Gods and Devils, a Brief History of the Domestic Cat

Image by: PDI

Domestic cats are one of the human species favourite companions, with over 90 million of them in the USA alone.

Because they are such permanent fixtures of so many countries, it is sometimes easy to overlook what a strange and enduring relationship cats and humans have had over the thousands of years that they have known each other.

More than perhaps any other species, the cat has been revered and despised, praised for their usefulness and shunned for their apparent laziness and lack of loyalty, and their history is bound up with some of the most important parts of our own.

Ancient beginnings?

It is difficult for scientists to conclusively date the emergence of the domestic cat because their skeletons really donâ??t differ that much from the species they evolved from.

The last couple of years have thrown up the possibility that the relationship between cats and humans dates back much further than was previously thought, with evidence of a 9,500 year old grave containing a cat and human buried together!

It has been speculated that cats and humans were first brought together by rodents. First, humans stored grain, then rodents were attracted to the grain and the cats were, of course, attracted to the mice!

Revered as gods by the ancient Egyptians

The first widespread evidence of the domestication of the cat is by the ancient Egyptians, and archaeological evidence shows that the animal played a very important role in their society.

Cats were valued for their hunting abilities when it came to rodents and snakes, and were even brought on hunts with Egyptian warriors and trained to catch fish and birds.

On top of this, the Egyptians also believed that cats were closer to gods then humans and were treated as such. Not only were many of the gods of Egypt feline in appearance, but it was also a crime to kill a cat. Whatâ??s more, catâ??s were even mummified and properly buried!

Around the same time, cats begin being exported to Italy and spreading through Europe, although there is also evidence that both the Vikings and the various peoples of the Middle East may have begun domesticating cats around this time as well.

Dark times in the dark ages

Things took a bad turn fro Europeâ??s cats in the Dark Ages, when fanatical Christianity led many to associate cats with the devil. It is thought that the number of cats in Europe halved during this period.

It is only during the Black Death that the cat and its taste for rodents managed to worm its way back into European good books.

The modern domestic cat

After the Dark Ages the domestic cat spread around the world, even making it to America with the early settlers. Nowadays cats have inspired a multi-million dollar industry to develop around them, selling everything from extravagant toys, bling-tastic collars and cat litter trays.

Some people are still puzzled by the length and strength of this relationship between humans and cats. After all, of all the animals we have domesticated cats probably contribute the least, lacking even the die-hard loyalty of dogs.

So what is it about cats that have propelled them to a stage where around 600 million of them live in our homes with us? Let me know what you think below!

Louise Blakeis a new mum and avid animal lover. When sheâ??s not chasing round after her unruly puppy, Louise likes to blog for Petmeds. If she thought she could handle adding another member to the household, sheâ??d pick a tabby cat.

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