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The origin and domestication of cats

Cats: history of appearance

Many argue that the first cats were tamed and domesticated by the ancient Egyptians , but there is no general opinion on this matter. It is believed that the history of the appearance of cats next to humans begins about 10-12 thousand years ago and is associated with the fact that these animals have become close to people precisely from the time when the latter began to lead a sedentary lifestyle. This, incidentally, makes cats simply unique among all animals, many of which are still trying to stay away from people.

A lot of controversy is also caused by the history of the origin of cats, which is also very ambiguous. The most widespread opinion, which, by the way, especially took root in Russia, is that the single ancestor of modern cats is the Central Asian North African steppe cat, which was domesticated not at all in Egypt, but in Nubia, and this happened about 4 thousand years ago. Only after that, cats came to Egypt, and then appeared in Asia, where they successfully crossed with forest Bengal species.

In Europe, the origin of the cat is also associated with multiple mixing of species and breeds: domestic cats that arrived from Nubia actively interbred with wild European forest cats , which subsequently gave an incredible variety of breeds and colors. However, according to a separate theory of the origin of cats, no one brought these animals to any of the countries on purpose: just cats simultaneously appeared in different places on the planet, in each of which they developed according to their own special laws.

The history of cat domestication: millennia next to humans

If the history of the emergence of these animals is confusing enough, then the history of the domestication of cats is even more mysterious. Most likely, the first domestication of cats took place in the Middle East and was associated with the emergence of agriculture and the need to protect the crop from rodents. However, scientists are still arguing over who really tamed whom – a man – a cat or a cat of a man. It is possible that the cat “domesticated” itself, hunting rodents and relentlessly following people who quickly adopted these animals into their lives.

Be that as it may, the history of the domestication of cats dates back to approximately 2 thousand years BC. The main merit in this is attributed to the Egyptians, who helped to domesticate the cat, including religion. However, the most active domestication began later and was associated with the flourishing of many civilizations, which began 1000 years before our era. It was then that the behavioral changes finally formed in cats, which finally made them pets, and Europe put the final point in domestication. Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Britain have consistently accepted domestic cats within their borders, actively settling them in the homes of their citizens and pinning special hopes on them in the struggle for the harvest.

However, despite this, the final point in the domestication of cats has not yet been set. Of course, this animal is considered one of the closest to humans, but its independent character proves that even for many millennia of their domestication, cats have remained free and not subdued, and their life next to people can still be considered a huge gift for the latter.

Cats in Egyptian history

History of cats in Egypt

The history of Egypt is very closely connected with cats, because it is believed that it was the Egyptians who were the first to domesticate these animals, and their importance in the life of the country was simply enormous. In addition, some researchers believe that the domestic cat first appeared in ancient Egypt – as a result of crossing a jungle cat and Euro-African wild cats.

In general, the history of Egyptian cats dates back to the second millennium BC: the oldest image of domestic cats that was found dates back to this time. The reason why these unique animals took such an important place in the history of Egypt is simple: this state was agrarian from time immemorial, and it was cats that could save its crops from rodents.

However, cats in the history of Egypt were not only “overseers” of grain, but also hunters: they were specially trained so that they could hunt game birds, and besides, these animals successfully hunted small rodents, moles, and sometimes even hares.

Egyptian Cat Worship

At the same time, the Egyptians throughout their history not only exploited cats, but also worshiped them. In Lower Egypt, the oldest cat burial place was found – Babustis, where the cult of these animals was widespread. In its center is the Egyptian goddess Bast (Bastet), who was depicted with a cat’s head. Also, not only Bast, the goddess symbolizing love, happiness and childbirth, is associated with the cult of cats in Egypt, but also the great sun god Ra himself, who was often depicted in the form of a ginger cat.

At the same time, cats in Egypt have never lived where they have to. A special temple was created for them (in its center, again, the goddess of cats in Egypt), and caring for these animals was considered one of the most honorable services in the state, therefore only priests could look after the cats, and this great mission is proud passed from father to son.

However, the worship of the Egyptians to cats did not always bring them only joy. In 525 BC, Cambyses, the Persian king who conquered the country with the help of cats, cunningly played on the love of Egypt for these animals. He simply ordered to distribute to each warrior one cat, which were tied to shields, and as a result, the Egyptians surrendered virtually without a fight, because they could not fight the enemy, on whose shield the unfortunate cat was wriggling. In Egypt itself, cats were protected at the level of the law, and their importance was so great that for the intentional killing of an animal, the culprit was subject to the death penalty, and for unintentional – huge fines.

