are thus allowed to enter homes[2] and even mosques, including Masjid al-Haram. Food sampled by cats is considered halal and water from which cats have drunk is permitted for wudu.[2] Furthermore, there is a widespread belief among Muslims that cats seek out people who are praying.[1]

Muslim scholars are divided on the issue of neutering animals. Most, however, maintain that neutering cats is allowed “if there is some benefit in neutering the cat and if that will not cause its death”.[6] Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen, a 20th-century Saudi Arabian Sunni imam, preached:

If there are too many cats and they are a nuisance, and if the operation will not harm them, then there is nothing wrong with it, because this is better than killing them after they have been created. But if the cats are ordinary cats and are not causing a nuisance, perhaps it is better to leave them alone to reproduce.[6]


  1. a b c Glassé, Cyril (2003). The New Encyclopedia of Islam. Rowman Altamira. p. 102. ISBN 0759101906.
  2. a b c d e f g Campo, Juan Eduardo (2009). Encyclopedia of Islam. Infobase Publishing. p. 131. ISBN 1438126964.
  3. Baldick, Julian (2012). Mystical Islam: An Introduction to Sufism. I.B.Tauris. p. 155. ISBN 1780762313.
  4. Kurzman, Charles (1998). Liberal Islam: A Source Book. Oxford University Press. p. 121. ISBN 0195116224.
  5. Gulevich, Tanya (2005). Understanding Islam and Muslim traditions: an introduction to the religious practices, celebrations, festivals, observances, beliefs, folklore, customs, and calendar system of the world’s Muslim communities, including an overview of Islamic history and geography. Omnigraphics. p. 232. ISBN 0780807049.
  6. a b Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman (2004). Islam: Questions and Answers – Jurisprudence and Islamic Rulings: General and Transactions -, Part 1. MSA Publication Limited. pp. 323–325. ISBN 1861794118.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt

Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor

On public view for the first time is a gilded Leonine Goddess (770–412 B.C.E.)—a lion-headed female crouching on a papyrus-shaped base—that entered our collection in 1937 and was conserved specially for this installation. The exhibition’s cats and feline divinities range from a large limestone sculpture of a recumbent lion (305–30 B.C.E.), to a diminutive bronze sphinx of King Sheshenq (945–718 B.C.E.), to a cast-bronze figurine of a cat nursing four kittens (664–30 B.C.E.). Also included are furniture and luxury items decorated with feline features.

Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt is organized by Yekaterina Barbash, Associate Curator of Egyptian Art, Brooklyn Museum.

Ancient remains could be oldest pet cat

People tamed cats as pets at least 9500 years ago, say researchers who have unearthed the grave of a prehistoric tabby in Cyprus. The Stone Age moggy appears to have been carefully placed alongside a human corpse, along with offerings including jewellery and stone tools.

Until now, historians thought the ancient Egyptians first domesticated cats about 4000 years ago. But evidence suggests cats were culturally important outside Egypt long before that. Stone and clay figurines of cats up to 10,000 years old have turned up in Syria, Turkey and Israel.

And archaeologists have found cat bones more than 9000 years old on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, which has no native feline species.

“The first discovery of cat bones on Cyprus showed that human beings brought cats from the mainland to the islands, but we could not decide if these cats were wild or tame,” says Jean-Denis Vigne of the French research organisation CNRS and the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

Now Vigne and his colleagues have discovered the remains of a Neolithic cat at the ancient village of Shillourokambos in Cyprus, and the manner of its burial suggests the animal was a pet.

Pointing west

The cat belonged to the species Felis silvestris, the wild cat from which domestic cats descended. Its remains lie just 40 centimetres from a 9500-year-old human grave containing valuable offerings such as polished stones and seashells.

Furthermore, the human and cat skeletons have identical states of preservation. The skeletons were positioned symmetrically, with both heads pointing west, which may have been intentional.

The cat died when it was about eight months old, and while the cause of death is a mystery, there are no signs on the bones that the animal was butchered for food.

Vigne thinks the proximity of the human skeleton suggests a strong bond with the cat, which might have been killed to go to the grave with its master. It would have made sense for early agricultural societies to mingle with cats, he adds, because cats could have killed the mice that nibbled precious grain supplies.

Journal reference: Science (vol 304, p 259)

By Hazel Muir

Oldest Known Pet Cat? 9,500-Year-Old Burial Found on Cyprus

by John Pickrell
for National Geographic News

April 8, 2004

Since at least the time of the ancient Egyptians, cats have been cherished as companions, worshipped as idols, and kept as agents of pest control and good luck. But now French archaeologists have found evidence that our close relationship with cats may have begun much earlier.

