Many people believe the domestication of cats began about 4000 years ago. At the time, Ancient Egyptians would keep cats to control vermin and other pests in order to protect stores of food. Cats were seen as hunters, worshiped as gods and goddesses, and were even mummified when they died.
However new research suggests the domestication of cats began long before that. It has taken a while for scientists to piece together the puzzle of when cats first became domesticated however they can now be traced back to a single wild ancestor, whose relatives still live in the remote deserts of the Middle East. The transformation took place about 10,000 years ago when the first agricultural development began. Cats were used to help hunt mice and other pests that plagued farms in early human settlements. Once the formerly wild felines became companions, they began to travel with human tribes, as they gradually migrated and spread throughout the world.
The difference between cats and dogs
Dogs were domesticated long before cats and it’s easy to see why. When humans were primarily hunters, dogs were of great help. Cats, on the other hand, only became useful when people began to settle down in agricultural developments and so you can see why domestication occurred at different times.
People say that cats kind of domesticated themselves. They let themselves in, and over time, as people began to favour these animals and their docile traits, began to adapt to a new kind of environment. Nothing about the process was intentional. Humans didn’t set out to try to domesticate a cat and make it into a pet, but a chain reaction was set off, ultimately resulting in the cat that we know and love today.
In the Middle Ages things were different. For some peculiar reason, cats were associated with the devil. They were seen by many as being connected with witches and the devil, and many were killed in an effort to ward off evil. It wasn’t until the 1600s when the public image of cats began to change in the West. Nowadays there are more than 600 million pet cats around the world so it seems they have done a good job of shaking off the bad stigma!
Unlike many other domesticated animals, cats have changed very little when compared to their wild ancestors and they still hold many of the same it’s characteristics. The eyes, body shape, feeding and grooming habits are all the same and they hunt just as well as their wild ancestors.
It’s easy to see why cats have become a favourite household pet. Their independent personalities, grace, cleanliness and subtle displays of affection make them the perfect companion.