Cats, our furry friends we all know and love! But do we know their history as well as we know their personalities and characteristics today?
Evolution and domestication
The domestic cat is a member of the Felidae, a family that had a common ancestor about 10-15 million years ago. The genus Felis diverged from Felidae around 6-7 million years ago. Results of phylogenetic research confirmed that the wild Felis species evolved from sympatric or sympatric speciation, whereas the domestic cat evolved through artificial selection. Cats were first domesticated in the near east around 7500 BC. It was long thought that cat domestication started in ancient Egypt, where cats were venerated from around 3100 BC.
What have cats been used for
Cats are common pets throughout the world, and have been used for Millena’s to control rodents, notably around grain stores and aboard ships, and both uses extend to present day. As well as being kept as pets, cats were also used in the international fur trade and leather industries for making coats, hats, blankets, and stuffed toys, shoes, gloves and musical instruments respectively. This has been outlawed in the United States and European Union and the United Kingdom since 2007.
History and mythology
In ancient Egypt, cats were worshipped and the goddess Bastet is often depicted in cat form, sometimes taking a war-like aspect of a lioness. The Greek historian Herodotus reported that in ancient Egypt killing a cat was forbidden, and when a household cat died the entire family mourned and shaved their eyebrows. Families took their dead cats to the sacred city of Bubastis, where they were embalmed and buried in sacred repositories. Several ancient religions believed cats are exalted souls, companions or guides for humans, that are all-knowing but mute so they cannot influence decisions made by humans.
Superstitions and rituals
Many cultures have negative superstitions about cats. An example would be the belief that encountering a black cat could lead to bad luck, or that cats are witches’ familiars used to augment a witch’s powers and skills. In the mid 19th century cats would be burnt alive as a form of entertainment. The people collected the embers and ashes of the fire and took them home, believing that they brought good luck. According to a myth in many cultures, cats have multiple lives. In the UK and USA cats are believed to have nine lives, but in Italy, Germany, Greece, Brazil and some Spanish-speaking regions, they are said to have seven lives, while in Arabic traditions, the number of lives is six.