History of cats in England

Cat history in the UK: success – tragedy – worship

Great Britain is one of the few countries that was lucky enough to see the most ancient cats, which were worshiped by Ancient Egypt . It is believed that the first domestic cats were brought to the island by the Romans, as evidenced by the skeletons of these animals found in the ruins of their homes. From the very first day of the appearance of such cats in Britain, they began to enjoy the simply unprecedented love of the British, so it can be argued that the history of cats in Great Britain began with great success.

In particular, it was found that a domestic cat in England had to be sold, and at a good price, which grew regularly. In 948, a special law was even invented, according to which a newborn kitten was priced at one penny, and after he caught at least one mouse, its price increased to two pence, and this was a fairly large amount for those times.

There were also laws that provided for severe penalties for theft and even more so for killing a cat. The most serious punishment befell those who stole cats from the prince’s barn: in those days, cats served in the public service as catchers of rodents that destroyed the crop, so each animal was worth its weight in gold. If someone stole such a cat, he had to pay with a huge mop of wheat for his crime, but if it came to murder, the murderer … was also executed.

History of cats in the Middle Ages

Alas, after such a tremendous success, the Middle Ages fell on cats with an avalanche of tragedies: only yesterday they were reverently revered, and today they are considered to be involved in black magic, and therefore they are mercilessly tortured and killed. The history of cats in the Middle Ages was based on superstition: it was believed that witches turned into cats, so the British indiscriminately killed both women, allegedly similar to witches, and cats, which they could turn into.

Art can also testify to the fears that accompanied the medieval history of cats in Great Britain: in the paintings of these animals, they were often depicted in the society of sorcerers and magicians. And Philip II of Habsburg, the Spanish king, who was married to the English princess Maria Tudor, distinguished himself with special atrocities against cats. He tortured cats with specially invented torture devices, and it was so cruel that even the intimidated Englishmen condemned it.

From the Renaissance to the present day: cat rehabilitation

The turning point for the history of cats in Great Britain was 1727. It was then, firstly, that the famous French Cardinal Richelieu rejected the theory of the relationship between cats and the devil and had as many as 14 favorites, and secondly, the treatise “History of Cats”, written by the French author Moncriff, was published, which finally rehabilitated these animals.

As a result, the beginning of the 18th century in England was marked by painstaking work on returning cats to their homes and breeding new breeds. In 1870, the first cat show was held in England, which aimed to present new colors and species, and these animals began to be actively studied. And already closer to the 20th century, cats have become one of the main favorites of the British, and they are still held in great esteem by this nation. So today, no Englishman will ever forgive you if you invite him to sit down, having first kicked a sleeping cat out of his chair.

History of cats in Russia

History of cats in Russia: there is no hut without a cat

The paws of the first domestic cat set foot on Russian soil in the 11th century, and on the lands that now belong to the south of Ukraine, they even appeared in the 7-8th centuries, as evidenced by the found cat remains. However, judging by some data, on the lands that now belong to the Odessa and Cherkasy regions of Ukraine, the first cats appeared even in the 2-5 centuries, although in those days they were very rare.

Be that as it may, it is known that the animal was brought to Russia by seafarers, and the success of the strange fluffy animal was simply overwhelming! The proverb “There is no hut without cats” immediately appeared, and it was decided to protect the safety and life of animals at the level of legislation. For these purposes, a law was invented, which, in particular, provided for a substantial fine for stealing a cat. Surprisingly, the amount was even more than the amount of the fine imposed for stealing a cow or stealing an ox.

Signs and predictions

In addition, the history of cats in Russia was characterized by the constant appearance of signs associated with their lives. These signs are still in use today, and they were based on the superstition that cats bring good luck. So, the Slavs decided that a three-colored cat would definitely bring happiness to its owners, and a seven-colored cat would be a guarantee of well-being.

At the same time, a sign was born concerning black cats , which were considered to be bad luck, although, on the other hand, the Slavs also believed that if you have a black cat in the house, it will bring bad luck first of all to thieves who dare to encroach on this house. , and at the same time will protect from thunderstorms.

In addition, cats were considered predictors of the weather or any events in the family: for example, the Slavs believed that if the cat does not give the mistress a pass, it will bring the last new thing. And, of course, cats were happily made heroes of Russian fairy tales. Everyone knows, for example, the famous Kota-Bayun, who spoke in a human voice, as well as a lot of other “cat” characters, in the characteristics of which one can see the love of the Slavs for them in one way or another.

