What About Cats?
History of the Domestic Cat
Cats are interesting creatures. Where did they come from? What is the history of the cat? First let me just say that cats had been a companion to humans for centuries this was long before we as humans began to domesticate them and breed them for purebred bloodlines.
The cats that we have today are descendants of shorthaired ancient African and Asian wildcats that roamed thousands of years ago. If you take notice, you will see that many of today’s cats carry the distinctive stripes and the muscular bodies of their ancestors.
History of the domestic cat
Cats, as you may know, are not your typical animal, and they were certainly not typical wild animals. Your typical wild animal tends to stay away from people; however, the cat did not. Cats choose to live near the human population and settlements in order to hunt the rodents that were attracted to the food stores. It is because of this that the cat became domesticated; it was a trade off for the cat and not a bad one for the most part.
Egyptians were among the first humans to domesticate cats, understand their importance and eventually to worship them. Before this, the dog was the most popular pet and had served as a hunting companion, and a small “heater” in the cold weather. It was around 3,500 to 5,000 years ago that the Egyptians recognized the importance of the cat in keeping mice and rodents out of the food they had stored.
The cat was so revered in ancient Egypt that killing a cat was punishable by death. Egyptians mourned the loss of a cat and were even known to mummify them for the afterlife.
Well, not all of the cultures of the world worshipped the cat, as a matter of fact; some of them looked at cats as a symbol of evil. The black cat was associated with witches in some cultures. They were symbols of evil, devil worship and pagan practices and due to this they were tortured, burned, and killed in horrible ways. It was in these cultures that the cat was systematically and deliberately exterminated.
There were repercussions for the extermination of the cat some experts suggest that because of this the Black Death took over and wiped out over half the human population in Western Europe in the mid 1300’s.
The Black Death was caused by rodents such as mice and rats; the cities were overrun by them because there were no cats to control the population. Now I am not saying that this is the sole reason for the Black Death, I am saying that it helped to contribute to it.
The Black Death was a bacterial infection that was carried by fleas to the rats and mice and then on to humans. The bite of a flea spread the disease and caused a massive epidemic.
Here in North America the cat outnumbers the dog as a pet 2 to 1. Today the cat is not seen as a mouser, although it is a plus for the owner they are more for companionship and enjoyment.
When did they come to the Americas? We know that the cat was domesticated in Europe in the Middle Ages, but no knows when they arrived here. There had been some speculation that the cat came here with the Vikings or even Columbus in the 1600’s, but they were definitely with the settlers when they arrived.
It is believed that cats were on board many ships back then in order to combat the rodent problem onboard and to protect the food stores. Once they arrived here with the settlers they were released on farms and in settlements to help with pest control, this allowed them the freedom of multiplying into a very diverse animal.
It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that the cat became viewed as more than just a mouser. They were now being seen as companions, and possible show animals. The show cat was developed in England and slowly spread to America. The English people started breeding cats for purebred status and creating exotic breeds. The first cat show was held in 1871 in London’s Crystal Palace. It was here that the standards for judging cats were set.
Why Were Cats Holy to the Egyptians?
Why did the Egyptians find the cat to be a holy creature? They were considered a natural pest control service. So the cat was revered and enjoyed an elevated status during early civilization. It has been found that Egyptians worshiped cats as household gods, and the goddess, Bast was depicted with the head of a cat.
These animals were so ingrained in the early Egyptian culture that they symbolized the religious beliefs of the Egyptians and the cat was greatly mourned when it died.