Cats have been venerated in the Near East since antiquity, a tradition adopted by Islam, albeit in a much modified form. According to many hadiths, Mohammad prohibited the persecution and killing of cats. The prophet purportedly allowed a cat to give birth on his cloak, and cut off the sleeve of his prayer robe rather than wake his favourite cat, a female named Muezza, who was sleeping on it. This fits in with the theme of compassion in Islam.
The tricky point was to convince people that this had actually occurred, after he died. Being Empedocles, he came up with a brilliant scheme. One night, in his old age, he crept away from his friends — so that they’d think he’d mysteriously disappeared — and threw himself into the nearby volcano, Mt Etna.
This crafty plan went horribly wrong a few days later when the volcano had a minor eruption. One of the bronze sandals was disgorged. His friends found it on the slope and had no trouble guessing where Empedocles had gone. I confess I’m somewhat reminded of the grand schemes of Wile E. Coyote.