Monday, May 10, 2010 1:45 PM

Is Your Cat a "Moggie"?

The other night, J. and I were watching an episode of "MI5", a British spy series from the early 2000s that our pal, Miss P., has gotten us addicted to. While the cadre of spies was breaking into a house in order to place some "bugs", they inadvertently let the cat out. Naturally, the cat had to be caught and put back inside before they left or else the inhabitants would know something was up when they arrived back home. During the hunt that ensued, one of the characters referred to the cat as the "moggie". I immediately started wondering where I had come across that term before. The first place I checked, as I usually do for such little trivia bits concerning cats, was my well-used copy of Catlore by Desmond Morris. Sure enough, on the very last page of the book, was a chapter entitled, "Why is a Nonpedigreed Cat Called a Moggie?".

Obviously a term of English origin, Morris notes that "mongrel", a word used most often when referring to dogs of undistinguished lineage, is actually the correct term for nonpedigreed cats, as well. For some reason, however, Brits tend to use moggie, or moggy, when speaking of cats. Although Morris doesn't say so, it seems that the term could be an adulteration of the term, "mongrel". He states that the exact origin of moggie is unknown, and first appeared as a local variation of the name "Maggie". The original meaning, "a disheveled old woman", could also refer to a scarecrow in some regions. He postulates that, since the term became common in referring to unkempt alley cats that littered London's streets around the turn of the last century, many Londoners thought it fitting to compare cats to scarecrows and old ladies (marking another historical linking of cats and old women).

Morris notes that between the two world wars, the term was shortened to "mogs", but again morphed back into the longer version sometime after World War II. Apparently, it is still in use today. So, if you want to dazzle friends and acquaintances with your knowledge of feline trivia, try calling the host's cat a moggie. I'll bet you'll be the life of the party! Well, two of my moggies just arrived upstairs to let me know it's time for dinner, so, cheerio for now.
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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