Dùthaich nan Cat – Land of the Cats

The wildcat is named on many of our natural features, as Ruairidh MacIlleathain explains. Read the full Gaelic version below.

Pete Cairns - check copyright

Cat-fiadhaich. Wildcat. © Pete Cairns

For an animal that’s rarely seen today, the Scottish wildcat appears on our maps surprisingly often, particularly in the Gàidhealtachd. The Gaelic is cat (sounds like ‘kaht’) but it almost always appears in the altered forms a’ chait (‘uh CHATCH’, of the cat) or nan cat (‘nuhn KAHT’, of the cats). There are three mountains called Beinn a’ Chait, half a dozen crags or hills called Creag a’ Chait, and other high land called Meall a’ Chait, Cnoc a’ Chait and Tom a’ Chait.

Sometimes cat names crop up in relation to water bodies, such as Eas nan Cat (the waterfall of the wildcats) in Kintyre and Allt a’ Chait (the burn of the wildcat) in Caithness. Place names indicate a significant presence of this species in Perthshire in earlier times – there are no less than five lochans in the county named after the wildcat.

The ‘cat people’ inhabited the northeastern Highlands in earlier times, giving us a probable pre-Norse name for Shetland of Innse Cat (‘isles of the cat people’), and the modern Gaelic for Sutherland of Cataibh. However, ‘Caithness’ derives from the Norse Katanes, ‘promontory of the cat people’.

Allt Choire a' Chait As it flows into Loch Cluanie. © Dave Fergusson

Allt Choire a’ Chait a’ sruthadh ri Loch Cluanaidh. Allt Choire a’ Chait as it flows into Loch Cluanie. © Dave Fergusson

Tha an cat fiadhaich air ainmeachadh ann an grunn àiteachan air mapa na h-Alba, a’ cur smuain nar cinn gun robh e uaireigin sgapte thar dùthaich mhòr agus na bu lìonmhoire na tha e an-diugh. Ged nach fhaicear cat fiadhaich ach ainneamh, bha na Gàidheil eòlach gu leòr orra anns an t-seann aimsir, co-dhiù a rèir nam mapaichean.

Gu tric, tha an cat co-cheangailte ri àite garbh creagach no talamh àrd, agus chithear sin sna h-ainmean. Tha trì beanntan air a bheil Beinn a’ Chait – tè air a’ Chomraich, tè san Eilean Sgitheanach agus tè ann an Athall; tha Druim a’ Chait faisg air an tè Athallaich. Tha Meall a’ Chait ann an Gleanna Garadh, tha Càrn a’ Chait faisg air Baile Dhubhthaich, tha Cnoc a’ Chait ann an ceann a tuath Mhuile agus, ann an Srath Spè gheibhear Tom a’ Chait. Agus tha co-dhiù leth-dhusan àite air a bheil Creag a’ Chait, eadar Bràigh Mhàrr air an taobh an ear agus an t-Eilean Sgitheanach is Ìle air an taobh an iar.

Lochan Nan Cat from the summit of Ben Lawers. © Scottholland at English Wikipedia

Lochan Nan Cat bho mhullach Beinn Labhair. Lochan Nan Cat from the summit of Ben Lawers. © Scottholland at English Wikipedia

Bidh cait a’ nochdadh ann an grunn fheartan-tìre eile, leithid Coire a’ Chait faisg air Loch Cluainidh, Allt a’ Chait ann am meadhan Ghallaibh, Eas nan Cat ann an Cinn Tìre agus Eilean a’ Chait faisg air a’ Phloc. Agus ann an Siorrachd Pheairt tha dà lochan air a bheil Lochan a’ Chait agus trì air a bheil Lochan nan Cat. Feumaidh gu robh an cat fiadhaich gu math pailt uaireigin anns an t-siorrachd sin!

’S dòcha gur e Cataibh an t-àite as ainmeile a tha co-cheangailte ri cait ann an Alba. Thathar a’ smaoineachadh gur e ‘Muinntir nan Cat’ a bh’ air na daoine anns an sgìre sin agus gur iad a thug an t-ainm don cheàrn sin. Thathar a’ gabhail Machair Chat fhathast air an talamh ìosal air taobh an ear na siorrachd, Bràigh Chat air an talamh àrd gu siar air sin agus Dìthreabh Chat air an dùthaich fhosgailte ann am meadhan na siorrachd; ’s e Morair Chat a chanas na Gàidheil ri The Duke of Sutherland. Tha Caithness a’ tighinn bhon t-Seann Lochlannais Katanes ‘Rubha Muinntir nan Cat’ agus tha dùil gur e Innse Cat a bh’ air Sealtainn ro linn nan Lochlannach.

View to Eilean a' Chait from Ardaneaskan near to Plockton. © Copyright Colin Park and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Sealladh gu Eilean a’ Chait à Àird nan Easgann faisg air a’ Phloc. View to Eilean a’ Chait from Ardaneaskan near to Plockton. © Copyright Colin Park and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

’S iomadh seanfhacal a th’ againn co-cheangailte ri cait – tha liosta de 67 aig Foirbeis anns an leabhar aige Gaelic Names of Beasts etc – ach anns a’ mhòr-chuid tha iad a-mach air cait taighe, seach feadhainn fhiadhaich. Seo cuid a dh’fhaodadh a bhith a’ dèanamh tuairisgeul air nàdar a’ chait fhiadhaich a cheart cho math ris a’ chat taighe: cha toirear on chat ach an craiceann; ciod a dhèanadh mac a’ chait, ach luch a ghlacadh?; cog air a’ chat is togaidh e a fhrioghan air.

Gheibhear tuilleadh sgeulachdan air ar làraich Ghàidhlig.

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