Historic Roots of the Fling

History of Catflinging
The Classic Flingist
Early European Roots
The Middle Ages
The Highland Fling
Development of the Art
The Cat in Warfare
Cats in Duelling
Cats Used in Hunting
Cats in Household Defense
Catflinging in the Olympics
The Joy of Flinging
Other Types of Flinging
Improv. That Didn't Work
Famous Flingists

About AES
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The Secret Science

The cat is much like the bagpipe in that there are few people who are entirely indifferent toward either. (The similarity does not end there, however, a fact that will be documented hereinafter.) For the sake of illustration, let us assume it possible to create a list objects in the environment ordered according to their ability to engender collective indifference in the human observer. At the top of our indifference index one would probably find such things as tofu and Ed Sullivan, objects with the capacity to engender violent indifference. The cat and the bagpipe, however, would have their place at the bottom, somewhere in the vicinity of Monte Python and chewing tobacco. It is perhaps largely the cat's low indifference index that best explains the controversy surrounding the art of cat flinging.

Research into the early roots of the domestication of the cat have failed to make clear why this particular animal was ever domesticated in the first place. This question is an important one and its answer may be quite startling. The brief discussion of the major reasons for animal domestication which follows may shed some light.

The human, generally obsessed with eating, has usually domesticated animals which provided food in one way or another: cattle and goats for meat and milk, sheep also for their wool. The cat does not easily fall into this category. Some humans have, on occasion, eaten cats -- and some have even remarked that they were "mighty good with mustard." (*) However, cat meat has never achieved much popularity and anyone who ascribes to the belief that cats were domesticated to serve as dairy stock is encouraged to attempt milking one. As for cat byproducts, the cat fur vest was popular only briefly during the Victorian era, particularly among sadistic and overweight great aunts.

Cattle and horses were also domesticated to be used as beasts of burden. There is some evidence to suggest that this might have been attempted with the cat on a limited scale. Certain rare frescoes from ancient Egypt and Sumeria illustrate the peculiar and, to some, rather ludicrous art of cat saddling. It has also been suggested that pack cats were used in ancient Peru before the domestication of the Llama, but the diminutive size of the cat eliminated it for use with any but small items -- in general, luxury goods and snack foods. After the domestication of the Llama, attempt was made to eradicate all evidence of this practice in order to prevent centuries of racial embarrassment. The current lack of evidence would tend to indicate that the attempt was entirely successful. Two ancient, and perhaps spurious, Sumerian clay tablets depict a span of cats pulling a war chariot. A case has been made, however, for the possibility that these tablets were forgeries made by the victor of a minor skirmish in ridicule of the vanquished foe. In general, it can probably be safely asserted that the cat was not domesticated to serve either as a beast of burden or a source of food.

The usual modern explanation for cat domestication commonly contains reference to pest extermination and companionship -- adequate explanations perhaps for the modern cat owner but hardly reasonable given the requirements of earlier periods. Though it has gained certain modern popularity as a companion it is hard to swallow the theory that such a fiercely independent animal as a cat should have originally been chosen to fill this role.

The dog, generally accepted as the first domesticated animal, filled a role in hunting and protection and it has been erroneously contended that cat served a similar purpose. The cat's usefulness as a hunting animal was evident only to those people who enjoyed a diet of rodents and moths, a relatively small percentage that never grew to any meaningful extent. Thus, the cat as a game hunting animal was an abject failure.

Finally, some animals, such as the parrot, have been domesticated purely to provide entertainment. After centuries of effort, however, no one has succeeded in teaching a cat how to talk or even whistle, nor do they look particularly decorative sitting on perches in cages hung near the ceiling. In that position all they tend to do is howl and shed hair.

Why then was the cat domesticated? The usual explanation refers to the cat's supposed, and generally mythical ability to catch mice. This contention ignores the statistical studies carried out by the feline research institute of Berlin in the 1920's which demonstrated that from a random sampling of cats, at least fifty percent were entirely terrified of mice, and only managed to kill them as result of reacting with panic to their presence in a confined space. the mice in fact were trampled to death as the cats attempted to flee. Some cats do indeed catch mice, but in most cases the mice are caught outside, brought inside, and then released -- hardly the net effect with which cats are so often credited.

The cat, which has been domesticated since at least as early as ancient Egypt, did not serve, in all probability, as a beast of burden, a source of food, a pest eradicator, companion, or even an ornament. Having exhausted all rational explanations for the domestication of an animal, we are left with only one possible conclusion as to the purpose of the domestic feline. It must have been as an adjunct to one of those human activities in which reason plays no part whatsoever. It is clear that the domestication of the cat was based either on sport, or warfare or both. That the answer is "both" and that the cat was first domesticated for flinging purposes alone will be borne out as the history of cat flinging is more fully explored.