The carefully interred remains of a human and a cat were found buried with seashells, polished stones, and other decorative artifacts in a 9,500-year-old grave site on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. This new find, from the Neolithic village of Shillourokambos, predates early Egyptian art depicting cats by 4,000 years or more.Jean-Denis Vigne, an archaeologist with the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, and colleagues describe the find in tomorrow’s edition of the research journal Science. The researchers write that the joint burial indicates a strong association between the human and cat and that the feline is possibly the world’s oldest known pet cat.

“The process and timing of cat domestication has been terrifically difficult to document,” said Melinder Zeder, a curator of Old World archaeology at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and president of the International Council for Archaeozoology.

“In the absence of a collar around its neck, the deliberate interment of this animal with a human makes a strong case that cats had a special place in the daily lives, and in the afterlives, of residents of Shillourokambos,” Zeder said.

Spiritual Significance

Most early evidence of cat domestication comes from ancient Egypt. Some experts believe that the Egyptians may have tamed and bred felines to produce a distinct species by the 20th or 19th century B.C.

Cats are frequently represented in Egyptian mythology in the form of the feline goddesses Bastet, Sekhmet, and other deities. Cat art and mummified remains are known from as far back as 4,000 years ago.

But researchers have also stumbled across hints that cats were domesticated much earlier. Experts have found 10,000-year-old engravings and pottery that depict cats dating to the Neolithic period (late Stone Age), Vigne said. He notes such finds provide evidence that, even then, cats had a spiritual significance.

More recently, cat jawbones and other remains not directly linked to human burials have revealed that wild cats were at least associated with early Neolithic settlements on Cyprus, Vigne said.

Cats are not native to Cyprus, an island 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) south of mainland Turkey. Given that fact, researchers behind today’s announcement write that humans must have introduced cats to the island. Whether or not early peoples domesticated the species remains unclear, the researchers write, noting that foxes were also introduced at the same time.

Together Forever

Zeder, the Smithsonian curator, notes that the difficulty in determining precisely when cats were first domesticated is that cats were likely “commensal domesticates.” The phrase describes animals like mice, rats, sparrows, and early dogs, among others, that weren’t raised by people but nonetheless were attracted to human habitations.

Such animals feed on stored food or trash or they prey on other commensals. Which is why finding cat remains in or near ancient human settlements doesn’t necessarily imply the animals had been adopted as pets.

To complicate the issue, domestic cats are physically very similar to their wild counterparts and cannot easily be distinguished on that basis, said Zeder, who also serves on the board of the National Geographic Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration.

“What makes this [new] find special, is [the cat’s] intentional placement with a human burial,” Zeder said.

The cat and human remains described in today’s announcement were unearthed in 2001. The grave also contained offerings such as ochre and flint tools, axes, and seashells.

A combination of factors is seen as evidence that the cat and human were intentionally buried together including the good state of preservation of both remains, the burial of an entire cat without any signs of butchering, and the proximity of the skeletons—just 40 centimeters (16 inches) apart. Analysis suggests that the cat was just eight months old at death and was possibly killed in order to be buried alongside the human.

“The first discovery of cat bones on Cyprus showed that human beings brought cats from the mainland to the islands. But we couldn’t decide if these cats were wild or tame,” said study author Vigne. “With this discovery, we can now decide that cats were linked with humans.”

He notes that wild cats may have been drawn to settlements where grain stores attracted rats and mice. Perhaps people soon realized they could perhaps use the felines to control these pests.

Domestication Experiments

Cats may have been one of many animals “intentionally transported to Cyprus as some kind of gamestocking plan,” Zeder said, noting that the research by Vigne and his colleagues reveals that many non-native wild animals—including pigs, goats, deer, and cattle—were transported to Cyprus “on a kind of Noah’s ark.”

The scientists’ findings also reveal that the residents of the ancient village of Shillourokambos were beginning domestication experiments with many such livestock species.

“[Perhaps] it’s not surprising to find evidence of taming cats and their habituation with human settlements at such an early date,” Zeder added. “What’s really surprising is that we haven’t seen more of this kind of association at an earlier time.”

In contrast to cats, intentional burials of dogs and puppies with humans occurred earlier and have been more common in the archaeological record. The earliest are known from the Natufian stage, 12,000 years ago in Israel.

Dog People vs. Cat People: Who’s More Outgoing? More Intelligent?

by Rachael Rettner, Senior Writer   |   May 27, 2014 12:25pm ET

SAN FRANCISCO — “Dog people” and “cat people” really do have different personalities, according to a new study.

Why Do Cats Bring Home Dead Animals?

by Elizabeth Palermo, Staff Writer   |   March 29, 2013 04:42pm ET

Internet Cat Videos Keep You Purring, Study Finds

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Why Do Cats Like Boxes?

Why Cats Have Vertical Pupils

by Stephanie Pappas, Live Science Contributor   |   August 07, 2015 02:25pm ET

Have you ever wondered why your cat’s eyes have those creepy vertical slits for pupils? A new study suggests the reason may lie in cats’ preferred mode of hunting.