Breeding cats in Russia

The Slavs began breeding cats mainly in the 7th century. At the same time, this work was carried out with the support of the church, which guarded these animals and allowed them to settle in monasteries and churches, as well as in village huts and even in the royal chambers. At the same time, a sign appeared to launch a cat first into a new home – “for luck”, and animals, as in Ancient Egypt , were assigned the role of keepers of the hearth.

However, despite the fact that the history of cats in Russia has such a long period of their breeding, they started breeding seriously only in the 20th century .. In 1980, a society of cat lovers appeared in the country, which began to organize the first exhibitions of its pets and determine the champions. Today in Russia over 20 breeds, widely known in the world, are bred, and in addition, Russian cats have as many as 500 color variations. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that some foreigners consider it an honor to acquire at least one primordially Russian animal (for example, a Russian blue or Siberian cat ), being confident that such a cat will not be equal in the whole world.

History of cats in the East

History of cats in the East: there is no older?

It is known that the domestic cat originated from Egypt , however, according to some theories, this animal came there from the East, where the oldest remains of cats were found. In particular, such remains (dated 5-6 millennia BC) were found in the most ancient city of the Earth Jericho, and in Jordan, and in India. And although scientists argue that the found animals can hardly be considered domesticated to the full, the fact remains: in the Ancient East, cats were quite common. Moreover, they came to Buddhist temples long before our era, and it is believed that their ancestor was some kind of small cat, common in Southeast Asia.

Later evidence also proves that cats were in a privileged position in both the Middle and Far East. In particular, the “official” history of cats in the East may begin with Islam, in which these animals are worshiped to this day. There is even a legend about a cat named Muezza, who was allegedly the favorite of the Prophet Muhammad himself. The Prophet loved her so much that one day he had to cut off the sleeve of his clothes in order to get up without disturbing her sleep.

Moreover, it is thanks to Muezza and her memory that Islam prescribes free access for cats to all mosques.

Cats in the East: secrets of Persia

Persia (modern Iran), according to some theories, is considered the birthplace of Persian cats, but this is not its only “cat” gift to the world. Numerous legends about the origin of these animals are also considered one of the gifts, and one of them says that cats allegedly evolved … from the sneezing of a lion!

Be that as it may, in Persia these animals were revered and respected no less than lions, sometimes even equating them with people: for example, for killing a cat, the same punishment was imposed as for killing a person. As a result, even in times of terrible famine, when people were dying en masse, no one even tried to touch the cat.

In addition, cats helped the East and in state affairs. For example, there is a known case when Cambyses, the king of Persia, took advantage of the Egyptians’ love for cats and conquered Egypt with their help. And, of course, in the East, according to some sources, lived not only the ancestors of Persian cats , but also the ancestors of a breed very similar to the modern Angora : Eastern painting of ancient times depicts cats that look very similar to it, and this gives every reason to assume that from the East several different varieties of breeds were brought at once.

History of cats in the East: our days

Later, the cult of cats in the East began to fade somewhat, although these animals are still considered sacred and revered by everyone. In particular, Islam, which continues to glorify cats, does not allow us to forget about it. As a result, reverence and respect for cats actively spread throughout Asia and even penetrated into Africa, and also staunchly holds on to the East itself.

This is evidenced by the following fact: one of the sultans of Turkey in his will asked to build a shelter for homeless cats in his city, which would necessarily have sunny meadows, warm places and an unlimited number of mice.

Tricolor cats have always been a special honor among Muslims: it is believed that they not only bring happiness, but can also protect the house from fire. Although, on the other hand, the Bedouins leading a nomadic lifestyle, despite the precepts of Islam, do not like cats, considering them to be evil spirits and ruthlessly exterminating them. But in general, the Bedouins are perhaps the only ones who treat cats this way, because the rest of the Orientals love cats to this day, considering them an amazing gift from nature.

History of cats in Japan and China

Cats in China and Japan: a love story

The history of Japan and China is completely inseparable from the image of the cat, despite the fact that this animal has settled in both countries relatively recently. In particular, cats came to Japan from China, from where they were brought in quite late – only in the 6-7 centuries AD, and this happened thanks to Chinese sailors: they transported manuscripts to the Japanese, and took the cats with them to protect securities from ship rats.

In China, cats came directly from Ancient Egypt , and they settled in this country much earlier than in Europe. As a result, the history of cats in China began around the 6th century BC, when their shorthaired varieties were already actively bred in this country. But long-haired cats in China began to breed much later.

