Being a dog person, or being a cat person… We love all animals but sometimes, owning a pet becomes a thing that defines you. It gives hints about your personality. According to some searches, if you’re a dog person, you’re inclined to be more self-disciplined, outgoing, extroverted, affectionate, and kind. If you’re a cat person, you tend to be an evil villain. Just kidding. Cat persons are more likely to be witty, creative, anxious, sensitive, and independent. You can relate to one of the two definitions, right?
But how did these animals get so involved in our lives that we define ourselves in terms of their characteristics? Specifically focusing on cats, we’ll dive into the story of domestication of animals from ancient times to our days.
- Human Encounters Animal
Prehistoric humans were hunter-gatherers which means they hunted animals and collected vegetation in order to survive. They were also scavenging for meats that were left behind by wild predators. In the Stone Age, the using of spears made from stones helped them to hunt larger animals.
Archaeologists discovered 30.000-year-old cave drawings that depict animals like lions, buffalo, horses, and mammoths. Many of them showed animals, not humans. Their belief system demanded them to offer sacrifices to the spirits that inhabited the sacred world which they cannot see. Animism made them believe that every object has a soul in it, whether it is living or not.
Humans believing that animals have spirits in them as well, they ate them in order to capture their strengths. At some point, animals were also being worshipped as gods.
- Domesticating the Wild
The time between 13,000-2,500 BC indicates the period that humans started to domesticate species such as cattle, sheep, horses, and obviously cats and dogs. With the process of domestication, the animals were genetically different from their wild counterparts. We see the effects of adaptation at the hand of human beings.
Cats are one of the species that are accustomed to live with humans, but it is really difficult to pinpoint the exact time when they became domesticated. The evidence shows that they were ‘‘commensal domesticates’’, which means they were attracted to human anthropogenic habitats, to get their share of human food remains, or to hunt small preys. We can say that this attraction gradually established the relationship between human and animals.
- Locating the First Domestic Cats
It is always thought that cats are peculiar to Egypt and spread all around the world from there. The latest discoveries show that the first cat-human relationships were established in the Middle East, Mesopotamia, Cyprus, and Turkey. They were living thousands of years before they were in Egypt. The oldest evidence which is detected as 9500-year-old is a form of grave where a human and a cat lie together. They were treasured companions to humans and revered in their traditions. The first evidence of the existence of tabby cats was seen during the 14th century.
- Sacred or Cursed?
In Egypt, cats were respected as God-like creatures, and considered to have magical, divine powers. They even worshipped a goddess that is half woman and half feline. Egyptians were also mummifying cats to meet them in after life. Cats were a really important part of their lives.
In Asia, around 3,000 BC, people started to domesticate cats to control pest. During the Sung Dynasty, they became loyal companions of royals. They depicted cats in their paintings and sculptures. Cats were believed to bring luck and prosperity and seen as a luck symbol.
While cats were worshipped in Egypt and seen as symbols of luck in Asia, the middle ages’ Europe was seeing them as demonic creatures. They were associating them with darkness and witchcraft, since they were mostly the beloved companions of lonely women who were using herbs as natural remedies to help people heal but, unfortunately got tagged as witches by the age’s society.
They all were condemned by popes, men of God, and high-ranking officers. They were also thought to carry diseases in the time of the Black Death pandemic. It was admissible to torture and kill them in drastically horrible ways. In the Age of Enlightenment, with the departure from the Catholic Church and dogmas, cats started to be seen as loyal pets and friends to people.
- Cats Going Indoors
With the 20th century innovations, our lovely and beloved cats started to live with us indoors. Inventing cat litter, and procedures such as spaying and neutering, living with them became much easier.
According to some searches, living with a cat has so many positive effects on your health, physically and mentally. Today, they are an essential part of our lives and keep bringing joy to us.
Photo via the State Library of Queensland
I want to end this article with my kitty family. Hope they brighten up your day, as they do mine!