A male cat. (Gatta f.)
In antiquity, Saint Irene was said to have brought the cat to the island of Cyprus in order to cut down the snake population with which the island was cursed. Where she landed is still known as Kapo Kato, "Cape Cat".
Snakes were and are a problem as Cyprus boasts a local breed of viper (Vipera Lebentia) with an extremely poisonous bite locally known as a fina.(The snake, not the bite.)
This short, broad-headed brown snake is definitely to be avoided, as it is one of the Mediterranean's most lethal reptiles.
In return for this rescue, the locals have set about exterminating cats by shooting them, recklessly or maliciously poisoning them with pesticides, encouraging their children to pursue them with sticks, flushing the young down the toilet and otherwise making the cat feel markedly less than welcome, whilst still expressing gratitude to the saint for her thoughtfulness. Local legends abound where pregnat women are brushed by a passing cat and suddenly all their hair falls out with a thud and they lose the baby within a single heartbeat - indeed being bitten by a snake sounds less risky and more attractive in terms of your appearance.
For a possible explanation for this paradox, please refer to amballados or else imaging the saint trying to explain her plan whilst the locals - as usual - were not really listening as much as one might have hoped in the xero, xero, neh, neh, xero tradition.