The History of Our Feline Friends

By August 29, 2022 Uncategorized
Hello friends! Welcome to my first blog post 🙂

You may already know that South Windsor Animal Hospital is promoting our Feline Focus Month! So, now that all the dog people have read that first sentence and scrolled on, let’s talk about cats! Yay Cats!

Before I get started, myself and the other SWAH Doctors have already filmed an educational video answering some FAQ we get about your feline friends, so go check that out on our Facebook page!

Here’s a fun fact about myself: if I wasn’t going into veterinary medicine, I probably would have studied history of some sort. Is that nerdy? Yes, definitely. So, I thought it would d be fun to write a little blog about the history of cats! Question for you all: Do you ever look at your cat as they’re screaming at you to fill their food bowl and think, “How did we get to the point that this five pound creature is bullying me and I listen?” I do too, so let’s get into it!

Scientists have discovered that today’s domesticated cat all have one common ancestor, Felis sylvestris lybica, also known as the African Wildcat (which are still around today but sadly are an endangered species). Contrary to dogs, many scientists believe that cats domesticated themselves! About 10,000 years ago in Northern Africa / The Middle East, as humans started making more advances in agriculture, it became necessary for us to store our grain indoors. With this, came rodents trying to eat our grain. Cats, being natural hunters, saw this as an opportunity for easy hunting and invited themselves into towns! Cats got to enjoy the abundance of food and humans enjoyed the pest control! But the fun didn’t stop there. Cats adapted to their environment and began learning to have more docile traits that were favoured by humans, allowing the two species to co-exist quite happily together.

Now, if your cat ever acts like it’s their world and you’re just living in it, this next part of history may explain that! Around 2000 BC, the ancient Egyptians held great reverence for cats and actually worshipped them! The ancient Egyptian goddess of love and fertility, Bastet, took form as a woman’s body with the head of a cat. It is said that during these times, being convicted of killing a cat often meant a death sentence for the offender. It was also quite common for people to mummify their cats, so they could come with them into the afterlife as well!

But the fame didn’t end there! As cat popularity grew, many people traded and took cats with them as they moved to new settlements around the world. The ancient Romans even saw cats as a symbol of liberty! They were respected by many different cultures! Even during times of worldly exploration with boats, captains and crew would bring cats aboard the ship for pest control (and probably some cuddles too, let’s be real). What’s not to love about our little feline friends?!

We are now going to fast-forward to the Medieval Ages of Europe, where cat popularity declined quite a bit, especially for our black cat friends. Now, I’m not superstitious, but I am a little-stitious (shout out if you got that reference), however back in those days, everyone was EXTREMELY-stitious. It was believed that black cats were sent from the Devil himself and were a warning of bad luck and misfortunes to come. Because of this, many cats were cruelly treated and killed.

People who owned cats (women especially) were accused of being witches and hanged. Many historians actually think that the unnecessary and excessive killing of cats actually helped to spread plague, a disease carried by rats, more quickly throughout Europe. So joke’s on them, I guess.

Okay, time to be more positive again! In the late 1800’s cat popularity was on the rise again! On July 13th 1871, Harrison Weir held the first cat show ever at London’s Crystal Palace in England. Sixty-five cats participated in the show and it included special exhibits such as the first ever Siamese cat brought to England and an exhibit showcasing a polydactyl cat (a cat with extra toes). From this, cats became an extremely popular choice as pets. Cat-fanciers even began selecting certain traits to create “fancy breeds”. In 1895, the first cat show in the USA was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Cats proved their usefulness to humans once again with their presence in both World Wars. Yes, you read that right. War Cats. But they weren’t exactly in the front lines using their own weapons of mass destruction (paws) to attack our enemies (as hilarious as that is to picture). In both World Wars, cats were brought aboard ships to protect the soldiers’ food supplies from rodents. Cats were also very common within the war trenches and often acted as little mascots for the soldiers. They were a form of entertainment, companionship and emotional support for the soldiers during the worst moments in history. Many of these cats were regarded as heroes.
Back to the present day, cats are superstars and MAN they really let the fame get to their heads sometimes (but it’s warranted, so we’ll allow it). Cats are the stars of many shows, movies, comic strips… you name it. If someone tells you they love lasagne and hate Monday’s, you already know they’re talking about Garfield. Cats have become one of the most popular pets worldwide. The International Cat Association has listed 73 different breeds of cats, however this number differs based on who you ask. We love them for all their unique traits, even when they’re a bit spicy with us.
Alrighty friends, I hope you enjoyed this little history lesson with me today! Please give your cats some extra love this Feline Focus (and always) and make sure they’re healthy as can be by giving us a visit for their annual check-up.

Wishing you a Purr-fect day,

Dr. Shania 🙂

Sources:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/a-brief-history-of-house-cats-158390681/ https://education.cats.org.uk/media/1286/com_3474-brief-history-of-cats-infographic.pdf https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/domesticated-cats-dna-genetics-pets-science https://harrisonweir.com/cat-shows/#:~:text=The%20Judges%20selected%20for%20this,foundation%20breede r%20of%20Saint%20Bernards).

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