Are you reading this while cuddling with your sweet soft furry cat? Domestic cats have been for a very long time among us humans. But where did cats originate from?
History Of The Cat
You would think that the origin of domestic cats is easily to find out by the archaeological findings of bones and skeletons of cats. Unfortunately it isn’t that easy, as the wild and domesticated cats have very similar skeletons. Hence pinpointing a start date for the domestic cat becomes difficult.
In 1983 archaeologists found a jawbone of a domestic cat in Cyprus that dated back 8000 years. But it seemed highly unlikely that anyone would take a wild cat over sea to the island to domesticate it, so domestic cats had to be dating back more than 8000 years.
In 2004 at an even older digging site, archaeologists had found a cat buried together with a human, dating back even earlier, at about 9500 years. Meaning that cats were already domesticated before that on Cyprus. A clear answer they still didn’t have, only that it would be more than 9500 years ago.
A Cat’s Origin
In 2007 a study showed that the wild cats came from the forests in a rather special way. It is around the same time that humans were settling down and were active in the agraric department storing barley and wheat among other grains. Rodents would naturally appear to eat away at these storages and silos.
The forest cat was a natural born talent at hunting at the time, because hunting is the only way they would get food. The cats went to the human settlements near the forest and figured out soon enough that a lot of rodent prey would settle with the barley and wheat storages and silos. Here was an excellent hunting ground for them.
The humans in turn got very happy with the wheat and barley protected from rodents by the cats hunting it. This made the humans so happy that they started to take care of the cats that would take care of their mice and rodents attacking their food storage and raw products.
According to this same study, the domestification should have started about 12.000 years ago, around the same time that humans started this settling down process.
In the time of Ancient Egypt, cats were living among them and were also an important symbol for them. Bastet – the goddess of love – had a head of a cat in the drawings we know. Cats were basically holy and seen as a god. If you would have been plead guilty for killing a cat, you would most likely be sentenced to death.
Archeologists found a cemetery in Beni-Hassan with over 300.000 cat mummies, which means that cats were treated equal or higher to the mummified humans there.
Roman and Far East
In Ancient Roman history, cats were a symbol of liberty, while in the far East, cats were helpful in protecting their treasured manuscripts from rodents.
Europe in Middle Ages and Beyond
In Europe, cats were demonized at first during the middle ages and beyond. Cats were connected to witches and the devil. Especially black cats were connected to witches. All red cat variations with the devil, also because of their personalities. Not to forget the sight of their eyes in near-darkness.
So in the Middle Ages it wasn’t much good to be a cat, because they were killed a lot to ward off the possible evil. Ironically this also made sure that the black plague could spread so easily. After all rats survived the missing cats and spread the illness among humans, resulting many deaths.
So proper domestication of cats didn’t happen in Europe until after the 1600’s. It wasn’t until the late 80s early 90s that cat and other pet products became a billion dollar industry when people bought commercial produced foods and pet products for their pets.
Nonetheless there are still many controversies around cats. Black cats are still seen by many as evil. Even though it is a pet to me, to another person it can be seen as just a wild animal.. This is something I hope will change over time.
As soon as the wild cat became domestic, they were called Catus, now known as cat. In different languages you will find similar but different names for the same. To name a few: catt, cath, chat, katze, katt, cat, kat, catus. Catus is Latin for domestic cat.
There are more than 500 million domestic cats in the world. That is a lot of cats. Amazing that so many cats actually fit on this little planet. Of those 500 million domestic cats, you will find that there are approximately 40 recognized breeds. Only 40?! I wonder what the unrecognized breeds are like?
From the 500 million domestic cats, the US has at least 76.5 million cats. A big amount of this number of cats are stray cats running around or staying in the many shelters over the country.
When sheltered cats do not get adopted away, they are most likely being killed. This is why in many countries the problem of feral or stray cats get handled slightly differently, using a capture – neuter – release program.
So rather than to buy a kitten from a nest, buy a cat from a shelter that urgently needs saving.
And that was all I had to tell about the history of cats. If you plan to have a cat, consider visiting a shelter or contact animal protection services nearby, to see if there is a cat that needs adopting. You will save a life and find a happy new friend there.
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