When Did Cats Become Pets?

img_2873aCats and people began interacting as humans developed agriculture. As rodents and other small prey were drawn to stockpiles of grains and other food, cats were drawn to human settlements. Hungry felines were a boon to hardworking farmers, helping to dispose of critters who wanted to consume the harvest. At one time, researchers had believed that cats were domesticated by the Egyptians between 4,000 and 6,000 years ago. The recent discovery of a human and a cat buried together on the island of Cyprus dating back 9,500 years has overturned that theory.


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeySet in the third century, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. A Persian warrior’s curiosity is ignited when he leads an invasion into Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom claiming to possess incredible technology. They also seem to have influenced every ancient culture on earth, including the ancient Egyptians who may have gotten their love of felines from them. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world draws the warrior deeper into layers of mysteries as its princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


img_2980aChinese villagers 5,300 years ago may have had domesticated cats. Researchers excavating a village called Quanhucun found that both the humans and cats dwelling there ate a diet heavy in the grain millet. The cats most likely consumed rodents that fed on the humans’ stores of millet.

When did cats become domesticated pets, coexisting in households with human families and relying on them for food and shelter? Scientists aren’t sure, but they have determined by genetic analysis that the first major wave of cat expansion began in the Middle East. From there, cats spread into the eastern Mediterranean along with human farmers. A second major expansion, thousands of years after the first, took housecats from Egypt to Eurasia and Africa by sea between the fourth century BCE to the fourth century CE.

img_3096A DNA analysis of cat remains found at a Viking archaeological site in northern Germany dating to between 700 CE and 1000 CE shows that the seafaring warriors kept felines that had originated in Egypt. Cats were the most efficient way to get rid of rats and mice on board ships.

There’s another interesting tidbit revealed by studying the DNA of ancient cats. Tabbies didn’t exist until Medieval times, as the genetic mutation responsible for their distinctive stripes, spots, and whorls didn’t occur until then.

Today’s domestic housecats appeared between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago and are descended from a wild ancestor called Felis silvestris lybica. But unlike dogs that have been bred for specific desired traits and abilities for thousands of years, cats were never selectively bred until about 200 years ago. Furthermore, there is no genetic difference between house cats and feral cats that live wild and fend for themselves. Since most house cats are tamed feral cats that survived past six months of age, the personality traits in our beloved feline pets are the result of natural selection.

http://www.livescience.com/41984-cats-domesticated-china.html
http://www.livescience.com/56222-early-cats-travelled-with-vikings.html
http://www.livescience.com/40708-secrets-to-cat-personality.html

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Cats, Persia, Egypt, and Ancient Warfare

Whatever the real reason for the war, the Battle of Pelusium is noteworthy for being an excellent example of psychological warfare in ancient times—housecats figured prominently in the Persians’ victory. Yep, domesticated felines were on the front lines of battle.

Battle of Pelusium

It’s impossible to say no animals were harmed in the Battle of Pelusium, 525 BC. But isn’t flinging felines at the enemy a tactic worthy of Monty Python?


Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin KeySet in the third century, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure. A Persian warrior’s curiosity is ignited when he leads an invasion into Dodrazeb, a strange isolated kingdom that possesses incredible technology. Ancient Dodrazeb’s puzzling choice to hide from the world draws the warrior deeper into layers of mysteries as its princess does everything she can to expel the invaders. What are the Dodrazebbians so desperate to keep hidden? Get your copy on Amazon.com! Available in both e-book and paperback.


In 525 BC, Cambyses II (son of the Persian ruler Cyrus the Great) successfully conquered Egypt and annexed it into the Persian Empire. Though Egypt was an obvious target for an invasion as it posed a threat to Persian control of Palestine and Syria, the widely accepted story for the reason Cambyses decided to invade goes like this: Cambyses asked for the Egyptian ruler’s daughter, saying he would make her his wife. Pharaoh Ahmose was sure his daughter would be reduced to the status of concubine. To spare her from such humiliation, Ahmose sent an imposter in his daughter’s place. When the imposter revealed the truth about Ahmose’s deception, Cambyses was infuriated and decided to attack.

BastetGoddess

Bastet, Ancient Egyptian Cat Goddess

So how did cats become involved? Bastet originated as the goddess of warfare in Lower Egypt. Long before the Battle of Pelusium, she had evolved from a lioness warrior deity into a major protector deity represented as a cat. She is the Egyptian goddess of the home, fire, sunrise, music, dance, pleasure as well as sexuality, fertility, family, pregnant women and children. Her priests mummified cats when they died. Bastet’s gentle side was displayed in her duties as a protector of the home and pregnant women. Her aggressive and vicious nature was celebrated in her abilities as a huntress and an eliminator of vermin. Bastet is depicted either as a woman with the head of a domesticated cat, a lioness, or as a desert sand-cat.

Cambyses knew how the Egyptians felt about cats and used that knowledge to his advantage. He had his troops paint images of cats on their shields and place various animals sacred to the Egyptians such as cats, dogs, ibises, and sheep in his front lines. The punishment for killing a cat in Egypt was death, so the Egyptian army stopped fighting and were routed, allowing Pelusium to fall to Cambyses. “It is said that Cambyses, after the battle, hurled cats into the faces of the defeated Egyptians in scorn that they would surrender their country and their freedom fearing for the safety of common animals.”

Isabel

Isabel, the feline overlord of my domicile.

If not for the Egyptians’ love of Bastet, the battle might not have been won by the Persians. For the science-fiction minded, there are probably a few parallel universes where housecats have taken over the earth and humans are their willing slaves. In our reality, the cats are conquering us one household at a time.

How do you feel about cats? Love ’em? Worship them like the ancient Egyptians? Enjoy their funny videos on Facebook but avoid them in person? Leave a comment!