Katherine M. Rogers in her book “Cat” informs me that the domestic cat’s habit of constantly licking themselves “is repellent to orthodox Hindus, who consider saliva unclean”. Westerners like the fact that domestic cats keep themselves clean. They smell nice, sort of nutty. Westerners like to bury their head into their cat’s fur or kiss their forehead. We like to stroke our cats and be in contact with them. But there is cat saliva on their fur which has dried out.
Westerners don’t mind unless they are allergic to the allergen protein called Fel D1 in a cat’s saliva. However, if orthodox Hindus dislike saliva so much does it interfere with their relationship with the domestic cat? I think it must do. Arguably, it prevents an orthodox Hindu living with a domestic cat.
The Internet is unhelpful on this very specific topic. The nearest I can find is an article I wrote some time ago on the topic of whether Muslims find the saliva of cats objectionable. But that’s not the same thing because Muslims aren’t Hindus. In fact, I’ve just bumped into an article which states that Muslims don’t like Hindus or Christians or any other religion. That’s another topic.
My research indicates that the issue of saliva is an Indian and a Hindu food related issue. It’s called: Uchchhishta. It refers to leaving leftover food which probably contains remnants of the eater’s saliva. As I understand it, it shouldn’t be eaten by anybody else for that reason (even if the eater is your wife or husband?). Saliva is considered to be of an “uncertain status”. And therefore contact with saliva, Uchchhishta, is regarded as impure. Interestingly, if saliva is passed from one person to another while speaking, which may well happen, it is not considered to be impure. What about kissing? A lot of saliva gets transmitted in the process 😕 .This seems to be a fault line in the concept of Uchchhishta.
It’s a very strong concept because Hindus view Uchchhishta with revulsion. And eating Uchchhishta is regarded as humiliating. The dog is brought into this concept. The dog is always denigrated in this way. Humankind equates dogs with a bad life which is ironic because humans made their life bad. A Kannada proverb says that a person who eats Uchchhishta is a dog.
The rule does not apply to people of lower status. In other words, a person of low status can eat the food leftovers of a person of a higher status without being in breach of this cultural rule. But eating someone’s Uchchhishta is considered to be a sign of submission and acceptance of that person’s inferiority and the superiority of the person who left the food.
Wikipedia says that orthodoxy does not exist in Hinduism. I will presume therefore that it is people who are devout Hindus who might be affected by the saliva of domestic cats. There is a question on the Quora.com website which asks why Indians don’t like cats. One reason might be the saliva problem. Hinduism is the largest religion in India representing 79.8% of the country’s population. There has to be a reasonable percentage who are devout Hindus.
However, the answers given as to why Indians don’t like cats or to be more precise some Indians don’t like cats is because of things like superstition. I don’t see a direct reference to cat saliva being a problem in my research. However, a sub-question was “What does Hinduism say about cats?”.
The answer to that question is that most Indians and therefore Hindus do not own or have cats as pets because of Hindu mythology. Cats are seen as a bad omen. This is about superstition such as if their cat crosses a person’s path it’s bad luck. It appears that superstition regarding domestic cats is a bigger barrier to Hindus living with a domestic cat than the saliva problem mentioned.
I’m sure that it is fair to say that although a very high percentage of Indians are Hindus, many of these people are lapsed Hindus or don’t really follow the religion’s rules. An old friend of mine, an Indian living in Mumbai, lives or lived with two Persian cats. He is a cat lover. His name is Rudolph. Click this link to read one of his articles.
Ricky Gervais calls Pope Frances ‘stupid’ when he said people are selfish in preferring companion animals over children
Same US state has lowest Covid vaccination, poorest animal protection, poorest education, most religion
East and west coast USA are the most secular and therefore wealthier resulting in better domestic cat welfare