"Poor pussy," we naturally call the cat. Do we know why? Is it not in instinctive recognition of the strange fact that this gentle beast is the most generally misunderstood creature in the world? Her reserve, her self-reliance, her inextinguishable love of liberty have earned for her a name totally unlike her real character.
And why, again, do we always give a cat the feminine pronoun? The Arabs have a legend that when the first father and mother went out into the desert alone, Allah gave them two friends to defend and comfort them; for defense, the dog, for comfort, the cat. In the body of the dog he placed the soul of a brave man, in that of the cat, the spirit of a gentle woman. Is there in this story a deeper meaning than has been suspected? The woman has never yet come to her full development (Hmph - curator); the cat has never been understood.
-- Olive Thorne Miller, from "Pet Lore for Pet Lovers Part V. Poor Puss," in The Home-maker Vol. 2 (The Home-maker Co., 1889), p. 187. I've run into old references to the Arabic legend, but never a translation of the legend itself. I'd love to see it if you have one!