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The Origin of the Domestic Cat

Cats have been a source of fascination for mankind throughout history. From the ancient days through contemporary times, cats are one of the world’s most popular pets, and they are perfectly suited to your current-day lifestyles. They are beautiful, enigmatic and easy-to-care for pets. But when and from where did the domestic cat originate? The following might give you some insight into this question.

What we do know is that cats and humans have lived together for almost 10,000 years. The earliest evidence of cats and humans together was found in Cyprus and dated at around 9,500 years ago. As to the origins of these early domestic cats, not a huge amount has been known. It has been about 4000 years since the first cats were domesticated. The Ancient Egyptians were the first to keep and use cats to control vermin and other pests to protect stores of food. In Ancient Egypt, cats were revered as hunters and worshiped as gods and goddesses. The ancient Egyptians imposed the death penalty for killing cats, and cats were also mummified before being buried.

The shorthaired domestic cat spread across the world from Egypt while longhaired cats came later from Turkey and Iran. The domestic cat also spread from India to China and Japan. Other ancient civilizations began to domesticate the cat and took tame felines to Italy where they slowly spread around Europe. Merchants traveling the oceanic trade routes took the first domesticated cats aboard ship, for their expert ratting skills. Merchants also traded them as merchandise at their various ports. These first domestic cats were traded from North Africa to Europe and Asia, as well as China, Babylon, and India. Cats were first introduced into Japan around 1,000 A.D., but it was another 300 years before domestic cats reached the Americas. Eventually, they arrived in the New World with the Pilgrims.

Except for a short period of persecution in the Middle Ages, when cats were believed to be associated with the devil, by the eighteenth century cats had become popular household pets worldwide. By the end of the 19th century, early pedigree breeds were exhibited at the first cat shows. In 1871, a large show was held at Crystal Palace for British Shorthair and Persian types.  About the same time, in New England, USA, the Maine Coon breed was being shown at the first American Cat Show.

Nowadays a cat’s quality of life is arguably the best it has ever been. With their aura of supernatural wisdom and independence, cats are definitely here to stay. Much like dogs, cats have adapted to our lives independent of the need we may have had for them to work for us. Instead of mice, they now capture our imagination and affection. And while the world may forever remain divided into dedicated dog people and cat lovers, many of us revel in the fun and complexity of having domesticated pets in our homes. If nothing else, we may want to heed the old Irish proverb that warns, “Beware of people who dislike cats.”

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