History of cats in China: from Confucius to the present day

One of the first cat lovers in China was the famous ancient Chinese thinker Confucius. He, like many of his compatriots, greatly appreciated cats not only for their unique hunting qualities, but also for their uncommon color. In particular, in China, the most popular color was called “black clouds in the snow”: the chest, belly and neck are white, the rest is black. In addition, the Chinese still value pure white cats with black tails and variegated cats. However, other cats are also loved in China, as evidenced by the numerous works of art dedicated to them.

In ancient times, a cat in China was quite expensive, because it was considered a very useful animal in the household. At the same time, no one just bought a cat: at first it was necessary to consult with an expert and find out how successfully the animal would catch mice. And at all times the Chinese have appreciated and continued to appreciate the loyalty of a cat to its owner: if an animal leaves the house, then no one will ever return it.

A story of cats in Japan: a sacred truth

Even more than in China cats are loved in Japan. Thanks to their invaluable help in hunting and protecting the harvest from grain, the Japanese call cats golden (which is facilitated by the golden color of their fur), and initially these animals were very expensive. For a long time, cats in Japan were very rare, and they were mainly settled at the monasteries and the palace of the emperor, making them a symbol of high status, happiness and wealth. They also liked to drive cats in Japan on leashes that were woven from gold threads, and it was believed that not only live animals, but even their images, could scare away rodents.

However, such love did not prevent the Japanese from starting to hate cats in the Middle Ages. Animals were associated with evil forces, and even the myth circulated throughout Japan that there was a huge cat with a forked tail that carried disease. This gave rise to the tradition of docking cat tails, and later the breeding of a special breed of tailless cats.

Later, the Japanese changed their minds and again began to call cats cats of happiness. It was considered special happiness if the emperor himself gave the cat: such animals were supplied with gold leashes and fed only from silver or gold dishes. However, already in 1602, the emperor ordered the cats to be protected in every possible way, so they were released from the leashes. Also then a ban on the sale of these animals was introduced.

At the moment, cats in Japan are symbols of home and happiness. The Japanese willingly use the figures of “inviting cats”, which are placed near houses and symbolize greetings and wishes of good luck and good health. Moreover, every year on February 22, the Japanese celebrate the national holiday of cats. This is a very funny tradition, because the number 22.02 – that is, three deuces – in Japanese sounds like “nyan-nyan-nyan”, which in the Japanese tradition corresponds to the meow of a cat.

World cat day

All Cats Day: March 1st!

The love for cats all over the world turned out to be so great that their owners simply could not do without a special holiday for their pets. As a result, every year on March 1, many countries around the world celebrate World Cat Day, which unites millions of owners of these animals around the world. The tradition of celebrating this day arose spontaneously, and although the World Cat Festival is still not officially approved anywhere, this does not prevent lovers of these animals from honoring their pets.

The popularity of the holiday is primarily due to the fact that from time immemorial cats have been and remain the most popular pets in the whole world: about 80% of all inhabitants of the Earth keep a pet, and more than half of them gave their preference to cats.

Each owner gladly agrees to honor these animals on March 1, and as a result, World Cat Day was declared a holiday of gratitude to these unique animals, which are held in special honor on this day.

How to celebrate World Cat Day?

In different states, cat owners celebrate this holiday in different ways. But most of all cats are honored throughout Europe in general, and in the UK in particular. This is not surprising, since in England one cat rescues at least 10 tons of grain annually, and several dozen animals are officially protected from mice by relics in the British Museum. When the World Cat Festival comes, animals that are in the “service of the state” are encouraged in every possible way – mainly with the best cat delicacies. In addition, they even sew a special “uniform” for them and equip comfortable houses.

Then we went to Austria, where a special prize was established in honor of World Cat Day: each cat that has guarded warehouses from mice for several years is entitled to a life pension. It is issued with milk, broth and meat.

In China, March 1, as World Day of Cats, is not celebrated everywhere, however, in honor of this day, the Chinese decided to take these animals under special protection at the legislative level. Earlier in China, cats were often eaten, but now, according to the new law, everyone who dares to do so will face a substantial fine or even imprisonment for 15 days.

In addition, cats are “congratulated” during their World Holiday by creating all kinds of benefits for them. In different countries parks for walking cats and special cat shops are opening, whole collections of clothes for cats are being sewn (and this business is often taken by the most famous world designers) and special toys and means for their training are made , and cafes and “cat” hotels are created , in which you can settle your pet for a while with great comfort.

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