Kitten's shelter

by Gail Emerson November 30, 2016

 How pussy willow got its name

Many a garden is really ruled by cats - whether that's their playground by night or slumbering spot on a sunny day. Daniel's Cat in a Rose Garden design shows a feline presiding over a crop of pink flowers in the grounds of a rather grand mansion. (Look again - it's under the tree.) 

In fact, it's the more fragrant herbs that cats have an affinity for above a pretty rose. Mint and lemongrass are apparently popular. And one in two cats is affected by a spot of cat nip, though it's not certain if this white flowering herb's effect on felines is more marijuana-like relaxant or hallucinogenic. In either case, certain cats can not get enough. 

The other plant with the feline namesake is the Pussy Willow. Why an essentially river-side tree should be associated with water-hating felines isn't obvious. One theory is that a mother cat used the branches to pull her drowning kittens to safety. This rather lovely folktale gives a different explanation:

There was once a city that loved cats. They were welcomed in abundance and treated as kings. Yet, one day a great storm rained down on the city. Realising that the water were rising and the city would flood, the cats made for higher ground. Many of the littlest kittens could not out run the waters and climbed up into the bowing branches of a river-side willow tree.

With the rain beating down, the kittens curled into balls clinging to the slender branches. They were slowly covered with layers of mud and sediment brought by the flood waters. By next spring the flood has abated and the sun returned.

On their trips to the riverbanks, the washerwomen noticed the willow trees' branches were now studded with small brown bumps. As the sunny days wore on, the brown casing broke open and from inside emerged the softest, silkiest kitten-like fur buds. Each year the pussy willow trees break into furry flowers, recalling how they sheltered the smallest cats in their hour of need. 

Daniel's Cat in a Rose Garden is available as an art print, greetings card or part of a coaster set. 

Prowl around the whole DM Cat Collection. 




Gail Emerson
Gail Emerson

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