The domestic cat, scientifically known as Felis silvestris catus, is one of the most ancient and iconic members of the animal kingdom. These beloved animals have been revered and adored throughout the ages. In fact, cats may have even been the oldest domesticated species. For thousands of years, cats have delighted us with their playful antics and curious nature. This article dives into the fascinating history of the domestic cat and examines how they have evolved over the years.
Early History of Cats
Cats are thought to be some of the oldest domesticated animals, with evidence of their domestication as far back as 12,000 years ago. Lore and literature point to them being kept and worshiped by ancient civilizations. Despite humans having kept cats for such a long time, the exact origin of cats is still a mystery. Cats were first closely associated with agricultural societies because they kept away pests and rodents that could damage crops.
It is believed that cats traveled on trading ships, which allowed them to cross oceans and establish themselves in many different lands. This is why cats can be found all over the world, including some that live in the wild and others that are kept as pets. It is easy to tell cats apart by looking at their coat colors and patterns, which is an indication of their diverse genetic backgrounds.
Domestication of Cats
The exact time and manner of cats’ domestication is not known, but it is commonly believed to have occurred thousands of years ago in the Middle East. Cats seem to have been the first animals to be domesticated, providing early humans with companionship and a really efficient way of controlling vermin populations. Evidence of cats living alongside people dates back to at least 9,500 years ago, as evidenced by a feline skeleton found in a Neolithic village in Cyprus.
The Egyptians are believed to be the first to truly domesticate cats, as they provided an ideal environment for cats to multiply and humans to benefit from their skills at keeping rodents away from grain stores, the foundations of the ancient Egyptian economy. Evidence suggests that cats were already largely domesticated by 4,000 BC, with artifacts from this period showing cats living in close proximity to people.
The domesticated cat gradually spread, eventually reaching Europe and Asia. As it entered new territories, it adapted to the local climate, thus giving rise to the many breeds of cats we know today. By the Middle Ages, cats were common companions in Europe.
Popularization of Cats as Pets
Cats had long existed alongside humans before their popularity as pets began to rise in the late 19th century. This rise in popularity is largely accredited to Queen Victoria, who had a long line of cats. Her enthusiasm for cats eventually spread to her aristocracy, who then spread the concept of keeping cats as pets into the mainstream.
The introduction of The Cat Fanciers’ Association in 1906 marked the beginning of a worldwide surge in cats being kept as pets. During this period, cat shows became a popular way to showcase a variety of cat breeds. The Cat Fancier’s Association also provided rules and regulations for how to breed and exhibit cats. Because of these shows, cats rapidly increased in popularity throughout the world.
Today, cats are the most popular pet on the planet, with an estimated 500 million cats owned globally. This increase in popularity has also lead to much more variety when it comes to cats. From hairless to long-haired, small to large, cats come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities.
Breeds of Domestic Cats
Domestic cats come in a variety of breeds. Some breeds, such as the domestic shorthair, are blended breeds with no specific line of descent. Other breeds, such as the Bengal and Siamese, have distinct origins and ancestries.
The most popular domestic cat breeds include:
- Maine Coon
- British Shorthair
- Exotic Shorthair
All cats are quite intelligent, but some breeds are more intelligent than others. Breeds such as the Siamese and Bengal are known for their intelligence and aptitude for learning.
Health Issues in Domestic Cats
Domestic cats can suffer from a variety of health issues, particularly as they age. Common health issues in cats include chronic renal (kidney) failure, dental disease, hyperthyroidism and diabetes. In addition, cats may suffer from skin, respiratory, and digestive system diseases. It is important for cat owners to take their pets to the vet for routine check-ups and for early identification and treatment of any health problems.
Cats can also suffer from infectious or contagious diseases, such as feline panleukopenia, feline calicivirus, and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Vaccines used to protect cats from these diseases can help prevent possible disease outbreaks.
The best way to keep a cat healthy is to provide it with a proper diet, exercise, regular veterinary visits and preventive treatments. Owners should also clean and groom their cats regularly, and keep their litter boxes clean and free of parasites. Keeping cats and home and yard free of pests can also help prevent health issues in cats.
Cultural Impact of Domestic Cats
Domestic cats have had a long and varied relationship with people and culture throughout history. From Ancient Egypt to modern day, cats have consistently been a beloved household companion. In Ancient Egypt, cats were associated with the goddess Bastet and were even mummified after death. Cats were also popular with the Greeks, Romans, Celts, and Norse, and were seen as helpful friends and protectors of the home. More recently, cats have become even more culturally prominent, featuring heavily in television, film, internet memes, comics, and video games.
Throughout history, cats have played an important role in myth, folklore, and religion. Cats were sometimes seen as a symbol of bad luck, and could be blamed for natural disasters, plagues, and epidemics. At the same time, cats were believed to have certain magical powers, such as the ability to ward off evil spirits or the “evil eye.” By the Middle Ages, cats had been popularized as witches’ familiars.
In the West, cats are now commonly seen as gentle, lovable creatures, with mischievous tendencies and intelligence. Cat owners often report a strong bond with their cats, with many considering their cat to be a family member. It is clear that cats have had an unforgettable impact on our culture and will continue to do so for many years to come.
The history of domestic cats is a long and fascinating one. It began thousands of years ago, when cats were first domesticated by the Egyptians, and spread around the world by traders, missionaries, and mariners. Domestic cats have come a long way since then, but their impact on our lives is still immense. From providing companionship, to aiding in pest control, cats are an important part of human lives.
Domestic cats are beloved animals, and the best way to honor their legacy is to care for them the best way we can. By taking steps to meet their needs, giving them plenty of affection, and providing them with quality veterinary care, we can ensure our furry friends live a happy and healthy life.