From The Golden Bough, the classic 1922 compendium of world myths by Sir James George Frazier, in which we are reminded yet again just how utterly important cats are. . .
A tale told by the Ba-Ronga of South Africa sets forth how the lives of a whole family were contained in one cat.
When a girl of the family, named Titishan, married a husband, she begged her parents to let her take the precious cat with her to her new home. But they refused, saying, “You know that our life is attached to it”; and they offered to give her an antelope or even an elephant instead of it. But nothing would satisfy her but the cat. So at last she carried it off with her and shut it up in a place where nobody saw it; even her husband knew nothing about it.
One day, when she went to work in the fields, the cat escaped from its place of concealment, entered the hut, put on the warlike trappings of the husband, and danced and sang. Some children, attracted by the noise, discovered the cat at its antics, and when they expressed their astonishment, the animal only capered the more and insulted them besides. So they went to the owner and said, “There is somebody dancing in your house, and he insulted us.” “Hold your tongues,” said he, “I’ll soon put a stop to your lies.” So he went and hid behind the door and peeped in, and there sure enough was the cat prancing about and singing. He fired at it, and the animal dropped down dead. At the same moment his wife fell to the ground in the field where she was at work; said she, “I have been killed at home.”
But she had strength enough left to ask her husband to go with her to her parents’ village, taking with him the dead cat wrapt up in a mat. All her relatives assembled, and bitterly they reproached her for having insisted on taking the animal with her to her husband’s village. As soon as the mat was unrolled and they saw the dead cat, they all fell down lifeless one after the other. So the Clan of the Cat was destroyed; and the bereaved husband closed the gate of the village with a branch, and returned home, and told his friends how in killing the cat he had killed the whole clan, because their lives depended on the life of the cat.
Well of course they did. (See Chapter 66 of The Golden Bough for this story.)