History Of Cats

The domestic cat is a descendent of wild cats domesticated by ancient civilisations.  Read how it came to be a popular pet.

Paleontologists and archaeologists have determined that Miacis, a weasel-like animal, is the ancestor of cats as well as other families such as dogs, bears, raccoons, civets, and hyenas. From Miacis the African Wild Cat evolved and this is believed to be the ancestor of the domestic cat.

As early as 3,500 BC the ancient Egyptians domesticated wild cats from Africa and they became treasured pets. The cat's natural hunting instincts were put to use being used to protect food stores from vermin and other pests. Around 1,500 BC the Egyptians worshipped cats and imposed a death penalty for the killing of a cat. When a pet cat died the Egyptians would shave their eyebrows as a symbol of their grief and the cat was mummified.

Other ancient civilisations also domesticated the cat and the domesticated cat first came to Europe and the Middle East around 1,000 BC with traders where it was valued by the ancient Greeks and Romans as a controller of vermin.

The domestic cat then spread throughout Asia where they continued to protect food stores and even silkworm cocoons from rodents.

During the Middle Ages when superstitions flourished the cat was associated with witchcraft, evil and the devil and hundreds of thousands of cats were killed, some roasted alive or burnt at the stake. However this destruction enabled rodents to thrive and the bubonic plague occurred being spread by fleas carried by rodents. During this time the persecution of cats was put to one side which in turn allowed them to multiply and then attack the plentiful supply of rodents. However, it was not until some time later that its association with evil and the persecution of the cat ceased.

Traders, explorers and colonists brought the domestic cat into America during the 1600s and 1700s and by the eighteenth century the cat was a popular pet throughout the world.

The first cat association, the National Cat Club of Great Britain, was formed in 1887 with the first cat show being held in London in 1871.

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