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Getty (Woman)/iStock (Cats)/Erin McCarthy
Getty (Woman)/iStock (Cats)/Erin McCarthy

Portrait of a Crazy Cat Person from an 1872 NY Times Editorial

Getty (Woman)/iStock (Cats)/Erin McCarthy
Getty (Woman)/iStock (Cats)/Erin McCarthy

You might think that the crazy cat lady is a modern concept, but according to an editorial called "Cats and Craziness," published in the August 11, 1872 issue of the New York Times, they were around even in the 19th century, with cases of an "insane man or woman who lives in a garrett, in the intimate society of three or four score cats ... perpetually coming to the knowledge of the public." The editoral goes on to describe what, exactly, a crazy cat person is, and it's highly entertaining—even if it is a little insulting to ailurophiles.

The "crazy lover of cats" was typically wealthy and "regards his attachment as a guilty one ... one which is to be kept, if possible, from the knowledge of his human neighbors ... It is only when his corpse is discovered by riotous cats, evidently bent upon 'waking' him after the most approved feline fashion, that his curious infatuation becomes known."

After these well-off lunatics die, they will, according to the editorial, often leave their money in a trust to care for their beloved felines. One man, living in Ohio, "not only provided luxurious lodging and feeding of his beloved associates, but ... insured ... a constant supply of healthy and attractive amusement for them":

He instructed his executors to prepare a large quantity of rat-holes in his Feline Retreat, and to stock them with a lavish supply of vigorous rats of the breed best adapted for the pleasures of the chase. He was also careful to secure for his cats abundant opportunity for the cultivation of their musical abilities ... It is a little remarkable that he omitted to provide them with an unlimited supply of free catnip and gratuitous valerian. It is possible, however, that he looked upon the use of these weeds as a form of feline dissipation which he could not encourage with any proper regard for the morals or health of young and thoughtless cats.

But just why do lunatics love cats so much, as opposed to, say, dogs? The editorial reasons that "there is evidently a bond of union between the lunatic and the cat which does not exist between sane persons and that undesirable animal. Possibly this bond consists in the fact that in most cases the lunatic develops a stealthy, tortuous cunning which assimilates him in some degree to the cat."

The Times writers clearly thought this cat-loving trend was very troubling, concluding, "the student of lunacy might well occupy his time in investigating the cause of this curious and frequent feature of insanity." You can read the whole thing here.

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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