Sunday, February 21

One of Life's Great Italian Mysteries....Solved!

Well, this is embarrassing. For 20-odd years I have invented every sort of superstition known to man in my head to explain the odd practice I found in every town from top to toe of the Italian Boot: That is, the placing of plastic water bottles - full of water - in front of one's doorway. Aside from the flag it waves reading "We're not home! Come in and make yourself at home!" I couldn't - for the life of me - figure out what those bottles meant. I asked little old ladies, even my own great-aunt who - religiously placing them out the front door - couldn't tell me why and what for. I was flummoxed, to say the least.
Okay...It's usually just a bottle or two, but these guys must seriously mean business
(photo from Tenace Concetto Blog)
 
And, I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I never actually thought about asking Siri what she thought about it. I mean, really? She can't even pronounce Giuseppe or Stefano properly - what would she know about it? In any case, while running around Deruta (home of gorgeous Umbrian ceramic works), I was gifted with a personal tour of the Antica Fornace Maioliche & Museo of Giovanni Baiano (The Ancient Kiln of Umbrian pottery - and thru the outrageous museum in his store choc-a-bloc filled to the rim with pieces and sketches of the works since man first found fire and then heated it up to a few thousand degrees...)
Leaving the premises, I happened to ask casually, not truly expecting a real answer, what the bottles were doing there on the doorstep. And Giovanni's wife stated, "I know what they're for!!!".  Incredibly, I discovered a superstition that never made its way into my book (look out for a new print run...!)...Drum Roll, please....


Turns out...it's to ward off kitty cats (or their pee, to be more precise).


As an unbridled cynic, of course, I couldn't just let that simple explanation stand for itself. I mean, really. Twenty-plus years, and that's all there is? [Cue Peggy Lee here]. So off to google I went.
 

To lighten my dismay at not googling it in the first place, I was heartened to find that the question is debated as vigorously by Italians as what the best cut from a pig is or whether or not you should add oil to your pasta water (you shouldn't). So, not even Italians knew what was up with the cat bottles. But, you can't blame them. After all, plastic water bottles haven't been around all that long (and they gotta compete with the 10 million- plus other superstitions already on file).

In my search I found that many
vets thought it was a silly waste of time. And...I gotta admit, I'm pretty much on their side. I have had cats my whole life, and I have never seen a cat want to pee on a doorway - like never ever. I mean, how would they cover their tracks? But hey, ask anyone who side-steps a ladder or a black cat...What can a few bottles outside the door hurt? Right?

4 comments:

Harm said...

Wow, odd. A couple of bottles of water (the theory is) prevents the cat from peeing in the doorway? I wasn't even aware cats would *want* to do that on concrete (or brick, or other solid material a doorstep is likely to be made of)... I thought they liked dirt, sand, like litter... this is a multi-leveled stumper, for sure -- unpeeling.

Bob DJ said...

Very interesting. I don't think I've ever seen this the US, but apparently, it's a thing in Japan, too: http://catsaway.org/water-bottle-and-cat-myth/

Doris Vitters said...

I can vouch that it works. For years during the winter months, cats would pee on the ducted heating unit which is outside. When the heating was turned on during those cold mornings, the stench would permeate through the house. Someone told me about the plastic water bottles. Placed one on each side of the unit. No more stench. The water through the plastic bottle is too bright for the cat's eyes.

Francesca Maggi BurntbytheTuscanSun said...

Doris - that's amazing...! Who knew???