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How Cats Became Domesticated: The Royal Line

Donna is a writer and lover of cats. She has been a cat parent for many years. She loves sharing her love for all cats big and small!

How Did Cats Learn to Coexist With Humans?

How did wild cats transition from being wild and free for thousands of years to co-existing with humans, and when did they become a part of modern-day family households? What happened and why?

First, let's travel to the granaries in ancient Egypt where all kinds of grains were stored. Egyptians stored grain in silos due to the famine that was expected to arrive; they needed to save all the grain in preparation for this event.

For seven years, the Egyptians stored huge amounts of grain, and as a result, it attracted rodents. This grain attracted rodents and the rodents attracted wild cats that ate the rodents and other pests that came to feast on the grain. Many people marveled at how the wild cats made a difference and the rodent infestation dwindled, and so the people continued to feed the cats to keep them coming back (and it worked)!

Mice in the granaries while a cat prepares to attack

Mice in the granaries while a cat prepares to attack

Ancient Cats Learn to Socialize

Soon, the wild cats stayed around because they loved to socialize with humans and knew they would be fed. Cats are extremely social creatures and have an innate need for human companionship!

Did Cats Domesticate Themselves?

Ancient cats adjusted to socializing with humans and yearned for more of this social attention and became increasingly comfortable interacting with humans, especially since they were fed plenty of food and were provided with a warm place to live! However, cats instinctively have an independent personality, but there are some that become attached to their humans immediately.

African Wild Cats/Kittens (“Cat of the Woods”).

African Wild Cats/Kittens (“Cat of the Woods”).

The Ancient African Wild Cat

The African Wild Cat kept the rat infestation under control and stopped the deadly diseases from infesting people; this made their quality of life better. Soon, the Egyptians started worshiping their cats.

They claimed their cats were goddesses, known as:

  • Mafdet
  • Mohit
  • Bastet

It was during this time that laws were passed prohibiting the killing of any feline. If you were caught doing so, the punishment was death! It was also known in the Far East that the Romans used cats to protect their treasured manuscripts from destructive rodents who rummaged through all their things, leaving them in heaps of ruin.

Cats Get a Bad Rap

In the Middle Ages, Europe started demonizing cats. It was during this era that cats were labeled as evil creatures and said to be affiliated with witches and the devil! Cats were indeed getting a bad rap due to this fact, resulting in all the people becoming afraid of them which led to the mass killing of thousands of cats.

The Bubonic Black Plague

People thought that if they killed all cats that it would ward off evil spirits. This caused a rapid decline in the cat population and resulted in the overpopulation of black rats in Northern Europe which caused the Bubonic Black Plague! Many people got sick and thousands died!

The Royal Lineage

Ancient mummified cats

Ancient mummified cats

Scientists Find an Ancient Cat Cemetery

Scientists found a cat cemetery in Beni-Hassan in which 300,000 cats were mummified; they found evidence of cats living with their humans back in 7500 BC on the island of Cyprus. Smaller wild cats originated from Tell Sheikh Hassan al-Rai during the Uruk period 5500-5000. And, in an ancient tomb, archeologist discovered a cat wearing a collar which dated back to the 5th dynasty Old Kingdom.

By the 18th Dynasty in the Middle Ages A.D., the modern cat was born; interestingly enough, all are descendants of Feliz Sylvestris and there are 40 to 50 recognized cat breeds all around the world. The population of domestic cats increases daily!

Modern Feline Heritage Lines:

  • The Big Cats: Lions, Tigers, and smaller wild cats
  • African Wild Cat: Also known as the Savannah, the Serval, and Sand Cat
  • Canadian Lynx: “Wizened cat of the Woods”
  • South and East Asia: Bengals and the Ocicat originate from the Asian Leopard
  • The Serengeti Cat: Cross-bred between Oriental Shorthair and Siamese
African Wild Cat

African Wild Cat

Domestic Cat Facts

There are two kinds of hybrid cats: "natural" and "human-bred," but how does one know how to tell the difference between the two?

Two Types of Hybrid Cats

  • Natural hybrids: when the domestic cat (feral) of various breeds mate with a certain wild cat species.
  • Human-bred hybrid: when two different domestic breeds are specifically selected that bred together.

A Feline's Average Lifespan

What factors go into a cat's lifespan?

  • Environment: Is your cat an “indoor” or “outdoor” pet? The average lifespan of a feral cat is anywhere from 3 to 5 years! If they are outdoor, they are exposed to fleas and ticks; they are exposed to territory-related catfights where their wounds can become infected; they can be attacked by bigger predators.
  • Maintenance: Spay and neuter your cat
  • Health: Keep your cat current on shots with regular veterinarian visits
  • Food: Offer healthy food and plenty of clean water
  • Breed of Cat: Know that certain breeds may suffer from health issues resulting in a shorter lifespan

Indoor Cat Facts

The average lifespan of an indoor cat is longer than a feral cat because they’re not exposed to the elements, large predators, and cars. If you feed your indoor cat good food, provide fresh water and occasional vet visits, they will live up to about 15 to 20 years!

Lifelong Companions

Over the years, felines have continued to help control pest infestations on farms, in sheds, and homes, all the while withstanding bad raps and hardships. Ancient cats lived in the wild for thousands of years and when they became domesticated, they became loved and cared for by the modern-day family! No matter what they went through, they managed to survive and thrive in this world and are forever known as survivors of ancient/domestic cats!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Donna Rayne

Comments

Donna Rayne (author) from Greenwood, In on January 02, 2020:

Thank you, Peggy, I keep my cat inside as well. The life of a feral cat is a dangerous one and this causes them to live short lives! I adore my cat and spoil her rotten. She is 7 months old now and I need to get her fixed soon.

I appreciate your thoughts and kind words!

Blessings,

Donna Rayne

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 02, 2020:

What an interesting and fact-filled article about cats. Discovering over 300,000 mummified cats must have amazed those who first discovered that ancient cemetery! I wish people would spay and neuter their cats. It would help cut down on the overpopulation of unwanted cats. Far too many live the life of feral ones or are euthanized because no one wants them. Our last two were kept indoors.

Donna Rayne (author) from Greenwood, In on December 23, 2019:

I was taught the same thing when my children were babies. My grandmother (bless her heart) told me not to let my cats around my baby!

Thank you for reading!

Blessings to you as well.

Donna

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on December 23, 2019:

As I understand it, cats were falsely accused of causing SIDs (Sudden Infant Death) because they are naturally drawn to the smell of milk breath. It is said that a cat can "suck the breath" from an infant so some grandparents even today say not to let a cat near your baby. That is just an old wife's tale or superstition. Sad that cats get such a bad rap.

Blessings,

Denise