The History of Cats

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Oh, holly Cat! Your head is the head of the God of Sun, your nose is the nose of Thoth, who is thrice more majestic than Hermopolis. Your ears are the ears of Osiris who can hear the voices of those who mention him. Your mouth is the mouth of Ammut, the master of life who protect you from dirt. Your heart is the heart of Fut.
Egypt, VI century BC. The text of hymn

Found almost on the all continents, wild cats always attract man’s attention by perfect body and conduct. The majority of specialists keep to the point that domestication of cats took place in the Valley of Nile in Ancient Egypt nearly 4 thousand years BC There is a record about it in the works of Greek historian Herodotus (V century BC). So, domestic cat has been accompanying man for more than 6 thousand years.

Goddess BastetLibyan cat was the ancestor of domestic cat. Nowadays it’s impossible to establish whether a cat had come to a man or a man took a cat to his house. But it’s quite obvious that such a symbioses gave many advantages to a man. Ancient Egyptians considered a cat to be a sacred animal because it was the symbol of Goddess Bastet who was depicted with the cat’s head. In Heliopolis God of Sun, Rа was depicted as a cat, whose eyes got narrow or wide depending on the location of the sun. So do the pupils of cats' eyes.

People thought highly of cats, first of all, it helped to protect stock of grain, and its grace, sexuality, motherly qualities and mystery were on the second place. Killing a cat was a crime and one was sentenced to death, in most cases, the convicted person was beaten up with stones. Those who dared to hurt a cat, were inflicted corporal punishments, for example, cutting off fingers or even hand. The death of the cat was a sad event; the members of the family cut their hair and made mourning ceremony. The dead cat was embalmed and put into the coffin. There are many mummies of cats in the Ancient Egyptian temples and number thousands in the tombs of pharaohs. Ancient Egyptians used a cat not only for catching rats but they also trained it for hunting the birds. In the picture of one of the burial places there depicted a hunter in wait with the cat and also the moment it attacked the bird. Greeks, the neighbors of Egyptians from the north, where suffering from rodents too and they drew in polecats and snakes. It was cats who solved a problem.

Libyan catIt is supposed that domestication of cats took place not only in Egypt but in other regions on the globe. The remains of animals discovered when excavating the ancient settlements of the Bronze Age and even late Stone Age on the territory of the Caucasus, Central Asia, India confirm this idea. At the beginning of AD a cat as a domestic animal, appeared in Roman Empire and according to Plutarchus, in I century AD, it was found in Europe. In the XIth century domestic cat spread over the whole Europe and became an ordinary domestic animal used in household first of all for catching rodents.

At the same time the spreading took place in Russia. According to excavations cats come to us not only from the west but also from the south. There were discovered the remains dating from the VIIth-VIIIth centuries AD in the south of Ukraine, and in central and northern regions of Russia (Moscow, Novgorod) - dating from the Xth-XIVth centuries.

Cat become the favorite domestic animal because of its features and habits, very specific, different from the features of other domestic animals: meowing resembling the crying of the child during the heat, changes of pupils of the eyes depending on the power of light, soft, noiseless step etc. And simultaneously it was chased and driven away. In convents cat was the only animal allowed to keep. In the Xth century in Great Britain cats were worshiped; for theft or killing of the cat one could be sentenced to death. In other countries, in France, for example, at the same time cats was considered to be a Satan, a monster. Often the owners of black cats were accused of agreement with a devil. In the Middle Ages many people were burnt with their cats. That’s why in the ancient pictures cats are depicted together with the warlocks. The same image of this animal one can find in fairy-tales, but absurd and invented superstitions about cats have fallen into oblivion.

In the countries where Islam ruled, cats were held in respect. The legend says that Mohammed adored cats. When one of them was sleeping on his sleeve and he had to go out, Mohammed supposedly cut off the sleeve not to disturb his pet.

Time changed man’s points of view on cats so people began to treat the animal in a friendly way. In any case cat has remained with people: in the recent past it protected the crop, the grain, the flour and provisions from rodents, mice, in particular. Nowadays cat is an independent and equal member of many families.

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