Posted on Dec 30, 2012 in Animals & pets, Science & nature
I’ve read that the ancient Egyptians had domesticated cats as companions, but I really don’t know much more about the history of them. Do we know when cats were first household pets?
Ah, the domestic house cat. Loyal companion, cuddly, cute, strong willed, independent, and (sometimes) clever and intelligent, these furry little fiends friends are pets to many millions worldwide. But not often do we think about when the little guys we know and love as pets came to be domestic animals. Sure, we learned about the Egyptians being buried with their cats — but does their history go back further? Check it out.
According to this article, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (a mouthful, but a treasure trove of scientific journals), the “standard” belief that the ancient Egyptians kept cats as pets is correct. Tomb paintings of the Egyptian New Kingdom, dating to 3600 years Before Present (B.P.) clearly show that the Egyptians kept house cats as pets.
However, the article goes on to point out that there is evidence of cat taming dating as far back as 8700 B.P. in Jericho and to approximately 9500 B.P. in Crete. This gives us a broad range of roughly 11000 to 4000 years ago for the domestication of the cat.
Digging a bit deeper, it seems that wild cats first began coexisting with people around the time agriculture became commonplace, resulting in permanent human settlements. Brave and opportunistic cats would creep into this new environment that was rich in food and largely free of predators. As a result, cats that could more easily live around and with people were more likely to be fruitful and multiply in this sort of ecological niche.
>> Cat traces ancestry to Middle Ages (article from 1912)
The domestic cat traces its origins to the Near East and when one looks a bit into the history of agriculture in the Near East we find that organized farming first appeared in the region between 12500 B.P. and 11250 B.P. Matches up rather nicely with the “hard” evidence we have of the early domestication of cats, doesn’t it?
In short, as people first began grouping together about 12000 years ago in settlements, cats would come into town and feast on the rodents and the scraps left by humans — along with other such items — as it was easier than hunting.
Cats learned to coexist with people, and people found that cats would solve their vermin and pest problems. The arrangement was mutually beneficial, and the cat as we know it today was well on its way to household pet status.
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